A Trio of Summer Sauces

June 8, 2015

It’s summer time and the grilling is easy. This is the season to cook everything outside, keeping the cleanup on the inside to a minimum. So, I’m piling everything on those blackened grates and making grill marks on veggies, chicken, fish and all of our delicious four footed friends.

But, no matter how tasty, dinner from the grill can become monotonous (another grilled chicken breast?) and taste the same after a few weeks. Enter the summer sauce triumvirate, guaranteed to make all your fast and fresh grilled meals more interesting.

Everyone’s familiar with pesto and I think having some of summer’s fave sauce in your fridge is always a great idea, but did you know that the addition of a little vinegar can turn a basic green herb pesto into its next of kin,  salsa verde? I’ve combined a mix of green herbs like parsley and mint here, but you can use just about anything you’ve got growing in your back yard. The trick is to use parsley as the base and then add other flavors such as cilantro, thyme, oregano, rosemary or basil. Slathered over grilled steak or vegetables, this green sauce takes Plain Jane food to the next level.

Next comes salsa roja or red sauce. I like to blacken the vegetables on the grill or in a skillet for added flavor. It only takes a few minutes and then a whiz in the food processor to make this Mexican inspired favorite. Not just for chips, salsa roja is great dolloped onto all manner of grilled meats and veggies. Try it over grilled boneless, skinless, chicken thighs or lightly grilled zucchini or even a scrambled egg for breakfast. It’s the bomb.

Last but not least on the sauce trio is a yogurt based cilantro sauce. Creamy and rich, I like to serve this sauce with grilled salmon or spicy chipotle kebabs. The yogurt has a cooling effect that I find addictive with spicy foods. When tossed with grilled carrots it also makes a wonderful salad.

All three sauces keep in the fridge for about a week, so whiz up a few in your food processor so you have them when you need them (like tonight). The food from your grill will never taste better.

Salsa Verde

Start to finish: 40 minutes
Hands on time: 10 minutes

With just a touch of tart, this green sauce will be your go to summer sauce. Make it once and then play around with the ratios. If you really like cilantro, add some or throw in more mint for good measure.

It’s that easy: Try this sauce on grilled peppers, zucchini and eggplant. If you’re really hungry toss it all with some pasta. Dinner done.

2 cups [60 g] packed flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup [15 g] packed mint
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp capers
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp red chili flake
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup [75 ml] olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until a blended but still rough and chunky sauce. Taste and season with more salt, pepper, chili flake, or vinegar if it needs it. Allow to sit for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. The sauce keeps in the fridge for up to 1 week but allow it to come back to room temperature before using it.

Use the sauce on grilled meats, vegetables, rice, beans, or legumes or add a teaspoon or so to vinaigrettes.

Salsa Roja

Start to finish: 20 minutes
Hands on time: 20 minutes

Salsa Roja just might be the easiest sauce you’ve ever made. And you get to burn the vegetables on purpose!

It’s that easy: Don’t be afraid to get the skin on the vegetables really dark. That char will become a smoky flavor in the sauce.

4 whole plum tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 serrano chile pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp lime juice
1 Tbsp minced cilantro

Add the tomatoes, garlic and chile to a 12-in [30.5 cm] skillet over medium high heat. Char the vegetables, turning every now and then for at least 6 minutes and up to 10 minutes until they’re good and browned. When the garlic turns brown, remove it from the pan and peel it. Cut the stem from the chile and core the tomatoes if you wish.

Drop all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and lime. Stir in the cilantro. Serve over rice, eggs, polenta or as a sauce over grilled vegetables or meats. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


Lemony Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Start to finish: 10 minutes
Hands on time: 10 minutes

I could just eat this sauce with a spoon but it makes everything and I mean everything taste better. Try it over roasted carrots.

It’s that easy: Yes, it really is. And it feels like an indulgence, even though it really isn’t.

1 cup Greek, whole fat yogurt
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup [7 g] chopped cilantro
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl, taste and add more salt, pepper or cayenne if it needs it.

Dollop over grilled vegetables, meats, rice or legumes or thin with water and drizzle over lentils, or falafel.

Sauce keeps refrigerated for up to 4 days.




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