It’s funny how we think sauces are hot at the temperature. Bolognese, hollandaise, marinara, meat sauce – you get the picture. It’s funny because the most common sauces we make are refrigerated sauces or room temperature sauces: ketchup, mayonnaise, all the hot sauce we sprinkle on everything, the BBQ sauce and chutney we always make with cornflakes. (Some consider Guacamole a “sauce,” you know?)
And we Americans are not alone here. (Just not too creative.) Kitchens all over the world pour sauces to take a nap on hot and cold foods all year round.
Here are short recipes for four sauces that beat the heat in summer and pour in from around the world.
From Belgium, my grandmother’s homemade mayonnaise. She would make a small amount by hand almost every day and use it as a slurry for ingredient salads, sliced on sandwiches, or on top of grilled or sauteed foods. Her grandson used to eat it, coming out of the jar when she’s not looking.
You will find pesto, a blend of basil similar to what we know as pesto but without the pine nuts, all over southern France, especially in Provence. There, it energizes all kinds of foods, from top grilled meat and fish, to most preferred place as a stir-fry for soups both hot and cold.
The Spaniards adore their summer sauces, such as mojo bacon sauce, which is a red hot sauce made of red peppers and flavored with the acidity of the vinegar, giving it a distinct taste (“picón”, in one sense), really what we might call a sauce.
And Indian chefs don’t sit down to eat anything less than chutney. They very much enjoy a cooling sauce like raita, offsetting the heat of chile or other hot flavors with pepper in their main dishes. The raita recipe here is in the way of almost any Indian preparation, layering flavor upon flavor and aroma upon aroma.
Grandma’s homemade mayonnaise
Makes 1/2 to 3/4 cup
- 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup canola, safflower, or pure olive oil (not cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil)
On a plate at room temperature, mash the egg and stir with a fork until the texture is thick. Add a small amount of oil at a time and mix. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
The word “pistou” originated in the Latin “pestare”, “to crush, grind, or crush.” Makes about 1/3 cup.
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 12 medium to large fresh basil leaves, torn
- 12-15 large flat-leaf parsley (Italian), stems removed
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/2 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
Using a mortar and pestle (or a small processor), mash the garlic cloves into a paste or finely chop with salt. Continue chopping or making a paste by adding the basil and parsley, then the grated cheese.
Add the crushed ingredients to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil while whisking to make a thick emulsion. Store refrigerated for 1-2 weeks.
Another method: To make a version of Liguria pesto, add 1/4 cup pine nuts when adding the cheese.
Mojo bacon (hot red dipping sauce)
Adapted from “Delicioso! Regional Cooking in Spain” (in English), by Penelope Casas (Alfred Knopf, 1996). Makes about 1 cup.
- 1 small (less than 2 inches in length) dried Thai red chile, seeded
- 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
- 2-3 fresh red Fresno peppers, seeded and seeded
- 12 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/8 teaspoon dried
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves or 1/8 teaspoon dried
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon imported sweet paprika
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Divide the small chili peppers and soak the pieces in red wine vinegar for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, using a mortar and pestle or small processor, grind Fresno peppers, garlic, salt, cumin, thyme, oregano, and parsley in small batches if necessary.
Take the peppers out of the vinegar and keep the vinegar and add the soaked pieces to the mixture and take care or crush again until there are no large pieces left.
Add paprika, oil and vinegar and mix well. Store refrigerated for 1-2 weeks.
Indian carrot raita
From “Salt Fat Acid Heat” by Samin Nusrat (Simon & Schuster, 2017). Makes about 2 cups.
- 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated or crushed with a pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander leaves and stems
- 8 mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons ghee or neutral oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, garlic, parsley, cilantro, mint leaves, carrots, and grated ginger with a pinch of salt. Stir well, taste and adjust salt as needed.
In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the ghee or heat the oil. Grind the cumin, mustard, and coriander seeds for about 30 seconds, or until the first seeds begin to appear.
Immediately pour into the yogurt mixture and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the salt. Cover and cool well before serving.
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