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TIP OF THE DAY: Guasacaca Sauce

Guasacaca Sauce Ingredients

Blender Sauce

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Top: The ingredients for guasacaca. Center: Simply add them to a blender or food processor. Bottom: The finished sauce in its original consistency. Photos courtesy Cory of TheAmuseBouche.com. Here’s her recipe.

 

A few nights ago we had a revelation. A great chef did an irresistible spin on guasacaca, the popular Venezuelan green sauce for grilled meats.

Chef Karlos Ponte, who ws born in Venezuela and worked at El Bulli and Noma, is now executive chef at Taller in Copenhagen. He and his team came to New York City to cook a one-night-only tasting dinner at The Pines in Brooklyn.

Chef Ponte changed the proportions of the classic guasacaca sauce: less avocado, more vinegar. In fact, we tasted herbs and acid instead of avocado.

While Venezuelan guasacaca is often made thick and chunky like guacamole, his interpretation is thin and acidic, like a French persillade (parsley, garlic, herbs, oil and vinegar).

This balance was perfection: We actually turned our backs to the room and licked the sauce off the plate. Thanks go to Taller’s general manager Jacob Brink Lauridsen (born in Venezuela, raised in Denmark), for taking this as a compliment.
 
WHAT IS GUASACACA SAUCE?

Guasacaca (wa-sa-KA-ka) combines avocado with vinegar and herbs. It can be made with with bit of jalapeño or hot sauce, although like guacamole, it is not intended to be a hot and spicy sauce.

Guasacaca is served with beef, chicken and sausage grilled on a parilla.* It’s also a popular condiment with arepas and empanadas.

We generously received a container of the sauce “to go,” and have since served it with eggs, fish and seafood; as a salad dressing; and as a dip with crudités.

Chef Ponte’s sauce was so splendid, that our group of sophisticated palates used it with the breads (Chef Ponte’s recipes, also splendid), and drank some of it from the container on the way home from the restaurant.

Here’s the catch: We now have to work out proportions similar to Chef Ponte’s. We started by eliminating one avocado and doubling the red wine vinegar. Our first batch was delicious, but not yet perfection.

In the interim, here’s the classic guasacaca recipe, a real find for summer grilling. Add less oil for a dip.

 
RECIPE: GUASACACA SAUCE

Prep time is just 10 minutes, no cooking involved!

Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 2 ripe Haas avocados, roughly diced
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, roughly chopped
  • Optional: 1 medium jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves†
  • 1 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves†
  • 1/3 cup red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup olive oil olive oil‡ (start with 1/3 and add more oil—or water—to desired consistency)
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
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    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients except the olive oil, salt and pepper into a food processor or blender. Pulse until the vegetables are finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the container as needed. Process until smooth.

    2. DRIZZLE in the olive oil in a continuous stream through feed tube (or top of blender), with the motor running. Process until smooth.

    3. TASTE and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature for an hour for the flavors to blend. Taste again and add more seasoning as desired.

    4. SERVE the sauce at room temperature. You can make it in advance and store it in the fridge, but bring the sauce to room temperature before serving.

    NOTE: If made in advance, the avocado portion can darken. Tamp a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the sauce.
     
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    *A a parilla is a simple grill comprising an iron grate over hot coals.

    †You can use less herbs—as little as 1/2 cup parsley and 1/4 cup cilantro—to taste. Save the stems for stock, soup or other recipes. You can also chop them and toss them into green salads.

    ‡In Venezuela, corn oil is used instead of olive oil.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Steak With Three Sauces

    Our friend Andy welcomes the opportunity to visit Denver, so he can pop in at Vesta Dipping Grill, known for the variety of creative sauces it offers with its entrées (here’s the current menu).

    For Father’s Day, forget the Worcestershire or A-1 and treat Dad to a choice of three homemade steak sauces. It’s like “steak three ways.” Here are a Baker’s Dozen of suggestions.
     
