I have long been a fan of chimichurri sauce, with its assertive flavours and balance of herbs, vinegar and fiery chile peppers. So when I learned the ultimate chimichurri sauce at a Jewish Food Project workshop, I couldn’t wait to put it to the test…. by tweaking it and making it something only mildly similar to chimichurri. Thus, this green herb sauce is a great way to use up leftover greens and herbs, and to add flavour to any vegetables – a quick and easy side dish for a weeknight meal.
My first encounter with chimichurri came at the kibbutz where I worked during my national service. It was populated by a large group of Argentinian Jewish immigrants, many of whom brought the flavours and sounds of their homeland into their new life. On many nights, the shaded pathways that led between the dining room and the houses would be awash with the sounds of the tango, with throaty singing and boisterous Spanish guitar. The tall Ella trees seemed to almost sway to the sounds, lending their own lithe bodies to the beat.
But the real action took place in the communal kitchen. Many Argentinian worked there, adding zest and spice to ordinarily lackluster dishes like roasted potatoes or cauliflower sauce. They presided over the ingredient selection, the meat buying, and the cooking itself. And once a month, they would throw a real Argentinian barbecue dinner for all of the residents. With the malbec flowing and the asado in full preparation, the real party would start.
Though I was rarely there in the evenings and I don’t eat meat, I thought at first that these Argentinian parties would have little bearing on my life. That was until I tasted the chimichurri,
A traditional accompaniment to Argentinian barbecued meat, chimichurri has a sharp, acidic taste that is only slightly tamed by its aging process. To truly be palatable, chimichurri must be allowed to rest for at least a couple of hours, and preferably overnight. Though it’s an incredible easy sauce to put together, it demands planning ahead, and that’s often more than I can handle for a weeknight meal.
One day, faced with a head of beautiful purple cauliflower, I thought of a way to bring the chimichurri flavours to the table, with minimal effort. A blender made easy work of all the errant herbs and greens in my fridge (because why waster perfectly good kale if you can use it in sauce), and roasting deepened all the flavours to the point they melted in your mouth.
Thus, my green herb sauce was born. Whether you serve it with cauliflower, potatoes, yams, turnips, parsnips or any other vegetables you like roasted, it’ll bring a small taste of Argentina into your mouth. You can roast the vegetables in the sauce for maximum flavour, or, if your sauce is silky enough and you like it as is, you can preserve the nutrients by just putting in on top of your dish, real chimichurri style.
In any case, the green herb sauce will transform any weeknight meal to an Argentinian asado party.
- 2 heads of cauliflower, broken into florets
- 4 cups of green and herbs of your choice - make sure to include some scallions (kale, spinach, cilantro, parsley and watercress are all good options).
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 4 cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon chilli flakes (or more, to taste)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Oil a casserole dish well. Cut cauliflower into florets, and arrange in casserole dish.
- Trim all of your herbs and greens - remove stems, cut off the white ends from the scallions. Chop roughly.
- Add greens and herbs to the bowl of a food processor. Process until everything is chopped finely. Add the rest of the ingredients except the oil, water and vinegar, and process a few more times to combine well. Add water and vinegar, and process until everything is mixed well and makes a unified sauce with few lumps (this may take up to five minutes). Finally, add oil in a slow drizzle, helping the sauce emulsify. Taste and correct seasonings.
- Pour sauce on cauliflower, cover, and bake for 45 minutes - OR, if sauce is tamer, bake cauliflower with a drizzle of olive oil and salt, and then serve with the uncooked green herb sauce. Remove cover in the last 5 and increase heat to 375F. The dish is ready when cauliflower pierces easily with a fork.