Happy birthday, happy spring

Gabe's Magic SauceCalifornia turns golden (Kyle insists on calling it “brown”) by late spring, but right now, oh things are green around here. Last week we celebrated the equinox, and the official arrival of the spring. That same day – March 20th – would have been my mom’s 63rd birthday. In an unexpected alignment of so many things I love, I was able to celebrate with Dan and Gabe and our families, and with my Aunt Linna and my Uncle Lance. (And also with Gabe’s World-Famous Chimichurri Sauce. More on that in a minute.) 

oregano in the gardenBirthdays were not a big deal with my mom, at least not her own birthdays. She would usually say she didn’t want any presents, she just wanted us to be together – and then she would ask us all to come over and help in her garden for the day. Dinner al fresco seemed like the right sort of celebration – we were all together, and it’s sort of like gardening, in a nothing-to-do-with-it-but-at-least-it’s-outside kind of way.

Parsley

Out in the garage, we have my mom’s beautiful old farmhouse table. It is too big for our current kitchen, and it can no longer seat the whole gang. But when we carried it out onto the patio, it still made a perfect dinner table. The springtime evening was cool, not fall’s crisp promise but rather a soft chill that whispered through the air as the sun went down.

table

no one is chewing

There was, as there usually is, a lot of laughter. (I asked them all to please stop chewing so I could take a picture, which is why you see them mocking me with their huge grins and exaggerated joyfulness – but we really were having fun.) There was a big salad and cold beer, and there were soft corn tortillas wrapped around shredded chicken with roasted cauliflower and fried sweet onions. On top of this went the true star of the meal: Gabe’s fresh, bright, homemade, almost indecently, incandescently green sauce. Chimichurri is an Argentinean dipping sauce designed to complement grilled meats, and I have to say – Gabe’s version makes a kick-bum drizzle on a taco.

tacos

[By the way: Gabe’s version (which he learned to make this past year while working in the kitchen of one of Oregon’s finest dining establishments) can also be diluted into an extraordinary vinaigrette, which we learned by accident but will not forget.]

dinner time

As we were eating, a goldfinch came and sat in one of the trees at the edge of the yard. It sang down to us for a minute or two as we ate, and the sky was this gorgeous deep blue, and for a moment it seemed like the last few weeks of things – all the choices and chances, all the chaos and changes – lifted up off our shoulders, and we could breathe a little deeper.

And the sauce – the sauce! The sauce was so good on the tacos that we, no joke, completely and totally forgot that we had sweet-cream ice cream and the first spring berries that were meant for dessert. We sat out there until we had to come in, licking sauce off our forks while we talked, listening to the big kids pretend to be housepainters as they chalked up the fence, while the light faded and Alma and Lucas cuddled on laps. It felt like a moment, like a party, like a scene from Sunset magazine.

kids

The only thing missing was Mom. And while she would have skipped the chicken, she would have loved that sauce.

Happy spring everyone. I hope whatever is growing in your life these days, it is bright and full with the promise of the season.

Gabe's sauce

Gabe’s World-Famous Chimichurri Sauce

Since Gabe and Amanda are headed off on a four month trek involving 20-some countries, big backpacks, and a series of youth hostels, I decided I must learn to make the magic sauce myself. Thankfully, Gabe was willing to share his technique. We used fresh oregano from the garden because, you know, why not – but Gabe says dried certainly works as well. Hold out for good fresh springtime parsley though – this one really won’t work otherwise.

Gabe says: this sauce is simple to make but getting the right flavor profile can require some adjustments. The flavor ratios depend on the strength of the ingredients, so if your garlic is old you will need more. Also, the red pepper flakes bloom overnight, so the sauce is signifigantly spicier on the second day. It also turns dark greenish brown after a couple days – for those reasons, I recommend serving it on the day you make it – but, the basic flavor does keep for a week in the fridge, despite the color changing and the heat increasing.

1 large bunch of parsley, stems removed
~ 2 tablespoons oregano (we like fresh, but at the restaurant they used dried)
3 cloves garlic, peeled (plus more to taste)
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper
Apple cider vinegar
Olive oil

Put the parsley, oregano, garlic, pepper flakes, salt and pepper into a blender or food processor. Add 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar and 2/3 cup olive oil, and blend until it is emulsified, relatively uniform in texture, and bright vibrant green. Taste and adjust: Gabe usually adds another 1/2 tablespoon salt, and up to another 1/3 cup olive oil. This week he added another couple cloves of garlic, to suit Uncle Lance. (He also cut down on the red pepper flakes since the kids were trying it too). Gabe says “You should cook it with love, and make it taste the way you want it to taste, or the way you think your eating companions will want it to taste.” In describing what it is ‘supposed’ to taste like, he says: “Awesome. … Also, you should taste parsley and salt first, then the bite of the vinegar, and the heat from the garlic and pepper flakes should finish it. It is this basic combination and sequence that makes it so fantastic on grilled meats.”

Gabe’s quick fixes for adjusting the sauce after you taste it: if you add too much garlic, correct with additional parsley, vinegar and olive oil. If the sauce is too pasty to spoon, add more vinegar and olive oil in an approximate ratio of 1:3. If the sauce is too vinegary, add more parsley and olive oil … etc.

Happy birthday mom!

27 thoughts on “Happy birthday, happy spring

  1. I almost sent you an email yesterday because you hadn’t posted in a while and I was worried about you. So glad to see something from you. Your spring celebration looks beautiful. We still have snow on the ground here but there are flowers around the front steps. The first brave crocus always pops up the first week in March. Now there are bright splashes of yellow and purple, incongruously colorful amidst the otherwise tired, dusty gray-green creeping thyme. I am eagerly looking forward to more green.

    It has been a time of change and choices here as well, which is to blame for my own lack of posts. I hope you’re all well and the changes you’re experiencing all show themselves to be positive ones, with time. Happy spring, indeed!

    • Good changes all around here Tara! I hope there too. I have about ten posts started, but it has been a very strange and hectic month. Was glad to see you got something up today, since I have missed your posts, too. Happy green, and happy spring, (and happy posted roads!?) to you and yours.

  2. oh your mom was there for sure. looking down from some vantage point of nature – perhaps in the trees, the sun or the goldfinch that happened by. she was most certainly there in the cherished places of your hearts. beautiful post….

    • Kim, I haven’t had it on salmon but I can tell you, you won’t be sorry if you try it – probably on just about anything. Let me know how it goes!

  3. That chimichurri sauce looks amazing! What fantastic color Gabe achieved. Bravo!

    And thank you for sharing about your mom! It looks like it was a beautiful evening filled with good friends and good food.

  4. Pingback: Pan-Roasted Lamb Rib Chops with Mint Chimichurri | coolcookstyle

  5. Hi Hannah! I just wanted to send along a quick comment to let you know that I made a variation on your chimichurri with mint and it was AMAZING! I hope you don’t mind that I added a link to this post to mine on lamb chops with mint chimichurri.

    Many apologies for doing this so late late. I am visiting my parents for the next week and a half. It’s been a good visit so far, but I am exhausted! So exhausted that I couldn’t recall for the life of me when and where I had scribbled this note about chimichurri from. It suddenly came to me in a flash now.

    And those sentences were not well-constructed! Many apologies for being garbled!

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