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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Chimichurri Sauce

Each country in Latin America has a national salsa, or sauce. In Argentina, it’s chimichurri.

Chimichurri sauce is made of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, white or red vinegar and red pepper flakes. Oregano can be added. Cilantro can replace parsley in some regions; vegetable oil can replace the olive oil.

The original sauce is green from the parsley; later red versions add tomatoes, red bell peppers and/or hot chiles.

In beef-endowed Argentina chimichurri is the steak sauce of choice, also used with other beef-based dishes and any grilled meats.

As one story goes, the name name evolved from “Jimmy McCurry,” an Irishman who developed the recipe in Argentina. However, there is no written documentation of this.

Purportedly, McCurry was sympathetic to the cause of Argentine independence in the 19th century, and served in a troop under the command of General Jasson Ospina. The sauce was popular but “Jimmy McCurry” was difficult for Argentineans to say, so it became “chimichurri” sauce (pronounced chimmy CHOO-ree).

   

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Classic: grilled beef with chimichurri sauce. Photo courtesy D’Artagnan.

 
Another theory is that the name comes from the Basque settlers who arrived in Argentina in the 19th century. According to grilling expert Steve Raichlen, the name of the sauce comes from the Basque term tximitxurri, loosely translated as “a mixture of several things in no particular order.” [Source: Raichlen, Steven, “Planet Barbecue!,” Workman Publishing Company. p. 159. ]

It’s easy to make chimichurri in a blender or food processor; but purists may want to make it the original way, with a mortar and pestle. We find that pesto made this way tastes better than food processor pesto, even when the exact same ingredients are used.
 
RECIPE: BASIC CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

Ideally, make the chimichurri sauce a day in advance to allow the flavors to meld. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Ingredients For 1-1/2 Cups

  • 2 cups fresh Italian parsley leaves, tightly packed
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh oregano leaves or 4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the parsley, garlic, oregano, vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a blade attachment. Process until finely chopped, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, about 1 minute total.

    2. ADD the oil in a steady stream, with the motor running. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse a few times to combine.

    3. TRANSFER the sauce to an airtight container and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 1 day, allowing the flavors to meld. Stir, taste and adjust seasonings before serving.

     

    Grilled Halloumi With Chimichurri Sauce

    This chimichurri sauce has been made elegant by pureeing. It’s served with a vegetarian dish, Grilled Halloumi And trumpet Mushrooms. Photo courtesy Gardenia Restaurant | NYC.

     

    CREATE YOUR SIGNATURE CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

    You can adding or substitute other ingredients to create a signature chimichurri:

  • Substitute lemon or lime juice for the vinegar.
  • Use fresh or roasted chiles instead of the red pepper flakes.
  • Add minced onion.
  • Try balsamic or flavored vinegar instead of wine vinegar
  • Give it an Asian spin with fresh ginger and mint, or an Indian influence of green curry and cilantro.
  • Turn it into mint sauce by substituting mint for the parsley; or make a parsley-mint blend.
  • Substitute basil for “Caprese sauce.”
  • Add a spoonful of Dijon mustard.
  • Make red chimichurri sauce by adding red bell peppers and/or raw or roasted tomatos (Red Chimichurri Rcipe).
  • For elegance, purée the naturally textured sauce into a smooth one (see photo at left).
  •  
    21+ WAYS TO USE CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

    Like Italy’s pesto, chimichurri is a bright green, herb-based, versatile sauce that you can use with:

  • Beans and legumes
  • Burgers
  • Caprese salad dressing
  • Crostini (serve the toasts with grilled meats)
  • Eggs, any style
  • Egg salad, chicken salad, potato salad, tuna salad, etc.
  • Fries and onion rings
  • Grilled fish or seafood (recipe: Mango Grilled Shrimp With Chimichurri Grilled Mango-Citrus Chimichurri Shrimp)
  • Grilled halloumi or other grilling cheese (see photo above)
  • Grilled or roasted beef, chicken, lamb, pork
  • Hot dogs, brats and other sausages
  • Marinades (add more oil, vinegar, citrus juice or and/or water to thin out)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Pasta (toss pasta lightly with EVOO before adding the chimichurri)
  • Rice and other cooked grains
  • Soup and stew garnish
  • Tacos
  • Tofu
  • Sandwich spread (mix with mayo or mustard)
  • Vegetarian dishes, including veggie wraps
  • Vinaigrette
  • Yogurt sauce (blend into plain Greek yogurt)
  •  
    Other ideas? Post them here.
     
