Sauces

Tired Turkey Sandwich? by Anne

cranberry relish spoonRaw cranberry relish.  I didn't even know this was possible.  For me, raw cranberries have had the taboo quality of all those other shiny,  forbidden berries I was tempted to eat off the shrubbery when I was 5 years old.  Really?  You're allowed to eat these raw? When Rosalie's teacher was telling me about it the other day, though, she explained that her favorite cranberry sauce is raw cranberry relish, especially on her turkey sandwiches.  Well, this thought stuck with me, and by the time I was ready to give it a whirl today I had already forgotten the ingredients that she had mentioned.  

Fortunately, there are many intriguing-looking raw recipes out there.  I borrowed a simple one from simplyrecipes.com.  I almost didn't get a chance to taste it on a sandwich, because I kept eating it straight from a bowl with a spoon.  It's delicious. 

I'm anxious to try other versions, too, though.  From what I've seen, there are many exciting directions you can go with this raw relish.  I have seen recipes that include ingredients like horseradish, sour cream, dates, lemon, sweet onion...so many possibilities!  By the way, those ingredients were not all in the same recipe.  Don't worry.  Anyway, try this raw relish if you'd like a little zest in your leftover sandwiches this week.

Now I have the opposite problem than the usual one at this time: I need more turkey to work with!

Raw Cranberry Relish

Adapted from Elise Bauer's Simply Recipes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries, washed and picked through
  • 2 tart apples, such as Grannysmith, chopped into large chunks
  • 1 seedless orange, chopped into large chunks--with the skin still on
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, or to taste.

Directions:

  1. Place the cranberries, apples, and orange chunks into a food processor.  Pulse for as few times as possible--you want to avoid a mush--perhaps around 8 - 10 very brief times.  
  2. Pour the processed food into a bowl and pour over the sugar, stirring until incorporated. 
  3. Let the mixture stand for at least a half an hour to let the fruit macerate in the sugar.

Makes about 3 cups

cranberry relish I ingredients

Your Leftovers Will Thank You by Anne

 romesco sauce finishedI spread "Toasted Hazelnut Romesco Sauce" on crostini with the Gambas al Ajillo, as I mentioned the other day.  Tonight we used some of the leftover sauce in a bizarre yet delicious combination of...should I tell you this?  Leftover linguine, roasted chicken, and a combo of frozen corn and canned creamed corn.  Well, that doesn't actually sound all that weird.  But I don't think I've ever had pasta mixed in with creamed corn before.  Somehow the romesco made it work as a bridge ingredient.  I was really getting into eating this sauce with the pasta and the creamy corn, along with a crunchy slice of bread.  Think about it.  There are chile peppers in romesco sauce, which taste great with corn in a very American (as in the southern part of the continent, not just the USA) way.   The pasta had an affinity with all ingredients of the sauce as well. 

Anyway, the point is, this romesco sauce does not have to be hoity-toity just because it is Catalan and cool.  Actually, it does an incredible job of making boring leftovers more robust and alive.  Yes, The New Spanish Table recommends pairing the sauce with hip ingredients like fennel sticks, endive leaves, or poached asparagus, but imagine this tangy, deep and smoky sauce on a baked potato or french fries! 

To keep proving this point I just went over to my empty-ish fridge to see what other things might taste good with the last of this sauce, and I stumbled on a package of bacon.  Oh, baby.  A BLT with romesco!?!?!?  I totally know what we are having for dinner tomorrow.

Toasted Hazelnut Romesco Sauce

From The New Spanish Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 dried medium sized ancho chile, stemmed, seeded, and cut or torn into small pieces
  • 2/3 cups hazelnuts
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 ½ T toasted bread crumbs
  • 1 small plum tomato, chopped
  • 1 T sweet (not smoked) paprika, preferably Spanish
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne, or more to taste
  • 6 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T red wine vinegar, or more to taste
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea)

Directions:

