Early summer proves the perfect time to cook a batch of homemade tomato ketchup, whirl up fresh mayonnaise and enhance everything with fresh herbs.
This summer, I am customizing my condiment selection to keep the weekly burgers (meat, poultry and veg variations) interesting. These jars of goodness also will be useful in salads made from grilled chicken or hard-boiled eggs destined for backyard picnics or lakefront lunches.
I’ve never been a big fan of commercial ketchup, which is why I enjoy whipping up a smoky version made with bacon and smoked paprika. Ripe, plum tomatoes cook down into a sweet tenderness, and a whirl in the blender renders them into a smooth sauce. You’ll need to allow some cooking time on a cool day. The ketchup will last several weeks and works wonderfully on sliced brisket and smoked turkey.
I love seasoned mayonnaise spread on BLT sandwiches, smeared over fish before broiling and stirred into main-course salads such as chicken and tuna salad. Here, pasteurized eggs will help with food safety issues. Season the lemony mayo with fresh herbs, anchovy or capers. Or use lime rind and lime juice for a version that’s excellent as a dunking sauce for cooked shrimp.
Why buy flavored mustards when you can turn an inexpensive Dijon into something extraordinary? Add Kalamata olive puree and other goodies for a spread you will love straight from the jar. Use it for a unique spin on grilled cheese sandwiches or as a smear for grilled fish or chicken breast.
I’ve worked and traveled frequently in Mexico for more than two decades. Hands-down, my favorite condiment might be Veracruz’s salsa macha — a chile, garlic and nut combination based in oil. Keep a jar on hand to ladle onto just about everything, from the morning’s fried eggs to an afternoon hummus snack to the evening’s grilled steak entrée. The possibilities for this salsa are endless. It also works on grilled eggplant, fish, chicken, steamed vegetables, cooked grains and small pastas. For a revelation, you can also try it on sliced tomatoes with a splash of lime or balsamic.
A note of caution with all condiments: Be careful not to double-dip serving spoons. Use a clean spoon each time.
Summer Mustard With All The Goodies
Prep time: 10 minutes. Makes: About ¾ cup
½ cup inexpensive Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons pureed pitted Kalamata olives or tapenade spread
1-2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives or green onion tops
1 to 1½ tablespoons drained capers or finely chopped cornichon pickles
1 tablespoon finely chopped pickled hot peppers, such as jalapenos, Calabrian peppers
2 teaspoons pickle or olive juice
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Store in a covered jar for several weeks.
Peanutty Salsa Macha
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus 45 minute cooling time. Cook time: 55 minutes. Makes: About 3 cups
I like to use a variety of dried chiles in this versatile, condiment-style salsa/sauce. Shop for dried chiles in supermarkets with a large Mexican food selection. To assess freshness, press the chiles — they should be soft and pliable, not brittle.
2-3 ounces dried chile pods, such as ancho, guajillo, pasilla or New Mexico (or use a combination)
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
⅓ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 small red onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, peeled, cut in half
1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1-2 canned chipotles in adobo, removed from sauce
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Use kitchen shears to cut stems off of 2-3 ounces dried chiles. Cut chiles open and scrape out seeds. Discard seeds and stems. Use the shears to cut the chiles into 1/2-inch pieces. You will need about 1 generous cup of chile pieces.
Put 2 cups extra virgin olive oil into a large saucepan. Heat over medium until warm — not hot, certainly not smoking.
Add 1/3 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts, 1/4 cup chopped pecans, 1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 1/2 of a chopped small red onion and 4 cloves garlic to the heated oil. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic turns golden, 5-10 minutes. The garlic should not burn and the oil should not smoke.
Stir in chopped dried chiles. Remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 chipotle chile, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano.
Carefully transfer mixture to a blender container (work in batches if necessary). Use on/off turns to finely chop all the solids. Do not puree. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more vinegar, chipotle and salt as desired.
Transfer to small covered containers. Use at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to several weeks. Let stand at room temperature to allow oil to warm up before using.
Fresh Tomato and Bacon Ketchup
Prep time: 20 minutes. Cook time: 50 minutes. Makes: About 2¾ cups
Stir this into sautéed spinach and serve topped with a soft-boiled or fried egg for a savory breakfast bowl.
2 thick-cut slices smoky bacon, finely diced (2.5 ounces)
2-3 large shallots, finely diced (4 ounces)
4 large cloves garlic, minced or crushed
½ cup dry red wine
5-6 large ripe plum tomatoes, trimmed, diced (1½ pounds)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1-2 tablespoons agave syrup or corn syrup
2 teaspoons tamari or reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground mace or allspice
Cook 2 thick-cut slices of smoky bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat until bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes. Add 4 ounces diced shallots. Cook and stir until shallots are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in 4 cloves minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup dry red wine and boil to reduce to a glaze.
Stir in 11/2 pounds trimmed and diced plum tomatoes; cook and stir until softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in remaining ingredients. Heat to a boil; reduce heat to very low. Simmer, stirring often, until thick, about 20 minutes. Let cool.
Process mixture in blender (cover blender top with a towel to prevent splatters) until pureed smooth.
Return to the saucepan. Heat to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired with salt and pepper.
Pack mixture into covered containers. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Lemony Mayonnaise With Variations
Prep time: 10 minutes. Makes: About ¾ cup
Note: For food safety, use pasteurized eggs for this mayonnaise.
Alternatively, you can treat the eggs as follows: Heat a small saucepan containing several inches of water to simmer. Add 2 (room temperature) eggs in the shell to the water. Cook exactly 1 minute (set a timer). Remove eggs with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to cool. Crack eggs and separate out the yolks for this recipe.
2 large egg yolks from pasteurized eggs; see note
Finely grated rind of 1 small lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
⅓ cup safflower oil
Flavor additions (choose 1 or 2): 1 anchovy fillet packed in oil; 1 or 2 tablespoons drained capers; grated rind of 1 lime; 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (tarragon, chive, cilantro, dill)
Put 2 egg yolks, grated lemon rind, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder into a blender or small food processor. Process to mix well, scraping sides as needed.
With the machine running, very slowly drizzle in ⅓ cup each extra virgin olive oil and safflower oil until mixture is smooth and light.
Add any flavor additions. Pulse the machine with on/off turns to incorporate ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.