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Seasons by the Sea: Saucy for Summer

Mon, 07/17/2023 - 16:23
Super-simple summer sauces, like a peanut sauce for rolls, above, can be whipped up in a jiffy to help ease food preparation on hazy, hot, humid evenings.
Laura Donnelly

Oh, the irony. This is the time of year that we are fishing and gardening, shopping at farmers markets, and entertaining alfresco. And yet we want our meals to be quick and simple, without heating up the kitchen too much. Summer sauces to the rescue!

Aiolis, chimichurris, pestos, compound butters, rouille, barbecue sauces, salsas, vinaigrettes, fruit purees, the list of possibilities goes on forever. Let's even add some sprinkles to the mix like gremolata and persillade, which are not much more than chopped parsley and garlic, along with some citrus zest or capers and other fresh herbs.

I could go on and on about the history of many sauces but I'd rather give you a squajillion recipes than words. Or as the CBS/NBC newsman Roger Mudd joked with me about his good friend Jim Lehrer's program on PBS, the "MacNeil/Lehrer Report," "Why say it in a hundred words if you can say it in a thousand?"

For starters, what you really need to make sauces are supremely sharp knives, a paring knife and chef's knife. These will make clean, non-bruising cuts in fresh delicate herbs like parsley, tarragon, basil, and chives. You could make like Alice Waters and grind your pesto or chimichurri with a mortar and pestle. I have one on my kitchen counter and it is cute and is collecting dust. It is easier and faster to have a high-speed blender like a Vitamix or a food processor and maybe even a mini chop grinder for when you only need about a cup of coarsely ground salsa or pesto. For aiolis and rouille, all you need are a bowl and spoon, some commercial mayo, and your seasonings.

When is the last time you had peach melba, that old-school invention of Auguste Escoffier? All you need are fresh sliced peaches, your favorite vanilla ice cream, and some pureed raspberries. Et voila! An elegant dessert that requires zippo cooking.

Here are some recipes to inspire you for easy summer entertaining.

Red Pepper Pesto
This is one of my favorite recipes that I got from friend, Ellen Weiss, many years ago. She served it on grilled salmon, asparagus, and boiled new potatoes. You could put this red pepper pesto on just about anything. Just use your imagination.

Makes approximately one and a half cups. 

2 red bell peppers, grilled or broiled, skin removed, seeded and cut into large pieces
10 kalamata olives, pitted
4 cloves garlic
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Approximately 6 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Grind or puree all ingredients to desired consistency. Use on fish, vegetables, potatoes, eggs, whatever strikes your fancy.

Classic Barbecue Sauce
This is a quick and easy barbecue sauce from Aaron Franklin's barbecue joint in Austin, Texas. It is very vinegary like a Carolina barbecue sauce. It is good for ribs or any other porky item. I used it for a quick grill of skinned chicken thighs.

Makes three cups.

1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. coarse black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a pot over medium heat. The recipe says no need to boil, but I simmer it for about five minutes, and then cool.

Mojo Criollo
This is one of my favorite recipes from friend, Kathleen. She makes a Cuban Christmas meal every year. I get to make her mojo criollo for roast pork.

Makes about three cups.

16 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tsp. salt
2 medium onions, sliced
1 cup sour orange juice (if you can find these oranges, otherwise 1 cup orange juice)
1/2 cup each lemon and lime juice
1 cup olive oil

Combine garlic, salt, juices, and onion. Let sit for half an hour, then put olive oil in a nonreactive pot and heat it up with the juice mixture. Cook for about eight minutes.

Caribbean Pineapple Salsa
This recipe came from The New York times many years ago. Pineapple salsa is great on grilled swordfish, duck, basically any grilled meat or fish. The recipe calls for chopping and mincing everything. I say throw it in the food processor or blender and be done with it!

Makes four servings, so you might want to double it.

1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, drained, and chopped
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 pineapple (about 3 lbs.), cut into small dice
2 small jalapenos, seeded and minced
2 scallions, trimmed and minced
1 cup minced parsley
1/2 tsp. salt

Squeeze liquid out of the tomato before chopping. Dissolve brown sugar in vinegar. Add remaining ingredients. Store in airtight container in fridge for up to two days.

Cedar Plank Salmon Glaze
I can't remember where I got this recipe but it is one of the best for cedar plank grilled salmon or other fish. Serve this with mustard mashed potatoes on the side.

1 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp. minced ginger
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 or 2 bunches scallions
1 cedar plank, soaked in water according to directions

Simmer all ingredients until reduced to one cup. This will be enough for about two and a half pounds of salmon.

Get grill ready.

Lay scallions on cedar plank. Put some salt and pepper on your salmon, then place it on top of scallion plank. Set aside half a cup of glaze for serving, baste the salmon with the rest. Cook salmon to medium rare and serve with extra glaze on the side.

Rouille
This is barely a recipe, it's a sentence. Make a beautiful tomato-y fish soup. Top it with this rouille on top of toasted croutons.

Makes half a cup.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of cayenne to taste
Pinch of saffron

Combine all ingredients a few hours before using. Stir occasionally, this will blend the flavors and allow the saffron to color the mayo.

Top each serving of soup with a crouton topped with a dab of rouille. Tada, you are in Provence!

Working: Laura Lopez of Carissa’s

Laura Lopez is a key member of the kitchen staff at Carissa's Bakery in East Hampton, making soups, dips, and sometimes acting as head chef.

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