Adding Spice to Your Life
Grilling in its simplest form requires nothing more than a hot fire and a
piece of meat. But if you want to take up grilling in all its diversity, you
should stock your pantry with a few specific savory foods and condiments to
complement the meats you choose.
In a perfect world, every barbecue sauce and marinade would be made from
scratch with the freshest of ingredients. But in this time-pressed world, we
rely heavily on good commercial products. Having even a few of the following
items on hand in your pantry or refrigerator allows you to whip up an assortment
of barbecue sauces, dressings, and marinades in a hurry:
Bottled barbecue sauce: Every year you can find new sauces flavored
with hickory, mesquite, Jamaican jerk seasonings, habañero peppers,
peaches and pineapple, bourbon, rum, and every kind of imaginable hot
chile pepper. Barbecue sauces aren’t only meant for ribs or chicken,
however; you can also use them to baste salmon, shrimp kebabs, pork,
and lamb chops.
Most barbecue sauces are loaded with sugar and should be applied only
during the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking to prevent the food from
Bottled marinades, dressings, and other basting and finishing sauces:
These ingredients provide the grilling cook tremendous variety and convenience.
Bottled vinaigrette can substitute as a last-minute marinade
for poultry, vegetables, or pork. Check out the many new Asian products,
including sauces for satay, kebabs, poultry, and ribs. Especially
tasty are the Thai-style products.
Canned favorites: Corn kernels, beans, chickpeas, and artichoke hearts
are a few canned items to have on hand for making last-minute salads
Capers: These are pickled flower buds of the Middle Eastern caper bush.
The smallest capers are called nonpareil. They add a distinctive saltiness
to dishes. To cut down on the saltiness, always rinse and drain
capers before using them in marinades, sauces, and dressings.
Hoisin sauce: A favorite of Chinese cuisine, hoisin sauce is made from
soybeans, garlic, hot pepper, and spices. Depending on the brand, its
texture can range from runny and thin to very thick. You can use hoisin
sauce in marinades and basting sauces for grilled poultry, pork, or lamb.
We like Ka-Me Hoisin Sauce because it has wonderful flavor and a smooth
consistency (without the addition of MSG — monosodium glutamate —
or a thickening food starch).
Mayonnaise: No kitchen pantry is complete without a jar of mayonnaise.
But for the most part, think of mayonnaise as an incomplete dressing.
We like to add a range of ingredients to mayonnaise, such as sun-dried
tomatoes, basil, mustard, horseradish, rosemary, Tabasco sauce, or
grated lemon peel, to create a whole assortment of dressings, sauces,
Substitute reduced-fat mayonnaise, if you wish, whenever the real thing
is called for, or combine them equally to reduce calories and retain
Olives: Olives add a luscious saltiness to many dishes. Sprinkle them
into quick, fresh tomato sauces for grilled fish or burgers. Stir them into
mayonnaise-based sauces or salsas. Add them to pizzas, quesadillas, or grilled sandwiches.
Peanut butter: You can use peanut butter to duplicate some of the
sauces and dishes of Pacific Rim cuisine.
Soy sauce: A vital ingredient in so many flavorful marinades, basting
sauces, barbecue sauces, and dressings, soy sauce adds distinctive
flavor, brown color, and saltiness.
Light soy sauce is sodium-reduced and therefore less salty. You can substitute
this anytime for soy sauce when less salt is preferred.
Tahini paste: Made from sesame seeds, tahini is a staple ingredient in
Middle Eastern cooking and is used in dips and sauces, or as a sandwich
Thai fish sauce: Throughout Asia, cooks use bottled fish sauce, which is
made from fermented fish. It’s extremely pungent — it smells and tastes
quite strong. But when added in very small amounts (a tablespoon or
so) it provides an aromatic and slightly sweet-salty undertone to Asian
dishes as part of a marinade. Because of its strength, however, you
wouldn’t want to simply pour it over food straight off the grill.
Worcestershire sauce: This sauce is a combination of vinegar, molasses,
water, sugar, anchovies, and other savory ingredients.
