Archive for the ‘Sauces’ Category

Peanut Sauce


  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar

1. Combine the vinegar and sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk until the sugar has been dissolved.

2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and whisk together. Allow to sit on the counter for 15 minutes before serving. If you plan to refrigerate this sauce before serving, allow 30 – 45 minutes to come to room temperature to make serving easier.

Sweet Vinegar Sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham)


  • 3/4 c coconut water
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1. Heat the coconut water in a microwave on high power for 15 – 30 seconds. The idea is to warm the water and not to bring it to a boil. Combine the water with the sugar and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and whisk to combine. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.

Chili Vinegar Sauce


  • 1/2 c sweet vinegar sauce (nuoc mam cham)
  • 1 tbsp chili paste
1. For those of you that like spicier flavors, combine the nuoc mam cham and chili paste in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.


Serve dipping sauces in three small containers.

I will never buy enchilada sauce again. There is always too much salt, never enough spices, and I don’t appreciate the level of heat when I have to pick between mild (too little) and hot (too much). I prefer a more subdued, whole-mouth spice, whereas much of the current enchilada sauces utilize cayenne pepper to supply heat. Cayenne is just painful too me and not enjoyable.


  • 2 c chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 6 oz water

1. Place a medium sized sauce pan over medium high heat. Melt the butter. When the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk together. Allow the roux to cook, constantly whisking, until the color changes from pale yellow to dirty blond.

2. Add the chile powder, cumin, sugar, and cinnamon to the roux. Whisk together. Add the chicken stock to the spiced roux and whisk together. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil.

3. When the mixture has thickened slightly, add the tomato paste and water to the sauce. Whisk until the tomato paste has been incorporated into the sauce. Bring the sauce back to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Allow the sauce to simmer for at least 10 minutes.

4. Use the sauce immediately or allow to cool. This sauce will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week or you can freeze in an airtight container.

I don’t think the snow is ever going to stop falling. And even if it does, it’s never going to melt.

Because the snow gods hate me and want to punish Chicagoans for thinking they were going to get an easy winter following a snowless December, I whipped up a batch of romesco sauce to remind me of summer and its beautiful fresh flavors. Romesco is a fresh Spanish sauce typically used with seafood, but can be utilized with roasted vegetables or poultry.

Note: I had written this post several weeks ago thinking that certainly the snow would start falling. It never did and it’s even 55 degrees out today. The sun in shining and the birds are chirping. Life feels pretty good in Chicago. Perhaps this is just naive optimism, but could we really have no snow coming?

To me, Romesco tastes like summer.

I also want to note that this recipe utilizes smoked paprika which will add a smoky flavor to the sauce mimicking the flavor a charcoal grill provides.  I highly recommend you do not use sweet or hot paprika as the flavor profile will fall a little flat. The smoky element adds something unique and interesting to the sauce.


  • 1/2 large red pepper, roasted (or 1/4 c jarred roasted red pepper)
  • 1 tomato, quartered
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp almonds
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

1. Prepare your ingredients by measuring out the spices, almonds, and orange juice. Mince the garlic, cut the tomato into quarters and chop the red pepper into smaller pieces.

2. Place all the ingredients into a food processor with 1/4 tsp salt. Turn the food processor on and allow the sauce the blend. If you prefer a chunkier sauce, this will take about 2 – 3 minutes. For a smoother sauce, 5 minutes will do.

3. Serve the sauce immediately. If you are making this ahead of time, place the sauce in an airtight container. The sauce will stay fresh for up to two days in the refrigerator. If the sauce begins to separate, just stir it together with a spoon.

Traditional pestos were made using a mortar and pestle. Cooks would start by placing the nuts and garlic in first and grinding/pounding it down to a cream before adding the basil and other ingredients. In fact, pesto got its name from the Italian word pestare, which means to pound, crush. Nowadays, only the most devout cooks still use a mortar and pestle and choose to instead grind the ingredients together in a food processor.

This recipe is an adaptation to a traditional pesto alla genovese which is made from basil, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and salt. However, I find pine nuts to be obnoxiously expensive and lacking in texture in the final product. Thus, I’ve replaced them with walnuts which I find provide a nuttier flavor and an additional texture.

