Chimichurri Beef-less Tips & Zucchini Basil Pancakes

One of my favorite ways to use cilantro is to make a Chimichurri style sauce. There are many variations on this South American condiment, which traditionally showcases parsley. I happen to be very particular about it, and prefer to make it like the one at my favorite Cuban restaurant, Cafecito

Most cooks use parsley, and what I consider to be too much vinegar. I'm not sure how Cafecito makes their Chimichurri, but what makes my mouth water for it is the thick puree of cilantro. It's tangy, salty and garlicky, served alongside Churrasco char-grilled skirt steak and pickled onions.

My vegetarian husband has never known the joy of eating a charred piece of meat with this cilantro sauce. So I decided to give it a try with some Gardein beef-less tips, since they're the closest vegetarian thing to a steak. It wasn't as mind-blowing as the original inspiration, since there's no real seared texture, or fat element to contrast the vinegar. But it was tasty, and different. Variety is important for us.

For a side dish, I tried out a recipe for corn & basil cakes from Eating Well that I came across today. I switched out the corn and used bright yellow zucchini instead (which kind of looked like corn when it was chopped up). I only had about half the amount of filling called for in the recipe, so they were a little bland. We ended up piling the "meat" chunks and sauce on the cakes with a bit of lime juice. The best part was that I thought about pancakes in a different way. This could be a new and interesting addition to dinner, with any number of fillings. Like I said, variety is important!

Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce

Fresh cilantro (including stems), rinsed very well
Clove of Garlic, smashed
Olive Oil
White Wine Vinegar
Kosher Salt

In a food processor, pour olive oil & vinegar - start with a 2-1 ratio of oil to vinegar (ex. 2T oil, 1T vinegar). Add the whole garlic clove, 1/2C cilantro and a dash of salt.  
*Measurements are not exact, since the amounts depend on the size of the processor or chopper bowl. I use the small food chopper because it's easy to make a small amount of sauce.

Pulse a few times and scrape the leaves down from the sides and repeat. If the cilantro won't blend, add a little more oil and vinegar. The consistency should be fairly thick. Depending on thickness and taste add more oil, vinegar or salt. Pulse or blend until everything is incorporated, and you're happy with the flavor.

Gardein Beef-less Tips preparation:
Heat 1T Olive Oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the frozen tips and saute with salt, lots of pepper, red pepper flakes and adobo seasoning. 

After 4 minutes, add a couple teaspoons of vegetable stock or water to deglaze the pan. Continue to cook until heated through. 

Eating Well recipe for Corn & Basil Cakes
To substitute with zucchini:
Dice zucchini: cut in half lengthwise, then into 1/4"w strips. Cut across the several strips at once to create small pieces.

With a teaspoon of oil, saute zucchini over medium heat about 5 minutes. Half-way through, add a teaspoon of water to help the cooking along. Season with salt & pepper. Set aside, and substitute for corn in the cake batter.

*For Vegan: Substitute with rice milk.
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