By: Elizabeth Smith
Here in California, as the days grow longer and the temps heat up, I find myself wanting to cook less and eat lighter. This is especially true right now. With tensions high and infrequent trips to the grocer; simple, fresh, healthy meals are our daily goal. I like to make one to two sauces a week that I can use to add more flavor to any meal that I may make. You can use these on even the simplest ingredients and create healthy delicious meals
Two basic sauces that I make nearly every week, no matter what is on the menu, are some sort of salsa and something along the lines of a chimichurri. They are both super flexible recipes that can suit a ton of different ingredients and handle some serious modifications. Honestly, nearly every savory thing I can think of...everything from eggs, grilled veggies, charred cauliflower, sandwiches, poached fish, to skirt steaks; these sauces are a great way to make every meal a little more gourmet.
Fresh Salsa Recipe
Salsa is super easy to make, easy to modify, and pretty much goes with everything. In the summer one of my favorite modifications for salsa is to add a handful of super small diced watermelon and pinch of fresh chopped mint to the recipe. Another great modification for this time of year is to dice up some fresh strawberries, chiffonade a little basil, and stir it in.
So fresh, so delicious, amazing on avocado toast, not to mention shrimp tacos. My super basic salsa recipe is below, but really try anything to mix it up. Add diced cucumber, radishes, pineapple, mango, jicama, anything you enjoy raw. If you want it less spicy, try substituting 1/2 a poblano. Just remember, to adjust the lime juice and salt until the flavor suits you.
2 to 3 medium sized fresh tomatoes stems removed and small diced
1/2 red onion peeled and small diced
2 serrano chiles or 1 small to medium jalapeño chile, ribs and seeds removed and small diced
1 lime juiced
1/2 cup cilantro finely chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin
Salt to taste
Finely dice the tomatoes, onion, and chile. Be mindful when working with chiles. You can use a plastic bag or disposable gloves to handle them. Also, try to avoid touching the ribs and seeds the pepper.
Place all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and fold together.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
Like I said, super easy. Also, you can make this in a food processor if you have one. Just give everything a rough chop, toss it in and and pulse 5-10 times, being mindful to not puree the ingredients.
Viola, now make it yours!
Ok, on to my favorite chef hacks of all time. Herby, acidic, bright, beautiful chimichurri, or salsa verde, or whatever green wonderful sauce you come up with. While you may be less familiar with this, think of it as similar to salsa but with herbs. True chimichurri is a sauce that originated in Argentina, Uruguay, and Columbia and is often served with grilled meats but it can be used practically anywhere. Believe me, you are going to be in love. This is my favorite version, I use lemon juice because we have a tree in the yard but, that said this recipe is most often made with red wine vinegar.
1 shallot or 1/4 red onion finely minced
1/2 jalapeno or small chile finely minced (add more if you'd like it spicy)
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 lemon juiced (or 1/2 cup red wine vinegar)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 Tbsp finely chopped oregano
1 Tbsp finely chopped mint
1/2-3/4 cup Olive Oil (or neutral oil of your choice)
In a large bowl combine the shallot or onion, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt. Let this rest for a few minutes.
Fold herbs into vinegar and shallot mixture.
Slowly add, and stir in oil until combined.
Taste and season if needed
I honestly love this recipe for it's versatility. I add whatever I think would be delicious or fun. Have some pistachios? Chop 'em up and stir them in. I have made this with lemon verbena from my garden, minced radish tops and diced up radishes, pipitas, minced scallions, celery leaves, carrot tops...you get the idea.
Also, try playing with the herbs a bit. Have less cilantro, add some thyme. Or, have no fresh oregano? Just add a pinch of dry oregano and use extra mint, any combo works as long as the ratios of greens to acid to oil stay somewhat the same. A bit of advice, try to keep some parsley in the recipe as it really helps to keep it fresh and bright.
Both of these recipes should keep in the fridge for 5 days in an airtight container.
If you have any questions about substitutions, ingredients, or these recipes in general I'd love to help. Send me an email.