In the summer, not only do I want to minimize the time spent cooking in a hot kitchen…
I also want to minimize the time spent thinking about cooking in a hot kitchen. This is why you can open my fridge any day between June and September and almost always find a jarred, homemade sauce, and possibly even two or three of them, usually housed in old jam jars. I think of a summer sauce as generally fresh and bold, with a consistency somewhere between a dip and a dressing, but the most important thing about them is that they require only a whisk or a blender and zero heat. When you have one loyally waiting to be deployed for dinner, it feels like most of the hard work has already been done, and all you have to do is add something grilled — meat, fish, vegetables — to make it a meal. Here are my three favorite examples of this strategy.
Spicy Avo Sauce
You can use this creamy vegan sauce on everything, but it’s especially amazing with grilled fish (salmon in particular) or spooned right out of the jar. (Kidding! Sort of!) It’s from Sara Forte who runs the Sprouted Kitchen Cooking Club, and is a genius at making high-flavor, vegetable-forward family meals. She recommends using it on salmon tacos, in grain bowls, on egg sandwiches, as a spread in a veggie sandwich with greens and pickled onions, or on a veggie burger.
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 bundle of cilantro, including stems (about 2 cups, loosely packed)
1 jalapeño mostly seeded
1/4 cup of roasted, salted pepitas (pistachios work too)
1 lime, juiced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
2 ripe avocados pitted
In a food processor or blender, combine the garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, pumpkin seeds, lime juice, olive oil, water, salt and pulse a few times to break down. Add the flesh of the avocados and pulse again until combined, but not completely pureed. You’re going for a consistency that’s thinner than guacamole but thicker than salad dressing. If it looks too thick, taste, and add lime juice or water to thin. Taste for seasoning, set aside in the fridge. Sauce will keep about 3 to 5 days.
Herby Yogurt Horseradish Dressing
This is my favorite sauce to make with anything grilled, from chicken to salmon to asparagus. The creamy-tanginess is such a nice contrast with a char. Other uses: fried fish, grilled salmon, grilled kale.
2 tablespoons lemon juice (juice from 1 medium lemon)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup plain yogurt (preferably 2% or higher, Greek yogurt is fine)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped shallot or red onion
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons fresh dill, loosely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, loosely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor or blender combine all ingredients. If it’s too thick, add water a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the consistency of a salad dressing. You can also shake everything in a jam jar without blending, but let it sit for about a half hour if you do this to allow the flavors to meld. It keeps for about 4 days in the refrigerator.
This version of the classic Creole sauce comes from Vegetable Kingdom, by Bryant Terry, the James Beard Award winning chef and educator who writes about recipes from the African diaspora. Serve alongside fried onions, fried shrimp, grilled shrimp, fish cakes, fried fish, fried green tomatoes, or anywhere you’d use tartar sauce.
3/4 cup mayonnaise (vegan or regular)
1/4 cup Creole-style mustard or whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped gherkins
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, capers, gherkins, and cayenne. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. The rémoulade will keep for 4 days in the refrigerator.
(Photos by Jenny Rosenstrach.)