A GREAT GREEN sauce is a splash of sunshine that brightens any dish, any day.
Out and about, you’ll find me clucking contentedly over the Peruvian-style rotisserie bird at San Fernando Roasted Chicken in Seattle or Lynnwood — a squeeze bottle of their addictive cilantro-laced sauce in hand. And I’m always the first to say, “More mint chutney, please!” at Indian restaurants everywhere. Red sauce or green on my enchiladas? (Salsa verde, por favor.) Favorite steak sauce? (Chimichurri.)
Meanwhile, at home in my kitchen with a blender or food processor, it takes little time and effort to create a green sauce both vibrant and versatile.
Take cookbook maven Claudia Roden’s Spanish-accented mojo de perejil. Meant for sassing-up meat or seafood, it can be put on anything that might get a kick from a puckery parsley-fueled vinaigrette — say, boiled potatoes or grilled chicken breast: Pluck a generous cupful of Italian parsley leaves, blend with five crushed garlic cloves, ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons red (or white) wine vinegar, plus salt and pepper to taste. (Makes a cup.)
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“Whoa! Where did you find that recipe?” I asked after a friend turned me on to her go-to condiment: cumin-stoked charmoula, courtesy of Seattle cooking instructor Sureyya Gokeri. You might know Gokeri as co-owner of Fremont’s Cafe Turko, but you’ll surely know why I’m addicted to her bright green sauce (over roasted vegetables, sauteed shrimp, scrambled with eggs) when you follow this advice:
Toast (in a saute pan, till fragrant) then grind 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed. Zest then squeeze the juice from one lemon. Peel a garlic clove. Seed and devein two jalapeños. Finely chop a small bunch of cilantro. Now, blend the cumin, garlic, jalapeños and lemon juice with 4 tablespoons of good olive oil. Add the zest and cilantro, and pulse to a pesto-like consistency. Season with salt and pepper. (Makes ½ cup and keeps, refrigerated, for up to two weeks. So don’t be shy: make a double batch!)
Proving that it never hurts to ask, I begged Shubert Ho — the chef behind my neighborhood pan-Asian bistro, Bar Dojo in Edmonds — for his cilantro aioli recipe. Used as a saucy schmear to adorn his crispy-shallot beef sliders, that creamy concoction also adds an elegant element to his black cod kasuzuke. At home, I’ll eat it over anything, but you might try it over pan-seared salmon, under sautéed scallops or as dipping sauce for panko-fried cod.
Shooby’s Cilantro Aioli
Makes a scant 2 cups
1 small bunch of cilantro, leaves and stems roughly chopped
1 serrano pepper, seeded and quartered
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg yolk
¾ cup canola oil
Additional salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a blender or food processor, blend cilantro, serrano pepper, garlic, shallot, lime juice, salt and black pepper to a smooth purée.
2. Add egg yolk and process briefly.
3. In a slow, steady stream, add canola oil through fill-cap or feed tube, being careful not to add too much at once. The sauce should heavily coat a spoon, but will not be as thick as a traditional aioli.
4. Taste and correct seasoning. Use immediately or store, covered and refrigerated, for no longer than two days.
Nancy Leson is The Seattle Times’ food writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mark Harrison is a Times staff photographer.