19 | Tomatillos (pictured). These common tart, tomato-like vegetables are the foundation for salsa verde. Esparza likes the harder-to-find
milpero tomatillo, a tinier, more expensive version, for its more concentrated flavor.
Use it: In Enchiladas Suizas. Or, for a simple salsa verde, peel and roast tomatillos until tender, then purée with arbol chile.
20 | Nopales. The stickery pads from the prickly pear cactus are hard to clean. But at Mexican markets, nopales often come already cleaned (dethorned and peeled) and either whole or chopped.
Use it: Parboil cleaned, chopped nopales, then dunk in an ice bath so they don’t get gummy. Sauté with garlic, onions, tomato, and scrambled eggs or tofu. Or, if you buy whole cleaned pads, brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on one side until olive-colored, about 4 minutes, then turn, top with Oaxaca cheese, and grill 3 minutes more.