Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chickweed Chimichurri...or Bust!

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.


Jon Roth said...

Oooo, I LOVE chimichurri, so strong and full of flavor. I've not had it with tuna, but will try now. My fav is to have it on a nice rare thin slice of flank steak hot off the bar-b-q. Very nice.

craftydabbler said...

Last year chickweed took over about a 50 sq ft section of my virtually unmaintained lawn. I didn't know what it was. I'm so happy to find out that it is edible, too. It is just starting to come up.

Nadya said...

Susun Weed calls Chickweed 'star maiden' stelleria - star :) I love chickweed - I have some in the plants on my front porch, doesn't seem to want to grow in my garden, tho I have a bunch of mache (corn salad) there . . . & there's a nice bunch under a cedar at my neighbor's house!

Check out my nettle pesto recipe (on Vestella's Vale)- another 'who would have thought to try this - YUM!!!'You blanch the nettles first (~ a minute) - & could use it in chimichurri, too :)

Nadya said...

Silly me - got that idea for nettle pesto from YOUR blog!! It's truely yummy - I used 1/2 coconut oil (in the processor, then drizzled olive oil)

matt wright said...

YUM. I wonder if I just trashed some with our garden makeover.

A great looking dish, loving the tuna with this zesty mix.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, lots of chickweed out here in DC. I had no idea that it was edible. Neat!

Sapuche said...

I enjoyed reading about the Irish-Argentinian origin of chimichurri (whether it’s true or not!). And a recipe using chickweed with poke is something I never would have dreamed of, and I live in the center of the poke universe. I wonder how it would go with a little limu seaweed. I’ll have to go looking for chickweed soon.

Langdon Cook said...

Jon - Good point. I should have mentioned the post that a chimichurri is traditionally used with meats, and being of Argentinean origin, the preferred meat would be beef. Flank steak off the BBQ is idea for chimichurri.

Craftydabbler - Thanks for stopping by. Sounds like you have dinner waiting to happen on the lawn. Good deal.

Dia - Under a cedar? That shows how adaptable it is. How do you like the coconut oil in the pesto?

Matt - I was wondering about that too after reading your post. Oh well, you don't have to worry about weeds staging a comeback! ; )

GraduallyGreener - Lots of uses for chickweed too! You can add it to a salad or try the chimichurri for starters. Good luck.

Sapuche - Thanks for dropping by. You *do* live in Pokeville. Give it a try and tell me what you think--it's definitely a changeup from the usual ceviches and soy-based marinades. Add some seaweed too.

Thanks for the comments everyone!

mdmnm said...

Sounds good!

Off topic, congrats on the piece in the newest Gray's. Good story!


Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

You're joking: Someone SELLS chickweed? PT Barnum was right. It grows everywhere in Sacramento at least, and in a rainier place like Seattle it must overrun places. I use it as a salad green to balance the more bitter wild lettuces and chicories.

Anonymous said...

HI! I'm going to make this for supper--I'll marinate some chicken thighs and skewer it with onions, grill and then put it in tortillas with black beans(and more sauce).

Except it's funny how scarce some of these weeds are when you live in the woods! Hardly any chickweed here, so I'll slip in some Siberian Miner's Lettuce and some Peppergrass instead(and some fresh oregano). Thanks!

Albert A Rasch said...

Had some friends that made it. No clue what it was but I did like it! We pretty much topped whatever we were eating with it.

Great blog BTW!

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles.
The Range Reviews: Tactical.
Proud Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit.

Anonymous said...

Just checking back in to say the Chimichurri with Siberian Miner's Lettuce and Peppergrass was great! no one suspected a thing!

Langdon Cook said...

Mdmnm - The Gray's is out? Dang, my copy hasn't arrived yet.

Hank - Now, now...not everyone is comfortable identifying wild plants and fungi--and I'll take this opportunity to reiterate that you should never eat anything that you don't recognize with certainty. That said, it's easy to learn and fun too. A couple books, an edible plant walk at the botanical society or field trip with an expert is all it takes.

Wyldthang - You're making me hungry! Glad the miner's lettuce worked out; it's very similar in taste to chickweed. And that reminds me to check on a miner's lettuce patch over by Lake Washington...

Albert - Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, chimichurri is a versatile little sauce. And easy to make.

Donovan said...

Wow, this looks delicious and healthy. I have never had this before, but will have to try it soon. The tuna looks like a nice combination.

Emily said...

I made some sensational chimichurri from your recipe and the wad of chickweed you found outside of our office yesterday and so generously gifted to me! Sooo delicious -- Eating my weeds might change my life! I'll be harvesting the chickweed like crazy and looking for more recipes from you. Thanks for the inspiration!!

Langdon Cook said...

Donovan - You'll like it. I'll bring some by.

Emily - And now you know where a good supply is! I don't think we have to worry about that store clerk absconding with any... So glad you got turned on to weeds. And nice meeting you the other day!