Condiments & Companions
Eugenia Uhl Photograph
July and August are two months when no one wants to spend much time standing over a hot stove. More often than not, we’ll use the outdoor grill or buy a rotisserie chicken at the store, rounding out our meal with salad, French bread and plenty of something cold to drink. Appetites flag in the heat and humidity, as does our desire to try a bunch of new recipes.
However much we love them, grilled foods and roast chicken can get monotonous. Moreover, those of us who enjoy cooking still want to prepare something in the kitchen. We can deal with both situations by making a few condiments and sauces that will enliven our summer fare and satisfy our culinary desire. Relishes, chutneys, salsas and cold sauces are fairly quick and easy to prepare, many of them don’t actually involve any cooking (a blessing in the summer) and they can accompany a variety of foods.
This month’s recipes are all good companions for grilled or roasted foods. Any one of them will enliven a simple weekday dinner or several can accompany a more elaborate menu when entertaining. But they will also inspire impromptu improvisational meals and snacks.
For instance, several of these recipes work well as spreads for sandwiches or canapés. A personal favorite is an open-faced sandwich of rye bread slathered with sauce verte, topped with sliced hard-boiled egg and anchovies. Another delicious combination is a sandwich of whole grain bread, guacamole, smoked turkey, tomato and alfalfa sprouts. Of course, guacamole is such a wonderful creation that it will enhance almost anything it is served with.
One of the recipes is for a spicy cilantro and coconut chutney. In his invaluable reference work, Herbs, Spices and Flavourings, the late Tom Stobart waxed eloquently over a breakfast of chapattis (Indian whole wheat flatbreads) spread with cilantro chutney and honey syrup. The chutney and honey are also delicious with whole-wheat tortillas, which are probably easier to find. Recently, I made a breakfast of warm white corn tortillas wrapped around cream cheese enlivened with cilantro and coconut chutney, accompanied by a glass of mango nectar and strong black coffee. It was a delicious meal that I will repeat in the future.
The following recipes include serving suggestions, but they only scratch the surface of possibility. The real fun comes in finding other uses for these condiments and sauces. In the process, you may find that you want to alter the recipes themselves, and that is where the real joy of cooking resides. Personalizing a recipe and making it your own is, ultimately, what all cooks want to do.
Avocado and Mango Salsa
This simple preparation can accompany grilled meat, poultry or fish.
2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced
¼ cup red onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a mixing bowl, place avocado, mango, onion, olive oil and lime juice, and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne. Serve chilled. Makes about 2 cups.
Guacamole can be served with almost anything – as a dip, relish, taco stuffing or sandwich spread.
¼ cup diced onion
½ cup peeled, seeded and diced tomato
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
2 medium avocados
Juice of 1 lime
Coarse salt to taste
Finely minced jalapeño pepper to taste
Combine onion, tomato and cilantro in medium bowl. Halve avocados, remove seeds and, using a spoon, scoop out the avocado and add to bowl. Mash avocado with fork and combine ingredients. Season with salt and jalapeño. Makes about 2 cups.
Peppered Pineapple And Basil Relish
This bracing condiment combines a range of taste sensations – acidic sweetness from the pineapple, smokiness from both the paprika and chipotle pepper, heat from the pepper and a soothing coolness from the basil. It goes particularly well with grilled pork or sausage.
2 cups fresh pineapple, cubed
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground chipotle
12-16 basil leaves
Combine pineapple, smoked paprika and chipotle chile pepper and toss to coat. Tear basil leaves over pineapple. Serve chilled. Makes about 2 cups.
Cilantro And Coconut Chutney
This spicy chutney will enliven all manner of grilled meats, poultry and vegetables. It can also be served as a dip.
½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
½ cup boiling water
1 teaspoon minced serrano pepper,
or to taste
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
In a small bowl, pour boiling water over coconut and set aside to soften, about 30 minutes.
In a blender, combine all ingredients except salt and blend. Season to taste with salt and additional serrano pepper, if desired. Makes about 1 cup.
Toasted Pecan Sauce
This is particularly good drizzled over grilled or steamed vegetables. The sauce will thicken when refrigerated; if desired, thin with additional broth.
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat pecans in skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Let pecans cool before proceeding.
Combine toasted pecans and panko bread crumbs in food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add olive oil, broth and lemon juice, and process until blended. The sauce should still have some texture from the pecans. Season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Makes about 1½ cups.
This assertive preparation goes well with grilled meats and poultry. The anchovies provide enough salt for the recipe.
1 cup loosely-packed Italian parsley leaves
1 cup loosely-packed watercress leaves
½ cup chopped green onion tops or chives
1 clove garlic, minced
4 anchovy filets, drained
2 teaspoons capers, drained and rinsed
2 hard-boiled egg yolks, mashed
1⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients except pepper in food processor and process to a coarse puree. Season to taste with black pepper. Makes about 1 cup.