Monday, November 23, 2009

Italian Green Sauce – Salsa Verde


Have you ever seen such a beautiful bouquet of flat-leaf parsley?   This organically grown herb grows in one of the vegetable beds at Sylvan Rodriguez Elementary School in Houston.  In the shadow of the Williams Tower (formerly Transco Tower see it in the top right hand corner?)  this notable school hosts the Recipe for Success program that I praised in my previous post.  I picked a lovely bunch and admired my fresh arrangement at home for several days – pinching leaves and enjoying the crisp green taste in my mouth it’s a great breath freshener!

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Remember when curly parsley was merely a colorful decoration on your dinner plate, left untouched, then dumped in the rubbish bin?   Fresh parsley has since taken top billing in our kitchens in the likes of tabbouleh, chimichurri and pesto.  It’s a subtle flavoring in many other dishes including dressings, stocks and sauces.  Loaded with Vitamin C (it has three times the amount in oranges), Vitamins A and K, iron and folate, parsley also has therapeutic value as a diuretic.  When used to make tea, it can reduce high blood pressure.  It can also help to settle an upset stomach and is rich in antioxidants.  Because it is so readily available, don’t even think about buying the dried, dead leaves in a jar to cook with – it just won’t cut it and I’ll come and admonish you!

I looked for a recipe that used a generous amount of fresh parsley.  Green Sauce, or Salsa Verde comes from Mario Batali’s Molto Mario cookbook.  Batali serves this sauce with a variety of meats (calf tongue, veal, brisket, beef cheeks, sausage, capon and turkey) in broth.   With all of those meats in a bowl, Mario found a way to add a seafood component as well, so…salt-packed anchovies come on the scene via a flavorful and complex sauce.  After test-tasting the mixture, I added a clove of garlic – and WOW – it’s the bomb!   Not only is it delicious, it’s also very versatile - you can use it as a dipping sauce or in an appetizer (see my crostini below).  We enjoyed the sauce with roasted chicken breasts the other night and on broiled fish and sweet potatoes last night. 

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Italian Green Sauce – Salsa Verde     Adapted from Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano cookbook.

I bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley, rinsed, leaves only

4 salt-packed anchovies (canned), rinsed and picked over for visible bones (anchovy bones are very soft, small and edible so you don’t have to remove them all)

1 small bunch mint, rinsed, leaves only

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

1 hard-boiled egg, cooled

1 clove garlic, peeled

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 cornichons or ½ large kosher dill

2 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place parsley, anchovies, mint, capers, egg, garlic, cornichons, vinegar, olive oil and black pepper in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve at room temperature.

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And just because I’m my father’s daughter and I have the stomach and taste buds that can handle intense flavors, I made crostini with toasted sesame bread and green sauce.  I topped them each with a tiny, briny, oily and pungent anchovy filet - not for the squeamish…but give it a try!

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