Summer proves the perfect time to cook a batch of homemade tomato ketchup, whirl up fresh mayonnaise and enhance everything with fresh herbs.
This summer, I am customizing my condiment selection to keep the weekly burgers (meat, poultry and veg variations) interesting. These jars of goodness also will be useful in salads made from grilled chicken or hard-cooked eggs destined for backyard picnics or lakefront lunches.
I've never been a big fan of commercial ketchup, which is why I enjoy whipping up a smoky version made with bacon and smoked paprika.
Ripe, plum tomatoes cook down into a sweet tenderness, and a whirl in the blender renders them into a smooth sauce. You'll need to allow some cooking time on a coolish day. The ketchup will last several weeks and works wonderfully on sliced brisket and smoked turkey.
I love seasoned mayonnaise spread on BLT sandwiches, smeared over fish before broiling and stirred into main-course salads such as chicken and tuna salad. Here, pasteurized eggs will help with food safety concerns. Season the lemony mayo with fresh herbs, anchovy or capers. Or use lime zest and lime juice for a version that's excellent as a dunking sauce for cooked shrimp.
Why buy flavored mustards when you can turn an inexpensive Dijon into something extraordinary? Add Kalamata olive puree and other goodies for a spread you will love straight from the jar. Use it for a unique spin on grilled cheese sandwiches or as a smear for grilled fish or chicken breast.
I've worked and traveled frequently in Mexico for more than two decades. Hands-down, my favorite condiment might be Veracruz's salsa macha — a chile, garlic and nut combination based in oil. Keep a jar on hand to ladle onto just about everything, from the morning's fried eggs and an afternoon hummus snack to the evening's grilled steak. The possibilities for this salsa are endless. It also works on grilled eggplant, fish, chicken, steamed vegetables, cooked grains and small pastas. For a revelation, you can also try it on sliced tomatoes with a splash of lime or balsamic.
Stir this into sauteed spinach and serve topped with a soft-cooked or fried egg for a savory breakfast bowl.
Fresh Tomato and Bacon Ketchup
- 2 ½ ounces thick-cut smoky bacon, finely diced
- 2 to 3 large shallots, finely diced
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced or crushed
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 1 ½ pounds (about 6 large) ripe plum tomatoes, trimmed, diced
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons agave syrup or corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons tamari or reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 to 2 pinches ground mace or allspice
Cook the bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat until bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes. Add the diced shallots. Cook and stir until shallots are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add wine, bring to a boil and cook until reduced to a glaze.
Stir in the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar, vinegar, agave, tamari, salt, paprika, black pepper and mace.
Heat to a boil; reduce heat to very low and simmer, stirring often, until thick, about 20 minutes. Let cool.
Process mixture in blender (cover blender lid with a towel) until pureed smooth.
Return mixture to the saucepan. Heat to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired with salt and pepper.
Pack mixture into covered containers. This will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks.
Makes about 2 ¾ cups.
Lemony Mayonnaise With Variations
- 2 egg yolks from pasteurized eggs (see note)
- Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup safflower oil
- Variation options, pick 1 or 2, anchovy filet packed in oil; 1 or 2 tablespoons drained capers; grated zest of 1 lime; 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (tarragon, chive, cilantro, dill)
Combine egg yolks, grated lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, mustard powder and garlic powder in a blender or small food processor. Process to mix well, scraping sides as needed. With the machine running, very slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil and safflower oil until mixture is smooth and light. Add any flavor additions. Pulse the machine with on/off turns to incorporate ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Makes about ¾ cup.
Note: For food safety, use pasteurized eggs for this mayonnaise. If you can't find pasteurized eggs at your grocery store, you can treat the eggs as follows: Heat a small saucepan containing several inches of water to simmer. Place 2 (room temperature) eggs in the shell in the water. Cook exactly 1 minute (set a timer). Remove eggs with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to cool. Crack eggs and separate out the yolks for this recipe.
Summer Mustard With All the Goodies
- ½ cup inexpensive Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons pureed pitted Kalamata olives or tapenade spread
- 1 to 2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives or green onion tops
- 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons drained capers or finely chopped cornichon pickles
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped pickled hot peppers, such as jalapenos, Calabrian peppers
- 2 teaspoons pickle or olive juice
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Store in a covered jar for several weeks.
Makes about ¾ cup.
I like to use a variety of dried chiles in this versatile, condiment-style salsa/sauce. Shop for dried chiles in supermarkets with a large Mexican food selection. To assess freshness, press the chiles — they should be soft and pliable, not brittle.
Peanutty Salsa Macha
- 2 to 3 ounces dried chile pods, such as ancho, guajillo, pasilla or New Mexico (or use a combination)
- 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
- ¼ cup chopped pecans
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- ½ small red onion, chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled, cut in half
- 1 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 to 2 canned chipotles in adobo, removed from sauce
- 1 teaspoon fine salt, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
Use kitchen shears to cut stems off the dried chiles. Cut chiles open and scrape out seeds. Discard seeds and stems. Use the shears to cut the chiles into ½-inch pieces. You will need about 1 generous cup of chile pieces.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until warm, but not hot and certainly not smoking. Add the peanuts, pecans, sesame seeds, red onion and garlic to the heated oil. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic turns golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Watch the heat carefully — the garlic should not burn and the oil should not smoke. Stir in chopped dried chiles. Remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 chipotle chile, the salt and dried oregano.
Carefully transfer mixture to a blender container (work in batches if necessary). Cover blender lid with a towel and use on/off turns to finely chop all the solids. Do not puree. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more vinegar, chipotle and salt as desired.
Transfer to small covered containers. Store in the refrigerator for up to several weeks. Let stand at room temperature to allow oil to warm up before using.
Makes about 3 cups.