  1. Pour 1/2 cup of boiling water over the pieces of chile in a heatproof boal.  Cover and steep for at least half an hour. 
  2. Meanwhile, toast and skin the hazelnuts:  Place the nuts on a cookie sheet in a 350˚ oven for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the skins look blistered.  Be careful not to let them burn.  Remove the cookie sheet and pour the hazelnuts into a clean dishtowel.  Wrap the towel around the them and let them sit for 15 minutes.  While dishtowel is still closed, squeeze and twist the towel to grind the hazelnuts' surfaces against each other to help scrape the skins off.  Open the towel and with your fingertips, pull off and scrape as much skin off as possible.  It's not necessary to remove all of the skins.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the hazelnuts until they are a semi-fine texture.  Add the peppers, 1/3 cup of the soaking liquid, garlic cloves, bread crumbs, tomato, paprika, and cayenne and process until mostly smooth, with a slight texture from the hazelnuts.  Scrape the sides of the food processor bowl.
  4. In a thin stream, slowly add all of the olive oil with the processor running. 
  5. Scrape sauce into a bowl, and stir in the vinegar.  Add salt to taste.
  6. Cover, and refrigerate for at least half an hour.  May be made ahead up to a week.  Before serving, check the sauce's flavor to see if more salt, vinegar, or cayenne should be added to finish.

Makes about 1 ½ cups.

Quang's Wisdom by Anne

miso.tahini.white.sauce When I was 16 years old, I had a blue belt in Aikido. Sounds impressive, but it was one level above beginner.  Mom was a higher belt than I was—perhaps brown?—and was definitely more committed to it than I was.   Because I am a night owl, getting up at pain-o’clock on Sunday mornings for class seemed to physically hurt me.  This probably explains why I never got past blue belt. 

Our teacher, Quang, was a kind and patient man who possessed a great deal of knowledge beyond Aikido.  He practiced what he preached about healthy eating, acupuncture, and general tips for having a better life.  Somehow those tips seemed to involve discomfort, but of course they were for our own good.  For example, Quang recommended that we take only cold showers in the morning and scrub ourselves vigorously with a rough, scratchy towel to dry off.  I understand how this would help circulation.  I did try it once.  After that I settled for sometimes getting the knob to lukewarm without yelping.

Quang also taught us how to eat a macrobiotic diet, a traditional diet based on the balance of yin and yang.  Macrobiotics is comprised mostly of local, seasonal grains and vegetables, along with legumes, beans, and miso.   Mom and I began to eat amazingly healthy meals at dinnertime.  I can’t lie, though.  Lunchtime in high school involved sprinting and stuffing ourselves clown-car style into the nearest vehicle, then speeding towards the nearest MacDonalds.  I don’t think I practiced mindful eating just then.  Also, as long as I’m admitting stuff, Mom and I still often enjoyed a dinner of Tostito Corn Chips, preferably eaten while standing up in the kitchen and chatting.

A couple of dishes from the Aikido days with Quang remain fondly in my heart and cooking repertoire.  One of them is a white sauce that we typically ate over mixed vegetables and brown rice or quinoa.  It’s easy and quick to make, it’s made of only four ingredients, and it tastes so good that it’s almost electric.  While not attractive (or even exactly “white,” as its name suggests), this sauce makes up for its plainness with great, big flavors and virtuous healthiness.  I also discovered that this sauce, when served with those veggies and brown rice, tastes great with tortilla chips crumbled over the top.  I don’t think Quang would have recommended this.

Miso-Tahini White Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white miso
  • 1 cup sesame tahini
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 ½ lemons)
  • ½  cup plust 2 T water (or more, for a thinner sauce)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the miso and the tahini until well-blended. 
  2. Stir in the lemon juice completely. 
  3. A couple of tablespoons at a time, add water until you reach the consistency you desire.  The consistency in this recipe is fairly thick but I have made it thinner before also. 
  4. You can add more tahini and water if the sauce is too tart for your taste. 
  5. Pour over steamed vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, or farro.  Other whole grains would probably also taste great with this sauce.  This sauce also makes a nice dip for vegetables as well.

Makes 2 ¾ cups—this sauce is strongly flavored, so it makes enough for over two meals’ worth of sauce for several people.  If you need less, this recipe is easily reduced.

Lazy by Anne

blueberry.plum.I  There are sweet, cat-stretching-in-sunshine lazy weekends, and there are grumpy, immobilized-by-too-much-to-do lazy weekends. Unfortunately, mine was the latter this time. My laziness today was deep and eternal. That’s right, I changed the course of my life this weekend and have now become a surly knob of a human that still answers to my old name.

