Smears and Dips, Slathers and Spreads; Ode to the Condiment by Kelly Sears

I confess, I have a condiment problem.  At any given time, our refrigerator looks more like an apothecary than a cooling unit, filled mostly with big jars, little jars, half-filled jars, and jars chock full. There are smears and dips, slathers and spreads all just begging for the star protein or vegetable to give it life and make it shine.

 

We all have our favorites.  Bright, spicy, smooth, silky, or chunky, condiments are the pop, the surprise, the little something extra that elevates ordinary to extraordinary.  Condiments work because they help us achieve balance.  When making any dish, we strive for balance to make that dish a success.  Balance comes from the ying and yang of tastes like bitter vs. sweet (dark chocolate brownies) or sour vs. salty (sour cream onion dip with chips).  Richness, temperature, and texture also play a part in keeping the palate scale level.  Yet balance can’t always be achieved by one component alone; enter the condiment!

 

Let’s start easy.  Ketchup and mustard are two of America’s most popular condiments so let’s examine why they work.  Vinegar give both their tang, both are bitter and acidic with sugar, salt and spices in the blend.  Usually served with burgers, brats, sausages or other grilled meats, the richness of the meat gets relief from the acidity (so you don’t feel like you are eating a stick of butter straight up!).  The meat is usually hot, the condiments cold; ketchup and mustard are smooth while the meats have some tooth.  Thus without even knowing it, balance is achieved just by eating a burger with the works.

 

Now let’s take another step up, relish, pickles, mayonnaise, and barbeque sauce. Again, these work just like ketchup and mustard to even out the flavors of the base component.  Fatty ribs love barbeque sauce, creamy mayonnaise and blt’s are great friends, and what perfect Chicago dog isn’t topped with a pickle or relish.  Starting to make sense?

 

Okay, we’re on a roll, so let’s not stop there.  A condiment doesn’t have to be just a store-bought accompaniment to food; a condiment can also couple as a solid component to a dish.  A condiment can be a dip, drizzle or dollop over a vegetable, a slice of meat, or on grilled toast to add sparkle and spice to the final dish.

 

I feel you starting to apply the brakes – work zone ahead!  I know its summer and the last thing you want to do is spend a ton of time in the kitchen. So don’t!  Make a stop at the butcher and pick up some proteins for the week, visit your favorite farmers market for fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and you’re almost there. We can whittle the kitchen time down to about an hour for two of my favorite condiments. Each one can be made and stored in the refrigerator for at least a week and each has multiple uses depending on your main course selection and meal time constraints.

 

Pepperonata plays nice with chicken, beef, and pork; it’s delicious added to Italian sausage, both on a bun or on a plate.  It can be a stand-alone side dish (although the true definition of a condiment is that it isn’t eaten by itself. Sssh, I won’t tell) or I like to serve it on grilled toast with a smear of ricotta or burrata.

 

The green goddess, although technically a dressing, qualifies as a smear, a dollop or a slather. It wears so many hats. This creamy green goodness is the perfect match for summer’s first bacon, lettuce and tomato; add a slice of avocado and a hard-boiled egg for an extra dose of flavor. Green goddess skips happily along when drizzled over garden fresh (or someone else’s garden!) lettuce, dolloped on cold shrimp, slathered on a roast beef sandwich, or served as a dip for roasted or raw farmer’s market fresh vegetables. A great way to utilize those fresh herbs in your garden, green goddess will make your taste buds happy.

 

The simplest definition of a condiment is that “it imparts flavor onto another food.” Beyond that, it gets subjective.  Make your own rules, combine your own flavors, find your own balance and enjoy a dip, a drizzle, a smear or a dollop of your favorite condiment.

Pepperonata (Caramelized Onions & Peppers) & Green Goddess Dressing
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Ingredients
  1. Pepperonata
  2. 2 large onions, julienne
  3. 3 large red peppers, julienne
  4. 3 large yellow peppers, julienne
  5. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  6. 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  7. 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
  8. 5 basil leaves, chiffonade
  9. 1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley
  10. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  11. Green Goddess Dressing
  12. 1 ½ cup mayonnaise
  13. ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
  14. 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  15. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  16. 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  17. 1 garlic clove, rough chop
  18. 1 anchovy filet
  19. Buttermilk for thinning (or regular milk works fine too but I like the tang buttermilk brings to the dish)
Instructions
  1. Pepperonata
  2. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan and sauté the onion, oregano, red pepper flakes, and peppers until lightly golden; this should take about 20-25 minutes, longer if you want them super caramelized and sweet. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in basil, parsley, and thyme.
  3. Green Goddess Dressing
  4. Blend mayonnaise and all other ingredients in a food processor or immersion blender. Thin with buttermilk. The consistency should work for your intended purpose. This will vary per application, thicker for a smear or a dollop, thinner for a dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Taste, adjust and enjoy!
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup olive oil
  2. 2 tablespoons Lemaster Family Kitchen TOSA seasoning mix*
  3. 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  4. 1 medium onion
  5. 1 zucchini
  6. 1 red pepper
Instructions
  1. Whisk together oil and seasoning mix. Add chicken cut into chunks. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Heat grill to medium high heat.
  3. Cut vegetables into chunks and toss with some more olive oil and TOSA mix to coat. Thread chicken and vegetables on skewers. Grill until chicken is cooked and vegetables are crisp tender.
  4. Serve with saffron rice.
  5. *Lemaster Family Kitchen TOSA seasoning blend available at Marcels
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/
 

