This 'Magic Green Sauce' Earns Its Name, Thanks to a Few Tricks

And we're putting it on everything we eat.

August 30, 2019
Photo by Julia Gartland

Carla Lalli Music has a lot of tricks up her sleeves. (Which are often sensibly short, colorful, and brandishing enthusiastically over a burbling pot of something buttery—as you’ll know, if you’re one of the millions who love to watch her skillfully execute recipes on the internet.)

But my favorite of Music’s tricks to date comes not in the form of a garlic-slicing demo on YouTube, or from last month’s Bon Appétit, where she’s Food Director—it’s tucked onto one of the later pages of her new cookbook Where Cooking Begins, in the recipe for Magic Green Sauce.

Crispy potatoes, meet your match. Photo by Julia Gartland

Music’s Magic Green Sauce is something of an aside in the book—it’s an embellishment to her epic slow-roasted lamb shoulder and beans—and it goes boldly where many standard issue pantry green sauces don’t. Her clever twist is actually threefold:

  1. She builds on the traditional "green sauce" seasoning with capers, which add briny depth to the baseline salinity.
  2. Music uses nutritional yeast—"an inactive yeast grown on sugar cane and beet molasses, then dried and sold in flake or powder form," according to our resident snacker Posie Brien—for umami, which keeps things dairy-free (no small victory when entertaining in 2019) and pantry-friendly. “Using nutritional yeast in dressings is something I’ve been doing for a bunch of years, even into a simple dijon vinaigrette,” she said over the phone.
  3. To finish the sauce after an initial round of blending, Music has you add three ice cubes (rather than water) to thin it out, which curbs the usual instant discoloration of minced herbs. ("This trick came from my coworker Andy Baraghani," she said.)

Like the rest of her recipes in Where Cooking Begins, Music’s Magic Green Sauce comes with suggestions for ingredient swaps, should they be more convenient. Capers can become oil-packed anchovy filets. Nutritional yeast is easily subbed with Parm. And, as she writes, "The magic thing about the green sauce is that it works seamlessly with any combination of tender herbs, so you can tweak it to your preferences, or for the herbs you happen to have on hand." (Her top choices are parsley and basil; she cautions against using only mint-only, which she says can be overpowering.)

And while it’s tremendous with proteins, as prescribed, here at Food52 we’ve been enjoying it drizzled on salads (looking at you, burrata caprese), swooshed over a dish before plating roasted vegetables, and as a sidekick to mayo on sandwiches.

Music says for her, it’s a go-to pairing for beans, crudités, and most simple grilled foods. “People end up with partial bunches of herbs a lot. If you have a half-bunch of basil, and a weird bit of parsley, or your windowsill herb box has gone out of control, this is the thing you should make,” she said. “It will pay off in multiple ways.”

Have you tried any recipes from Where Cooking Begins? Let us know in the comments!

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.

1 Comment

Kris T. September 4, 2019
Pinch of Yum has a Magic Green Sauce recipe, posted in 2015, that became pretty popular. I wonder who came up with the name first.