Ever tried to cook grumpy? It’s not pretty, or tasty. Ever tried to cook in the hot summertime with nothing in your pantry but cans of pumpkin puree, stewed tomatoes, and coconut milk? You must be recovering from a kitchen remodel, too.

I was so clever, weeks ago. Strategically I used up all of the extra items in our pantry so that we’d have less to heft around back and forth during the remodel. Now my useful lazy day fallback—standing in front of the cupboard looking for a sign—has been reduced to trying to figure out how to utilize this one can of coconut milk with the stuff growing in my garden outside.

I tried to imagine my most prolific crop right now—the cucumbers—with the coconut milk, and the allure of Thai food wafted into my imagination. However, no basil, no cilantro, no peanut sauce, no fun.  Thinking and complaining about my limited options used so much more brain power than my legs would have used driving to the store to get some actual food.

So, last night my cucumber inspiration led to ordering takeout Thai food. Tonight, it led to a frozen pizza.

After consuming that pizza I started thinking about this simple sauce from the book Vegetarian Nights--essentially coconut milk and honey--that I used to eat with fruit salad. Luckily, today I had been forced out into the world because of an appointment, so I did go to the farmer’s market and had bought blueberries and plums. Neither of these go with those cucumbers lurking in my front yard, but they could certainly agree to sharing the same bowl with a little coconut sauce. Last time I ate the sauce, though, it tasted boring to me. So tonight I spiced it up—literally—with cinnamon and allspice. I read recently that cinnamon really brings out the blueberry-ness in blueberries. Allspice kept the thing zapped up a bit. Also, I brightened the flavor with lemon juice to meet the acidity of the fruit.  Lime could have been great, too.  In the end, I thought the sauce was good enough to drink, though I’m proud to report that I didn’t.

Its sweet simplicity is nice; it has possibilities, too.  This coconut sauce would be spectacular with blueberries and plums along with a nice pound cake. The ingredients are surely around here somewhere. I’ll get to it later.

Coconut Sauce for Fruit Salad or Pound Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1 or 2 tsp lemon juice (add to taste, or not at all)

Directions:

  1. In a small pot in slightly warmer than medium heat, pour in the coconut milk and honey. Stir together and bring to a low boil.
  2. Begin to stir constantly, and whisk in the salt and spices. Cook and stir sauce for 10 minutes at the low boil until it is reduced and a slightly golden color.
  3.  Remove from heat, cool slightly, and whisk in the lemon juice. Chill thoroughly.
  4. To serve: pour a small amount onto a plate or shallow bowl, and arrange fruit over the sauce. Garnish with mint or lemon balm.

Marinating Basics by Anne

marinade ingredientsThe other night, when we were eating those grilled pork chops with cherry salsa, my husband Mike commented that I’m the cook in the house who marinates food, whereas he’s more of a rub kinda guy. This is a good distinction to make, and it weirdly matches our personalities. It makes sense that I would choose the method that is messy, likely to stain your clothes, and hard to store. Mike’s method is easy to keep on hand and brushes off clothes and countertop when you’re finished—zip, zop. Yes, there is room in the world (and in BBQs) for both marinades and rubs. Yes, I love Mike’s efficient and practical mind and the herb rubs that exemplify this. However, I am sticking to marinades and their powerful magic. Tough meats turn tender, dull meals develop some glamour, and potentially dry tidbits burst with juiciness.

I did not used to marinate as much as I do now. It seemed like it would require good planning and organization, not to mention a recipe to look up. At some point, though, I learned that you can marinate for half an hour or less without refrigeration, with great results. Then I read about fundamental categories needed for a superb and effective marinade. Perhaps you already know these, but for me, it created great freedom as I stepped away from cookbooks and aimed to build my own flavor worlds for meats and vegetables. So. In case you don’t know about these five categories, I’m going to spill: Salt, acid, oil, aromatics, and sugar. Below I’ll include a good rule of thumb with the ratios, along with examples of ingredients I have used in marinades past. While I’m at it, here are a few tips I’ve learned about marinades from people, books, and experimenting:

Using a Marinade

Try combining ingredients in a blender and pureeing them before applying it to the meat (or vegetable). Pureed, the flavors are more available to penetrate the food as the acid tenderizes it.

