Chickweed Chimichurri. Sounds like an Arizona ghost town. In fact, it's a zesty sauce, and last week it seemed like everywhere I turned I was hearing oohs and aahs about this magnificent harbinger of summer. Chalk that up to the viral times we live in. My tweet pal Patricia Eddy of Cook Local blogged about Chickweed Chimichurri and then set the recipe loose on Twitter. Next thing you know half of Seattle is discovering the little-known delights of wild chickweed, yet another nutritious weed thriving on the margins of polite society. A farm called Nash's Organic Produce in Dungeness, WA, even sells it.
Well I had to have some. I'd seen chickweed plenty of times in more rural locales. It's a member of the pink family, and though the tiny white flowers are hardly noticeable, they have elegantly cleft petals that are characteristic of the group. Several weeds in different genera go by the name chickweed (there's common chickweed, mouse-ear chickweed, star chickweed, and so on), and they all share similar traits: opposite leaves, tiny flowers, et-cetera. What I hadn't realized was they're edible, even choice, if you use them right. And a chimichurri sause is using them right.
According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), chimichurri hails from Argentina, where it was invented by an Irishman named Jimmy McCurry who was fighting for Argentinean independence in the 19th century; the sauce's name is reputedly a bastardization of his name. Go figure. Anyway, the traditional way to prepare it is with parsley, vinegar, garlic, oil, and hot pepper.
This past week I kept an eye out for chickweed all over the neighborhood—walking to the coffee shop or the bus stop, taking the kids to the park, wherever. If it was invading local farmers' fields (and being harvested and sold by the more industrious), then it probably had a foothold in the city, I reasoned, and sure enough, right across the street from my friend Kristin's house I found a lush patch of it growing from an untended rock garden next to the sidewalk. This was common chickweed (Stellaria media). I picked several handfuls and was off to the chimichurri races.
My recipe is based on Patricia's, which is based on Nash's, which is based on...oh never mind. You get the idea. Chickweed replaces the parsley and lemon juice replaces the vinegar. My tweak was to add sweet red pepper and shallot.
Tuna Poke with Chickweed Chimichurri
1 packed cup chickweed, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp shallot, fine dice
3 tbsp sweet red pepper, fine dice
1 tbsp hot pepper, de-seeded, fine dice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Tuna Poke and Sushi Rice
1 lb sushi-grade tuna, cut into small (1/2 inch) cubes
2 cups sushi rice
rice vinegar to taste
Makes 4 servings.
Mix chimichurri ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate for an hour or so. Meanwhile make seasoned (i.e. add rice vinegar) sushi rice and cut up a bunch of sushi-grade tuna. Serve a dollop of the raw tuna over a bowl of rice; garnish with the chimichurri. The acidity of the chimichurri immediately begins to act on the tuna, changing the flavor in subtle ways as you eat.
Now, about the taste. A dish like this would seem to cry out for cilantro, but please resist. We all know what that tastes like. The greens in this case are far removed from parsley, cilantro, and other standard ceviche offerings. In a word, they're wild. The bright green flavor, somewhat tempered by the other ingredients, gives this Tuna Poke a new twist. Enjoy it on its own merits or as a change of pace, preferably outside on a sunny day with a bottle of rosé wine.