Bless Your Spoon: Taste, season relish, enliven, pep up, essence — it’s the little things

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2023

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By Stephanie Williams Dean

Often, it’s the little things in life that add salt and seasoning to our lives. Let’s continue to enjoy the small vestiges of summer while moving toward a new season.

Usually found in the “this and that” section of cookbooks — the spreads, dips, marinades and finishing sauces are added touches of savory flavor that make a recipe so delicious. Often referred to as the final touch, they include chutneys and relishes as well. These names are often interchanged nowadays, so it’s understandable that one might get confused as to what’s what. But one thing’s for sure, when you add one of these little, versatile additions — you virtually “kiss” your dish with an extra essence.

Most think of these big flavor bursts as condiments — the good stuff. They can be made from savory or sweet fruits, vegetables, vinegars, spices and seasonings. Condiments can be thick and chunky or thin and of a more spreadable consistency. Foods are often enjoyed when prepared simply, yet their natural flavor can be enhanced by adding a delectable sauce made from fresh ingredients.

You might not be familiar with a few words in today’s recipes — I used a French culinary dictionary. Just to confuse, someone had to go and get all fancy on us, using big words. Even so, the recipes are not difficult but simple and impactful.

Life can be a lot like cooking. Often, it’s those small, simple moments that have the greatest impact on our lives. Our relationships, friendships, memories. and experiences are what’s most important in life. But we can’t forget our larger purpose in all these moments — to bring God greater glory and to advance His kingdom.

In Ephesians 2:10, Paul emphasizes, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Just imagine that — we are God’s masterpieces and “tailor-made.” We were designed and given talents — no matter how small — specifically for performing good works. And the smallest of words are given for seasoning with big flavor, like salt.

The Bible is our source of wisdom in all of life’s circumstances, even the most seemingly trivial of circumstances. There’s not a little or big situation we face that the Bible does not address. Read what Jesus tells us in Luke 16: 10-12 about how little things can relate to much bigger things, like integrity.   

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”

Let us not overlook the little, but important, things throughout the seasons of our lives.

Black Olive Tapenade

• ½ cup chopped black olives

• 1 tsp. minced garlic

• 1 tsp. capers

• 1 tsp. chopped parsley

• 6 minced anchovy fillets

• Olive oil

• Salt and pepper, to taste

Chop and combine the olives, garlic, capers, parsley and anchovies until finely minced. Add just enough olive oil to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Use as a garnish.

Fresh Ginger Sauce

• 1 Tbsp. salted butter

• 1 Tbsp. chopped ginger root

• 1 Tbsp. chopped shallot

• 1 cup white wine

• 2 cups chicken stock

• 1 cup whipping cream

In a saucepan, heat butter. Add ginger root and shallot. Cook until tender and stir in wine. Cook until wine is reduced to ½ cup. Continue to stir and deglaze the pan. Add stock and cook until reduced. Add cream and continue to cook until thickened. Use as a base sauce for chicken.

Onion Marmalade

• 1 pound thinly sliced red onions

• ½ cup sugar

• ¼ cup Dry Sack brand sherry

• ¼ cup red burgundy wine

• ¼ cup apple juice

• 1 Tbsp. soy sauce

• salt

In a large skillet, place onions and sugar. Cook over medium while stirring for 40 minutes or until sugar melts and onions are caramelized. Add sherry, wine, apple juice and soy sauce. Cook until liquid is reduced. Season lightly with salt, to taste. Use to cook meats or as a garnish when serving meats.

Roasted Pepper Remoulade

• 2 medium red bell peppers

• 1 cup premium mayonnaise

• 2 Tbsp. chopped capers

• 2 Tbsp. chopped dill pickles

• 2 Tbsp. minced onion

• ½ tsp. chopped garlic

• 1½ tsp. fresh lemon juice

Roast peppers on a baking dish for 20 minutes or until blackened in a preheated 450-degree oven. Remove from heat. When slightly cool, peel off skins and remove ribs and seeds. In a blender, puree the peppers. Chill in refrigerator. In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, capers, pickles, onion, garlic and lemon juice. Stir in pureed peppers. Chill until serving. Serve alongside fish and meats or add to fresh beans.

