Saturday, July 2, 2011

Salsa Verde

One of my favorite sauces is the Italian Salsa Verde. I tend to make it mostly during the summer months. But its zesty and bright presence is as welcome an addition to the rich braised meats of winter as it is to the grilled meats, fish and vegetables of summer. Salsa verde compliments so many different foods, if you have some on hand, it will never go to waste.

Earlier this week I made some to serve with pork tenderloin....

the next day I had it drizzled over some cherry tomatoes for lunch...

and the day after that, I finished it off by serving it with a platter of vine ripe tomatoes, summer squash and olives...

Some recipes for salsa verde will tell you that it's ok to keep it for up to a week. But I find that it's really best the day it is made. After the first day its brilliant color starts to dull and a day or two after that the flavors begin to get a bit out of balance as the shallots and garlic begin to take over. In any case, it is not likely that it will last that long.

Salsa verde literally means "green sauce". It is a lively, olive oil-bound amalgamation of chopped herbs and a varying parade of other flavoring agents. My favorite version is made of all parsley, but you will find versions that include basil, mint, tarragon, chives, chervil and/or scallions. The "green" can be pretty much any herb. Most versions will contain lemon zest, capers and garlic. Frequent additions include anchovies, shallots, pepper flakes and lemon juice or red wine vinegar. Occasionally a recipe will include Dijon mustard. Depending on its intended use, the consistency of the sauce can be loose and oily or it can be tightly packed with just enough oil to hold all the ingredients together. When you make salsa verde, you should feel free to adjust all of the ingredients to suit your tastes.

I like the appearance of the sauce the best when the herbs have been chopped by hand. But some recipes direct you to use the food processor or a mortar and pestle. Both of these methods will produce a sauce that is more of a thickish purée (like pesto, for example). If you choose to use a food processor (or mortar and pestle), make sure that all of the ingredients are chopped before you begin to add the oil.  The oil will make it difficult, if not impossible, to chop the herbs properly—they will just slosh around in the oil.

Salsa verde is excellent served with fin fish and scallops. And if you like shrimp (not my favorite thing, I admit), it's good with that too. It is particularly fine drizzled over a serving of simply cooked shell beans (fresh or dried). I love it with roasted root vegetables—especially carrots and potatoes. In the summer it is very good served with zucchini, eggplant or tomatoes. Frankly I would be hard pressed to name a vegetable that it doesn't compliment.

But of all the things that salsa verde can be served with, my favorite is a grilled or pan-seared steak.  The herb-y, salty, slightly lemony sauce compliments the sizzling, juicy meat perfectly. And this is just how I served it last night:

Then, today for lunch I made the leftovers (steak and sauce) into an open-faced sandwich with tomatoes and melted Gruyère:

It's almost gone now....but I'm sure I'll find a good home for the sauce that remains.

Salsa Verde

6 T. chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
2 T. chopped Basil or Mint (or use another 2 T. of parsley—to make 1/2 c.)
3 anchovy filets (less or more to taste), minced
1 T. capers, rinsed and chopped
zest of 1 medium lemon—or to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 small clove of garlic, minced or smashed to a purée with a pinch of salt
1 small shallot, minced and rinsed under cold running water
1/3 to 1/2 c. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 T. lemon juice (or red wine vinegar)—less or more to taste

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients adding more oil if it seems too stiff. Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Don't be shy with the lemon zest or the salt.  Set aside to allow the flavors to blend. If making ahead, add the lemon juice just before using (the acid encourages the herbs to lose their bright color). Makes about 2/3 cup.

Printable Recipe


Cooking Foodie said...

Lovely sauce... and thanks for all the suggestions to use it.. I can see myself making the sandwich right away...

Daphne said...

Making this sauce again. Works perfectly with so many dishes. Thanks!

Paige said...

Thank you Pam. It does go with so many different things....a great sauce to have in one's repertoire.