Getting sauced in the kitchen is one of my favorite things to do (insert wine joke here). Very much like myself, sauces add flavor, spice, zest, personality and pizzazz to just about any boring dish.
I’m going to share a few of my favorite sauces with you, and how I use them…but before I do that, I’m going to tell you a saucy story about my wonderful hubby. Rated PG, of course.
A while back, I told you about pizza night. Years ago, and sometimes even now when I’m not feeling incredibly lazy, we make our own pizza sauce. We’d just get the plain, canned tomato sauce, and add our own fresh herbs from our garden, along with a few spices, and some cayenne pepper, because we do like to keep things spicy in the Coke house (wink!). Normally, I handle the sauce making. I love my husband, and I appreciate his culinary efforts endlessly, but there are certain kitchen tasks I just cannot completely trust him with yet…and one of those tasks is anything involving cayenne pepper.
One night he insisted on handling the sauce, and I finally caved. He poured the plain sauce into the pot on the stove, and dug into the spice cabinet, not allowing me to see anything he was adding (he does the same thing with his turkey burgers – “super secret” recipe, no one can know what goes in). He stooped over the pot, sauce beginning to bubble, and began chopping herbs and shaking jars. Pretty soon, my stove was covered in oregano and parsley, and Evan was a whirling dervish cloud of garlic powder. Despite the mess (which is reason number two I prefer to handle tasks involving seasoning and spicing) the sauce was really smelling heavenly, so I let it go.
We sauced the crust, topped it with our cheese and veggies, and popped it into the oven. A glass and a half of merlot later, the timer buzzed and we were ready to chow down. And we were hungry. Ev sliced up the pie, plopped the piping hot, gooey mess onto our plates, and grabbed some silverware. A quick blessing, and it was time to TCOB (for the few BTO fans who may be reading this).
I cut the perfect bite – the edge of a corner piece, cheese bubbling and slightly browned, veggies cascading down the side, and plenty of sauce, since I’m an “extra sauce” kind of gal (not a surprise, I know). Chomp!
Oh man, it was hot…boiling hot, lava hot, 100 yard barefoot walk across an asphalt parking lot in Florida in an August heatwave hot. “Gee,” I thought, “I really should have let this cool down some before taking such a big bite.” Against my better judgement, I continued chewing. And the heat did not subside.
Now, instead of having a mouthful of blazing hot asphalt, I thought I may have inadvertently used jalapeno peppers as a topping. Nope, hotter. Habanero? Hotter still. Scotch Bonnet?! The heat was causing my eyes to water; I could feel my throat closing up, my sinuses becoming an endless waterfall of snot, and the skin on my lips melting right off of my face. I looked at Evan, and he looked at me…and for that brief moment we shared the same thought: CHEESE AND CRACKERS, WHAT ARE WE EATING?!
Some of you may have spit the food out, and that’s probably what I should have done, as it would have prevented the six hours of heartburn I suffered through later that night. But, in an effort to support my husband’s attempt at saucing the pizza, I swallowed. After swallowing, our shared thought became my very vocal outcry. I immediately went to the kitchen for a glass of milk. There was no stinkin’ way I could finish that pizza.
Evan knew it was too hot, and he profusely apologized. But, lip skin be damned, he soldiered on and ate his pizza. I distinctly remember him telling me, through huge mouthfuls of pizza and gulps of milk, “It’s not so hot if you just keep eating…you just can’t stop eating it. Once you stop, the heat comes back. Just keep chewing.” No sir. I value my lip skin; my lips are one of my best features, and I wasn’t going to have them marred by your “Cayenne Pepper SMD” – Sauce of Mass Destruction.
Since the Saucetastrophe of 2005, Evan has toned down his seasoning frenzy. He likes to season with flare; grand sweeping gestures, sprinkling from high above the pan, just like they do on Food Network. But, he’s learned that you can accomplish the same thing with a pinch that you can with a hearty shake of the can. Those hearty shakes are for herbs, not cayenne. Then, a few years ago, we discovered Barilla’s jarred Arrabiata sauce, and we’ve rarely made our own since then. Arrabiata is a spicy marinara, and it’s fabulous, with the perfect amount of heat (and my stove top doesn’t even look like someone emptied their lawnmower bag all over it).
Sauces aren’t just Italian, and the aren’t just for pizza or pasta (although I will share my favorite quick Italian sauce for pasta). A quick note on our recipes: we only use extra virgin olive oil; any sauce using chicken broth was made with fat free reduced sodium broth, and all sauces are made in a large sautee pan (with the exception of the first sauce).
So, without further ado, here are my top five sauces for busy weeknights…
Lemon Yogurt Sauce – Perfect for…fish, chicken, lean pork chops.
1/3 cup plain yogurt (we prefer Greek)
2 tablespoons honey (we prefer orange blossom)
Juice of one lemon (we prefer yellow…ha, just making sure you’re paying attention!)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions: Whisk together in a bowl, then top your meat. Simple, right?
Raspberry Balsamic Glaze – Perfect for…chicken or lean pork.
1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves (you can use with seeds as well, just floss really well after dinner)
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
Sprinkle of thyme
Salt and pepper
Minced red onion, sauteed (optional)
Directions: If using red onion, sautee until tender, approximately 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add all remaining ingredients, whisking until combined. Pour over your meat. You can also cube or slice your meat, and toss it in the sauce.
Fig and Marsala Sauce – Perfect for: pork loin or lean cuts of beef.
Medium Vidalia onion, sliced
10-12 figs, chopped
Three slices uncooked bacon, diced
8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
Directions: On medium-high heat, sautee the onion, figs, bacon and mushrooms together until onions begin to carmelize. Add wine, and cook until liquid has reduced to half. Add broth, continue cooking an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, add butter. Pour over meat (include onions, mushrooms and figs – super yummy). We only get this one a few times a year, when figs are in season. This is from an Apron’s recipe Publix had a couple years ago, they used a whole pork loin roasted with rosemary – superb! We’ve found the sauce goes great with other cuts of meat as well.
Creamy Swiss Sauce – Perfect for: chicken, lean pork, or veggies.
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced Vidalia onion
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup skim or fat free milk
6 oz. Swiss cheese (we buy the block and shred it ourselves)
Splash of dry white wine (optional, but you can always just pour a glass for yourself)
Directions: Heat olive oil on medium heat, add onion and garlic, cook until onion is translucent. Add flour, whisk until combined. Add broth, milk and wine, bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Add your cheese, stir until melted. If serving over meat, pour. If serving with veggies, add veggies to pan and stir to combine. Great with broccoli, cauliflower and baby carrots. This is from a Skinny Taste recipe for Chicken Divan, but we’ve found the sauce is great on its own or with veggies.
Lazy Pasta Sauce – Perfect for…pasta. Use it with spaghetti, rotini, or as your lasagna sauce.
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (we use Tuttorosso – get the green label, it’s the absolute best)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
4-6 plum tomatoes, chopped or sliced
1 pound hot Italian turkey sausage (we use Jennie-O)
16 oz. Ricotta cheese (you can use full fat, we go with part skim, and it’s still delish)
Directions: Remove sausage from casing, and cook until brown. Add garlic, cook an additional 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat. Reduce to medium-low, add chopped tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and ricotta. Combine well, allow to simmer 5 minutes. Top with chopped fresh basil. This is my husband’s all-time fave sauce, and it is beyond easy to throw together on a busy weeknight. The Jennie-O sausage is so perfectly seasoned, we never have to add a thing to this sauce!
And there you have it…now you’re in on my saucy secrets. Cheers!