Cook it. Sauce it!
Make over ho-hum dishes with simple accompaniments, loaded with flavor
Get saucy: Good sauces don't have to be complicated. A simple lemon vinaigrette. Yogurt with parsley or cilantro. Or a bright sauce green with chopped herbs mixed with olive oil. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
No need to marinate, rub or brine those cuts. Just season them with salt and pepper, cook, arrange on a platter and drizzle with a sauce loaded with flavor.
The sauce doesn't have to be complicated. A simple lemon vinaigrette. Yogurt with parsley or cilantro. Or a sauce bright green with chopped herbs mixed with olive oil.
Chef Hugh Acheson uses a green sauce for his rib-eye with morel mushrooms recipe in "A New Turn in the South" (Clarkson Potter, $35), his 2011 cookbook that won a James Beard Book Award this year.
"I love fresh herbs," he writes. He uses basil, parsley and mint in the green sauce, which stores well in the refrigerator for about three days. "You could freeze it in ice trays as well, just like you did back in the 1980s with all that basil pesto."
A yogurt sauce is even simpler to make. Common in Greek and Indian cuisines, yogurt sauces are flavored with herbs and garlic and often served with lamb or chicken. Well-known cookbook author and actress Madhur Jaffrey makes a simple yogurt sauce with mint leaves.
"It's cool and refreshing," she writes in "At Home with Madhur Jaffrey" (Knopf, $35). Cilantro is another good choice for a yogurt sauce for any type of meat or poultry. A tip: For a thicker, richer sauce, use plain Greek yogurt.
Easy vinaigrettes also turn meat into a special entree. You can vary these sauces by changing the type of herbs and seasonings. One of our favorites is a French mustard vinaigrette that gets a double dose of lemon in the form of juice and zest. It's perfect for those chicken breasts you find yourself cooking over and over again.
Prep: 20 minutes Makes: 2 cups
Note: Serve this tangy sauce (aka salsa verde) with grilled steaks, chicken or fish. Adapted from Hugh Acheson's "A New Turn in the South."
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 tablespoon each: chopped fresh basil, mint
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, chopped
1 tablespoon rinsed, minced anchovy fillets, optional
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Place the parsley, basil and mint in a bowl; pour in olive oil. Stir in garlic, capers, anchovies and red pepper flakes. Whisk in the vinegar and mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To store, cover, chill in refrigerator up to 3 days. Or freeze in small containers up to 3 months.
Per tablespoon: 46 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 27 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
Yogurt mint sauce
Prep: 2 minutes
Makes: 1/2 cup
Note: Adapted from "At Home with Madhur Jaffrey." Try substituting cilantro for the mint, or use a mixture of the two herbs. Serve with poultry, fish or lamb.
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
5 to 7 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon each: cayenne pepper, salt
Mix yogurt with mint, cayenne and salt in a small bowl. To store, cover and chill in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
Per tablespoon: 19 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 47 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
Prep: 5 minutes
Makes: 3/4 cup
Note: This basic vinaigrette can be varied in many ways. Use thyme instead of chives. Try red wine vinegar in place of the lemon juice. It makes a fine sauce for drizzling over meats of any type.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Pinch each: salt, pepper
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Mix mustard, chives, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk in lemon juice and zest. Slowly whisk in olive oil until emulsified and thick. Season to taste. To store, cover and chill in the refrigerator up to 4 days.
Per tablespoon: 109 calories, 12 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 42 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
Experiment with proportions to please your taste.
A simple salsa: Chop ripe tomatoes, white onion, jalapenos and avocado. Mix with a splash of sherry vinegar and a sprinkle of salt.
A simple soy sauce: Combine soy sauce, orange juice, Asian sesame oil, sliced green onions to taste.
A simple butter sauce: To boiling pan drippings, add a dash of white wine, chopped shallots and parsley. Cook, stirring until reduced slightly. Whisk in small pats of butter, one at a time, until sauce thickens. Season to taste.