During Houston’s heady oil boom, a young man discovers a Tex-Mex treasure
Dad moved us from Beaumont to Houston in 1966 for his job as a salesman for a large office furniture and supply company run by a group of former Rice University All-Americans from the college’s football heydays. Nice perks came to me from his working for them, such as tickets to sporting events I never would have seen: Ali vs. Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams; Houston vs. UCLA with the Big “E” Elvin Hayes dueling Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; the Houston Oilers when the team still was in the American Football League and played at Rice Stadium; and the early Bluebonnet Bowls also at Rice Stadium.
Dad’s clients were oil companies setting up shop in Texas. Knowing where to take clients to lunch was paramount for success and one of the go-to lunch spots was the original Ninfa’s on Navigation Boulevard in Houston. Ninfa’s was famous for tacos al carbon and was the first place I ever had avocado crema, which was said to have been created by Mama Ninfa herself. It was a smooth and tangy blend of avocado, tomatillos, peppers and Mexican crema. Ninfa’s served it with tortilla chips along with salsa, but it works great as marinade, or a sauce, as well as a dip. It’s particularly awesome with fish tacos. It’s versatile and easy to make.
3 medium green tomatoes, chopped
4 tomatillos, husked and chopped
1-2 jalapeños, stemmed and seeded
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
4 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ cup Mexican crema*
Place avocados in the blender. In a medium saucepan, bring the tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic and jalapeños to a boil — the tomatoes provide the liquid. Lower the temperature and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until soft.
In a blender, combine avocados, cilantro, crema and tomato mixture. Blend until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate or serve immediately at room temperature.
*If crema is unavailable, substitute sour cream or crème fraîche.
Phil Newton is a Galveston baker/cook. He’s the owner/operator of Stiglich Corner with partner Cindy Roberts.