Green Sauce

Don't let the generic name fool you –– green sauces add flavor and pizzazz to a meal.

When it's BBQ season (which is at least half the year in Marin, right?) it's great to have a go-to sauce on hand to serve with grilled food. A green sauce is a must-have. Despite the lackluster name, green sauces are packed with flavor, thanks to gobs of fresh seasonal herbs, a little garlic and seasoning. All sorts of popular cuisines have a version of green sauce: Argentinian chimichurri, Mexican salsa verde, Italian pesto are but a few –– and no one would dream of calling these sauces dull. Used as a garnish, accompaniment and marinade, green sauces add brightness and fresh flavor to grilled meat, chicken, fish, seafood and vegetables.

I set off to the San Rafael's Farmers Market last week with a green sauce in mind, and was immediately seduced by the fragrant mint from Marin Roots Farm. Marin Roots is an herbivore's delight, and proved to be a one-stop shopping experience as I gathered up a fragrant bouquet of parsley, chives, oregano and tiny green onions –– their dainty size hinting at their mild sweet flavor, a perfect complement to the robust herbs.

This herbaceous green sauce is a result of my market forage. While the ingredients can clearly vary from sauce to sauce, there are a few principles to remember to ensure great flavor:

  • Use fresh herbs and choose for a balance of flavor (sweet mint and bitter parsley, for example)
  • Bind the sauce with good quality olive oil
  • Add acidity (lemon or lime juice, red wine vinegar) to make the flavors pop
  • Add a touch of sweet (sweet onion or a pinch of sugar) to round out any bitterness
  • A little salt and pepper go a long way.

Herbaceous Green Sauce

Makes about 1 ¼ cups

1 cup mint leaves
1 cup Italian parsley leaves
1 bunch baby green onions (about 10), greens removed, bulbs coarsely chopped (4 thin scallions, white parts only, may be substituted)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Combine the mint, parsley, onions, garlic, and oregano in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse once or twice to chop. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to blend.