I was caught off guard when two familiar flavors landed at my table through an unexpected intersection of food cultures. I was instantly transported to two of my mother’s Sunday specials – a lunch featuring fried rice with an accompaniment made of raw red onions, green chili, and vinegar and dosa (rice pancake) with cilantro (coriander leaves) chutney. However, this time, I wasn’t in India, but in Peru – eating the same onion salsa-like combination paired river trout ceviche and a creamy cilantro sauce with roasted chicken.
The connections made through ancient trade routes seemed to have culminated on my table: The exchange of ingredients and preparation styles link us together more than we might expect. In both countries, the condiments combine the crisp piquancy of red onions with the heat and color from the varieties of chilies, and rounded out by the herbal notes of cilantro in almost identical ways. In Peru, I also found a new twist on the classic chimichurri from neighboring Argentina. This parsley-based condiment is a welcome addition to my list of accompaniments for the upcoming holiday weekend. Instead of its usual topping for grilled flank steaks, chimichurri can double as a dipping sauce for chunky slices of bread – exactly how it was served in Peru.
These condiments can be made ahead, and are quick and easy accompaniments to barbecue dishes. Happy July 4th!
Red onion – ½, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Olive oil – 1 tbsp
Aji chili – 1, cut into rounds
Lime – 1, juice
Salt – ¼ tsp
- Mix the oil, lime juice, chili, and salt together. Keep aside up to couple of hours ahead of when needed.
- Just before serving, add the sliced onions to the mixture. Toss until the oil-lime juice mixture coats the onions well.
Note: Substitute aji with serrano or jalapeno, but use caution when handling chili. Remove the seeds to lessen the spicy heat.
Parsley (fresh) – ¾ cup, chopped
Shallot – 1, finely chopped
Serrano (jalapeno) – 1, finely sliced
Garlic cloves – 3, finely sliced
Red wine vinegar – ½ cup
Olive oil – ¼ cup
Oregano – ¼ tsp
Salt (kosher) – ¼ tsp
Pepper – ½ tsp
- Mix together the chopped parsley, shallots, serrano chili, and garlic.
- Shake the red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper well before adding to the parsley mixture.
- Chimichurri can stay refrigerated for 1-2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Note: If you enjoy the flavor of cilantro, replace a ¼ cup of parsley with cilantro.