    SEE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SALSA IN OUR SALSA GLOSSARY.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruit Sauce For Chicken & Fish

    salmon-blueberry-sauce-munchery-230

    Rare-cooked salmon with blueberry sauce,
    couscous, pattypan squash and zucchini.
    Photo courtesy Munchery.

     

    One of the easiest routes to a protein-filled, home-cooked dinner is grilled chicken or fish. We often hear from people that they can grill (or poach, roast or sauté) the protein, but because they’re not “good at cooking,” they don’t know what else to do with it.

    Earlier this year we published two articles:

  • Grilled Chicken Or Fish With Salsa
  • Grilled Chicken Or Fish With Pico De Gallo
  •  
    Today, we suggest a fruit sauce, the easiest of which, we think, is a berry sauce. You can use any berry in these recipes, and can use them over rice and other grains instead of on the proteins.

  • If you use larger berries—blackberries or strawberries—slice them first.
  • If these recipes are a bit too sweet for you, lessen the sweetness with fruit spread instead of jam, substitute cider or wine vinegar for the balsamic vinegar and eliminate the sugar.
  •  
    RECIPE: SWEET & HOT BLUEBERRY SAUCE

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons fig or apricot jam
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili sauce (we used sriracha)
  • 2/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the jam, vinegar, sugar and chili sauce in a small pan.

    2. STIR in the blueberries gently. If using frozen berries, first thaw and drain them.

    3. HEAT over medium low, stirring occasionally (and gently) until the desired heat is reached. We recommend heating the sauce until just warmed, not hot.

     

    RECIPE: SWEET & SAVORY BLUEBERRY SAUCE

    This recipe omits the heat of the first recipe and instead adds vegetables—onions and cherry tomatoes—for more savory notes. While berries and onions may sound incongruous, they are great partners when the onions are caramelized.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 small onions, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple or grape juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  •  
    Preparation

     

    blueberry-carton-burpee-230

    Turn the season’s fresh fruit into fruit sauce. Photo courtesy Burpee.com.

     
    1. HEAT the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, salt and pepper and cook until the onions are golden, about 10 minutes.

    2. ADD the sugar and cook until the onions are caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add the juice, vinegar, blueberries and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Then remove from the heat and serve.
     
    MUNCHERY DINNER DELIVERY SERVICE

    We typically don’t write about the mushrooming category of prepared dinner home delivery services. They deliver better-for-you meals instead of conventional takeout and delivery options.

    It’s not easy for us to cover them because we have a national readership, and each company services only a few cities, or just one.

    But we fell in love with Munchery, and you will, too, after scrolling through these photos of the chef-cooked meals that can be on your table. It’s like having a personal chef who cooks in his/her own kitchen and brings the food to you.

    Munchery currently serves Los Angeles, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle.

    You can try it out at Munchery.com. We love that we can send a gift card to friends and family who are overworked, new parents or otherwise have no time to cook.

      

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    TIP: Ways To Add More Flavor To Food

    caperberries-2-elvirakalviste-230

    Caperberries or capers (capers are the flower
    bud of the plant, caperberries are the fruit
    with seeds inside) are brined and thus
    contribute saltiness as well as flavor to dishes. They and other ingredients (olives, soy sauce, etc.) reduce the need to add table
    salt. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Today’s tip comes from Flavor & The Menu, a magazine and website for chefs of fine dining restaurants.

    They “employ every trick in the flavor toolbox to get explosive taste and texture,” according to author Pam Smith, co-chair of The Culinary Institute of America’s Healthy Menus R&D Collaborative. “Creating flavor is no magic trick,” she says, “but certain ingredients and techniques can magically make reduced-calorie dishes satisfying—even indulgent.”

