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Salsa Verde: Herbs Suspended in Olive Oil

April 18, 2011 | Tags: Deborah Madison , Food | Post comment

Salsa Verde:  Herbs Suspended in Olive Oil

Since oils, and olive oil in particular, are an important part of a healthy diet, I thought it a good moment to write about salsa verde, or green herb sauce. This sauce starts with olive oil and herbs but might also include capers, lemon zest, garlic or shallots and other tasty bright little items. It goes on everything—roasted vegetables, pizza, over poached fish or roasted chicken, on new potatoes, pasta, frittatas, and more. I can’t think of much that salsa verde doesn’t enhance, except desserts.  I often make a cup or so at a time and keep it in the refrigerator to pull out at dinner, but there’s no reason you can’t make a small amount for one meal, as suggested below. (For a variety of salsa verde recipes see Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.)

When you spoon salsa verde over something warm, like a platter of just-cooked asparagus, its flavor will explode, so this is when you want to use your most expensive oil. But for this particular salsa verde I used inexpensive oil from California that sells for about $6 at Trader Joe’s.  This is not a  boutique oil obviously, but is produced from a large-scale operation in which Arbequina olives are planted side bys side, like grapes, then harvested mechanically.  Because the harvesting machinery is heavy it has to be used when the ground is dry which is, as it turns out when the olives are extremely green, in October. While most oil made from Arbequina olives is reliably mellow, this oil is sharper, brighter and “greener” tasting. It’s very lively and I think very good in a salsa verde. In fact, I’ve been using it in my salad dressing as well on a regular basis.

I invite you to vary this sauce as you see fit, and if you want more than the amounts given, just increase them. No need to measure, really – your eye is good for that, as is your toungue.

Salsa Verde for 3 or 4 servings

2 tablespoons finely chopped herbs, such as parsley, chervil, tarragon, chives*, lovage
2 to 3 tablespoons of your favorite olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
the grated zest of one lemon

Mix all the ingredients together. Spoon over fish or whatever food you wish, hot, warm or room temperature.  Serve lemon wedges on the side if acid is desired.

*When you work with chives, cut them just once with a sharp knife into little pieces rather than running your knife over them repeatedly, which bruises them.