Condiments to the Rescue

Keeping a variety of condiments on hand is the key to being able to whip up a variety of meals without a lot of fuss on a weeknight.  I’m not just talking about your diner standards such as ketchup and mustard – although keeping a good dijon mustard on hand is always a good idea.  I’m talking about pestos, chutneys, and, if you want to get fancy, preserves.

While some pestos can be made in as little as 20 minutes, most require a little more time.  I find it easiest to prepare some whenever I have some free time and good quality ingredients and then freeze them for later use. The key to making a good condiment (as is the key to making anything), is to use ingredients that are in season and locally grown, if possible. The flavor will hold up better to freezing.

Condiments can very quickly transform a simple grilled fish into something still simple, but divine. It’s also a good way to extend the life of a seasonal delight such as Meyer Lemons (see Meyer Lemon Salsa recipe here).  The following are two condiment recipes that I love and generally keep in my freezer.

Basil Pesto

This pesto recipe can, of course, be used on pasta, but it is also excellent as both a marinade and a sauce for fish and chicken.  It’s also nice to spoon a bit of pesto on top of broiled/grilled lamb chops.  And, if you love pesto as much as I do, you may find yourself simply eating it straight with a spoon – I’ll admit that whenever I use pesto in a dish at least one other spoonful goes straight into my mouth.

Qty Item
1 bunch (or two cups) Basil leaves
1- 2 Garlic cloves
3 Tbl Pine nuts, toasted
1 pinch Salt
1 pinch Pepper
1/2 cup Olive Oil
3 Tbl Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino
1 dash Lemon juice (optional, but really brightens the flavors)

1. Place basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, and pepper into a high powered blender or a food processor and blend/process until the basil is roughly chopped.

2. Then with the blender/processor running, pour in the oil through the opening in the blender cap (or the funnel on the top of the food processor, as the case may be) until the desired consistency is reached.

3. Fold in the Parmigiano and/or Pecorino.  Add a dash of lemon juice (if using) and more salt and pepper to taste.

4. Place in an airtight container, cover with a film of oil and store in the refrigerator for a up to a week or freeze.

Note: Pesto is a deeply personal dish.  All the measurements are suggestions for a baseline.  I regularly modify all the quantities to suit my mood and what I have on hand.  One highly recommended modification is to use both Parmigiano and Pecorino.  Pecorino has a sharper flavor, and gives the pesto a nice kick.

Red Pepper Sauce

I haven’t really used this sauce for anything other than fish, but it’s really quite excellent on fish.  I recommend spooning it over poached or broiled cod (or any white fish).

Qty Item
1 Tbl Olive Oil
1 Shallot
3 Garlic cloves
1/4 Tsp Red pepper flakes
3 Large Red Bell Peppers
2 Tbl Fresh Parsley leaves
1 Tbl Balsamic Vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oven to 500 degrees, and then roast the bell peppers until the skins start to blacken in spots, turn peppers once throughout roasting.  Remove roasted peppers from oven, cover loosely with foil and let them rest until they are cool enough to remove the skin by hand.

2. Remove the skin and the seeds from the peppers, then roughly chop the peppers into a large dice (approx 2 inch pieces).  Set the chopped peppers aside.

3. Heat the oil in a small skillet and sweat the onions until soft, but not yet brown. Once the onions are soft, add in the garlic and continue to sauté until the garlic is fragrant but not browned.  Then add the red pepper flakes and sauté for another 30 seconds or so.

4. Place the chopped peppers, onion/garlic mixture, minced parsley and balsamic vinegar into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.

5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Place in an airtight container, cover with a film of oil and store in the refrigerator (for a up to a week) or freeze.


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  2. A Taste for Tuesday « the world azis

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