    The advice:

  • Acids. High-acid ingredients lend sharp, bright flavor to replace salt or fat. Reduce wines and vinegars to concentrate their flavor; add a squeeze of citrus to finished dishes.
  • Cooking meats. Spices added to rubs and marinades brings out surface flavor, as does caramelization from grilling or searing meats.
  • Healthful fats. Beneficial fats and oils—nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, avocados—enhance mouthfeel and flavor.
  • Herbs. Savory* herbs (basil, dill, oregano, thyme, sage, cilantro) enable the reduction of salt. Finishing a dish with fresh herbs punches up the flavor.
  • High-sodium ingredients. Replace the salt in a recipe with more flavorful sodium: capers, feta, olives, olives or soy sauce, for example.
  • Onions. Members of the onion family, which also includes chives, garlic, scallions (green onions) and shallots, lend a sharp taste and aroma to dishes, whether raw, caramelized, roasted or grilled (how to caramelize onions).
  •  

  • Spices. Use spice and heat to distract the palate. Make use of strong flavors like cayenne, cumin, curry, ginger, horseradish/wasabi, mustard seed, and peppercorn. Toast whole spices before grinding to heighten the flavor and aroma.
  • Umami. Go for “exponential umami” by combining two nucleotide compounds, such as a burger made with beef and roasted mushrooms or tuna with a dash of soy sauce (more about umami).
  •  
    What are you cooking this weekend? Employ as many of these tricks as you can and see how they improve your recipes.

     
    *As opposed to savory herbs, sweet herbs are typically used to flavor beverages and desserts. Examples include apple mint, lavender, peppermint, pineapple mint, pineapple sage and rose geranium. Savory herbs used in sweet applications include anise, basil, licorice and rosemary. Stevia is a sweet herb that is largely a sugar substitute, adding sweetness without additional flavor.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Ají Sauce

    Hot sauce lovers should take a closer look at ají sauce, a standard in Ecuador and Peru. Aji amarillo is one of the most common types of chiles in the area, and is also one of the most important ingredients in the two countries.

    While, like all salsas, there are as many variations as there are cooks, a basic ají criollo is made from the ají amarillo (yellow ají*), along with cilantro, garlic, onion and lime.

    Each region and city has its own unique recipe. For example, ají de tomate de árbol—tree tomato or tamarillo ají—uses tamarillo as well as ají amarillo. (A recipe is below.)

    Andrés Dávila, executive chef of Casa Gangotena, TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top Ten Hotel, offers tourists a journey through the different types of ají, with a selection of six sauces carefully paired with a dish that heightens the flavors of the local cuisine. He’s also sent us a standard recipe so you can make your own.

    Great for sauces and to kick up any meal with a great flavor and medium heat. Chewing on the chiles adds more heat.

  • Ají mixed with passion fruit, which colors the sauce a spectacular yellow, goes well paired with chicken or pork.
  • Ají with sambo squash seeds, a light green cream with a subtle smell and taste that goes well with white meats.
  •    

    aji-amarillo-perudelights-230r

    Ají amarillo, in shades of yellow and orange. Photo courtesy PeruDelights.com.

  • Manaba-style pickled ají, flavored and colored with carrots, is the perfect accompaniment to fish.
  • Orange ají is made with tree tomato (tamarillo) and chochos (lupines).
  • Purple ají, colored with beets, has a complex layering of fruit vinegar, grated carrots and pickle slices, goes well with both seafood and red meats.
  •  
    PICK UP A JAR OF AJÍ AMARILLO (YELLOW AJÍ) PASTE

    You can probably find a jar of ají paste in the Latin foods section of your supermarket. Goya makes it, of course, and you can find specialty brands such as Costa Peruana and Inca’s Food online.

    Aji paste is simply a purée of fresh ajis. “American fusion” uses include:

  • Mix a tablespoon with a cup of Alfredo or other white sauce, red sauce or brown sauce or gravy.
  • Add to soup (including chicken soup).
  • Add to a ceviche marinade.
  • Mix into condiments to add flavor and heat.
  •  
    *While ají is Spanish for chile pepper and amarillo means yellow, the color changes to orange as the chiles mature. You can see the deepening colors in the photo above.

     

    aji-amarillo-paste-incasfood-230

    Add bold flavor to many dishes with ají
    amarillo (yellow chile) paste. Photo courtesy
    Inca’s Food.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE AJÍ SAUCE

    This classic ají sauce combines tree tomato (tamarillo), ají amarillo and chochos (lupines, or lupin beans). Lupins are a large yellow Italian bean. You can substitute lima beans or fava beans for the lupins.

