Every country, so it seems, has its own ‘national dish’, and in many cases, many. These dishes are influenced by many things, but are supposed to be indicative of a nation’s own culture. A culinary representation of its people, their heritage and history. And it’s these dishes we usually look for when we have ‘international night’. If I go out for Mexican, I want carnitas, rice and beans and tacos. If I go out for Chinese, I want some sort of dim sum dumpling and stir fry. Japanese? Sushi or something grilled with a wonderful miso dipping sauce. Italian? You got it. Pasta. But what about the lesser – known, but equally magnificent international dishes? It’s an interesting and usually very rewarding path to walk down. Here’s why:
Lesser known cuisines tend to retain their identity more than those cuisines that we (Americans) have adopted. When cuisines are ‘adopted’ into our, or anyone else’s culture, we tend to modify it. We change it into a hybrid. Chinese food becomes American – Chinese food. Italian becomes American – Italian. And so on. But the cuisines that have avoided the mainstream tend to stay authentic. If you were to walk into an Indonesian restaurant, your food would most likely be very authentic. Why? Because we haven’t adopted Indonesian food into our everyday palates.
Here in Los Angeles, trendy restaurants open and close all the time, and one trend that never seems to grow old is South American fusion. Peru/Japanese. Brazilian/Thai.
And then there’s Argentinean. A cuisine unto its own. When people think of Argentinean, immediately thoughts of wonderful grilled meat, full bodied wines and food of the earth come to mind. Yucca, potatoes, quinoa.. And rightfully so, REAL Argentinean food is a marvel to behold. It’s truly food of terrior (food from the earth); simple ingredients stand out. And blow us away.
Chimichurri is an essential part of any Argentinean dinner, and with its vibrant and bright flavors, has adopted itself very well into American cuisine. Grilled steak or chicken slathered with chimichurri immediately conjures thoughts of perfectly seasoned food, perfectly cooked food, and wonderful flavors. It lies halfway between a sauce and a condiment, and is a great gateway to Argentinean cuisine.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Inactive cook time: 12 hrs
Yield: about 1 cup finished product
1 cup flat leaf parsley, leaves only, rough chop
1/2 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro, leaves only, rough chop
1/2 cup oregano, leaves only, rough chop
juice of 2 limes
1/4 good quality red wine vinegar
2 tbsp small dice red onion
6 cloves garlic, fine chop
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/2 tsp flaked sea salt
dash of ground cumin
1 tsp crushed red pepper
In a food processor, add 1/2 the parsley, 1/2 the cilantro, half the oregano and the olive oil. Blend until well incorporated. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients EXCEPT the lime juice, vinegar and salt. Mix well. Let sit covered in the refrigerator over night. Just prior to serving, add the lime juice, vinegar and salt and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and vinegar only if necessary. The flavor should be bright and vibrant.
Spoon over fresh grilled meats or chicken.