Massage the marinade into the flesh of the meat if you are using chicken, pork, beef, etc., but do not rub marinade into the delicate flesh of fish.

Using a ziplock baggie creates the ability to need less marinade per piece of meat.

If you have the time, marinate in refrigerator for several hours or overnight. If you are in a hurry, you can speed-marinate meat on the countertop for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking.

If you are in a REALLY big hurry and not using a grill, cut your meat into small pieces, rub marinade into the meat, and let it sit in a sealed ziplock on the counter for 15 minutes or less. The increased surface area of the meat will absorb more flavor. You can then sauté your meat over a higher heat and have it ready within minutes. You can use the brief marinating time to quickly make your meal accompaniments. I do this often during the week or when I’m tired--speed cooking that tastes leisurely.

There is a meat tenderizer that has tiny blades that look like flat pins. These pins create small holes in meat that are perfect for soaking up a marinade quickly. Mike used to use one of these in a restaurant where he worked, and he bought one for us. It’s very handy, especially when marinating a tough piece of meat.

Marinade Ratios

I’ve often seen marinade recipes use one part acid to two parts oil, though sometimes the acid is higher than that.

Include plenty of salt. I’m not a historian, but from what I’ve heard, marinade was probably originally a brine (think “marina,” as in sea water?) to preserve foods.

Add just a touch of sweet, which tempers the flavor of the acid somewhat and accentuates the flavor of the food.

Apply aromatics, herbs, and/or spices as liberally or conservatively as your dish and palate require. I am rather heavy-handed with them, myself. Sometimes my marinade has bordered on the consistency of a paste from all the herbs & spices.

Five Components of a Marinade - Examples

Salt Sea salt, kosher salt Soy sauce Tamari sauce

Acid Wine Vinegar – balsamic, rice, red wine, champagne, etc. Citrus fruits/juice Yogurt

Oil Olive oil Walnut oil Chili oil Sesame oil

Spices, Herbs, and/or Aromatics Cracked peppercorns Lemon/orange zest Thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, basil, marjoram, dill, cilantro Chili peppers, cayenne, paprika, Onions, garlic, shallots Cumin Ginger Mustard Worcestershire sauce Fish sauce

Sugar White sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar Honey Agave nectar

Cherry Power Meets Pork Chops by Anne

 

porkchopscherrysalsaeditOnce I asked my mom how to clean the grout between tiles. She said, “I would apply a solution of bleach to the tiles and let it sit awhile.”

I asked, “What do you mean by ‘a solution of bleach,’ exactly?”

She paused and said, “Straight bleach.”

Like Mom, I don’t always opt for the subtle approach.  Naturally, this zeal affects my big-flavor decisions in the kitchen.   Now that it’s cherry season in Washington, I’m thrilled for some intense and sweet opportunities to experiment.  The possibilities range from desserty, to savory, to sitting on the front steps eating “a solution of cherries.” 

The full flavor of fresh cherries does not stand up to the heat of cooking—that’s more of a job for a dried cherry—so I chose a tart, pico de gallo-style salsa to complement a commanding and savory grilled meat.  This salsa is like the Hallelujah Chorus for cherries.  Joyous, unadulterated cherry power.

 

Grilled Pork Chops with Cherry Salsa

If the idea of cherry salsa doesn’t appeal, or if you cannot get good cherries, the marinade itself is still delicious with grilled pork.   If you’re cherryless but still in the mood for a fruit salsa, you could even substitute the cherries with pineapple, adding a couple tablespoons of minced cilantro.  With either salsa version, you could also add some fresh mint.  Myself, I was looking for a punch of sweet and tart, and the mint takes it off that course a bit.

  •  One recipe of Gorgeously Good Pork Marinade (below)
  • 1 lb boneless pork chops (add 6 or so ounces if bones are in)
  • One recipe of Fresh Cherry Salsa (below)
  1. Place the pork chops in a large ziplock bag and pour in the marinade.  Rub the marinade into both sides of each piece of meat, then seal the bag, making sure as much of the meat as possible is in contact with marinade.  If you don’t have much time to marinate, leave the bag on the counter for 30 minutes.  If you have time, marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of hour--up to overnight.
  2. Preheat grill to medium-high.  If you are cooking with a pan on the stovetop or with a George Foreman-type grill, a higher heat may be necessary.
  3. Remove pork from the marinade and loosely shake off the extra marinade.  Cook pork about 4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness of meat. 
  4. Serve pork on plates with cherry salsa nestled on the side. 

