When we moved to San Diego I didn’t come in with a plan of making friends or meeting people that would become like mentors to me. Anyone I could have thought of having as a mentor, people that I felt already close to, didn’t live in or near San Diego. During the first year of being in business, I was lucky to meet people who through their own will decided to help me in the food and wine aspect of the business. Chef Tim, a long-time restaurant veteran came to Jo’s and my aid in all restaurant operations matters. From plating dishes to running specials, PNL, and general restaurant knowledge, Chef Tim shared his expertise with us on a weekly basis. Something Chef Tim did as a mentor that really helped me gain confidence as a chef, was to push my boundaries and to always challenge the status quo.
So, how did we get here?
One step at a time.
Chimichurri is an olive oil-based sauce from either Argentina or Uruguay--two countries that have battled for years for the title of King of Chimichurri. When I first came to know of this South American deliciousness it was thanks to an Argentinian restaurant in the city of Monterrey, México. Its main ingredients are minced parsley, minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, and white vinegar. At Cueva Bar Café, I’ve modified the original recipe to make it more like a pesto.
Wikipedia claims that chimichurri does come from Argentina, and it reveals it to be a household ingredient that can be found in either its green or red form, depending on its maker. If anything, Chimichurri is to Uruguay and Argentina what salsa is to Mexico. Having tacos? Where’s the salsa? Having breakfast? Where’s the salsa? Having hotcakes? Fine, we don’t eat salsa with pancakes but now that I wrote this I bet there will be one Mexican who will tell his friend "Hold my Tecate".
Chimichurri has been a key element at Cueva Bar Café, now De Nada Kitchen and Market, and one we’ve used in different dishes throughout the years, but it was first introduced to our supporters as an accompaniment to the handmade and baked-to-order empanadas we have been serving since day one. Regardless of where chimichurri made its first footsteps, there have been many times when our guests have thought we were an Argentinean food establishment. This leads me to think that Argentina created chimichurri. Either that or Argentina has a real good Public Relations Agent.
So the country of Gauchos might be the king of chimichurri, but research shows that the Patagonians use it in just a few dishes, most of them grilled. At Cueva Bar Café it has been used as the main part of a dish, or even as the best supporting actor by adding a punch of flavour, and if you want to eat it with a spoon, we won’t judge you, after all, Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli was eating spoon fulls of it when I made an ugly vegetable chimichurri during my first appearance on Food Network's CHOPPED. Instead, we’ll send you home with enough chimichurri to last you for a week, maybe more if you use it moderately.
Just the other day on New Year’s Eve, our new team member at Cueva Bar Cafe was surprised at how much the Paquins not just like, but love our chimichurri. She told me “Oz, your friends order a side of chimichurri with all of their dishes every time, I think they really like your chimi!”
Hungry for chimichurri yet? Besides wanting you to become a fan of my chimichurri I really want to share this recipe so all readers and foodies out there can have a jar of this not-so-famous condiment that’s healthy and really enhances the flavor of food. Having expressed that, here is my chimichurri recipe for you to make at home. Try it, and make sure you love it!
RECIPE: CHEF OZ CHIMICHURRI RECIPE
1 bunch parsley finely chopped
1/8 cup pepitas
½ c vinegar
1 c extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic,
½ tbsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp Italian seasoning
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it’s thoroughly mixed and finely chopped.
Taste and adjust salt or pepper to preference
Store in an airtight container until ready to use