Two Green Sauces – Or What To Do with Extra Herbs

Green Sauces | Big Girls Small Kitchen

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.

More saucy ways to use up your herbs: herby avocado hummusSarah’s green sauce, green harissa, green goddess soup, whole wheat pesto pasta with rabe.

  • Caitlin

    These look beautiful!

    • BGSK

      Why thank you!

  • Cherryl

    These do look beautiful, but I don’t understand the aversion to saving carrot scraps and celery tops. I have a container in the freezer that is meant for carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and herb scraps. As soon as it is full I make vegetable stock. The same goes for mushroom scraps, shrimp scraps, spinach/kale scraps, and even cilantro stems/scraps. Each is saved in the freezer until there is enough to make a stock or even a pesto in the case of the spinach/kale. But, I do like the idea of the green sauces. Just don’t give up on the idea of frugality. Stocks and broths are worth the effort to save your vegetable scraps in the freezer, and to use them diligently.

    • BGSK

      Thanks for your note, Cherryl! I appreciate the notes on how you make the scrap-saving work for you and will definitely give it a shot based on your notes. One thing I’ve found is that making the extra thing (green sauce, kale stem pesto, etc) at the same time that I’m already cooking keeps me frugal without adding another container to my crazy fridge.

  • Hannah

    This is a little judgey of those of us who do “bring ourselves” to save our scraps in the freezer for stock. It’s not hard. I add mine to a ziplock bag in my freezer whenever I have some.

    • BGSK

      Hannah–really appreciate the feedback, and my apologies for sounding judgy. I’m on the same page as anyone who’s developed a sustainable system for cooking, eating, and saving scraps. Great to hear it works for you!

  • Anna

    you are such a good photographer <3

    • BGSK

      Thanks, Anna!

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