Culinary Herbs & Chimichurri

Herbs do more than create a lovely garden; they taste good too!  In the spirit of discovery,  I like to explore a new things simply because I haven't before.  This extends to my culinary world in what I grow and how I choose to preserve the harvest.  

New in my herb garden this year is perilla, (or sesame leaf) a Korean herb that is a member of the mint family.  It has a robust licorice-celery aroma and flavor with a hint of basil.  The assertive flavors of perilla are a good match for lamb or duck.  

The leaf veins tend to be firm, which
makes the leaf tough when used whole so I chop it using the food processor.  Due to the large size of the leaves a rough chop with a knife is needed before processing.  I filled several jars with finely chopped perilla preseved in oil as described in my Herbal Harvest Post.  Freezing your herbs in oil allows you to enjoy garden-fresh flavor all year long.  I mark each jar with the contents and date and place them in the freezer for future enjoyment.

In addition to perilla I created minced herb oils using Italian oregano (so I would have it on hand for making marinara when tomatoes are in season) as well as a range of thyme, basil and sage varieties.  

As an alternative to making pesto from a variety of herbs I decided to my create small jars of chimichurri, an Argentinian condiment with a wonderfully fresh and bright herbaceous flavor.  With my first batch I followed the traditional route using parsley as the primary herb adding only a touch of sweet basil and chives.  Subsequent batches strayed from the norm to include parilla, Vietnamese coriander and others.  Coriander seed is a product of the herb cilantro.  The Vietnamese coriander plant imparts a similar flavor but is softer than common cilantro.

RB Chimichurri
  • 2 cloves garlic 
  • 1 small bunch parsley (12-15 stems) 
  • 1 stalk sweet basil 
  • 6-10 chives 
  • light olive oil just enough to make saucy 
  • lemon juice (1/2 lemon) 
  • 2T rice vinegar 
  • Salt & Pepper 
  • Crushed Red Pepper flakes
    In a food processor, whiz the garlic along with the liquids until minced.    Next add the herbs and pulse to chop the herbs finely.  Season to taste with the salt & black and red peppers.  Create variations by switching the parsley for one of your other favorite herbs.

    To preserve the garden fresh flavor of my chimichurri year-round I store it small jars that fit in the door of the freezer and chisel it out of the jar as needed.  When using the whole jar within a few days I allow it to thaw.  As an alternative, you can freeze portions in ice cube trays then store the frozen cubes in an airtight container or bag to use as needed.  

    An excellent condiment for empadas, wraps and sandwiches, chimichurri also works well as a marinade for both meat and vegetables.  It is a quick and easy way to add flavor to plain cous cous or to perk up a pasta salad.  
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