dedicated to discovering all that is authentically amarillo
current issuecurrent issue
What's Cooking? - Posted July 28, 2017 9:23 a.m.
Photos by Shannon Richardson

Secret Salsa

more resources
Share This: Bookmark and Share

Every customer at La Fiesta Grande gets served a bowl of the restaurant’s beloved house salsa, which hasn’t changed in 31 years of business. “It’s very, very mild,” says Ashley Bara Paredes, the daughter of Roy and Betty Bara, who founded the restaurant. “One of the reasons we’ve never changed it is because a lot of kids can eat the salsa here.” But over the past few years, customers have become more willing to try spicier alternatives. “People are more open to experiencing new things,” she says.

That’s why La Fiesta now serves a much spicier salsa alongside its street taco plate. The family’s chile de arbol salsa toasts tomatillos and chile de arbol (Spanish for “tree chile”) then combines them with fresh onions, garlic and tomato paste into a smoky, tomato-based salsa with a lot more heat. “It has tons of flavor,” she says.

The two other salsa recipes aren’t on the La Fiesta menu, but appear frequently in the family’s catered events. The salsa verde cruda (“fresh green salsa”) is a mild, pepper-flavored salsa that adds a splash of fresh red wine vinegar for extra zip. “It’s really a great compliment to grilled meat or anything fried,” says Paredes. Meanwhile, the family’s avocado salsa verde recipe replaces the vinegar with fresh lime juice and avocados. “The avocado makes the sauce transform into a creamy texture,” she says. “It has a pop of tang and is great for fish tacos.”

Chile de Arbol Salsa
15 tomatillos
24 ounces dried chile de arbol
1 large white onion, cut into quarters
12 garlic cloves
2 (12-ounce) cans tomato paste
80 ounces water
8 tablespoons Caldo de Tomate powder
Olive oil

In a small stock pot add water and Caldo de Tomate, whisk and allow to come to a simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Once powder and water have combined well, remove from heat and allow to cool for later use. Peel husk off tomatillos. In open griddle on medium-high heat, coat bottom of pan with olive oil; roast dried chile de arbol and tomatillos. Once tomatillos and chile de arbols show brown spots on skin, remove from heat. Off heat, remove stems from chile de arbols. These tiny peppers pack a lot of heat so it is important to wear gloves and remember not to touch your face or eyes. Set aside for later use. In tall, stainless steel bowl, add onion, garlic, tomato paste, salt, and roasted tomatillos and chile de arbols. Slowly add water/Caldo de Tomate mixture and carefully blend with immersion blender, being careful not to splash mixture. Blend to desired consistency and allow to cool completely before refrigerating. Cover and refrigerate salsa for up to 7 days. This salsa is great on top of street tacos.

Makes roughly 4 quarts

Salsa Verde Cruda
5 tomatillos, husks removed
3 Anaheim peppers, stems removed
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
4 ounces chopped onions
4 ounces chopped cilantro
Splash of red wine vinegar

In food processor fitted with blade attachment, add tomatillos, Anaheims, pepper, salt, onion, and cilantro; blend until desired consistency. Stir in red wine vinegar. Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. This salsa is great on top of grilled meat or flautas/taquitos.

Makes roughly 32 ounces

Avocado Salsa Verde Cruda
5 tomatillos, husks removed
3 Anaheim peppers, stems removed
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
4 ounces chopped onions
4 ounces chopped cilantro
2 ounces fresh lime juice, or more to taste
2 avocados, peeled and pit removed

In food processor fitted with blade attachment, add tomatillos, Anaheims, pepper, salt, onion, and cilantro; blend until desired consistency. Add avocados and fresh lime juice. Blend just until avocados are incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. This salsa is great of top of fish tacos.

Makes roughly 32 ounces

Meet the Cook: Ashley Bara Paredes of La Fiesta Grande and Caterings by Roy

Ashley Bara Paredes can barely fit her titles and work responsibilities onto a normal-sized business card. The daughter of Roy and Betty Bara of La Fiesta Grande, she does all the marketing and advertising for her parents’ two restaurants, handles menu development, and oversees the catering side of La Fiesta as well as Caterings by Roy, another business owned by the family.

“It’s what I’ve known my whole life,” she says of the restaurant industry. Her parents moved to Amarillo from Muleshoe in the early 1980s, opening their first location on Ross Street across from the T-Anchor Flea Market. They expanded to a second location near 45th Avenue and Coulter Street in the late 1980s. Today, the two La Fiesta Grande restaurants are local fixtures south of I-40 on Ross and at 7415 SW 45th Ave. Earlier this year, La Fiesta celebrated its 31st year in business. “Any business that has lasted more than 30 years is a big deal, especially if it’s a family business. We’re very blessed to be in business this long. We’re really happy to still be in Amarillo.”

Ashley grew up playing basketball, and it wasn’t until she gave up the sport in high school that her parents brought her into the business. “My dad said, ‘If you don’t play sports, you have to provide your own lunch money,’” she remembers. He suggested she get a job. When a hostess position opened at the family’s Ross location, Ashley had to interview for it just like anyone else. “That’s how I got into the restaurant business: I quit basketball.”

Since then, Ashley estimates she’s held just about every position possible at La Fiesta, including bussing tables, waiting on customers, bartending, and doing prep work in the kitchen. Today, she mainly works behind the scenes with the family’s two catering businesses. While La Fiesta Catering focuses on quality Mexican food, Caterings by Roy takes a different approach. “The name ‘La Fiesta’ doesn’t really resonate with, say, rack of lamb,” she explains. “We are operating like a sister company that offers more gourmet food.”

As with any Mexican restaurant, salsa plays a big role alongside La Fiesta’s entrees, as well as for its catering businesses. The three salsa recipes she provides in this issue hit the palate in a variety of ways, from the smoky spice of the chile de arbol to the creamy salsa verde and the tangy salsa verda cruda. It’s hard for Baredes to pick a favorite. “All salsa is good,” she says. “As long as it’s made from fresh ingredients and has a lot of flavor and a little bit of tang. Those three things make a good salsa.”

by Jason Boyett

Jason has written more than a dozen books and is the host and creator of “Hey Amarillo”, a local interview podcast. Visit and
blog comments powered by Disqus
recent stories

20 Questions with … Kelley Shaw, Development Customer Service Coordinator, City of Amarillo
Kelley Shawt shares his business advice.

The beard – the male equivalent of pregnancy
Who am I to prevent a woman’s happiness by selfishly shaving – at least for ...

Bunny Flakes & Crepes
Bunny Flakes & Crepes has been busy cooking up fresh savory and sweet crepes.

Panhandle Lumber Company
Panhandle Lumber was one of Amarillo’s early businesses, opening at Sixth Avenue and Tyler Street ...