Hello, readers! It’s been a while since my last entry. The heat has made me lazy and I’ve spent the last month reading and binge-watching. But inevitably, one must eat and I can’t eat sandwiches all the time and salads get boring so I’ve been thinking about how to make summer meals a little more interesting. Hmmm…what’s cool? Greens! No, not salads again but herbs! So with a little research, I found some easy condiments and sauces that can enhance a variety of dishes without breaking a sweat.
We’re going around the world with a few of the coolest, greenest meal enhancers. Let’s first head over our neighboring continent to the south.
Chimichurri – You may already be familiar with this uncooked sauce which originates from Argentinian cuisine. It is usually used for grilled meat and it comes in green and red versions. But we’re talking about the green one here. Traditionally, Argentinian chimichurri is made with a mortar and pestle or chopping the ingredients very finely. A food processor can be used for convenience but for me it’s just more things to wash. Ingredients include finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, vegetable oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar. Uruguayan version uses parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Additional flavorings include paprika, cumin, thyme, lemon, basil, cilantro, and bay leaf. Chimichurri adds an extra zip as a marinade for grilled meat.
Now we head to the Old Country and see what Italy and France have to offer!
Gremolata is an Italian chopped herb condiment, classically made of lemon zest, garlic, parsley, and anchovy. It is a traditional accompaniment to the Milanese braised veal shank dish called ossobucco alla Milanese. The typical ingredients include grated lemon peel (although other citrus peels such as lime, orange, or grapefruit work, too), herbs (such as parsley, cilantro/coriander, mint, sage) and other minced ingredients (garlic, horseradish, shallot). However, this is all a matter of preference and some variations omit the herbs altogether or take out strong flavors like garlic or anchovy. If you are a bit peevish about using anchovy, I suggest use anchovy paste. It would be easier to dial up the flavor if you need more. It’s delicious! You can also add Pecorino Romano cheese, toasted pine nuts, or grated bottarga (cured, salted fish roe). Gremolata has lots of uses. It can be used as a garnish but it can also be added to olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar to make a great salad dressing. It can also be used as a marinade to flavor meat or fish or as a rub for chicken breasts. Gremolata will create a burst of bright flavor to pasta, meatballs, and roasted vegetables.
Gribiche is a mayonnaise-style cold egg sauce in French cuisine. It is made by emulsifying hard-boiled egg yolks and mustard with a neutral oil like canola or grapeseed. The sauce is finished with chopped pickled cucumbers (cornichons), capers, parsley, chervil, and tarragon. And the egg whites are not wasted but cut in julienne strips (I prefer them chopped) and added to the mixture. Gribiche is served with boiled chicken, fish (hot or cold), calf’s head, tripe or cold terrine. Modern versions may be paired with vegetables such as asparagus, charred lettuce or leeks, or served as a dip.
For the final leg of our culinary trip, we head over to the other side of the world to India.
Raita is a common condiment from India made from dahi (yogurt) together with raw or cooked vegetables, sometimes fruit or fried droplets of batter in the case of boondi raita. Cumin and black mustard are fried and then mixed with minced raw vegetables or fruits (cucumbers, onion, carrot, pineapple or papaya). The yogurt may be seasoned with coriander, roasted cumin seeds, cayenne pepper, chaat masala and other herbs and spices. Raw ginger, garlic paste, green chili paste and sometimes mustard paste can be used to enrich the flavor. Raita is used as a cooling condiment to contrast spicy curries and kebabs. It can also be used as a dip for flatbread.
I hope you can use these suggestions to add extra zing and make your summer meals more refreshing during these dog days of summer!