Recipes with Julie: Herb sauces for spring

When fresh herbs are in season — abundant in your garden, not purchased in the tiny package in the grocery store — it's a good time to experiment with green sauces.

CBC food columnist offers an array of green sauces to drizzle on spring dishes

Green herby sauces. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

When fresh herbs are in season — abundant in your garden, not purchased in the grocery store — it's a good time to experiment with one of the many green sauces that liven up dishes around the world.

You may be familiar with pesto and salsa verde, the Italian version briny with capers and anchovies, the Mexican version bright with chilies, cilantro and tomatillos.

There's Argentinian chimichurri, Indian coriander chutney and North African chermoula.

All are uncooked sauces with loads of fresh herbs at their base — they often contain chilies and garlic, generally an acid (lime, lemon, vinegar), fat (olive oil, nuts) and often spices or other aromatics, or something funky like fish sauce or anchovies.

Pasta with pesto sauce. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

They're quick to whiz together in a blender or food processor, or you can go old school with a mortar and pestle.

Once you start playing around with them, you'll find just about everything can do with a drizzle of something green.


Zough. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Zhoug is a bright, fiery condiment of Yemenite origin — it's made with fresh cilantro, parsley, garlic and chilies, with some cumin, coriander and often cardamom to round it out with floral, earthy flavours.

It's wonderful on eggs, drizzled over stews and roasted potatoes, tossed with potato salad, spooned over roasted carrots or hummus — once you have a jar in the fridge, you'll find all kinds of tasty ways to use it. This is how I made my batch.


½ bunch cilantro

½ bunch flat-leaf parsley

1 large jalapeño pepper, stemmed and cut into chunks

1 large garlic clove

2 tsp sherry or red wine vinegar

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

big pinch red chili flakes


olive oil


Blend everything in a food processor or good blender until smooth, pushing it down and pouring in more oil as needed to help get it going. Taste and adjust the ingredients as needed. Makes about 1 cup.


Pesto. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

One of the most familiar of the herby sauces, Italian pesto, is traditionally made with loads of fresh basil but can also be made with all kinds of tender spring greens, like arugula, baby spinach or kale, or even dandelion greens.

Pine nuts are also traditional but pricey — walnuts are similarly buttery but more affordable.


a couple big handfuls of fresh basil (about 2 cups)

½ cup (ish) freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

a handful of walnuts or pine nuts (about 1/3 cup)

1 garlic clove, peeled

extra-virgin olive oil

salt (if needed)


Blend everything in a food processor or good blender until smooth, adding olive oil as needed to loosen it up. Makes about 1 cup.


Tabbouleh salad. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Traditionally made with bulgur (cracked wheat), tabbouleh uses loads of fresh parsley and mint, and could be made with any cold, cooked grain — I like couscous or quinoa because they're lighter than most.

Basic tabbouleh is just the grain, parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers dressed with lemon and olive oil, but I like to add some crumbled feta and sometimes a handful of chickpeas, which I cook in large batches and keep in the fridge, as well.

Chives work well in tabbouleh, too. As with most salads, measurements don't much matter.


cooked quinoa, couscous, bulgur, barley or other grain

chopped flat-leaf parsley

chopped mint

diced tomatoes

diced cucumbers

chopped green or purple onion

fresh lemon juice

good olive oil


crumbled feta + chickpeas (optional)


Combine your grain, parsley (it should be mostly parsley), mint, tomatoes, cucumbers and onion, dress with lemon juice and olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

If you like, top with crumbled feta and/or chickpeas, and some chopped fresh chives if you happen to have some.

Our food guide Julie van Rosendaal cooks with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. 9:07

About the Author

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.