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Not long ago, I got a text from my roommate asking to use some parsley I bought. “It looks like you have a bit to spare hahahaha.”

No kidding. I’m a bona fide Plant Lady, and that extends well into my kitchen. On any given day our refrigerator is packed with parsley, cilantro or mint, obscuring whatever else you came here to gorge yourself on. So I told my roommate: Of course.

I bless nearly everything I make with fresh herbs. They bring life to the sometimes (visually) dull dishes coming out of a kitchen and go leaps beyond the tired parsley garnish you see everywhere

The rub with buying those aggressively large herb bundles (especially when you’re cooking for one) is that you want to, you know, actually keep them “alive” for more than a day.

I treat mine like I would a bunch of hydrangeas or sunflowers: I remove whatever’s holding them together, trim a bit off the stem ends and prop them up in a jar with an inch or two of lukewarm water. But unlike with flowers, I’ll gently drape a plastic produce or zip-top bag over the tops and stick them in my fridge, changing out the water every other day or so. I’ve kept herbs such as parsley fresh this way for as long as two weeks — and this is no exaggeration, just text my roommate. 

But eventually everything we love dies, including lovingly cared for herb bouquets. You’ve probably picked up some parsley for the artful garnish of a single dish and cursed yourself for struggling to get rid of the rest.

Curse no more, because we’re blending them into marinades, mincing ’em up for sauces and chucking them into soups — but never the trash.

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This week's game plan

Skirt Steak With Salsa Verde and Panzanella
This luxurious-looking steak dinner sports a … not-so-luxurious secret ingredient.  

Green Goddess Chicken With Scallion Rice
Does this count as “eating your greens?” In this house it does. 

Tomatillo Gazpacho (V)
The Spaniards have been making this delightfully acidic, chilled soup for centuries, but it is the future, and it is dinner this week.

V - vegetarian

Your shopping list


It is easy being green, isn't it? If you're all in on this week's menu, click this link for an easy-to-save shopping list that includes ingredients for all three recipes.

Sunday tasks

Make some Salsa Verde

Making a simple Salsa Verde sets you up for flavorful meals all week long. I have served this chimichurri-esque condiment with everything imaginable: tacos, steak, fish, eggs, cheeses, salads — I even gifted some to my mother. It is endlessly adaptable, so if you hate cilantro, I’m so, so sorry. But you could totally just substitute more parsley. And use basil instead of mint if you prefer. It’ll keep for several days in the fridge, and I find it tastes better a day later. Don’t be alarmed if it thickens or solidifies — it’ll just need a few minutes to come to room temperature before serving.

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes

Makes 3/4 cup. You’ll need: 

1 medium shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
4 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup packed cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
½ cup packed parsley leaves, finely chopped
5 to 8 large mint leaves, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more as needed

Special equipment: 
Pestle (for crushing)

Toss the shallot and garlic into a bowl, pour in the vinegar and pound with a pestle or the thick handle of a wooden spoon. Let that sit for 5 minutes. If you haven’t already chopped the herbs, get going on that; multitasking at its finest.

Alternate between adding a pinch of herbs to the vinegar mixture and pouring in a tablespoon of oil, pummeling it all as you go, until all of both have made it into the bowl.

Keep crushing until the salsa is “reduced” by nearly half and kinda sorta see-through. Give it a taste and season with salt and black pepper, as needed. Mix in the crushed red pepper flakes. Taste and add more if you would like to kick the heat up a notch. Store in the fridge in a small glass jar.

Blend your Green Goddess Marinade

Everything you’ll love about that salsa verde, plus a few sweet and tangy additions, makes for one heck of a marinade with the quick work of a blender. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do, but hold the creamy stuff you normally associate with Green Goddess-y things. And keep in mind: You’ll want to marinate the chicken in this overnight. You’ve got a couple options:

1.) If you plan to eat it Tuesday, throw the drums in the marinade bag Monday evening while you’re making the skirt steak.
2.) If you don’t see yourself making the dish until much later in the week, go ahead and add 1 to 1½ pounds chicken drums (4 to 6 legs) to one bag of marinade and freeze it. The night before you plan to cook, transfer the bag to the fridge and defrost overnight.

Prep time: 20 to 30 minutes

Makes 1 cup marinade. You’ll need: 

1 small Vidalia or other sweet onion, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
1 cup packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 cup packed basil leaves
¼ cup packed mint leaves
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest (from 1 lime) 
½ serrano pepper, coarsely chopped, with seeds
2 teaspoons honey

Puree all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until you have a smooth, earthy-looking paste. Extreme green goddess vibes, if I do say so myself. You’ll have enough marinade for two batches of chicken, so divide the stuff between two heavy-duty zip-top bags. One goes in the fridge for this week, the other in the freezer for a time-pressed future you. 

