Two Green Sauces – Or What To Do with Extra Herbs
There’s nothing worse than wasted ingredients. And yet I can’t quite bring myself to save carrot scraps and tops and celery ends in baggies in the freezer’s few vacancies for some stock I might make one day. I wish I felt the same way about not hoarding yarn for potential sweaters or socks for potential jogging impulses, but so far the urge has applied only to those scraps of vegetation that better cooks/composters/planners than I are economically amassing right now.
There are other ways to be seriously resourceful (phew!), to cater to future appetites with food purchased in the past. Here’s how that philosophy has swooped into my kitchen recently, taking would-be leftover cilantro and parsley and turning them into green sauce. This works better than the stash and save approach because you can make green sauce in the same fit of cooking motivation that brought the enormous bunch of cilantro into your life in the first place. Leave the bunch out while you eat dinner and work on your green sauce when you do the dishes.
Once pulverized into salsa verdes and pestos and covered in olive oil, fragile leaves last much longer than they would have if left to their own limp devices.
The first sauce, Italian salsa verde, is good piled on anything remotely plain: roasted chicken, avocado toast, scrambled eggs, roasted vegetables. There’s richness and brininess to complement all those herbs, and I can’t say no to heaping dollops. To make, put a minced shallot in a little bowl and cover with cider vinegar. Leave that to steep for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, put your bunch of parsley (some stems are fine), an anchovy, 1 teaspoon capers, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a mini food processor. When the shallot is ready, drain and save its vinegar, and add the shallot to the mix. Pulse to pulverize. Then add up to 1/2 a cup of olive oil to make a sauce. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
The second, a sort of Mexican cilantro pesto sits pretty on a plate of rice and beans or a more trumped-up burrito bowl. I added minced ginger and scallions to a few spoonfuls of my recent batch, then mixed that new stuff in with fresh ramen noodles for a sort of pan-Asian pesto that reminded me of ginger-scallion sauce and was unbelievably good with a fried egg on top. To make, combine 1 clove garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup toasted pepitas (or whatever nut you have), your bunch of cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice or a pour of mild vinegar in the food processor. Pulse to pulverize, adding up to 1/2 cup of olive oil as you go, to make a sauce. Add 1 tablespoon minced ginger and 4 minced scallions to migrate the sauce from Mexico to Asia.
In a pinch, these sauces add both flavor and real nutrition to your meals–herbs are really vegetables, after all! If you want to bulk out either one, a few handfuls of baby spinach or arugula leaves leftover from salads are welcome too.