Chimichurri Sauce and a reflection on the glories of green sauces in general!
The thing about every season is the anticipation, followed by the fun, followed by the work, followed by the weariness, followed by the anticipation, followed by….
Take summer, for example. How we are just about bursting at the seams with anticipation of the warm days, the swimming pools, the parties, the barbecues, the picnics, the boating, the glorious flowers. Soon enough, we are complaining about the heat, the sunburn, the Japanese beetles, the weeds… Before long, thoughts turn to idyllic evenings around the fire pit wrapped in blankets capturing the last glorious rays of summer and anticipating the start of a new school year — the parents especially, having lost steam trying to interest increasingly prickly children in something, anything that could improve their little minds and engage their waning interest. Back to school. Back to a predictable routine. Autumn!
The herb garden, however, so slow to catch and grow, is now in its glory! The floral hanging baskets are a sorry sight. Interlock is interspersed with wily weeds. The Japanese beetles have won the war of the roses. But look at that beautiful basil! The bristly Rosemary! The oregano! The sage! We can’t let all that deliciousness, planted with high hopes of redolent Italian style summery meals that never quite got off the ground, go to waste! Our thoughts turn to preserving. We have “The Pesto Recipe” to deal with the basil, but what about the rest of this stuff?
Actually, the word “pesto” is simply Italian for “paste” which is Italian for pretty much anything edible bashed together. You can go quite loopy with creative variations. Change up the herb, the nuts, the cheese – but let’s not exclude the garlic. One of my recent pesto successes didn’t even include an herb. I was trying to find a use for a jar of marinated eggplant misbought on a whim. Into the food processor it went. I had some left of a bag of pistachios. Garlic cloves. Some Asiago cheese. Whir! Oh my! To fill ravioli or to sauce a simple pasta. To add a bit of panache to a roast leg of lamb?
Some of your concoctions will be more successful than others, of course, but once you’ve broken loose of the strictures of the traditional Pesto Genovese, the sky is the limit!
Every culture seems to have its version or collection of versions. Green sauce. Salsa Verde. Grune saus. Sauce Verte. Everyone seems to have created a fresh, tasty way of dealing with all those lovely herbs!
The South American version of a green sauce, Chimichurri Sauce (this recipe from Bon Appétit) is a great accompaniment to steaks or any beef, as well as a good use for your heaps of cilantro, parsley and oregano.
• 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
• 3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
• 1 shallot, finely chopped
• 1 jalapeño, pepper finely chopped
• 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
• 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
• 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Combine vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, garlic, shallot, and chile in a medium bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, parsley, and oregano. Using a fork, whisk in oil. Remove 1/2 cup chimichurri to a small bowl, season with salt to taste, and reserve as sauce. Put meat in a glass, stainless-steel, or ceramic dish. Toss with remaining marinade. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.
2. Remove meat from marinade, pat dry, and grill.
3. Spoon reserved sauce over grilled meat.
Bon Appétit also swears by their “greenest green sauce” which is truly delicious. A trip to Cook’s Corner may be required.
“Begin by washing some herbs: a small bunch of cilantro and/or parsley and a small bundle of chives. Don’t sweat exact amounts. Trim away the tough part of the stems and then toss the herbs right into your food processor. Next, grate a knob of ginger (about a 1" piece) and add that. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime, and add 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar. Add 3 Tbsp. miso (I like either sweet white or chickpea miso), 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. tahini, and 1 Tbsp. raw honey.
I grind up some coriander seeds and throw that into the mix. Pulse it together (to help control the consistency), and pour in a little water to thin it if needed; it should be pourable but not too runny. Season with salt and pepper, taste, add a little more of whatever it needs, and then put it on everything.”
Note: I used a tube of squooshed ginger instead of the knob. There is only one miso available at the grocery store. That seemed to do quite nicely. My honey is local but I’m not sure about raw.
Still overwhelmed by excessive herbage? You might want to heed the advice of a treasured wise elder of my acquaintance. “Let it go. If you need pesto, you can buy it in the store. You can buy fresh herbs year around. Enjoy fresh herbs from your garden when they’re in season, but when the season is over, it’s over. Time to move on to the fun of the next season”. Time to enjoy the colourful autumn leaves and the bright yellow school busses rolling down the road before the novelty wears off and it’s time to anticipate the transformation that is the first glorious snowfall!