Ingredients (makes about 3 cups)

  • 1 bunch of basil (about 18 cups loosely packed)
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 c walnuts
  • 1 c parmesan cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil
1. When you have this many basil leaves, you will have to make this in batches. Pick the basil leaves off the stem. While the stems are edible, I find the texture to be bit fibrous.
2. Place half the leaves in a food processor. Turn on until the leaves are chopped, but not minced. Add half the walnuts and garlic cloves. Pulse several times until these are chopped down. Add half the cheese and pulse three or four times until combined.
3. With the food processor running, slowly pour olive oil into the mixture. It will begin to form a paste and will lighten as you put more in. How much you pour in is completely up to you. I go by color. When it reaches a green that I like, I stop. Remember, you can always add more, but if you add too much, you can’t take it away.

4. Taste the pesto and season with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil if necessary. Pulse to incorporate the seasoning into the sauce.

5. Chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours. Let come to room temperature before using. This a versatile sauce that can be placed on chicken, pork, or pasta. You can also use it as a marinade or to brighten up rice. This will make plenty, so you can experiment. This recipe will keep fresh for about two weeks or you freeze it for later use.

Tomatoes this summer have been amazing! I have been astounded by the quantity of high quality tomatoes in the supermarkets and farmers markets. I have enjoyed a long love affair with tomatoes. My father hates tomatoes (he says they aren’t ripe yet) and when I was growing up I would often relieve him of his tomatoes at restaurants, a practice I continue today. There was even a time when I was a child that I would eat a tomato like an apple with nothing but a salt shaker. Call me crazy, but I know there are people out there that know exactly what I’m talking about.

Here is an easy recipe to use those beautiful on the vine tomatoes that have been abundant this summer. Don’t mistake this sauce for Grandma’s 12 hour marinara that simmers all day and requires a 20 gallon steel pot. This is a fresh, by the batch version meant to be eaten in one sitting.


  • 4 vine ripe tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt

1. Turn the burner onto high heat and place a tomato directly on the cooking surface. Allow the tomato to begin to char and turn. Continue until you get some charred (or at least browned) skin on all sides. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes.


Note: There are other ways to char a tomatoes such as grilling, placing them under a broiler, or using a blowtorch (not recommended). The important thing it to get the char flavor on the tomato.

2. Place the tomatoes in a food processor. Pulse until the tomatoes are broken down, but still chunky. Then add the onion and the garlic and pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


3. In a shallow saute pan, heat a couple tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Pour in the tomato mixture and simmer until the sauce thickens.


4. Serve over spaghetti, on pizza, or as a dipping sauce. This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.

When I was living in New York City, I frequented a food cart at the corner of 18th Street and 5th Avenue (not the one pictured right, but pretty close). For about $5, I could get a gyro plate with my choice of steak, chicken, or lamb. The lamb was cut right off the rotisserie and tasted out of this world compared to other food carts in the city. The first few times I visited, the guy asked if I wanted any white sauce with my meal. Not knowing anything about the culinary world, I thought he was talking about mayo, so I said, “No thanks.” But one day I wasn’t paying attention and said yes. He squirted a generous helping all over the plate before I could say anything. It was my mistake, and I didn’t want to make a fuss, so I took my food to the park. Man, I had been missing out for weeks.

Tzatziki sauce is yogurt based and is usually made with a combination of dill or mint (sometimes parsley), cucumbers, and lemon juice. It is light and refreshing, and perfect as a new accompaniment to your summer barbecues.

Ingredients (makes 3 cups)

  • 3c plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp dill

1. Begin by straining your yogurt. Set a fine mesh strainer over a glass bowl. Scoop the yogurt onto the strainer and leave for a couple of hours.


Note: If you don’t have a fine mesh strainer, use a couple of coffee filters over a colander. The idea is you want to let as much liquid drain from the yogurt as possible.

2. Peel the cucumber, and cut it in half. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and chop the cucumber halves into pieces. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp salt  and place in a colander for 30 minutes. This will give the salt time to remove water from the cucumbers.


Note: Cucumbers are 95% water. If you don’t remove some of the moisture from the cucumbers, you are going to have a  thin sauce. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

3. Place the strained yogurt, cucumber slices, lemon juice, dill, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture has come together. Season with salt and pepper. If the mixture is too thick for your taste, add another tbsp of lemon juice or water.

4. Place in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The longer you allow the sauce to sit, the more the flavors will come together. Serve with lamb, grilled salmon, chicken, or use as a healthy dip.