Sauces and spreads can turn the most mundane of meals into mouthwatering dishes. From zesty pesto and flavored mayo to hearty hummus and cream cheese spreads, you can enliven so-so sandwiches and salads as well as mediocre entrees. Here are five easy-to-craft condiments you can keep on hand to turn up the flavor of many of your everyday meals.
A food processor makes short work of these recipes. You can also use a blender — or if you have the arm power, you can chop and whisk to your heart’s content.
Makes 1-1/2 cupsPesto is traditionally made with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, Parmesan and olive oil. However, you can use any fresh herb and nut of your choice as well as sun-dried tomatoes or olives (though technically, if made with olives, it is considered a tapenade). With so many variations of pesto, you will never get bored of this versatile sauce.Ingredients:
3 cups fresh leafy herb or spinach, watercress or arugula
1 to 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Handful of nuts, like pine nuts, walnuts, pistachios or pecans
Zest and juice of a small lemon
Handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oilDirections:
1. Place herb, garlic, nuts, lemon zest and juice, and Parmesan in a food processor and pulse to mince. Then with the motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until a thick paste forms.2. Scrape down sides of the food processor. Run motor again and drizzle in just enough olive oil to reach your desired consistency. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to a week.Culinary uses: Pesto can be tossed with warm pasta and spring veggies, spread on a sandwich instead of mustard or mayo, whisked with olive oil to make a dazzling salad dressing, or drizzled over cooked fish, poultry or meat. You can even use pesto to fill an omelet or add to scrambled eggs for breakfast.
Garlic Olive Tapenade
Makes 1-1/2 cupsTapenade is another tantalizing spread with many tasty variations. The different types of olives, herbs and seasonings give you a cunning condiment with near endless culinary applications. This recipe makes a chunky tapenade, but you can puree into a thin paste, if desired. For a change, add sun-dried tomatoes, omit the garlic, and try different herbs.Ingredients:
2 cups olives of your choice, drained
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons minced red onion
3 tablespoons minced parsley
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to tasteDirections:
Place olives and garlic in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add onion and parsley and pulse a few times to combine. Transfer to a mixing bowl and use a large whisk to blend in olive oil — whisk vigorously to combine. Season with salt and pepper and store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to a week.Culinary uses: Spread tapenade on toasted sourdough rounds for a fresh bruschetta. Garnish cooked fish, poultry or meat. Toss tapenade with hot pasta or rice. Stir into soups or stews right before serving. Combine with mayonnaise for a super sandwich or wrap spread.
Makes 1-1/2 cupsLoaded with protein, fiber and other essential nutrients, hummus is one healthy spread or dip. For variety, use different beans and herbs and substitute a new nut or seed butter.Ingredients:
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans or other beans, rinsed, drained
Zest and juice of half a lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 to 3 tablespoons tahini or almond butter
Handful of fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon or more paprika
Vegetable broth or extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly grated black pepperDirections:
Place beans, lemon zest and juice, garlic, tahini or almond butter, parsley and paprika in a food processor and puree. If mixture is too thick, add vegetable broth or olive oil a tablespoon at a time to reach your desired consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.Culinary uses: Luscious as a dip for veggies, baked pita, crackers or chips, hummus can also be used as a sandwich spread or protein-rich filling. You can also toss it with hot pasta in place of marinara or substitute hummus for pizza sauce on your next pie.
Spicy Hot Mayo
Makes 1-1/2 cupsSpice up your meals with this fiery spread. Chipotle powder and wasabi paste lend heat and flavor to mundane — but oft-used — mayo. Mix this spread with a conservative start, taste, and then add more fire, if desired.Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 to 2 teaspoons chipotle powder or wasabi pasteDirections:
Whisk together ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning with more chipotle or wasabi. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.Culinary uses: Spread on sandwiches and wraps. Mix into tuna, egg, chicken or crab salad. Combine with egg yolks for devilish deviled eggs. Make a creamy hot salad dressing for green, pasta, or potato salads. Use in place of mayo in any recipe to give it some heat.
Ginger Dried Cherry Cream Cheese Spread
Makes 1-1/2 cupsFor the sweeter side of things, this rich spread is a natural for toast, bagels and other baked goods.Ingredients:
1/4 cup candied ginger
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup nuts
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup plain yogurt
Honey to tasteDirections:
Place ginger, cherries and nuts in a food processor and pulse to mince. Add cream cheese and yogurt and puree. Add honey to taste. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.Culinary uses: Spread on your morning toast, bagel or muffins. Use as a dip for apple and pear slices. Whisk with yogurt to create a creamy sauce and toss with fresh fruit. You can even add 1/4 cup to your next smoothie.