Jen Pearson opened Guadalupe Cafe in Sylva, NC, in 2004 with a handful of farmer contacts and a passion for creative and delicious cuisine. “Fresh, Local, Organic” isn’t just a motto—it’s a creed. The restaurant has built relationships with local producers so that the food comes straight from their fields to the kitchen.
This recipe is endlessly versatile, working as a condiment for tacos, a salad dressing, a component of enchiladas, mixed into scrambled eggs, to finish a soup, mixed into the ricotta in a pan of lasagna—however your imagination suggests! It subs straight anytime sour cream is called for, but adds a bit more oomph. You can also use it in place of full fat dairy in a cornbread, savory muffins, or quiche.
It’s also super flexible. It can handle substitutions for the acid (try lemon or orange juice), the herbs (whatever you have on hand, including soft stem of basil, rosemary, dill, marjoram, celery tops, wild onions and ramps in the spring, nasturtium blossoms or leaves in the summer, etc.), or substituting a sweet red pepper or some sautéed mushrooms for the chilies. I love that this recipe is happy to use up “waste” pieces. It works best when using up odds and ends leftover from other culinary projects (herb stems, chili bits), since we all often have them lying around, but they don’t quite deserve to go to the compost heap.
Local sourcing encourages us to use what’s in season now instead of demanding everything be available year-round, getting used to sad, bland fruits and such, instead of letting them be mind-blowingly awesome for just a few wonderful weeks each year. Of course, I like knowing where my ingredients come from, and I think local goods are almost always are better quality and more delicious and fresh than faraway counterparts. It’s fun to meet farmers and learn from them about what they do and why. I love being a part of our hopscotch circular local WNC economy: The farms sell meats and veggies to me, we make food for our community to enjoy, and then the restaurant’s compost and table scraps go back to a local farm to be transformed into next season’s bounty! The past few years have really demonstrated how having a strong local food system isn’t just a cute artisanal thing we do for fun. It is far more resilient and reliable than global or national systems. I’m so thankful for all of the farmers I get to work with, and for customers that care about buying local.
Late winter might be my favorite season to cook in. Things slow down a little at the restaurant and I suddenly have time to cook for pleasure all the time, and start finding wild greens and things to add to the mix. We’re lucky here to have something available year-round!
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup or so tender stems of cilantro and parsley (about a handful each)
- some leaves of cilantro & parsley (however many you have on hand)
- 1/2 jalapeño, serrano, or other chili (a bit of bell pepper is nice if you prefer absolutely no heat, but the spice of chilies is quite reduced by the fat of sour cream and bite of lime)
- juice of 1 lime (around 1/4 cup)
- 1 teaspoon cumin (preferably toasted lightly in a skillet before use)
- 1 teaspoon coriander (preferably toasted lightly in a skillet before use)
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 8 ounces sour cream
- If you have a little blender or emulsifier, this will speed things up considerably, but it can be done with a knife with only a little more time and effort. Pulverize garlic, herbs stems, and leaves with the lime juice, salt, pepper, and spices. Alternatively, mince everything very small with a knife, then add to a bowl with the lime juice, salt, pepper, and spices.
- Stir mixture into sour cream. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- This recipe doubles well. Store (chilled and covered) for up to a week.