Cabernet Sauce

• 1 Tbsp. melted, salted butter

• 1 Tbsp. chopped shallot

• ½ tsp. minced garlic

• 1 bay leaf

• 1 cup cabernet wine

• 1 cup demi-glace

• ½ tsp. chopped fresh thyme

In a skillet, melt butter. Add shallot, garlic and bay leaf. Cook while stirring for 6 minutes. Add wine and stir to deglaze and remove browned bits from pan. When wine is reduced by half, add the demi-glace. Season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and add thyme. Serve as a base or sauce for beef dishes.

Gorgonzola Butter

• ½ cup salted butter

• ½ cup Gorgonzola cheese

• 1 tsp. chopped fresh chives

• 1 tsp. minced garlic

• 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

• Texas Pete sauce

In a bowl, whip butter and cheese until very light. Stir in the chives, garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and a drop or two of hot sauce. Press into small dish mold and chill. Spread over beef.

Island Pesto

• 1 ½ bunches watercress

• 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

• 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint

• 1 Tbsp. chopped macadamia nuts

• 1 Tbsp. minced ginger root

• ¼ cup Wesson vegetable oil

In a food processor, combine watercress, cilantro and mint. Pulse several times. Add macadamia nuts and ginger. Process until smooth. Add oil and process to blend. Serve with seafood.

Red Onion Confit

• ¼ cup sugar

• 1 cup chopped red onion

• 1 cup wine

In a saucepan, heat sugar until sugar melts and begins to turn golden. Stir in chopped onion and red wine. Reduce heat and cook while stirring until onion is soft and liquid evaporates. Use confit the way you would a chutney.

Sweet Mustard Dill Sauce

• ¼ cup Dijon mustard

• 1 Tbsp. honey

• 2 drops fresh lemon juice

• Salt and pepper, to taste

• 1 Tbsp. Wesson vegetable oil

• 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill

In a bowl, combine mustard, honey, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, to taste. Whisk in oil until absorbed. Stir in dill. Serve with any fish.

Tzatziki

• 1 peeled, finely chopped, salted cucumber

• salt

• ½ pint plain yogurt

• 1 Tbsp. olive oil

• 1 tsp. vinegar

• 1 tsp. chopped dill

• ¼ tsp. garlic powder/1 minced clove

• ½ tsp. salt or less, to taste

In a strainer, salt cucumbers and allow to drain. In a bowl, combine yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, dill and garlic powder or 1 minced clove of garlic. Add any additional salt, to taste. Serve as a dip for marinated, grilled meats or fried vegetables.

Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce

• 4 whole red peppers

• 1 medium onion

• 5 garlic cloves with skins

• 1 Tbsp. olive oil

• 1 minced onion

• 1 cup whipping cream

• 2 Tbsp. grated Romano cheese

• ½ tsp. salt

• 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Split peppers in half and remove seeds. Slice 1 whole onion in half and leave on the skin. Rub peppers, onion, and garlic with olive oil. On a baking sheet, place vegetables skin side up, and roast in a preheated 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until peppers are soft and skin wrinkled. Remove peppers from oven and cover with plastic wrap. When all vegetables have cooled, remove skins and discard. In a saucepan, heat oil. Add minced onion, and sauté until transparent. Add peeled, roasted vegetables and cream. Bring to a simmer for 2 minutes and remove from heat. Process all until smooth and strain, if necessary. Add cheese, salt and freshly ground black pepper, and simmer additional 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings, to taste. Serve with vegetables and pasta.

Whole Grain Mustard Sauce

• ½ cup mayonnaise

• 2 Tbsp. whole grain mustard

• Dash white pepper

• Dash Texas Pete

• Dash Worcestershire sauce

In a bowl, mix mayonnaise, mustard, pepper, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Serve as a spread with beef or tenderloin with French bread for an open-face sandwich.