PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSICA TUNIS AND AMBER TURPIN
Get creative with a sauce that easily adapts for any style of cuisine
To whom shall we attribute the green sauce? So many cultures claim a variation. Whether it is chimichurri from Argentina (which came by way of Ireland or India, depending on the slant of your origin story), zhoug from Yemen or chermoula from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, the merits of a finely chopped or blended green sauce are recognized worldwide. Some variation of the theme is almost always on the menu in our homes year round, but spring finds this recipe especially salient, green as she is, with fresh flavors and inspired spices from around the world.
Think of this as a blueprint, or a greenprint if you like, from which your palate can guide you in any direction. The base of this variable green sauce is made primarily of parsley (and perhaps cilantro or mint or basil), a bit of garlic, a squeeze of lemon, some olive oil, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper to taste. On a night when inspiration is lacking, this simple green sauce is plenty, is more than enough even, vibrant and full of flavors that can meld with many a cuisine.
It can take you further, though. It’s helpful when ad libbing further variations of this sauce to think in terms of flavor families, or flavor profiles—the association of flavors, spices and textures that are most closely related to the cuisine you’re cooking. Warm Indian spices like ginger root, cardamom and cumin shift the association eastward, mint and yogurt might do the same. Oregano, jalapeño and basil might shift it south, down towards chimichurri territory. Capers and fennel might give you visions of Mediterranean cliffs hung with wild herbs, and it’s a short hop to pesto if you add pine nuts. Sometimes we have no specific destination in mind, only a drawer full of vegetables or a garden bed brimming with herbs about to bolt. No matter the source of your ingredients, the idea is to blend or to process the base herbs, in conjunction with an allium of choice, some oil, a bit of acid, and some spices. While we have listed some of our favorite variations here, the list of potential ingredients is vast. That’s why there are so many ingredients listed on the list of variations.
In their traditional named forms, these sauces might have more or less oil, a smoother or a leafier texture. We don’t fret about it, much, or we choose based on whether we feel like drizzling or spooning a sauce. (Real talk: Sometimes we choose based on which piece of equipment feels like less of a bother to wash.) All of these recipes are made by combining the ingredients in a blender or food processor until the desired texture is reached. A blender will give you a smoother, silkier, more uniform sauce, while a food processor will give a finely chopped texture. For a thinner sauce, we add up to another half cup of oil, and increase the salt and acid to balance it, if needed.
Finally, it is worth noting here that “bunch” is a somewhat arbitrary term, as parsley and cilantro are “bunched” in larger quantities than dill or mint. We usually use the leafy tops and reserve the stalks for broth, but carefully washed stalks can help stretch a sauce further without damaging the flavors.
RECIPES: Jessica Tunis and Amber Turpin
The Green Sauce family tree.