 Serves 2-4

 

Gorgeously Good Pork Marinade

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 ½ T fresh sage, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large shallots, coarsely chopped (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

 Place all ingredients in a blender or food processer and blend until smooth. 

 

Fresh Cherry Salsa

  • 1½ cup diced fresh cherries
  • 3 T lime juice
  • ½ cup sweet onion, chopped finely
  • ¼ tsp grated ginger (too much of this will overwhelm the other flavors; if you don’t have fresh ginger, in a pinch you could use the same amount of powdered ginger.  It’s not the same, but it still provides the necessary flavor to help complement the pork).
  • ¼ tsp sugar (optional—if salsa is a bit too tart for your taste.  Add right before serving if you don’t want cherries to macerate and lose their juices)

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl, and refrigerate until ready to serve.  This salsa tastes best if made right before serving. 

 

 

 

 

Lemon Balm, Two Ways by Anne

lemon-balm-2-waysreal

Important fact about lemon balm: It belongs to the mint family.  Important fact about mint: many varieties would take over the world if given the opportunity. 

 

Neither of these facts stopped me a few years ago when I blithely tucked a pert lemon balm plant into my garden bed.  I sorta knew, and I sorta glossed it over in my head (The glossing continued when I later planted spearmint into the ground as well.  Use pots! Pots!). 

 

Yesterday I made more room for my new plants and tried to stop mint world domination.  During this act of heroism I needed to remove a gargantuan lemon balm plant—it was the mother of all the runners that had made their way around the yard.  Transplanting a huge chunk to a pot, I saw that I had hardly made a dent in the colossus.  I just gawked at it for awhile, reflecting.

 

Lemon balm, like mint, tastes lovely in spite of its aggressive tendencies.  It tastes like lemons with a hint of mint.   Like the other varieties of mint it also has digestive properties, so it makes a nice herbal tea or a refreshing addition to lemonade.  But this huge plant would have made way more tea than I was in the mood for drinking.   I needed a recipe that used the stuff in bulk.  Like pesto.  Along the way, I also made guacamole.

 

Lemon Balm Pesto

 

Note: In this recipe, I chopped ingredients finely by hand rather than using a mortar or food processor. I wanted to taste and see the distinct parts of the pesto. I was aiming for a pesto to top roasted fish, but I think this would be lovely on pasta with pecorino romano and generous amounts of pepper.

 

¼ t kosher salt

2 cloves minced garlic

½ t lemon zest

2 cups lightly packed lemon balm leaves, rinsed and dried.

¾ C finely chopped walnuts

1 T minced chives

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

 

*I did the mincing and chopping after steps 1 & 2

1. In a bowl, mash the minced garlic into the salt with the back of a spoon.  Mash in the lemon zest.

2. With the lemon balm, first make a chiffonade -- stacking many leaves, rolling tightly, then slicing slender strips. 

3. After you finish this, add the chiffonade and the garlic mixture to a cutting board and mince the elements together, until particles are well-blended and the size of fine confetti. 

4. Sprinkle chopped walnuts over the mixture, and lightly chop them in. 

5. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the minced chives.  I don’t chop these in because I like the small circles of minced chives, and the chives can retain more zing in distinct pieces.

6. Pour olive oil over mixture, and stir in. 

7. Season to taste—adding more salt or olive oil, if desired.

 

Lemon Balm Guacamole

This is what I would call a recipe tangent.  My husband Michael joked that I should make lemon balm guacamole, because we had seen a cooking show in which the guy was making different versions of guacamole which sounded gross to Michael.   Though it was a joke, it sounded good to me.

 

3 T of the pesto mix at the end of step 3 (before the walnuts & chives were added),

1 mashed avocado

1 t lemon juice

1 T minced chives

 

Stir all ingredients together in a bowl and serve immediately, or place avocado seed back in bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the guacamole.  Refrigerate and serve as soon as possible.

 

This is great with tortilla chips, though I’d also like to try it with taro root chips or on a sandwich.