January 8, 2008


Accompanying nearly every meal I've eaten the past few weeks--yes, even breakfast--has been this humble little green sauce known as Chimichurri.

I first experienced it's highly addictive properties at the Flor de Cafe in Puerto Escondido. In Mexico, mind you, not in Argentina where it comes from, served up with a world-class grass fed beef steak, but on the beach in Mexico where there is no fresh beef or parrillas in sight. I was drawn to the cafe in the beginning by its paquetes, or dinner specials that consisted of grilled Mahi-Mahi, rice and a simple salad, AND a beer for 40 pesos: all of that for under $4.00. But after the first dinner there, I returned at least twice a week, not for the fish, which was very delicious, but for the green sauce that sat so unassumingly on the table, served with fresh tortilla chips. Not your average Mexican appetizer, to say the least.

I put it to work with every course, not just with the chips, smearing it on my fish, eating it with my rice. If I went there for breakfast, I would ask for it with my eggs, which the server always thought a little strange. But it wasn't, it was delightful. Refreshing, light, and full of flavor. If they were out of chimichurri--I am serious here--I would not eat there. The meal just wasn't the same without the little condiment that could.

One year later, in a snowstorm, I am making South American style empanadas, trying to replicate a vegetarian version I once ate in Argentina. Since I was going to a potluck with these little beauties, I thought they needed some sort of dipping sauce or something to bathe them in upon serving. Then I remembered it--oh, how could I have ever forgotten you--CHIMICHURRI.

I let out a little squeal, Of course, my dears, it was perfect. I literally ran to the computer, and hail Mary, the first search I did on Epicurious gave me this recipe I am sharing with you today. I couldn't believe it. I didn't have to change a thing, it was so authentic, and brought back so many memories of Puerto and fresh fish and vibrant flavors, salty air and sand between my toes. I was jumping up and down, grinning from ear to ear. This all transpired in 10 short minutes, start to finish, from conception to completion. Ryan watched in amazement.

I still cannot get enough of this green goodness. Picture a pesto made with parsley and cilantro, sans cheese or nuts. It is tart and little salty at first, but the flavors mellow by day two.

This recipe easily doubles, and is so good with just about anything, including tortilla chips, eggs of any kind, chicken, fish, beef, and of course, empanadas. You can ramp up the red pepper flakes for a little more kick, but I encourage you to try it on the mild side so you don't mask the flavors of the parsley and cilantro.

Chimichurri, from Bon Apetit, October 2002

Makes about 1 cup

1 cup (packed) fresh Italian Parsley (flat-leaf, not curly)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup (packed) fresh cilantro

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Puree all ingredients in a food processor. Transfer to bowl. Will keep for several days covered tightly in the fridge. I like it best at room temp though, so take it out a bit before serving.

I am going to have some right now with a leftover frittata burrito!

Buen Provecho.

January 4, 2008

Mass Production...and, er, Consumption

Whew. That was tiring. The year ended with a bang, and left me exhausted. For the past, well, month I guess, my Kitchen-Aid mixer and my oven have been working overtime. Several--countless, actually--pounds of butter and chocolate later, I am pleased to share with you all of my gastronomical endeavors this Holiday Season.

Here is a list--by no means comprehensive--of what was turned out of my humble, yet functional kitchen at the cabin, in no particular order:

Coffee Walnut Toffee: Indeed, "slightly less addictive than crack". A winner!

Gingerbread Truffles
Milk Chocolate-Espresso Truffles
Chocolate Caramel Truffles

Cranberry Noels
Lime Meltaways
Homemade Oreos (very convincing!)
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Chocolate-Covered Coconut Macaroons
Ginger Spice Cookies

Brie Toast with Chardonnay-Soaked Golden Raisins that could pass for dessert

Cheesy Sweet Potato Crisps with Rosemary-Balsamic Cream

Pasta with Hashed Brussels Sprouts and Pine Nuts

Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasgna

J.P. Hartt's Egg Nog, Four--yes I mean 4--Gallons worth!

Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Cook's Illustrated, Nov. and Dec., 2002

Country Bread, loaf upon loaf. I haven't bought bread in weeks! Recipe is from my dear friend Talia. Someday I will share the recipe with you!

Some of the delectables above were sent out as gifts, packaged up and shared. Some were just cozy dinners or office party fare. Some were even skied into a Backcountry Hut in the Wallowa Mountains--including 2 whole roast Lemon Chickens!--where we spent four momentous days in glorious powder, each day a marked occasion in it's own right: Winter Solstice, Full Moon, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Delicious, not to mention the fine food we shared.

This year, the baking extravaganza will go on, as dreary winter days persist. I can't think of a better way to spend them, as I peruse food blogs and cookbooks looking for little bits of inspiration. I'll continue to experiment and create, and share the results with you as often as possible.

Cheers to a fun-filled New Year!