Home grown sauces

The Gochiso Gourmet garnished his chicken breast with salsa verde using homegrown parsley and basil. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Since retiring, I’ve tried my “green thumb” at growing various herbs and vegetables. Some have been successful, others not so much. And previous successes haven’t always carried through. So far, I can propagate basil from seeds without any issue. Same goes for arugula and broccoli rabe. Then there are those herbs that I simply can’t grow directly from seeds, but grow well if I transplant seedlings from my local nursery. Little seedlings of curly leaf and flat leaf parsley as well as spearmint have fared well as soon as they’re transplanted. Then there’s cilantro. They sprout well from seeds and I previously had nice harvests that I turned into great cilantro pesto. But lately, they’ll grow to four or five inches then suddenly bolt or flower, which stunts the growth of the leaves so there’s nothing to harvest other than cilantro flowers and seeds. And because fresh green onions or scallions are available at any market, Hawai‘i residents simply purchase bunches that have the roots still attached and leave about three inches of the root side intact, dry it for two to three days, then replant it for a second bunch of green onions for the future.

Eat That Garnish
It’s a shame that one of the nutritional powerhouses is usually relegated simply to garnish status. Yes, parsley is a good source of Vitamin A, C and K as well as calcium, iron, folic acid, magnesium and potassium. But you usually just see that triplet of leaves garnishing your potato or macaroni salad or worse yet, a scant scattering of the dried version on top of the completed dish. Noted nose-to-tail British chef Fergus Henderson was one of the first chefs to elevate parsley to its rightful place on the dinner plate by serving roasted bone marrow with a parsley salad as an accompaniment some 30 years ago. The simple salad of parsley leaves, sliced shallots and capers tossed with a basic vinaigrette is the perfect complement to the rich and fatty bone marrow.
Sometimes modern interpretations of classic dishes push parsley from main ingredient to supporting player. That classic Levantine salad combining parsley with a side of whole grains — tabbouleh — seems to feature the bulgur wheat over parsley as the classic dish was a parsley forward dish with the grains a side player. And that other Middle Eastern classic, falafel, seems to have done the same using parsley simply for coloring, as most falafel these days have that golden hue. The original recipe called for a lot more parsley — so much so that when you broke open a falafel, it had a pronounced green hue. Older cultures likely knew that you needed more than protein from the chickpeas and that the vitamins and minerals provided by the parsley were just as important.

Parsley Sauce?
When blitzed in a food processor or finely minced, parsley gives sauces a pleasing emerald green hue. And because it introduces that herbal, almost carrot-like flavor, it pairs well with most cooked proteins, from beef to seafood. However, over time, that attractive green hue will start to brown so whenever I make any type of pesto from any green herb, I always add about 2 gm of powdered Vitamin C as the ascorbic acid delays the brown coloration (ascorbic acid is an antioxidant). And say you don’t have enough basil or cilantro for your pesto, you can always add parsley to make up the difference.
This Salsa Verde or “green sauce” uses parsley, mint and basil then adds umami from anchovies and brininess from capers and is the perfect green sauce for grilled beef, pork or chicken. Or you can simply toss it with pasta for a delicious side dish — I also use it as a sandwich spread or in wraps.

Salsa Verde
1 cup packed parsley leaves
1 cup packed mint leaves
1 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
2 large oil packed anchovy filets
2 small garlic cloves
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
2 gm Vitamin C tablets, powdered
2 to 4 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a food processor, place the capers, garlic and mustard on the bottom then sprinkle the Vitamin C powder then top with the greens and honey. Turn on the processor and slowly add the olive oil until you reach the desired consistency and season with salt and pepper to taste. Less oil for a sandwich spread, more for a sauce consistency to use on grilled beef, pork or fish.
This next parsley-based sauce is a mainstay in Argentina and Uruguay though it likely originated in the Basque region of Spain from their “tximitxurri,” meaning “hodgepodge.” Though certain recipes use a food processor, I feel that a true chimichurri is a coarse sauce so I just use my knife to mince the parsley and garlic. The red wine vinegar and chili flake helps cut the richness of grilled beef — in Argentina and Uruguay, it’s meat, meat and more meat. And because I prefer that the parsley and oregano shine, I only use one clove of garlic, but add more if you love garlic. Since I don’t use a food processor to create a pureed sauce, I also omit the Vitamin C powder.


The Gochiso Gourmet garnished his sirloin with chimichurri on using homegrown parsley. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

1 cup flat leaf parsley
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp onion powder
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
4 oz extra-virgin olive oil

You can either chop the parsley and mince the garlic manually or use a food processor on pulse — you still want to see parsley leaves as you’re not making a parsley puree. Add all the other ingredients and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes before using. Drizzle over grilled beef, pork or fish.
If your Bay Area abode doesn’t allow a garden or the weather isn’t suitable for herb production, you can always an indoor herb planter through the Internet. And if not, you can always purchase these greens at your local supermarket.

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a recently retired clinical pharmacist and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster. He writes from Kane’ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@gmail.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei News.

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