Latin Twist: Chimichurri (a.k.a. Argentine Pesto)

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Like many of its condiment cousins, this one — chimichurri — is versatile! Not unlike pesto, this basil and herb-based sauce can be a marinade, dipping sauce, and more.

I first tried chimichurri years ago, on my first visit to  Buenos Aires, Argentina. Luckily my friend Maria Rosa (who, in addition to being an educator, tango dancer and amazing sculptor, also cooks!) shared the ingredients she usually uses. After my next visit (and my tango lessons!) I started taking more notes, and playing around with ingredients. The result was this version, though I may vary it depending on available ingredients and more. (For example, after traveling to Zanzibar, I discovered the wonders of toasting cumin seeds and have started doing that before I add them.) In addition to varying the components, I’m still discovering ways to use it–which wow, is part of the fun of cooking anything!

Here the chimichurri is spread “bruschetta-like” on crisp toasts. (Actually, we just made it in a cooking class last week at Don Coqui’s  and wow, it was — as always — a big hit!) With summertime inching closer, can’t help but suggest it as the perfect barbecue addition in one of its many incarnations (as marinade or spread). Let me know how you like it!

The recipe, after the jump.

Crisp Toasts with Chimichurri 

from Mambo Mixers,©2005,   Arlen Gargagliano

(Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

Makes about 1 1/4 cups chimichurri

1 long French baguette, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds

3 garlic cloves, chopped

Leaves from 1 sprig oregano

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

Leaves from 6 sprigs thyme

15 basil leaves, plus additional for garnish (if desired)

1 bunch fresh parsley, coarsely chopped, plus additional chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350º F. spread the rounds on a baking sheet. Toast for about 10 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Let cool and store in an airtight container until your ready to use them.

Combine all the ingredients, except for the parsley or basil garnish, in a food processor or a blender and process till smooth. Use the chimichurri immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Return to room temperature and mix well prior to serving.

To prepare the tostadas, set the bread rounds on a platter and spread the chimichurri on top. Sprinkle with basil ribbons or chopped parsley and serve immediately.

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About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!

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