Basic Recipes : Flexible Sauces

picture of shrimp pasta.

Lemon-shrimp sauce enhance this “budget-friendly” pasta entree. (Photo: iclipart)

Imagine sitting down to a plate of plain beans, brown rice or whole grain pasta. Healthy? probably. Flavorful? depends.  When used as a side dish to complement heavily spiced entrees, plain can balance the meal. However, most Americans and Europeans add a sauce  adorned with  herbs and spices..

A quote by Julia Child says it all: “Sauces are the splendor and the glory of French cooking”

To improve flavor, soy sauce is often added to rice, barbeque sauce to beans and Alfredo sauce to pasta. Depending upon your culture or preference, you can add salsa, curry sauce, Hoisin sauce or creamy egg sauce to basic rice. Ethnic groups might add ketchup  or tamarind sauce to beans and teriyaki sauce or cheddar sauce to noodles. There are thousands of possibilities. No matter where you live, it’s the sauce that brings food to life and that is why we put it as #4 in our list of basic recipes. But, the salts, fats, sugars and preservatives are hidden mostly in the sauces. Fortunately, there are ways to make your own tasty and healthier sauces.

Sauce is generally defined as a thick liquid that is eaten with food to add flavor. It also includes gravy, fruit puree, and salad dressing. To prepare sauce, gravy, or fruit puree, ingredients are usually simmered until liquid has partially evaporated and flavors blended. Lengthy slow cooking draws out the flavor of fresh tomatoes and some spices and herbs when making tomato sauce. On the other hand, flavorful gravy made from meat drippings combined with flour and milk can be quickly prepared.

Since each type of sauce requires special care in preparation, we will start by linking to our recipes for five commonly used sauces. More will be added to this list on future posts

picture of thyme

Grow herbs and spices like this thyme near a window, in your flower bed or garden.

As you explore the world of sauces with me, feel free to substitute ingredients, try different thickening techniques, and share your successes (and disappointments) on the forum.

If prep time is important, sauce packages are convenient. Another option is to make a large batch of sauce with family members, and freeze some for emergencies.  Remember, commercially packaged sauce mix ($1.49) is laden with preservatives and dyes. You can build your own inexpensive sauce free from ingredients none of us can pronounce. Remember too that local food co-ops carry organic mixes in bulk lots.  Just food for thought.  DonR