    HERB SAUCES FOR STEAK

    These quick herb sauces require no cooking: Toss everything into a food processor and pulse (purists can get out the mortar and pestle).

  • Chimichurri Sauce. The steak sauce in Argentina, chimichurri is made from parsley, garlic, green or red chile, olive oil, red wine vinegar. You can add other herbs. Mario likes cilantro, Emeril likes oregano and basil. Recipe and more.
  • Gremolata. If you want bright herb flavors without heat or tang, make gremolata. This simple condiment from Italy consists of fresh chopped parsley, lemon zest and garlic—zingy without being spicy. Recipe and more.
  • Pesto. The “original” is made from basil, olive oil, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, but there are many variations that switch out the herb, nut and cheese. Recipe and more information.
  • Salsa Verde. Layers of flavor without heat, this Italian herb sauce is made from chopped chives, mint and parsley with capers, chopped anchovies, garlic and lemon juice. Some recipes add tomatillos. Recipe and more information.
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    Ribeye Steak With Sauces

    This 32-ounce steak is served with three sauces and a head of roasted garlic at The Fillmore Room in New York City.

  • Shallot Vinaigrette. Use your best vinegar and olive oil, minced shallots and parsley or other herb of choice. As a bonus, serve it warm. Recipe.
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    Mushroom Sauce

    Mushroom sauce with red wine is a classic steak sauce (photo Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog).

     

    CLASSIC FRENCH SAUCES

  • Aïoli. Aïoli is a Provençal garlic mayonnaise that is typically served with seafood. But it’s delicious with steak, too, and is also a yummy dip for French fries. Recipe.
  • Béarnaise Sauce. Thick and creamy like aioli but laced with tarragon and shallot instead of garlic, this pairing has been revered by French steak lovers for centuries. Recipe.
  • Compound Butter. Another innovation of French cooks, compound butter has been flavored with anything the cook likes, from anchovies to Cognac to Roquefort cheese. The butter is rolled into a log, and a slice is cut to top a steak. The heat from the just-cooked steak turns it into a flavored butter sauce. Recipes.
  • Mustard Sauce. Mix Dijon mustard with crème fraîche and gently heat this creamy, tangy steak sauce. Recipe.
  • Mushroom Sauce. Different interpretations include mushrooms with beef stock and brandy or wine, to a cream sauce with a Dijon accent. Recipe.
  • Peppercorn Sauce. Another creamy classic, this steak sauce is made with heavy cream, chicken stock, red wine vinegar and green peppercorns, simmered briefly.
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    MORE STEAK SAUCES

    There are many more options, but we’ll conclude today with global influences:

  • Try Asian-style sauces, such as Black Bean Sauce with Five Spice Powder and Teriyaki Sauce from BBC Good Food, and Green Sriracha Sauce from Food and Wine.
  • Go South-of-the-Border with Poblano Sauce (add puréed poblanos into garlic mayonnaise (aioli), Mole Sauce or Smoky Ancho Chile-Almond Sauce from FoodAndWine.com.
  • You can also make Piri-Piri Sauce with this recipe from Emeril. Piri-Piri is from Africa; Peri-Peri is the version brought back home by Portuguese sailors, and became the Peruvian version of Chimichurri. Both get their heat from fresh chiles.
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    Happy grilling, happy saucing!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Horseradish Sauce

    Pork With Horseradish Sauce

    Salmon & Horseradish Sauce

    Steak & Horseradish Sauce

    Fresh Horseradish Roots

    Horseradish Root

    Horseradish sauce on: (1) roast pork sandwich (from National Pork Board), (2) poached salmon with dill-horseradish sauce (Sysco), (3) steak salad (Good Eggs); (4) horseradish root, freshly dug (North Fork Horseradish Festival) and (5) horseradish root as it often looks in the market (Markon.com).

     

    In the U.K., horseradish sauce has long been paired with roast beef. But its zinginess enhances other beef preparations from filet mignon to steak, brisket and corned beef; other meat dishes (pork, lamb, smoked chicken) including sandwiches; assertive seafood like mackerel, salmon and smoked fish; even veggies.