Rainbow Vegetarian Pad Thai with Peanuts and Basil

Rainbow Vegetarian Pad Thai with Peanuts and Basil
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For the Pad Thai
  1. 4 ounces brown rice noodles (you can get stir-fry type noodles or Pad Thai noodles - and usually that's half a box)
  2. 1 zucchini
  3. 1 red pepper
  4. half of a yellow onion
  5. 2 carrots
  6. 2 tablespoons oil
  7. 1 egg, beaten
  8. ½ cup peanuts, chopped
  9. ½ cup fresh herbs like cilantro, green onions, and basil, chopped
For the Sauce
  1. 3 tablespoons fish sauce (or vegan fish sauce substitute)
  2. 3 tablespoons brown sugar (or sub another sweetener)
  3. 3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth
  4. 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  5. 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  6. 1 teaspoon chili paste (sambal oelek)
Instructions
  1. Place the uncooked noodles in a bowl of cold water to soak.
  2. Spiralize the zucchini, red pepper, and onion into noodle-like shapes. Cut the carrots into very small pieces (or spiralize them, too, if they're big enough).
  3. Shake up the sauce ingredients in a jar.
  4. Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Add the veggies - stir fry with tongs for 2-3 minutes or until tender-crisp (if they are not spiralized, they might need longer). Be careful not to overcook them - they'll get soggy and heavy. Transfer to a dish and set aside.
  5. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan. Drain the noodles - they should be softened by now. Add the noodles to the hot pan and stir fry for a minute, using tongs to toss. Add the sauce and stir fry for another minute or two, until the sauce is starting to thicken and stick to the noodles. Push the noodles aside to make a little room for the egg - pour the beaten egg into the pan and let it sit for 30 seconds or so. Toss everything around with the tongs. The egg mixture will stick to the noodles and everything will start getting sticky.
  6. Add in the vegetables, toss together, and remove from heat. Stir in the peanuts and herbs and serve immediately.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Bacon Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Bacon Caramelized Brussels Sprouts
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Ingredients
  1. 5 slices thick cut bacon, cut into roughly 1/2-inch squares
  2. 1 pound brussels sprouts, each sprout cut in half
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and sauté until slightly cooked but not crispy. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon or spatula and set aside.
  2. Add the brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt, and pepper and sauté until the brussels sprouts soften and turn a brighter and deeper shade of green, about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the bacon to the pan and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the bacon is crispy and the brussels sprouts have turned golden around the tips and are relatively soft when pierced with a fork, about 6 to 8 minutes more, stirring every 2 minutes.
Adapted from FINEX USA
Adapted from FINEX USA
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Delicata Squash & Black Bean Tacos

Delicata Squash & Black Bean Tacos
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Ingredients
  1. 1 Delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed and cut into 1/4” slices (skin can stay on)
  2. olive oil
  3. kosher salt
  4. freshly ground black pepper
  5. ground cumin
  6. 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  7. 4 ounces fresh ricotta
  8. cilantro, chopped
  9. 8 street taco sized tortillas (4”)
  10. pico de gallo (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 F. Use convection heat.
  2. Toss squash slices with olive oil, a generous sprinkle of kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper and cumin to taste (1/2 teaspoon is a good place to start). Spread onto a baking sheet - do not overlap pieces. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through, until starting to caramelize.
  3. Toss black beans with a touch of olive oil, kosher salt, pepper and cumin to taste.
  4. Mix fresh ricotta in a small bowl with kosher salt, pepper and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.
  5. Heat tortillas for a few minutes in oven until warm.
  6. Spread each tortilla with the ricotta mixture, top with black beans, squash and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with pico de gallo if desired.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Farro with Kale, Caramelized Onions and Hazelnuts

Farro with Kale, Caramelized Onions and Hazelnuts
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Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. 2 tablespoons canola oil
  3. 4 large yellow onions, peeled, trimmed and cut into half round slices
  4. Salt
  5. Freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1/2 cup dry Marsala
  7. 1 bunch flat Tuscan kale, stemmed and cut into julienne strips
  8. 1 1/2 cups farro
  9. Freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons (or more to taste)
  10. 1/2 cup (or more) extra virgin olive oil
  11. 1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts
Instructions
  1. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter with the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they being to soften. Season generously with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking the onions until they are golden brown and caramelized, stirring frequently to scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pan, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  2. Deglaze the pan with the Marsala. Add the kale and cook just until the kale wilts. Remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt. Add the farro and cook until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the farro in a colander.
  4. In a large bowl combine the farro, onion and kale mixture and lemon juice. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. To serve, drizzle enough olive oil over the farro to moisten it. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding additional lemon juice for extra brightness.
  6. Spoon the farro onto a large serving platter. Scatter the hazelnuts over the top and serve at room temperature.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Wild Rice, Pear and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Walnuts

