Several things stand out in my memory of the semester I lived in Florence. I remember narrow cobblestone streets. The tranquility of brisk, autumn mornings near the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio, and the quiet occasionally interrupted by buzzing vespas. I also remember my delight when tasting new Tuscan foods such as Italian salsa verde, green sauce.
In Italy and especially the Tuscan region, salsa verde is paired with steamed vegetables and more traditionally with bollito misto, mixed boiled meats. Made from fresh parsley, anchovies and capers, it certainly awakens the tastebuds. Salsa verde is a green sauce similar to pesto but uses parsley as the main ingredient. After making it more recently, I would also have to liken it to a fresh herbed version of chimichurri. After all, Italians migrated to Argentina in huge droves in the late 1800s and the culinary influence is obvious. As I researched this sauce further, I also found it referenced as "salsa rustica" in the Chianti area.
Most salsa verde recipes include parsley, anchovies, capers, onions, garlic and olive oil. Some also include adding vinegar soaked white bread and/or chopped hardboiled eggs. The addition of either makes the sauce more substantial and gives it some bulk. (My preference is to use the sauce to top boiled eggs rather than include the eggs in the sauce.) Serve it with steamed green beans, boiled chunks of potatoes, cold meat and as a condiment with canned tuna or to substitute for mayo in deviled eggs. If you don't care for anchovies, leave them out — it's still delicious.
I didn't used to be a deviled egg fan. I admit to frowning when someone showed up to a party with a plate of ho-hum deviled eggs — you know the ones, mashed yolks flavored with too much mayonnaise. It wasn't always so. The first recipe for deviled eggs dates back to circa 1786 but spicy stuffed eggs date back as far as 13th century Andalusia. In a 15th century Italian text, stuffed eggs included raisins, cheese, parsley, marjoram and mint. In the 18th century, the name "deviled eggs" was coined, connoting spicy or fiery seasonings.
My anti-deviled egg attitude changed when I made these deviled eggs with Italian salsa verde. The resulting texture and assertive flavors of the Italian salsa verde make them a stand-out appetizer that would be welcome at a party or summer barbecue.
Italian Salsa Verde with Anchovies and Capers
Serves 4 to 6. Traditionally, the ingredients for this sauce are finely chopped by hand and the sauce is slightly chunky. To make a smooth sauce or to avoid all that chopping, use a mini food processor or blender. Note: Add only enough olive oil to blend, as blending olive oil too much can make it bitter. After blending, pour the ingredients in a bowl and add the remaining oil.
½ cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained
4 anchovy fillets in salt or 8 fillets in oil, deboned, drained and rinsed (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ cup quality olive oil
2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped (optional)
Mix the finely chopped parsley, basil, capers, anchovies, onion and garlic in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil. Mix, cover and refrigerate. Serve room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers.
Deviled Eggs with Italian Parsley Salsa Verde
Makes 24 halves.
½ to ¾ cup Italian salsa verde
1 dozen large eggs
Red pepper flakes
Capers, optional garnish
Prepare Italian salsa verde above. Use a large pot big enough to place the eggs in a single layer on the bottom. Add cold water to cover by two inches. Slowly bring eggs to a boil. Once a full boil is reached, turn off the heat and cover with a tight fitting lid. Allow the eggs to sit for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove one egg. Rinse it under cold water, peel and test for doneness by cutting it in half lengthwise with a sharp knife. If it's not fully, cooked, allow the remaining eggs to sit for 1-2 minutes. Repeat. When the eggs are fully hard boiled, drain off hot water and rinse them in very cold water until cooled.
Peel the remaining hardboiled eggs, cut lengthwise and remove yolks to small bowl. Add ½ cup Italian salsa verde to the yolks. Mix with a fork. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salsa and a dash of red pepper flakes. Fill the egg white shells with the yolk mixture. Garnish with capers. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Andrea Juarez is an award-winning freelance writer, a hobbyist food anthropologist, adjunct professor and hiker. She moved to Humboldt County in 2013 from Colorado and gladly exchanged city life for the quiet of the coast