    Ingredients

  • 4-5 tomatillos
  • 2 ajís (you can substitute serranos or other red chilies, or yellow habaneros for extra heat)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: cooked and peeled chochos (lupin beans)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PEEL the tomatillos and boil them for 5 minutes.

    2. BLEND the tomatillos with ají chiles. For a milder sauce, seed and devein the chiles. You can always save a few seeds and add them in if it’s too mild.

    3. TRANSFER the mix to a small sauce pan, add the water (you can add more if you want a more liquid sauce) and cook on medium heat for 5-8 minutes. You can also skip the cooking part; the sauce will be fresher in taste, but will need to be consumed more quickly.

    4. ADD the onion, lime juice, cilantro, optional chochos and salt to taste. Serve warm or cold.

    VARIATION: Replace the water with oil (avocado, light olive oil or a mild flavored oil) for a creamier Cuencano-style ají, and do not cook it after blending.

    Recipe courtesy Laylita.com.

      

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    RECIPE: Cauliflower Salad & Romesco Sauce

    Victoria Amory is a cook and food writer born and raised in Spain. She now lives in the U.S., and has her own line of specialty sauces.

    One of the signature sauces from the Catalonia region of Spain is romesco. Learn more about it below.

    Victoria’s sells an Almond & Garlic Romesco Sauce, but you can make your own from scratch, using almonds, other nuts, or a blend.

    Crafted with red chile peppers, pimentón (paprika), nuts and extra virgin olive oil, romesco is a perfect sauce to use with meats, roasted vegetables, shellfish and fish. “It elevates your everyday meals to everyday feasts,” says Chef Victoria.

    If you have leftover sauce, it is delicious as a dip or bread spread.

    For an everyday feast, try her Cauliflower And Bacon Salad With Romesco Sauce.

    RECIPE: WARM CAULIFLOWER & BACON SALAD WITH
    ROMESCO SAUCE

    Ingredients

       

    multicolored-cauliflower-nourishtheroots-230

    Colored cauliflower makes the dish more exciting. Photo courtesy NourishTheRoots.com.

  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and chopped into florets
  • ½ pound bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3 large slices country white or wheat bread, torn into pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can (8 ounces) garbanzo beans, canned, rinsed
  • ¼ pound baby spinach leaves, rinsed & dried
  • 1 cup romesco sauce, to serve
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, toss together the cauliflower, bacon, olive oil and vinegar. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

    2. TOSS the bread with the garlic and extra virgin olive oil and add the cauliflower. Roast for an additional 10 minutes or until the bread is toasted and the cauliflower is golden.

    3. MIX the cauliflower with the chickpeas and toss with the spinach leaves. Add a drizzle of olive oil if needed. Serve warm with romesco sauce on the side.

     

    romesco-dip-Aida-Mollenkamp-230

    Romesco sauce and dip. Photo courtesy Aida
    Mollenkamp.

     

    RECIPE: ROMESCO SAUCE & DIP

    As with most recipes, there is considerable variation in the proportion of ingredients. This version is adapted from chef Aida Mollenkamp.

    Ingredients

  • 1 jar (15 ounces) roasted bell peppers (pimento)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 6 ounces blanched almonds (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Optional heat: 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    2. SERVE with crudites, crusty sliced bread or your favorite crackers.

     

    WHAT IS ROMESCO SAUCE?

    First, it isn’t romanesco sauce. There is no romanesco sauce. Romanesco is a language; the sauce is romesco.

    Romesco is a pungent, smooth, rich red sauce made from red peppers, tomatoes, ground almonds or other nuts, olive oil, garlic, and cayenne pepper. It originated in Tarragona, a port city on the Mediterranean Sea in the province of Catalonia in northeast Spain. Though the exact origin is unclear (as is the meaning of the name), it is believed that the local fishermen made it to eat with their catch.

    It has become a popular sauce beyond seafood, enjoyed with meat, poultry and vegetables as well as for a dip and a bread spread.

    The nuts can be any mixture of roasted or raw almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts or walnuts, plus roasted garlic, olive oil, mild bitxo chiles (red chiles similar to Anaheim/New Mexico chiles) and/or nyora peppers (a sun dried, small, round variety of red bell pepper).

    Flour or ground stale bread is sometimes used as a thickener or to provide texture. Other common ingredients employed in different recipe variations include roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar and onions. Leaves of fennel or mint are added when the sauce is served with fish and other seafood.

      

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