If you are like me, on the mission to find a healthier, tasty alternatives to the same-old mayonnaise, ketchup and relishes for your Memorial Day picnic, you came to the right place! Why not spice it up with some of these freshly made, super tasty alternatives, inspired by international cuisine? You might be surprised how satisfying these condiments are – with you controlling the amount of salt, heat, and mostly – everything made from fresh produce with no preservatives and other hidden “gems” !!!
Romesco Sauce (Spain)
This versatile sauce is to Spain what pesto is to Italy. Romesco sauce originated in Tarragona, Catalonia. It is a delicious addition to fish, any grilled chicken, turkey, grilled beef, pork and even can be spread on sandwiches.
1 bag of small colored sweet peppers or 3-5 large peppers of different colors
1 red onion
8 cloves of garlic
8 Campari tomatoes
1 day old small Portuguese roll
Handful of walnuts and almonds
1 table spoon of Sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
½ smoked Spanish paprika (I use hot one)
½ cup of fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375°F and clean the vegetables. I use the small sweet peppers whole, and just wash them in the sink. If you’re using large peppers, remove the seeds and cut them in quarters. Spread the peppers on the sheet and sprinkle with olive oil. No salt needed at this point. As they roast in the oven they caramelized and become extremely tasty.
Cut tomatoes in half, and place alongside with peppers, cut side up, sprinkled with salt, freshly grated pepper and 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic. Sprinkle with olive oil.
Peel red onion, and slice into thick slices (almost an inch), and spread on the baking sheet. You may have to use two sheets to fit everything in. All veggies should be in single layer. Sprinkle the red onion slices with olive oil too. Let’s bake for about 20 minutes or until the veggies are soft. Add remaining garlic cloves for the last 5 minutes of baking.
Take the sheet(s) from the oven and cover it with foil to cool a little. At this point you can carefully remove the skin from peppers and tomatoes, but I usually blend it in. I believe that’s what’s the most nutritious. Skin is tender at this point and puree with the sauce easily. Spoon everything but bread roll into a food processor and pulse until nice and smooth. Add more high quality extra virgin olive oil if needed. If the sauce is too thin, brake down the Portuguese roll by hand and add pieces to food processor to thicken the sauce. I don’t usually do that, but the original recipe calls for it. Taste for the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Chimichuri Sauce (Argentina)
This sauce is so simple, but its amazing how it elevates the taste of steak, lamb or any other meats to the entirely new levels. Try it on beef or burgers….
3-5 cloves roughly chopped garlic
1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
1 cup fresh cilantro
2 tsp. fresh oregano or thyme (optional)
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine the above ingredients in mixer and pulse until smooth. Store in a glass container and refrigerate until ready to serve; the sauce will keep up to one week in the refrigerator.
Eggplant Hash (my own recipe, inspired by Greece)
1/2 finely chopped red onion
1 garlic clove diced
1 can of whole tomatoes
4 small bay leaves
4-5 whole allspice
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup of white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Slice your eggplant into thick slices, skin attached. Spread slices over paper towel and season with salt. Let it sweat for few minutes, than pat dry with paper towel. Chop into similar size cubes.
In large heavy skillet heat the oil and stir in chopped onion on medium heat. Cook for a minute and add garlic and red pepper flakes, stir and let cook for few seconds (be careful, garlic can quickly turn brown and bitter). Bring up the heat and add all eggplant cubes. Season with salt and pepper and mix to coat all eggplant pieces with oil.
Add white wine and stir. Let wine almost evaporate on high heat and add whole tomatoes with a juice, crushing them carefully with your hand or spatula. Add bay leaves and allspice and stir into mixture. Turn down the heat, cover the pan and let it simmer for at least 20 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft, on low heat. Finish with generous amount of chopped parsley.
Delicious to serve with grilled meats, especially with beef as an unusual side dish. A great alternative to processed relishes, full of corn syrup!
Tzatziki sauce (Greece)
1 Greek yogurt
3 scallions finely chopped
2/3 English cucumber
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tablespoon of champagne vinegar
2-3 garlic cloves finely diced or pressed
Salt and pepper
dill or fresh oregano, finely chopped (optional)
Peel, seed and finely dice or grate the cucumber (you must squeeze most of the excess liquid in hand, otherwise it will water down your sauce). Mix yoghurt with lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, herbs and seasoning, and add cucumber into the mix. Stir well and let chill in the fridge until ready to use.
Tzatziki is a great addition to lamb, beef, chicken – or a tasty (and much healthier) alternative to mayo on your sandwiches.