Monday, January 22, 2024

Condiment Fiend

In case you haven't noticed, I like condiments. I don't mean plain ol' ketchup, mustard, and mayo, though I like those, too. I mean all of the various salsas, sauces, and salads that make a plain serving of meat or vegetables more exciting. I've posted about them here before, most recently my nutty crunch sauce. Another post waxed rhapsodic over chili crunch/crisp. There was also my post on dips, many of which could be used as a sandwich condiment or sauce for meat, fish, or eggs. I love relishes like caponata, fennel marmalade, green tomato relish, pineapple relish, and rhubarb mostarda. Then there's all the potentially weird stuff like bacon jam, pickled figs, beet ketchup, red curry jamblueberry ketchup and BBQ sauce, pea pesto, quince butter, sriracha BBQ sauce, and spicy miso dressing.

"So what does one do with all these condiments clogging up the fridge?" you ask. If you have watched any sort of cooking show, particularly the competition variety, then you will have heard chefs talk about acid. Some dishes just need a little spark to bring out all the flavors. Like lemon juice on fish. Condiments can add not only acid, but also sweetness and/or texture to a dish that might otherwise be bland. Take something like a pan-sautéed boneless, skinless chicken breast--I can't think of anything more unexciting than that. But put it on a bed of caponata, a savory-sweet relish of eggplant, celery, onion, and tomato, and things start looking up! A corn salsa would also work wonders to alleviate boredom. And, unlike America's favorite sauce to glop on everything from pizza to chicken wings--Ranch Dressing--caponata and corn salsa are made with vegetables. What? They act as a sauce and can also be a side dish if you put more on your plate? Mind blown! 

pork tenderloin with romesco salsa, smashed potatoes, green beans
One of my all-time favorite condiments to make is romesco sauce. A blend of roasted peppers and tomatoes thickened with bread and nuts and flavored with garlic, vinegar, and paprika, romesco is super easy to make in a food processor. My recipe is here. The photo above shows a looser version of romesco, billed by Food & Wine as a "salsa." The recipe calls for the usual suspects, minus bread, plus additional liquid. While I liked the texture of the sauce, which poured rather than dolloped, I didn't find it to be as flavorful as my usual version. The tablespoons of both salt and smoked paprika seem excessive, but they are necessary. 

You don't have to make your own condiments; these days there are plenty of specialty food brands that are making them for you. I'll be featuring some of my favorite store-bought condiments in upcoming posts, so stay tuned.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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