Marinade adapted from a recipe at NomNomPaleo.com.

Recipes

Skirt Steak With Salsa Verde and Panzanella

Some words, when I hear them, make me immediately think luxury: Diamonds. Salt-water pools. More than two pairs of jeans. Steak. Tonight, we’re getting a taste of the good life and making steak. But we’re ballin’ on a budget, if you will. You can keep your rib-eyes and filets mignons behind the case, Mr. Butcher, because we’re grabbing a more reasonably priced skirt steak (or one of its cousin cuts — flank or hanger — depending on what’s available) and heading home to season and marinate the bad boy. Don’t be alarmed when you see ketchup in the ingredients list and just trust me on this one.

Prep time: 20 to 30 minutes. Cook time: 30 to 35 minutes.

2 servings. You’ll need: 

For the steak
1 pound skirt steak, the thicker end (see TIP)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon granulated garlic (a.k.a. garlic powder)
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup Salsa Verde, for serving (you made it on Sunday!) 

For the panzanella
¼ loaf ciabatta (4 ounces), cut into bite-size cubes
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil 
One 8-ounce ripe heirloom tomato, cut into bite-size chunks
Kosher salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced (1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar 
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 5 basil leaves, stacked, rolled and cut crosswise into thin ribbons (this, my friends, is called a “chiffonade”)

For the steak: Sprinkle both sides of the steak with the salt, pepper and garlic powder, then grab a small baking dish. Place the steak inside the baking dish, then coat both sides with the ketchup. If your record just scratched because you can’t quite wrap your head around covering a glorious cut of meat in something 3-year-olds worship, hear me out. Ketchup brings a subtle sweetness to the table that you can’t quite place once the cooked meat hits your palate, but you’d definitely miss were it MIA. If you want an irresistible caramelized sear on your steak, you want ketchup.

Follow your super-secret ingredient with balsamic vinegar and soy sauce on both sides. Let the steak marinate in the baking dish for 20 to 30 minutes. This isn’t a toss-it-in-the-fridge-overnight type deal. Acidic liquids like balsamic break down meat over time, and mealy steak is not on our menu. 

For the panzanella: Do bread chunks and tomato chunks a salad make? Can you wear Adidas slides to your office job? Society may tell you no, but I’m here to tell you that giant croutons soaked in vinegar-y tomato juices are one of life’s great pleasures and so is comfortable footwear, so you do you. Hopefully doing you means preheating the oven to 350 degrees, spreading out the ciabatta chunks on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzling them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. We’re going for just-dried croutons, not toasty ones, so only give them 15 minutes in the oven before letting them cool.

Meanwhile, set a colander over a bowl and toss the tomato chunks with one or two big pinches of salt. Let the tomato drain while the croutons bake, giving them another toss every now and then. Transfer the croutons and tomato to a serving bowl and mix them together with your impeccably clean hands. 

Is that … tomato juice at the bottom of the other bowl? Sure is, dude, and we’re making dressing with it. Whisk in the garlic, shallot and vinegar, then stream in the remaining oil (but keep whisking). The dressing should be emulsified, i.e., the oil isn’t separating from the rest of your liquids. Season with pepper and leave it alone until right before you’re ready to eat. 

That steak isn’t going to cook itself, because if it did I wouldn’t have a job. Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in the biggest cast-iron skillet you’ve got. Let the excess marinade drip off the steak, patting a little off with paper towels, then let the beef hit the pan. Cook for 3 minutes to establish a nice sear, then flip and cook for 4 minutes more (medium-rare). 

This cook time is a general guideline for a 1-inch-thick piece of skirt steak, but sometimes half the portion will be much thinner (or thicker). I like to cut the steak into separate chunks and cook them separately, that way you’re not stuck with a rubbery half and a bleeding one. For thinner pieces, give it closer to or 3 minutes on each side. If you have an instant-read thermometer, you’re aiming for an internal cook temp of 130 to 135 degrees.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 8 minutes. Slice the steak into ½-inch strips against the grain. That’s a fancy way of saying, “Hey, see those meaty ridges? Yeah, angle your knife slightly perpendicular to them and then cut that way.” 

Dress the panzanella the way the gods intended — mixing it in with your hands — and finish things off with the basil (to taste). Drizzle the sliced steak with salsa verde and tuck a napkin into your collar because this house is not a home, it’s a four-star steakhouse. 

