Favorite Sauces and Salsas for the New Year

New Year's Eve offers many opportunities to spice up the New Year. Here's a few delicious examples whose ingredients are largely found in your spice drawer that can be used year round while reducing our dependence on salt as well. 

For starters it’s good to know that the culinary terms salsa and sauce are used interchangeably by cooks in different parts of the world. . The French and those influenced by European cuisine call them sauces while the Latin and Spanish regions of the world call them salsas. This topic will continue to arise in other columns, so I will limit my comments to some of my favorites, hoping they are yours as well. They are all easy to make in a short time and generate great applause from your guests. They are healthy, flavorful, low in salt, nutritious and affordable to make.

The first we will discuss called chimichurri replaces ketchup in Argentina and is ideal with steak on the grill—still a food that most of us enjoy. Try it also with vegetables of all kinds. This universal sauce includes one bunch of parsley; 2 garlic cloves; juice and zest of ½ lemon; a pinch of salt; and ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil.  Blend the ingredients 2-3 times leaving the sauce a bit chunky. Adjust the ingredients if too tart or not enough. This recipe makes about ½ cup, but can easily be increased.

Cilantro Sauce is another favorite of both Asian, Latin and Western eaters alike. It goes very well with seafood and especially well with vegetables such as zucchini also known as summer squash. One of many variations which are especially delicious with cilantro is to combine with basil and mint and cumin.

Cilantro, Basil, Mint & Cumin – makes about 1 cup. Combine 1 garlic clove, chopped; ½ large jalapeno chile, chopped, with or without seeds for more or less heat; sea salt to taste; ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, with more as needed; one bunch cilantro, finely diced by knife, with lower stems removed; 5 basil leaves; ¼ teaspoon cumin, a sprig of mint, stemmed; fresh juice of one lime. Pulse once in a food processor with garlic, chile, salt and olive oil. Add cilantro and continue to pulse, adding more olive oil to the consistency you like. Add basil and mint and continue to pulse once more. Add salt to taste. Finally, add lime juice to taste just before serving.'

Parsley Sauce – Makes about 1 cup. The ever appropriate and delicious parsley sauce is ideal for those who flat out can’t stand cilantro but enjoy a sauce that brings a wonderful flavor and a bright color to soups, spaghetti, polenta or all of your favorite French or Italian dishes. This includes dishes like coq au vin, sautéed seafood, risotto, soubise, veal or chicken parmigian, and vegetable dishes with eggplant, peppers, and tomato sauces.

Begin making the sauce by crushing in a mortar or pulsing in a food processor 1 crushed clove of garlic, ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns, ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds ¾ cup olive oil, one large chopped shallot, ¾ cup finely chopped parsley by hand, and grated zest of one whole lemon. Finish with freshly squeezed juice of one lemon or champagne vinegar. This will make a thick, green sauce.

If you add 2 tablespoons of capers, and a tablespoon of white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar you have created Parsley-Caper Sauce -- a sharper, lemony sauce that is great with cold vegetables,eggs, vegetable fritters, grains and beans.

Classic Latin Salsa— makes about 2 cups. This classic salsa is usually thought of as primarily a tomato-based salsa. But, in fact, the tomatoes can be substituted for scores of different flavor enhancements. The base of ingredients include one green chile (jalapeno or Serrano) ¼ cup chopped red or sweet onions, 1 bunch cilantro with ends of stems removed, juice and zest of one lime, one tablespoon of rice wine vinegar and either-- a 15 oz can of whole marzano, Italian plum tomatoes, chopped or broken up with your hands, or half a chopped sweet melon such as cantaloupe or watermelon, or chopped stone fruit such as peaches, or plums or other fruits like grapes or bananas. The tomato salsa is great with chips or rice but the fruit salsas are also ideal with rice, seafood, chicken, or vegetables—raw or grilled. Once you have made your own homemade Latin Salsas, you may never buy another.

One last sauce for now, that is almost universal in term of the number of diverse ways you can use it, is Thai Peanut Sauce. This recipe makes about 1 cup. The ingredients include 3 tablespoons Thai peanut paste; 1 teaspoon Thai red chile paste; one cup unsweetened coconut milk; and one scallion, including half the greens, cutting all on the bias. Combine the peanut and the red chili pastes into the coconut milk until smooth, then heat in a small saucepan until boiling. Taste and add more chile paste as you wish. This is a quick sauce with few ingredients to use in a satay sauce, chicken, seafood, a salad, a dipping sauce for dumplings, raw vegetables, or with tahini, ginger and noodles to make a variation of Sesame Noodles. Bon Appetit and happy New Year.

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