Ever since I discovered that bergamot tastes strongly like oregano, I knew I had to make this.
I first heard about salmoriglio sauce (sal-mo-realey-oh) working under one of the Italians I know back at a restaurant in South St. Paul, we used it as a garnish for a fish entree.
The fish we used changed often. I remember barramundi, salmon and thai snapper being in the rotation. Whatever fish it was, it was getting the salmoriglio on it: an oily, herb flecked sauce with long, chewy strands of lemon zest in it. In retrospect, that salmoriglio was horrid, way too oil-slickey to be of use, in my opinion. The funky name of the sauce stuck with me though.
Fast forward a couple years and I’m working at a restaurant where I’m deeply involved in the daily changing menu. One day I was staring at a pound of oregano that was “on it’s way out”, and I remembered the sauce. After a little armchair research, I found a couple recipe variations and played with them, the result was really good; a perfect way to use up leftover oregano in large quantities.
The history of the sauce is a lot of fun too. Like plenty of things, salmoriglio was born of necessity. Story goes that in Sicily, Trapanese cooks (where some very nice sea salt comes from, as well as a fun tomato based pesto) will take oregano and puree it with sea water, and use it as a condiment. Some variations of the dish I’ve found make an oily, broken sauce, like the one I was first shown.There are other recipes I found that use a method which emulsifies the sauce with water and oil, creating a more creamy mouth feel; thats the type of salmoriglio I like.
The sauce ends up tasting strongly of oregano, with just enough lemon to make it sparkle. It goes without saying that its a great garnish for fish, but the first way I found myself using it was tossing it with crispy roasted potatoes cooked in lard. Any way you decide to use it, it’s a fun, delicious, and versatile condiment.
Bergamot Salmoriglio Sauce
- 1 cup packed flat leaf parsley, leaves only
- 1 cup packed bergamot, (oregano can be substituted) leaves only
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 1/2 cup canola or grapeseed oil
- 1/2 cup virgin sunflower or olive oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Zest from one large lemon
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Mix the two oils together. Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil, add the bergamot and parsley, and cook for 5 seconds. Remove the herbs with a hand strainer (I like a chinese spyder strainer) and place immediately in an ice bath. The bergamot will turn brown, don't worry, this is natural.
- Remove the herbs from the ice bath when cool, and squeeze any residual water from them.
- In the bowl of a highspeed blender, add the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, water and herbs. Begin pureeing the mixture, drizzling in the oils until the sauce is pureed and very smooth.
- Double check the seasoning for salt and pepper, (it should be seasoned a bit from the blanching water already, but adjust until it tastes good) then transfer the finished sauce to a container and refrigerate.