Chow Town

Turn a peppery arugula into a high-flavor sauce: chimichurri

If you’re staring at a bag of early-season arugula and tired of the same-old salad, I’ve got one word for you: Chimichurri. Yes, the traditional Argentinian form of pesto is based on parsley — a proper Italian pesto starts with basil and usually includes cheese — but it turns out arugula’s peppery brightness makes a fine alternative. And talk about easy.

I’d picked up a bag of young arugula at my neighborhood farmer’s market, but it took a week or more before I had time to do anything with it. A Sunday night dinner inspiration: flank steak, with chimichurri, and on the side a quick sauté of morel mushrooms and asparagus, perked up with a little bit of spicy harissa.

Here’s what it takes: Into the food processor go a couple handfuls of arugula leaves (I removed most of the stems), a toss of pine nuts, one chopped garlic clove, a squeeze or two of lemon juice and a longish drizzle of oil. If you need more liquid it wouldn’t hurt to have a dash or two of water. Pulse, pulse, pulse. The bright green paste is ready.

I pounded the flank steak to enhance tenderness, seared it a few minutes on each side in an iron skillet, then put the skillet under a high broil for five or six minutes. I let it sit for five more minutes or so before slicing against the grain and spooning a thick ribbon of the chimichurri atop each serving.

Two nights later, I redeployed the leftover steak into a salad, topping more of those arugula leaves with the meat, avocado, cucumber and a spiffy new dressing – the remains of that chimichurri mixed and mellowed with a couple of spoonfuls of storebought mayo. Yes, it was still green — it was recycling after all. And it was very good.