Three Simple Sauce Recipes To Elevate Your Meals
Pictured: Pea Purée with Scallops
I enjoy cooking but I’m not the kind of person who will shop for 50 ingredients for one dish or slave over the stove for hours for dinner. I’ve come to the realization that I’m never going to be an incredible chef – and am thankful for the abundance of fantastic restaurants in Toronto – but I do enjoy the satisfaction of making a tasty meal.
I’m also convinced that restaurant meals are so much more delicious because they elevate most of their dishes with a sauce or vinaigrette. I took a look at the menus of some of Canada’s Top 100 Restaurants and quickly came across the following sauces on their menus:
- pesto trapanese
- garlic bagnetto
- daikon soy dipping sauce
- seaweed butter
- yuzu vinaigrette
- anchovy dressing
- cider glaze
- dill gravy
I think this is sufficient research to validate my hypothesis. So, I’ve started making some simple sauces to go along with my dinners and it has certainly elevated my meals. You can find some of my current favourites below.
If testing out different sauces has taught me anything, it is that you can always substitute ingredients. We’ve tried the below recipes in countless different variations and they’ve all been delicious. We typically don’t measure anything, and instead just add handfuls of ingredients to a blender, taste and adjust as needed. If you are using simple ingredients like herbs, olive oil, lime, etc. you really can’t go wrong.
Slight side note before we dig in: lemon and lime zest are highly underutilized ingredients (at least in my kitchen). If you are adding lemon or lime to a sauce or dish, I strongly encourage adding some zest as well (just use the fine edge of your cheese grater if you don’t have a zester).
Chimichurri is an uncooked herb sauce that pairs well with grilled meat. I stopped buying herbs for a while because they come in such large bunches and half of it would always go to waste. I’ve since realized that sauces – especially chimichurri – are a great way to use up fresh herbs. Now, my fridge is constantly stocked with fresh parsley and cilantro.
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (substitute: white wine)
- 1 tsp sea salt (recommend you add to taste, rather than measuring)
- 1/2 tsp pepper (recommend you add to taste, rather than measuring)
- Optional: 2 small red chilies, deseeded and finely chopped or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- Mix in a bowl & ideally let marinate for 2+ hours before plating. But no worries – I’ve never done that and it’s always tasted great!
- Alternatively, if you don’t feel like chopping, add everything to a food processor and coarsely blend (this is what we do)
If you love fresh herbs & olive oil as much as I do, you can use this recipe as a base and begin adding other flavours. For example, if we have leftover cilantro, we will add that in. Other times, we skip the vinegar and add lemon or lime juice instead.
I recently sold my condo and we had to move all of my freezer food over to my boyfriend’s place. Combining two freezers worth of frozen foods into one was a challenge that required expert level tetris skills. We are now on a mission to utilize frozen vegetables as often as we can, so that we can start to free up some valuable freezer space. A pea purée is a great way to use up frozen peas and the perfect compliment to scallops or white fish.
- 1/2 cup shallots, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups of fresh or frozen peas
- 1 cup of chicken broth (use low-sodium for a healthier option)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Heat a pan over medium heat
- Add the olive oil, garlic and onions and cook until soft but not overly browned
- Add peas and chicken broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and cover until peas are tender (approx 3 minutes)
- Add salt & pepper to taste
- Add ingredients to blender & blend until smooth
- Add water if you need to thin the consistency (we didn’t do this)
- Be sure to taste test and add more salt and pepper if needed
Note, we did this recipe with red onion instead of shallots and it tasted great; I encourage you to test out substitutes if you don’t always have the called for ingredients – it generally comes out just fine!
Healthy Avocado Lime Crèma
Tacos without a sauce hurts my soul. Learn this easy (and healthy!) avocado lime crèma and never have a sauce-less taco again! This works well on literally any taco – fish, chicken, beef, veggie – and it takes less than 2 minutes to make. And okay, I called this a crèma even though it doesn’t have buttermilk or cream, but it’s so good you’ll be shocked that you don’t need to add cream.
- 2 avocados
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- zest & juice of 2 limes
- olive oil, to achieve the consistency you like
- salt, to taste
- Optional: jalepeño, chopped & deseeded (keep the seeds in if you want it to be super spicy!)
- Optional: You can add sour cream or yogurt if you want an even creamier texture
Note: we’ve done variations with just avocados & lime or avocados, lime & cilantro (i.e. sans olive oil). This recipe is super flexible.
- Add ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Add olive oil to help decrease the thickness, if desired, and blend again.
- Taste test and add salt as needed
The sauce will start to brown if left in the fridge for too long, so I recommend you cut the recipe in half if cooking for one or two.
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