Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cancun travelog: chimichurri sauce and salad



One week post vacation with a little color still on my cheeks and a few rum drinks and birthday desserts still lingering.  Cancun which can easily be confused with Florida once you get out of the beautiful warm blue water and off the beach.  Your dining choices include Margaritaville, Pat O'Brien's and Ruth's Chris.  Ugh.  The food at the JW was actually creative and fresh, but it wouldn't be a vacation if I didn't get to do some research and find somewhere off the beaten path for a little culinary adventure.  Our absolute favorite was a cab ride away to the Centro area of Cancun. An area we decided to attempt by bus 9 years ago with our daughters in tow.  That will forever be one of our most memorable transportation adventures.  We missed our stop and at some point one of the locals asked us where we were going and then recommended we get off the bus and get a cab as the surroundings got a lot more local than we were expecting.  Good times.  So this trip we just had the helpful Marriott staff call up a nice cab driver and got our Pesos ready.  A charming little restaurant tucked into the streets of downtown in what was the owner's home 37 years ago, La Habichuela and it's patio of Mayan sculptures, lush aromatic landscape, twinkle lights and vintage white "peacock"wrought iron chairs was  just delightful.  So good we went twice.  Bob and Tammy joined us the second half of the trip and this was their favorite restaurant too just from the ambiance.  For dessert Bob ordered butterscotch crepes and I ordered crepes Suzette.  Little did we know they would both be prepared with a dramatic tableside flambe station, although we could have guessed with all of the liqueurs involved.  So fun.

This little travelog is leading somewhere.  Our second favorite restaurant was in the dreaded Hotel Zone, although there is something to be said for the convenience (and the exercise) of walking to and from dinner.  Puerto Madero is an Argentinian steak and seafood restaurant and part of a small international chain.  The steak and the souffle potatoes (double puffed potatoes that just really defy description except to say that there is nothing souffle about them except that they are served in a basket made of basically huge ridged potato chips and when it's full of the puffs it has a souffle shape) were amazing.  La Habichuela served an incredible hot but flavorful habanero sauce with the octopus appetizer.  Puerto Madero put something on their steaks, but they are not telling.  The standard accompaniment to all things meat in Argentina is chimichurri sauce.

La Habichuela. Cancun
I've seen recipes for it for years and always thought, "that would be delicious and I should make it sometime" as I dog-eared a page.  So upon our return I added parsley and cilantro to my grocery list for a warm evening when we were grilling very tasty ribeyes from the deep freeze bought on sale this winter at Whole Foods.  And of course I found a new favorite flavor profile and a recipe I'd tweak three more times in the next week because that chimichurri sauce was spectacular.  I'm giving you recipes for the sauce and for a salad adaptation.  Give it your own spin.  Very fresh and sunny.  It snowed here again today and I'll take fresh and sunny however I can get it.

The first time I made this I did not have fresh cilantro in the house and just used 1 tsp of cumin and 1 full cup of parsley instead. Worked liked a charm.

Chimichurri Sauce

1/2 C packed chopped flat-leaf/Italian parsley
1/2 C packed chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 T fresh when it's growing outside my door again)
1 T chopped garlic
1 T red wine vinegar
2 T-1/4 C olive oil (you decide how thin you'd like your sauce)
juice of one-half or one lime, to taste
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt

Combine parsley, cilantro, oregano and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Scrape mixture into a bowl and stir in the vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, red pepper flakes and 1/2 tsp salt, taste for seasoning.  Store in refrigerator.

Chimichurri Salad

chimichurri sauce
1/2 pound campari or roma tomatoes cut in big chunks or wedges (it's winter and I use Costco tomatoes, fresh local ones of any variety from the farmer's market will be so good in this come summertime)
sliced sweet onion
avocado, pitted and cut into chunks
romaine hearts, washed, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

Toss all ingredients together and serve immediately.  Garnish with fresh ground pepper and crumbled cotija, feta or ricotta salata cheese if desired.



ingredients 

my food processor died and this little bowl on my
immersion blender is struggling, better results with better equipment

one delicious salad



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