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Hatch Chimichurri on Seared Salmon

By Dennis Linden
Image of Hatch Chimichurri with Seared Salmon
This month's featured recipe is from the kitchen of Melissa's in-house nutritionist, Natalie Vargas. She turns field-fresh Hatch Peppers and herbs into a classic chimichurri sauce to top fresh-caught salmon! Besides being fun to say, chimichurri is a zesty uncooked sauce from Spain used as an ingredient in cooking and as a table condiment. The sauce has a red and green version with the core ingredients for both being finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil and red wine vinegar.

"I enjoy learning new things, and my current obsession right now is learning how to cook well, something I was not exposed to as a child," Natalie explained. "This is the first time I made chimichurri. I came across a video about this classic sauce and was intrigued. Plus, the recipe seemed easy enough for an amateur cook like me to put my own spin to it, which was adding the Hatch Pepper, avocado topping and cilantro - I just love the flavor of cilantro!"

Natalie's culinary approach is a good model for all novice cooks to emulate; that is, the kitchen is nothing to be afraid of, so develop the confidence to tweak even a first-time recipe to reflect personal preferences. It really is true that if one can read, then one can cook! Carrying the reading analogy one step further, it's also ok to edit a recipe to reflect one's flavor preferences. Natalie's edits certainly add even more flavor to an already very tasty sauce.

Not having to cook chimichurri sauce adds to the ease of this recipe; simply measure out all ingredients and combine in a food processor – done! This method makes a smooth and thick sauce, almost like a paste. The ingredients can also be minced and mixed by hand, resulting in chunkier, more liquid sauce, though a food processor tends to be the preferred method. Natalie's chimichurri has strong garlic, parsley, and cilantro flavors that make it zesty, pungent and fragrant. While you can spice up the sauce by adding a jalapeno or other hot pepper, Natalie took advantage of the season by using a raw, diced Hatch Pepper that lends a crisp and mildly spicy aftertaste. Another option would be to roast the Hatch Pepper over a stovetop flame first to coax out the smoky, rich, buttery flavor this pepper is known. Either method, this sauce over a fresh salmon perfectly complements an already distinctly flavorful fish. BTW, don't overlook Natalie's suggestion to finish the dish with sliced avocado! It lends a creamy accent to the chimichurri and pairs well with the salmon. Besides, never pass up an avocado opportunity!

As to that salmon, this writer (a Pacific Northwest native where salmon could be voted as the state's official bird!) could not resist editing Natalie's original instructions. The most asked question about cooking salmon is cook skin up or skin down? A good rule of thumb to ensure that the fish holds together and doesn't fall apart or stick to the pan is to cook it skin-side down for the first 90% of the cooking time. Besides, the resulting crispy skin is tasty! Then flip the filets ONCE just to give the fish a grilled finish. Tip: Check out Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch to help source sustainably caught salmon.
Image of Natalie Vargas
As the Corporate Nutritionist for a company with so many items packaged for retail sales, Natalie's role requires being a combination of technical researcher, graphic designer, copywriter and problem solver.

"In my day-to-day duties, I conduct research on the nutritional value and benefits of all the fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as the food labeling regulations for the packaged items that we sell. The research is used to both educate others in the company, especially sales staff, and is also critical in producing the company's retail package labeling information. Before working in labeling, I did not realize how detailed, specific and involved the whole process had to be. It means working with graphic designers, procurement, marketing, and labeling specialists to produce a beautifully packaged item with detailed graphics, descriptive copy, and all the necessary educational and nutritional elements on a package. The goal of every package is to convey as much useful information as we can to both educate the consumer and promote the item. The biggest challenge to that goal depends on how big the packaging is, which defines how much real estate we have to work with. It's always a fascinating problem waiting to be solved."

At home, Natalie says she is surrounded by loved ones; her partner of ten years, Johnny, and their two small dogs. The couple enjoys being outdoors, especially hiking and camping. Teaching herself how to cook is just one of the ways she has forced herself to step out of her comfort zone. Another has been sky diving which she did for the second time in July! Bravo, Natalie! Though I suspect all those novice cooks who I urged to follow in your confident culinary footsteps will probably settle for just tweaking recipes rather than stepping out of airplanes! Personally, thank you for a new tasty sauce to enjoy with my catch!

Hatch Chimichurri with Seared Salmon
Serves 4
Image of ingredients for Hatch Chimichurri with Seared Salmon
Ingredients

Chimichurri Sauce:

1 fresh Hatch Pepper, diced
½ cup fresh cilantro
1 cup fresh parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
¼ cup red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 avocado, diced into bite-sized pieces [optional topping]

Salmon:

4 salmon filets, skin on
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Preparation
Image of chimichurri ingredients in food processor
Combine all chimichurri ingredients (except for the olive oil and avocado) in a food processor.
Image of chimichurri sauce
Pulse ingredients while slowly adding in olive oil to create a puree.
Image of salmon frying
Heat a pan with 2 tablespoons olive over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add salmon filets, skin side down, cook for 6 minutes. Flip fish over and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the pan, plate, and drizzle chimichurri over salmon, then top with avocado and enjoy.
Image of Hatch Chimichurri with Seared Salmon
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