No Boundaries Magazine issue 7 is still available on area shelves for the next few weeks for free. Here’s some of the content found inside!
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Chef Valentina Garcia-Montaño Inspires Latin Flair With Authentic Argentine Sauce
By: Katie Johnson
Photos: Amber Sliter
They say nothing good ever comes from cutting class, but for Chef Valentina Garcia-Montaño, that rebellious teenage spirit would fortuitously set the scene for creating her beloved red chimichurri, a classic Argentine sauce used for cooking and flavoring.
Looking back on meeting Valentina for the first time at her apartment, I remember what a luxury it was to enter someone’s door and be welcomed in for a meal. Valentina gave us a glimpse into her story, the latin flavors she grew up eating and the bold and vibrant energy that created Che Garcia Chimichurri—all with her dog, Papi, in tow. On a sunny February afternoon, under hanging brass pots and pans in her kitchen, Valentina casually prepared us a meal of tacos, with seafood marinated in her red chimichurri sauce: a mixture of red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, parsley and other spices. As some Argentine malbec wine was poured and Papi was shooed away from the table, Valentina began to share her memories of Argentina and that fateful day she unknowingly created the Che Garcia Chimichurri.
“I was sixteen years old when I created the recipe,” she recalled. “A few of my close friends and I decided to ditch classes one day and we got hungry.” When the group decided to make asado, Argentine barbecue, Valentina noticed that her friend’s spice cabinet had what she needed to make a red chimichurri sauce for the chicken they planned on grilling—a recipe she had watched her la abu make before. “I grew up very close to my grandmother and I would always watch what she was doing in the kitchen.”
Valentina spent her childhood on a farm in the mountainous region of Cordoba, Argentina. As we continued eating, she reflected on her deep roots, appreciation and understanding of food and cooking. “I had the privilege of having a family that owned a farm. Back then, I would spend the three months of summer learning a lot, not just about food, but the whole animal—the process, where it comes from, everything about it—we really did things a certain way. Cooking, grilling, barbecue—it’s a huge part of life, especially over there. Sometimes you don’t know how perfect you had it until you go somewhere else.”
Producing much of the world’s premiere cattle and beef, carne is a way of life for most Argentinians—chimichurri being traditionally served with grilled meats. “There are more cows than people!” Valentina jokes. However, the country’s savory flavor profile has been forged by a melting pot of cultures found inhabiting its warm and rich terrain. “Argentina is Italian food, it’s Spanish food, it’s Native food, it’s a little bit of Arabic and German influence. And then it’s like everything that’s available and local such as corn and potatoes. Most people don’t realize that corn, potatoes and squash are everything.”
At age 21, Valentina moved to Buffalo to be closer to her mother, who had married a Buffalo native. She never lost sight of her farm-to-table upbringing, always keeping a taste of home with her as she finished her culinary degree and continued making her red chimichurri sauce at home occasionally. “When I first came here everything said ‘grass fed.’ I was like, um, isn’t that what cows are supposed to eat?” Working at local Buffalo restaurant Tempo for over a decade, Valentina happened to make some of her red chimichurri sauce for Chilean coworker Ulises Infante Garcia. “He asked for the recipe and I just laughed.” Then, he asked to be her partner—which ignited the mass production of Valentina’s chimichurri we see today.
Explaining the process of preparing her large batch recipe, produced by Permac in Rochester, NY, Valentina has been overwhelmed with the warm welcoming Che Garcia Chimichurri has received regionally. It has often inspired local chefs to add a latin kick to their cuisine across the city with special menu items featuring her chimi: empanadas, chicken wings and burgers at popular restaurants like The Little Club, Colter Bay and Allen Burger Venture, respectively.
As our afternoon came to an end, Chef Valentina’s passion for Che Garcia Chimichurri is as vibrant and contagious as the family style meal we shared. Steadily selling at grocers like Lexington Co-Op, Dash’s and Premiere Gourmet, it seems Buffalo‐maybe more than ever‐is craving an infusion of travel and adventure through cuisine.
“I think this was the very right time for Che Garcia Chimichurri. It’s all our spices, every flavor that we love. It’s Argentina in there.”
Sidebar: Awesome Sauce
Chimichurri (red or green) is a fresh, Argentine sauce that can be served with anything. Traditionally made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, fresh herbs and spices, try using it as a marinade, dipping sauce or condiment to drizzle over your next meal.
Add a bit of Che Garcia Chimichurri to a hummus or corn bread recipe for a sharp-kick.
Valentina’s preferred use for chimi. Apply to meats, seafood, tofu or veggies before cooking. “Whatever you’re doing to it—sear it, bake it, roast it, grill it—the vinegar in the chimichurri will get nice and caramelised.”
Add a robust flavor to any salad with a chimichurri dressing. At our lunch, Valentina used it as a coating for a cabbage slaw.