If our father were alive during these days of pandemic restrictions, there’s no doubt he would be finding all kinds of ways to stay busy and productive.
Walter “Corky” Dennis retired from a memorable career as police officer and homicide detective for the San Antonio Police Department in the 1980s. He immediately began work as a U.S. Marshal and was assigned to the Federal Judge John Woods assassination case.
Born in 1937, lessons from WWII rationing and post-Great Depression times instilled in him a strong work ethic and frugalness.
Along the way he owned a gas station, used car lot, bail bonds company, electrical repair business, motorcycle mechanic shop and other things to keep him occupied.
He loved tinkering in his workshop, making and repairing things he thought needed to be fixed or created.
As he aged, he tended to stay in the airconditoned house more often and managed to remodel and expand their home several times before his death in 2011.
One of the biggest surprises was seeing his cooking advancements in the kitchen. I suppose our stepmother Lucy had some influence in that because I rarely saw him cook growing up (Heating Chefboyardee spaghetti is not cooking).
My absolute favorite, that he was rightfully proud of, was his Pico de Gallo.
For those who don’t know, it’s a salsa made of fresh tomatoes, onions, and peppers, with cilantro, lime juice and plenty of garlic.
Unlike other homemade salsa recipes that require cooking and blending, Dad enjoyed chopping and making this fresh salsa because it’s simply a matter of mixing everything together in a bowl.
In my travels, I’ve heard it called Salsa Fresca, Salsa Mexicana and even Rooster’s Beak. But in San Antonio, we’ve always known it as Pico de Gallo.
5 medium size vine ripe tomatoes, about 3 1/2 cups chopped very small
1/2 medium size red onion diced small
2 green onions very thinly sliced
1 serrano or jalapeno chile very finely minced
1 small handful fresh cilantro with leaves stems mostly removed, about 2 tablespoons full, chopped very small
6 garlic cloves minced
1 lime juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
To begin, finely dice as much of the ingredients as possible. This allows the flavors to really “fuse and blend,” Dad would say. The idea is to not have chunks of tomatoes or onions distract from the flavor and texture.
When the tomatoes, onions and pepper are mixed together in a bowl, add the garlic cloves and the juice of one lime.
Mix everything together then let it rest for at least 20 minutes before serving. The flavors of all the ingredients will blend together beautifully while the salsa sits or is kept in refrigerator until ready to serve.