When I first learned to cook, using herbs meant garnishing dishes with parsley and using dried herbs in cooked dishes. Nobody ate the parsley sprigs—except me. If you wanted fresh herbs, you usually had to grow them and most of us bought dried dill and chives, not realizing how little their flavors resembled fresh.
For me, this changed when I lived in Paris in the early 1980s. At the local street market, Mme. Epice, as she was known (French for spice), sold every kind of herb fresh and I quickly learned how much better they taste compared to dried. When I complained that using fresh thyme was too much work, Madame explained that you could toss whole sprigs into the pot for soups and stews rather than laboriously picking off the leaves from the stem. At the end, you could just pick out the woody stems, as you would a bay leaf.
Later on, traveling in Italy, I fell in love with two sharp green sauces made with fresh herbs: Salsa Verde, from northern Italy, includes parsley, anchovies, capers, garlic and vinegar. Salmoriglio, from Sicily, uses parsley, oregano, and garlic, plus lemon juice. Both are great with grilled, roasted or poached fish or chicken.
Recently, I created my own refreshing herb sauce, perfect for warm days. Simply whirl together fresh cilantro, basil, parsley and a chopped green chile with orange juice and a touch of low-fat mayonnaise until pureed.
Serve this bright green sauce with grilled, broiled or poached fish or chicken. It also makes a great dipping sauce to accompany boiled shrimp, as a change from the usual red cocktail sauce. With all we now know about the benefits of carotenoids and the concentration of other health-protecting phytonutrients in herbs, this sauce is a great way to use them generously.
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Chilled Shrimp with Green Sauce
Makes 4 entrees or main servings, or 8 servings as an appetizer.
- 4 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
- 2 Tbsp. reduced-fat mayonnaise
- 1 cup cilantro leaves, packed
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, loosely packed
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, loosely packed
- 1 serrano chile pepper, seeded and chopped*
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- 1 lb. medium shrimp, cooked, shelled and deveined
- Place the orange juice and the mayonnaise in a blender or food processor. Add the cilantro, basil, parsley, and chile pepper. Process until the mixture is a pulpy puree. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer it into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until it is chilled and thickened, 3 hours to overnight. (Use within 24 hours.)
- To serve, bring the sauce and the shrimp to room temperature. If using for hors d’oeuvres, transfer the sauce to a serving bowl and place in the center of a large serving plate.
- For individual entrees, divide the sauce among 4 small bowls to place on 4 dinner plates. Arrange the shrimp around the bowls. For appetizers, use one large plate and bowl for a buffet-style meal, or use 8 small bowls and plates for individual servings.
- *For a hotter sauce, do not seed the pepper.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
3 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat),
4 g. carbohydrate,
24 g. protein,
less than 1 g. dietary fiber,
239 mg. sodium
Diabetic Exchanges:3 Low-Fat Meat, 1/2 Fruit