    To make horseradish sauce, you can use a base of sour cream or heavy cream, or substitute fat-free Greek yogurt. Made with fat-free yogurt, it’s a low-calorie sauce.

    You can add other flavor accents, from capers to herbs to Dijon mustard to lemon zest, all with negligible caloric impact.

    The sauce can be made in advance and stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

     
    RECIPE #1: HORSERADISH SAUCE WITH HERBED WHIPPED CREAM

    Ingredients

  • 1 horseradish root, peeled
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • White wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Herb: chervil, dill, parsley or chervil (or capers or lemon zest)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. GRATE the horseradish root finely with a microplane into a small bowl. Mix it with a splash of white wine vinegar to prevent browning.

    2. WHIP the cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the whipped cream with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix in the herb as desired.

    3. PLACE in the fridge for 2-4 hours to allow the flavors to meld. Before serving, taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

     
    RECIPE #2: HORSERADISH SAUCE WITH DIJON SOUR CREAM

    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup grated fresh horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon or grainy mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. GRATE the horseradish root finely with a microplane into a small bowl. Mix it with a splash of white wine vinegar to prevent browning.

    2. PLACE all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until smooth and creamy.

    3. PLACE in the fridge for 2-4 hours to allow the flavors to meld. Before serving, taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.
     
    WHAT IS HORSERADISH?

    Believed to be native to southeastern Europe and western Asia, horseradish has been cultivated for some 3,000 years, prized for its culinary uses as well as for homeopathy.

    A pungent root, horseradish is a perennial plant in the Brassicaceae family* of cruciferous vegetables, known for their antioxidant, cancer-fighting properties. It is a root vegetable that is used as a spice.

     
    Like mustard, the raw plant is not pungent. The heat and aroma only appear when the appropriate part of the plant is crushed (mustard seeds), cut or grated (horseradish root), creating a chemical reaction. Once exposed to air or heat, the pungency begins to erode. Prepared horseradish is grated root that adds vinegar to preserve the pungency (and needs to be refrigerated).
     
    Why is it a “horse” radish?

    In German, the root is called meerrettich, sea radish, because it grows by the sea. It is believed that the English mispronounced the German word “meer” as “mare,” and began calling it mare radish, which evolved to horseradish. “Radish” comes from the Latin radix, meaning root.

    While horseradish and conventional radishes are both members of the Brassicacae family (“Brassica” in English), they are from different geniuses. The horseradish genus and species is Amoracia rustincana, and the radish is Raphanus sativus.

    During the Renaissance, horseradish consumption spread northward from Central Europe to England and Scandinavia. While it was used medicinally, it wasn’t until 1640 that the British began to eat horseradish, and then only by the rural people who grew it.

    But by the late 1600s, horseradish had become the standard English accompaniment for both beef and oysters. The English, in fact, grew the pungent root at inns and coach stations, to make cordials to revive exhausted travelers.

    Early settlers to the American Colonies brought horseradish to cultivate. It was common in the northeast by 1806.

    In the U.S., commercial cultivation began in the mid 1850s, when immigrants started horseradish farms in the Midwest. After World War II, horseradish was planted commercially in Northern California and other areas in the country. Today, approximately 6 million gallons of prepared horseradish are produced annually in the U.S., with a much smaller amount of fresh root sales.

    While the root gets all the press, horseradish leaves are also edible: raw or cooked, in pestos, salads, sautés and stir fries. They have a sharp, bitter, peppery taste similar to arugula and kale, their Brassica cousins.

    Horseradish.org, which supplied some of this information, has dozens of horseradish-related recipes from the expected (dips and sauces) to the intriguing (cream of horseradish soup with peas and bacon).

    Two of our favorite recipes are horseradish compound butter for steak, and horseradish mashed potatoes.
     