Panzanella adapted from recipes by chef-restaurateur Fabio Trabocchi of Fiola in the District and from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, culinary director of SeriousEats.com.

Green Goddess Chicken With Scallion Rice

Remember how I told you that the thighs are the best part of a chicken, no contest? I’m not reversing course per se, but rather making a small amendment: Drumsticks are pretty darn good, too. Not that drumsticks are unpopular by any means, but yes, I endorse them — especially because I can easily eat them with my hands like the animal that I am.

If you’re reading this and realizing you forgot to marinate the drums overnight, don’t sweat it. Thirty minutes in the bag will do. You could and should grill this dish if you have the chance and fortitude. But for convenience’s sake, I’m sort of mimicking a grill with a wire cooling rack in this recipe.

Prep time: 5 to 10 minutes. Cook time: 40 to 45 minutes. 
 
2 servings. You’ll need:

For the chicken
1 to 1 ½ pounds chicken drumsticks (4 to 6 legs), marinated in ½ cup Green Goddess Marinade
½ lime, cut into wedges

For the rice
1 cup white long-grain rice (uncooked)
½ teaspoon sesame oil (pure or toasted)
2 scallions, greens and whites separated and thinly sliced 
1¼ cups water
Kosher salt
½ lime
¼ cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
Toasted sesame seeds 

Special equipment
Wire cooling rack (ovenproof)

For the chicken: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire cooling rack on top. Shake off any large globs of marinade from the chicken and then arrange the drums on the rack. Pop those babies in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the skins are browned and crispy, flipping the drums over and rotating the pan front to back at the halfway mark. 

Meanwhile, start the rice: Rinse it in a mesh colander until the water runs clear, because nobody likes gummy rice

Rinsing removes that starchy powder that leaves you with a gooey film once the rice is cooked.

Heat the sesame oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and stir in the scallion whites. Cook for 2 minutes. Things should be smelling fragrant. In goes the rice, followed by the water and a three-fingered pinch of salt. Gently stir, bring the rice to a boil, and then turn the heat down to low. Cover and cook according to the package directions, or until the water has absorbed completely (anywhere between 12 and 18 minutes). Remove from the heat, slide the lid over slightly to let the steam out and let the rice rest for 10 minutes. 

Oh rad, the chicken is done. Let’s get those drums on a plate with half the lime’s worth of wedges. Dump the rice into a serving bowl and squeeze in the juice of the other lime half, then add the cilantro and the remaining scallion. Finish both dishes off with a sesame seed shower. 

Chicken adapted from a recipe at NomNomPaleo.com.

Leftovers: Tomatillo Gazpacho


2 servings.

It’s at this point that I should disclose something I’m not entirely proud of: I don’t actually own a big-girl blender. I crush, puree, blend and grind with an itty-bitty NutriBullet I got as a gift before college. But no matter. I start by quickly blending 1 pound husked and rinsed tomatillos (cut ’em into chunks if you need) to make room for half a peeled cucumber, half a poblano pepper, half a serrano pepper, a clove of garlic, the remaining Salsa Verde from Sunday (seriously, just dump it in), a handful of whatever fresh herbs you like, 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar and ¼ cup water. Blend until you’ve got a bright green puree on your hands, then pause to add 6 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and a big pinch of salt. Blend to incorporate, then stop to taste. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the gazpacho to a wide-mouth Mason jar or takeout soup container and pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 

If you want a little toasty garlic bread to serve on the side, we can make that happen. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet. Brown a couple slices of the rest of that ciabatta bread on both sides  and then (kind of aggressively) rub them with a clove of garlic. Boom, garlic bread. Let’s cut the bread slices into little dipper sticks, because youth is fleeting but Dunkaroos are forever. Serve alongside the chilled gazpacho and top each bowl off with another drizzle of olive oil. 

Loosely based on a recipe from "Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America," by José Andrés (Clarkson Potter, 2005).


You’re an herb-an legend now. 

Have a question? Message us on Instagram or email us at voraciously@washpost.com. You can find me at @tanyasic on Twitter and Instagram, and be sure you’re following us at @eatvoraciously for all that good Food Content.

Week 4 sneak peek: Ground! Meat!

MPOA readers (clockwise, from top left) Lexie, Ashley, Anton and Erin took on last week's less-than-glamorous chicken thighs task and made some meals worth sharing. Let's all be more like them! Make sure you're tagging your Meal Plan of Action dishes with #eatvoraciously so I can give you the props you deserve next time around.

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