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How to make Green sauce (salsa verde, pesto, tapenade)

August 7, 2010

I use green sauce as a blanket term to cover a lot of different things. Salsa verde, pesto and tapenade are all different types of sauces and spread that are made with the same basic principles in mind. All you need to make a basic green sauce is a decent amount of your base ingredient (herbs, olives, peppers, etc) oil (usually olive oil) and salt. from this you can make an endless amount of different spreads and sauces. It is also a great way to preserve herbs that you may not use right away. If you add oil, lemon and salt you can keep herbs longer than simply keeping them fresh. Here are some good examples:


Green sauce on toast

The most basic green sauce can be made by blending a whole bunch of any one kind of fresh herb with olive oil and salt. the best method is to use a food processor, but a blender can be used and you can even just chop all the ingredients very fine with a knife for a slightly more coarse version. Just blend up the herbs with enough oil to make it the consistency you want with enough salt to make it taste good. Garlic, onions, hot pepper, lemon and vinegar are all great things to add for variations. Rub a cooked piece of meat or fish with a little green sauce or toss it with some steamed vegetables and call it delicious. Here are a few classic examples and variations on green sauces.


To make a classic pesto you need a large quantity of basil, some garlic, parmesan, pine nuts, olive oil and salt. pick, wash and dry all the basil leaves. You should not use basil stems.  Fill your food processor with the basil, garlic, nuts, grated cheese, a pinch of salt and a drizzle of oil. Now, this recipe can be adjusted in numerous ways. If you have a lot of some other kind of herb there is no reason you cannot substitute it. Try using sage, mint or even parsley in place of basil. You can try using other nuts, raw, toasted or salted in place of pine nuts. You can use many kinds of hard cheese in place of parmesan, or if you don’t want cheese you could substitute anchovies, fine toasted breadcrumbs or salted capers. Try some simple variations and see what works for you.


Roasted pepper and dill tapenade

Tapenade is generally made by blending pitted olives with olive oil and herbs or garlic. You can use any kind of olives you like. Your best bet is to use a well flavored olive as opposed to standard black olives in a can. If the olives have pits, crush them with the flat side of your kitchen knife and the pits will come out easily. I often do this then chop the olives coarsely and toss them with parsley and olive oil. If you stir it all into cold rice it makes a great rice salad. Tapenade makes a great spread and is wonderful on sandwiches too. You could also use roasted peppers or cooked eggplant for a similar dish and hummus can be made the same way by using chic peas instead of olives and tahini in addition to oil.


Pork sandwich with Watercress Salsa verde and radish greens

Salsa Verde is made in Mexico, Spain and Italy. Salsa verde in the U.S. usually refers to a Mexican variation. Tomatillos, hot peppers and cilantro are key players in this dish. If you google search “salsa verde” you can find an endless supply of tomatillo based salsa verde recipes. I don’t usually have tomatillos around, so I just do a big bunch of cilantro with some scallions, hot pepper, fresh lime juice, salt and olive oil. Olive oil is not traditional but it works well. When using cilantro you should include the stems. Unlike most herbs, cilantro stems are soft and full of good flavor. The same is true with watercress which is a great non traditional substitution for this sauce. Its is great with meat, fish and tacos. If you want salsa verde as a dip you should use tomatillos or tomatoes to make a more wet style salsa. You could also use fresh mango or peaches to make a savory/sweet salsa.

Once you’ve done it a few times you’ll find different sauces are great to have a round. you can add them to soups, salad dressings, sandwiches, eggs, toss them with vegetables and butter or just spread them on toast. If you have an herb garden with more herbs than you can use you can even make a green sauce and freeze it for year round use. Enjoy.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    April 5, 2012 1:04 am

    cant read the words ovrerlapping with the photos!

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