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    *The Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables, called Brassicaceae in the Latin-based taxonomy system, includes bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, horseradish/wasabi, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes and turnips, among others.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Agrodolce & Gastrique

    If you watch Top Chef, you’ve heard the term gastrique (gas-TREEK).

    While it sounds like the French word for gastric system*, it’s actually a sweet and sour sauce, similar to the Italian sauce agrodolce (agro-DOLE-chay, meaning sour [agro] and sweet [dolce]).
     
    Gastrique and agrodolce have a broad use: as sauces for meat, poultry, fish, pasta sauce, vegetables—even dessert (where chocolate can be used instead of the sugar), and to flavor cocktails. They’re good pairings for dishes that are high in fat content, since the vinegar cuts the richness.
     
    The sauce is made by reducing sweet and sour ingredients, typically sugar and vinegar. The sauces are very similar and the terms are often used interchangeably, but there is one key difference: With a gastrique, the sugar is first caramelized in a pan over low heat. The sticky syrup is deglazed with vinegar, and stock is added to thin the sauce.
     
    Additional flavorings can be added to create a more complex sauce—often fruit and/or wine; and flavored vinegars can add still more flavor. Both the type of stock and the vinegar greatly affect the flavor of the finished sauce.

  • Red wine vinegar and vincotto, for example, contribute a raspberry or grape flavor, respectively, that pairs well with chicken, lamb, pork, and seafood.
  • Cider vinegar has a sharper flavor, and is used with spicier dishes.
  • Gastrique or agrodolce made with preserves creates a flavorful bread dipper.
  • Pair your vinegar choice, stock, fruits, spices, etc. to the dish.
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    TYPES OF GASTRIQUE & AGRDOLCE

    Duck à l’orange is a good example. But you can also use an orange sauce with sea scallops, as in this recipe from NewFinMySoup.blogspot.com. Chef Marcus Samuelsson and bloggers Smith & Ratliff among others, have a similar scallop recipe.

    Just do a web search for anything you want to make, plus gastrique (e.g. “chicken gastrique”).

    Also consider the classic Italian onion side and antipasto dish, Cippolini in Agrodolce. This recipe, from Williams-Sonoma, uses white and brown sugars and white wine and balsamic vinegars. In Italy, sweet peppers also get the agrodolce treatment.

    Consider this elegant sweet-and-sour sauce for Asian dishes—very different from cornstarch-thickened Chinese sweet and sour sauce.

    Drizzle it over steaks or chops.

    Use it as a salad dressing.

    The options go on forever.
     
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    *In French, gastrique plus a modifying word refers to gastrointestinal matters (e.g., suc gastrique is gastric juice).

     

    Scallop Gastrique

    Lamb With Gastrique

    Agrodolce

    Top: Seared scallops with blood orange gastrique from Center: Rack of lamb with rhubarb-sour cherry gastrique from SpoonForkBacon.com. Here’s the recipe. Bottom: Cippollini in Agrodolce from Williams-Sonoma.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Good For You, Quick Sauces

    We’re still in “New Year’s Resolutions Month,” and today the tip is good-for-you sauces.

    Perhaps you’ve already been cooking dinner regularly; or perhaps you’re trying to do more of it to avoid sugar-, salt- and fat-laden take-out food.

    One of the easiest ways to complete a simple home-cooked meal is to cover it with purchased sauces. That’s no better for you than take-out, as reading the nutrition labels will prove.