Wild Rice, Pear and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Walnuts
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups water
  2. 1 cup wild rice
  3. 1 pound sweet potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled, cut into ½” cubes (4 cups)
  4. 4 tablespoons olive oil
  5. ½ cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  6. 2 large scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  7. 2 medium ripe pears, cored but not peeled, cut into ½” cubes
  8. ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  9. 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  10. ½ teaspoon salt
  11. ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  12. ½ cup walnut pieces, coarsely chopped
Cook the wild rice
  1. Add the water to a 2 quart pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook. Start checking the rice after 20 min. Rice may take anywhere from 20-45 min. to cook, depending on whether it’s hand harvested or cultivated. Tender wild rice just starts to split apart at the ends. Drain well. Let cool.
Make the salad
  1. As the rice cooks, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the oil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until fork tender, 10-15 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Combine the wild rice, sweet potatoes, parsley, scallions and pears in a large mixing bowl. (If you plan to refrigerate the salad for a few days, leave the pears out and add them right before serving).
  3. Whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, the lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a small bowl, until emulsified. Pour the dressing over the wild rice mixture and toss to coat. Serve topped with walnuts.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 3 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 baguette, cut into 1” cubes (6 cups)
  3. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  4. 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1” cubes
  5. 1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, sliced ½” thick
  6. 1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1” cubes
  7. 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1” cubes
  8. ½ red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  9. 20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  10. 3 tablespoons capers, drained
Vinaigrette
  1. 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  2. ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  3. 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  4. ½ cup good olive oil
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  6. ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
  2. For the vinaigrette, whisk together all ingredients.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season the salad liberally with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve immediately, or allow the salad to sit for about ½ hour for the flavors to blend.
Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties
Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound green beans
  2. 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  3. 1 can cannellini or navy beans, drained
  4. 1 large shallot
  5. 3 T. red wine vinegar
  6. salt
  7. freshly ground pepper
  8. ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  9. basil or other herb, optional
Instructions
  1. Trim green beans and parboil them in salted water until tender. Drain and immediately spread them to cool. Cut tomatoes in half. These steps can be done in advance.
  2. For the vinaigrette, peel and dice the shallot finely and put it in a bowl with the vinegar and salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil. Taste and adjust the balance with more vinegar, oil, or salt, as needed. Toss the cherry tomatoes with the vinaigrette; this can sit awhile.
  3. Do not add green beans or cannellini beans until just before serving or they will discolor from the acid in the vinaigrette. Garnish with basil or another herb.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

For the Love of Tomatoes by Heidi Kise

My love for tomatoes developed at a young age. Undoubtedly our family garden had a little something do with it. We had an enormous garden every year that was home to everything from radishes to potatoes and always a plethora of tomatoes. My Dad was the main caretaker for this masterpiece. He was meticulous about the layout, spacing and weeding. He carefully and masterfully nurtured our garden all summer long. All of us kids begrudgingly helped out here and there. Enjoying the harvest as a family was the part we all loved. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of enjoying my Dad’s harvest of tomatoes will concur that his tomatoes are a little slice of heaven. I still savor each and every tomato that he gives me, often eating it with just a little sea salt. When I think back to those harvest days, I think of dinner on the patio that includes of my mom’s cucumber salad, BLTs, and cantaloupe. Still a favorite summertime meal of mine.

HeidiTomatoes1Having my own real garden for the very first time this summer has been a fun and interesting experience for my family. Everyone had a chance to choose a few items to plant…cucumbers for Katie, beans for Leo, zucchini for Ken and tomatoes for everyone! The kids, my Dad, my neighbors and the internet have helped plant our garden and we have watched plants grow, blossom, and bear fruit. Tonight the kids ate freshly plucked organic beans from the garden, raw. They were over the moon excited and my daughter asked if she could take them to school in her lunch. In addition to the beans, ironically, my Dad was here today to see the very first ripe tomato plucked from our garden! Thanks to my Dad, I know what ripe tastes like. And thanks to my Dad, my kids will also know where their food comes from and know what a real tomato tastes like.

Produce like this, eaten at its prime, needs little to dress it up. One of my favorite things to make is a batch of basil oil to enhance mayo for a BLT or to drizzle over either prosciutto and melon or tomato caprese. Take 10 minutes to make a batch and let me know how you like to use it!

Basil Oil
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup basil leaves, packed
  2. ½ cup grapeseed oil
  3. 1/8 t. kosher salt
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, add a cup of ice and fill with cold water.
  2. Drop basil leaves in small pot of boiling water and turn off heat.
  3. Immediately remove basil from hot water, strain and plunge into the prepared ice bath.
  4. After a few minutes, strain basil and squeeze dry between two dinner plates.
  5. Add basil, oil and salt to your blender. Blend until smooth.
Notes
  1. I like to use this flavorful oil as is unless I’m catering a fancy party, then I strain the beautiful, bright green oil through a cheese cloth.
  2. Store in refrigerator in a mason jar for up to 3 days.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/