Add Worcestershire sauce according to your taste to marinades, dressings,
basting sauces, or hamburger patties. Or try splashing it over
finished grilled foods, such as steaks, lamb chops, poultry, or roasted
Before purchasing a product for the first time, read the ingredient label to get
a general idea of its flavor. Try to avoid products in which the primary ingredient
is sugar, salt, or fat. Otherwise that’s all you’ll taste. Purchase and taste
test a few different brands of sauces, condiments, and other bottled goods to
determine which ones you like best.
Condiment-ry, My Dear Watson
A condiment is any small side dish or accompaniment to food that adds flavor,
texture, and contrasting color. Condiments can be vinegary (like ketchup),
sweet (like preserved watermelon rind), hot and spicy (like salsa), sour (like
dill pickles), or salty (like sun-dried tomatoes). The following list describes a
few of our favorite condiments, which are available in any major supermarket:
Chutneys: These sweet, tart, and spicy combinations of cooked fruits or
vegetables make delectable accompaniments to grilled foods. Keep bottles
of store-bought mango or tomato chutney on hand as a last-minute
topping for grilled burgers, steaks, poultry, lamb, pork, sea bass, mackerel,
Horseradish: A delicious condiment for grilled fish, horseradish also
adds zing to dressings, dips, and sauces made with ketchup, sour cream,
Ketchup: Ketchup is the ultimate yin and yang of condiments. It’s a
blend of tangy vinegar, pureed tomatoes, and sweeteners like sugar
or corn syrup. Before being knocked off its throne by the now more
popular salsa, ketchup was America’s favorite condiment. Dress it up
by adding chopped scallions, minced ginger, or horseradish. Or use
ketchup as an ingredient in marinades, basting sauces, and salsas.
Mustards: There are really two types of prepared mustards available:
those that are creamy smooth and those that contain coarse seeds.
Either type may be flavored with herbs and spices, red or white wine,
Champagne, honey, sugar, chilies, or peppercorns. Here are a few types
of mustards you can experiment with:
• Classic yellow mustard: With its mild taste and creamy texture,
yellow mustard is the American choice — perfect for a grilled
• Dijon mustard: This French classic, made with brown mustard
seeds and flavored with white wine and other seasonings, is an
extremely useful ingredient for the time-pressed grilling cook.
Vary It! Combine Dijon mustard with melted butter and
Worcestershire sauce as a quick sauce for steaks and burgers.
Blend with honey as a basting sauce for turkey or ham steaks. Add
to creamy-based salad dressings or to marinades and barbecue
• Honey mustard: This condiment combines two highly compatible
ingredients. Buy the condiment bottled or make your own by
combining equal amounts of honey and mustard (or mixing them
according to taste).
Vary It! Use honey mustard as a basting sauce when grilling sausage,
ribs, ham steaks, chicken, turkey, duck, or lamb.
• Whole-grain mustard: Made with whole mustard seeds, wholegrain
mustard has a pleasant crunchy texture and can be flavored
with any number of ingredients, such as chilies, wine, mixed herbs,
honey, or vinegar.
Vary It! Whole-grain mustard is a good addition to marinades for
beef or pork.
Salsa: Even though salsas are usually tomato-based, the salsa product
line is growing to include salsas with roasted corn, red pepper, black
olives, and other ingredients. Store varieties range from mild to hot.
Vary It! Use salsa as a quick condiment for hot dogs, grilled burgers,
steaks, chicken, or fish. Try it as a spread for quesadillas, fajitas, or
other sandwich wraps. Add it to vegetable salads made with chopped
tomatoes, corn, or canned beans. Use it to add flavor and heat to creamy
Sun-dried tomatoes: Sold either oil-packed or dried, sun-dried tomatoes
are somewhat chewy and intensely flavored. You can use them to flavor
salads, dressings, and spreads.
Tabasco sauce: An all-purpose spicy seasoning and condiment made
from hot Capsicum peppers, vinegar, and salt, Tabasco sauce adds heat
and a pleasant sharpness to marinades, dressings, and finished grilled