    Here are 10 couldn’t-be-easier sauces that are good for you, and good on chicken, fish, grains, pasta, and so forth. Before you make a sauce from a can of soup, read the ingredients label—and see how easy these alternatives are:
     
    JUST POUR

  • Flavored Olive Oil. Drizzle basil-, rosemary- or other infused olive oil under the main food (chicken breast, fish fillet, pasta—see top photo) or drizzle it it around the perimeter of the plate (see second photo). Use a pour-top or a squeeze bottle for a thinner drizzle. With flavors from blood orange to garlic and hot chile, you can deliver lots of flavor while enjoying your government-approved two tablespoons of olive oil daily. Here are other ways to use infused olive oil.
  • Unflavored Olive Oil & Herbs. No flavored olive oil at hand? Sprinkle in some dried herbs before drizzling. We add both to a Pyrex measuring cup, stir in a pinch of salt and pepper, and pour.
  • Balsamic vinegar. Balsamic adds great flavor to just about anything. You can layer it on top of the oil. We use a small squeeze bottle and squeeze dots of balsamic on top of the oil (very arty!). You can also use a clean medicine dropper.
  • Pesto.You can also make pesto and keep it in the fridge. Then, 10 seconds in the microwave gives you a delicious hot sauce.
  •  
    LESS THAN 5 MINUTES OF COOKING

  • Tomato sauce: There are many riffs on quick tomato sauce, but they all involve cooking, usually for a minimum of 25 minutes. Here’s our quickest technique, using a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (or other quality tomatoes). Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a sauté pan and cook a clove of sliced garlic. Add the tomatoes and sauté for a minute or two. Add salt and pepper (or red pepper flakes) to taste, plus any herbs (basil, oregano, thyme). Voilà!
  • Vegetable purée. If you have leftover cooked vegetables, purée them into a sauce. Pop them into the food processor, purée, taste and add seasonings as desired (salt, garlic salt, pepper or other heat). Thin the purée to the desired consistency with a bit of olive oil or broth.
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    PAN SAUCES

    The easiest sauce for pan-cooked food is to deglaze the pan.

    Another French technique typically combines butter or cream with other ingredients to make an on-the-spot sauce for the just-cooked dish. The sauce is thickened by the butter or cream—two ingredients we want to cut back on.

    So here we’re substituting chicken broth (or vegetable broth) and olive oil. The ingredients below are basic, and you should already have them in the kitchen. Feel free to add whatever else you have: capers, garlic and other herbs, lemon zest, minced onion, etc.—or to substitute flavorful balsamic vinegar for the white wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  • Quick Mushroom Sauce. Microwave 1 cup chicken broth and 2 tablespoons finely chopped dried mushrooms until hot. Stir to combine, and pour into a hot skillet. Simmer until reduced by half, 2-3 minutes. Whisk in 4 teaspoons of milk (or cream, if you will) to form a lightly thickened sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Quick Dijon Mustard Sauce. Follow the same recipe as above, but substitute 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard for the mushrooms.
  • Quick Herbed Tomato Sauce. Heat the skillet over hot heat; combine 1/3 cup chicken broth, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, ¼ cup canned crushed tomatoes and a generous pinch of tarragon or other herb in a small bowl or mixing cup. Pour into the hot skillet, simmer for 2-3 minutes to reduce by half. Whisk in 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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    NONFAT “CREAM SAUCE”

    You can turn any of these sauces into a creamy sauce with the addition of nonfat Greek yogurt. There’s a hitch, though: Yogurt curdles over heat and can’t be added to a hot pan. Instead, use this technique:

     

    Steak With Rosemary

    Grilled Salmon With Gremolata

    Steak and Gravy

    Spaghetti With Fresh Tomato Sauce

    Top: Pan-grilled steak atop a pool of garlic-infused olive oil. Photo courtesy Quinciple. Second: Grilled salmon on a plate rimmed with basil olive oil and a garnish of gremolata: finely chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. Photo courtesy Eddie Merlot’s. Third: Have fun with it: Use a squeeze bottle to turn your sauce into polka dots or zig-zags. Photo courtesy Strip House. Fourth: A can of San Marzano tomatoes becomes a quick sauce. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

  • Spoon the yogurt into a bowl and let it warm to room temperature.
  • Temper the yogurt by stirring in a tablespoon of the hot sauce—not enough to curdle it but enough to get the yogurt used to it.
  • Blend in the rest of the sauce.
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    Bon appétit!
      

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