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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!
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