Monday, August 23, 2010

Chimichurri - Not Just for the Halibut

     Summer is slowly dying--you can smell it in the air, and the near-deafening evening symphony of crickets singing and locusts screeching in the night. I figure I should try and squeeze in a few more summer meals before fall is officially here, and this recipe has a nice, summery feel to send the season off in style.
     Chimichurri is something I'd never even heard of until I began scouring online recipes sites and cookbooks for new Paleo meal ideas (not to be confused with chimichangas, the deep-fried burritos made popular by the now obsolete Chi-Chi's restaurant chain). Similar in appearance to a pesto, chimichurri is a fresh-tasting Argentinian green sauce that is often used as a topping or marinade for meat and seafood.  It's incredibly simple to prepare, extremly versatile, and only has a few ingredients--Most of which you may already have on-hand.

     For this recipe, I paired the chimichurri with halibut fillets, mini heirloom tomatoes (get them now while they're in season!), onion, and zucchini. The sauce you can make ahead--the flavors come together better when you make it a few hours in advance.

     Since I've never made chimichurri before, I let Epicurious take all of the guesswork out of it for me.

Halibut with Chimichurri and Heirloom Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Onion
(Makes enough sauce for about 4 generous servings)
For the chimichurri:
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1 T Water
1 T minced Garlic
1 T minced Shallot
3/4 teas hot Red-Pepper Flakes
3/4 cup chopped Flat-Leaf Parsley
1/2 teas Sea Salt

1/4 teas fresh ground Pepper

For the other stuff (make as much as you see fit): 
Wild-Caught Halibut Filets - You can buy it fresh now (while it's in season), or frozen always works (I had some cubed up halibut from Trader Joe's in my freezer, so I went with that. Having a well-stocked freezer saved me a trip to the store. Woohoo.)
Some Zucchini
Some Mini Heirloom or Grape Tomatoes (The fish must have covered them in the pic, but mine were a mix of yellow, orange, and purple tomatoes.)
Some Onion
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive Oil

 It's like the ball pit at Chuck E Cheese..Except without all the sweaty kids!

  • For the Chimichurri: I'm sure there's some fancy way to do this--Epicurious said to whisk the ingredients by hand, but I just threw them in the food processor and got the job done fast.
  • Transfer to a small container and let the flavors get to know each other a little bit.
         (Pause for reflective Bob Ross moment.)

  • For the fish, I drizzled a small amount of olive oil on it, then seasoned it with a bit of salt, pepper, and a pinch of extra-finely diced shallots that I had leftover from the chimichurri.
  • If you plan to grill your fish, get your grill preheated to medium-high (or preheat your oven if you're doing the broiling thing) 
  • Cut up the zucchini into small slices, cut the heirloom tomatoes in half (here is a neat way to do this), and chop the onion into little square shaped chunks. Everything should be about the same size.
  • Toss the onion and zucchini in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil on medium-high, stirring often. Wait a couple of minutes and toss the tomatoes in, too. You may want to add salt, pepper, or a little bit of seasoning here (if you do, try and choose something that complements the flavors of the chimichurri, keeping in mind that it has a lot of flavor itself).
  • Place fish on well-oiled grill grate and cook for about 8-9 mins (mine was in pieces so I wrapped it in aluminum foil and stuck it on the grill for about 7-8 minutes) - until it is white and flakey. If you're broiling, you want to let it cook for about 7-8 mins, or until it looks done.
  • Meanwhile, back in the skillet, continue stirring the veggies until they are softened and ready to eat. Everything should finish up around the same time. We had ours over some fresh baby spinach, with the fish on top, followed by a few spoonfuls of chimichurri. It was quite tasty.

A few things about this recipe: 
     This is a very flavorful, distinctly piquant dish (with the chimichurri, a little goes a long way, so keep that in mind when you're plating up)..and by flavorful I mean: Garlic. Onion. Parsley. Lemon. Olive Oil. Halibut. An elegant polygamy of different tastes, which may not suit everyone's palate (however, I post this with confidence knowing that most Paleo people will enjoy it, particularly for it's simplicity and fresh taste).
     There are lots of variations of chimichurri out there though--some use vinegar, some use some other herbs, and some use a mix of cilantro and parsley, or even just all cilantro. Play to your own tastes - If you don't like garlic so much, cut the amount back from the start and add from there. Any version you'll find can be labeled as "Paleo" though, which makes it a definite winner in my book.

     It's usually served at room temperature, but can be kept in the fridge for a few days.

     It's also worth noting that halibut is a mild white fish--I like it here because it is a good canvas for the chimichurri to work its magic. You can also use other fish, shrimp, chicken, pork, steak (especially skirt steak or flank steak), or over vegetables - Or use the chimichurri as a marinade rather than a topping.

     This is a good recipe to play around with, is budget-friendly, and a great way to make use of ingredients you already have laying around (notice a theme here?)

     If you have any other decent chimichurri recipes or wind up with your own variation of this one, post it here!