There’s a reason why a tub of Ranch dressing or green goddess dressing sits at the heart of every party’s crudité platter. And can you even imagine the horror of serving stir-fry that wasn’t topped with soy or peanut sauce? The right sauce completely transforms a dish, whether it’s veggies, rice, or proteins like chicken and tofu.
Life is too short for boring meals, but that doesn’t mean your inside fridge door should be more crowded than Sweetgreen at lunchtime. Really, all you need is one smart sauce that can do it all. That’s where Richard Rae, executive executive chef at vegetarian restaurant The Butcher’s Daughter, comes in. Many healthy eaters have been taught to avoid condiments as they are a sneaky source of hidden sugars and other additives, but Chef Rae’s easy sauce recipes prove that this doesn’t have to be the case.
Here, he shares four easy sauce recipes (pick your go-to based on if you prefer something spicy, sour, salty, or sweet), all made with ingredients healthy eaters recognize and love. They can be used with *everything*: vegetables, grains, protein, on sandwiches…you name it. Your meals are about to get way more delicious.
Chef tip: “Keep in mind, each jalapeño is different, so use with caution,” Chef Rae says. “I suggest adding one jalapeño and tasting the sauce for potency before adding the second.” You can char jalepeños by using a pair of tongs to heat them directly over the flame on a stovetop burner, or by putting them on a sheet pan and broiling them on high for a minute or two.
1. Place all in a blender and purée till smooth.
2. Season with salt and pepper.
Chef tip: “Vinegar or acid of any sort, such as citrus, is a great way to add some bitter or sour notes that play with flavors on your tongue,” Chef Rae says. He especially loves this sauce on veggies (raw or roasted) and proteins. “I tend to make it a little more vinegar-based, just out of preference,” he says.
2 red bell peppers (charred)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup blanched almonds
4 Tbsp of sherry vinegar
3 Tbsp of olive oil
1/2 bunch parsley
1. Add all the ingredients into a mixer and pulse until the consistency is a purée. You still want to see bits of almonds.
Chef tip: “Just by being naturally from the ocean, nori and kombu seaweed add a great salty note, but literally in the most healthy way you can add salt,” Chef Rae says. “Plus, you get the great nutritional value of the seaweed as well.” One of his favorite ways to use this easy sauce recipe is by adding extra garlic, red chili flakes, and green onion and using it as a dipping sauce.
1. Combine the nori, kombu seaweed, garlic, peppercorns, and water in a large sauce pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
2. Strain the liquid and return it to pot. Add the soy sauce and reduce until slightly thickened.
3. Once it has reached a thicker consistency, add the miso and stir until it has dissolved.
Chef tip: Chef Rae says he loves drizzling this simple sauce on veggies to add sweetness. “Be aware that the fresher the garlic and the more pure the honey, the better the ferment and taste,” he says.
1. Add the garlic cloves to a clean sterile jar and add enough honey to the jar to cover the cloves. Let this sit and ferment for a few weeks, periodically releasing the gases from the jar to let the fermentation process to continue.
2. Once the honey has thinned out you can start using as a drizzle on veggies, protein, or mixed into a sauce for grains.
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