Rachel Bennett

Sap and Herbs

In Food on March 12, 2011 at 14:51

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

– T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland.

Spring is elusive on this shrouded island. One moment she peeks from the earth in a scatter of golden daffodils, the next she withdraws to sulk behind a leaden, leaking sky. At this time of year, worn out by months of bolstering myself against a grey drizzle, I am particularly susceptible to this capricious climate: A sun break sends me into giddy abandon so that I throw on an optimistic tee-shirt and scamper outside, content and at ease with the world. But then the skies turn and the wind rips at my cheeks; mood darkening I succumb to a restless melancholy. In spring, flowers burst into bloom admonishing us to ‘be happy,’ yet meanwhile and unseen the tree sap is rising, fighting upwards against gravity—an exhausting journey towards the sun.

A few days ago I decided to make salsa verde. It is without a doubt the best cure for a case of this springtime, existential restlessness. Fling open the kitchen window and chop great handfuls of herbs, their fragrance like a deep aromatic affirmation of good things to come: Basil, soft and spicy; parsley, grassy and fresh; and mint, so bright it makes your body quiver. Together they mingle, pounded with pestle and mortar and seasoned with garlic, anchovies, and capers. The green plants merge into a heady spring tonic, a remedy against gravity and the cloying, insistent fertility of Spring. They rise, like sap to the sun.

Salsa Verde

Salsa verde makes a bright, refreshing complement to a variety of dishes. At this time of year, try serving it alongside a leg of Spring lamb.

2 bunches parsley
1 bunch basil
1 bunch mint
1 clove garlic
coarse sea salt
3-4 anchovy fillets
a dollop of Dijon mustard
red wine vinegar
olive oil
lemon juice

Finely chop the herbs and set aside. Using a mortar and pestle (or a food processor if you lack one of these wonderful medieval gadgets) combine the garlic, anchovies, a dash of salt, and a scattering of capers and mash into a smooth paste. Add the herbs, a dollop of Dijon mustard, and a generous portion of olive oil and whisk together well. Adjust the acid with vinegar and lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

  1. Ga-HOR-geous! What a good way to draw myself back up after this sunny/cloudy day…

  2. i can say this because I’m English, but the symptoms you describe – charging outside in a t-shirt as soon as the sun breaks through – is an almost perfect characterization of every English summer I can remember. If you’d added sitting shirtless in a pub beer garden roasting our pasty skin until it’s the color of flayed meat on that one sunny weekend in July, it would have been even closer to the truth!

    I’m so ready for spring too. Damn miserable conditions here in NYC too, but i love salsa verde, love just how damn green it is, not to mention the involvement of anchovies. Perfect with lamb, perfect with fish, as well as roast pork, and probably a nice hanger steak too. salivating.

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