Condiments are often perceived as afterthoughts, the bottles and jars we reach for once the table is set and the food is at the ready. Ketchups, salsas, and sauces made from scratch are a different story. Tailored with compelling flavors and appealing textures, homemade condiments serve not only as final flourishes but as front-of-the-fridge players that work themselves into meals the way store-bought versions rarely do.
These recipes harness a spirit of invention, offering fresh interpretations of five standbys. None takes much more than an hour to prepare, and some take just minutes. Freshly made tartar sauce packs the crunch of briny capers, the brightness of lemon juice, and the fragrance of tarragon into a single condiment. In our sunny, raisin-studded chutney, apricots assume the place of the more usual mango. Our salsa verde does the job with tortilla chips, of course. But its kick earns it a promotion, too: It makes a lively sauce for poached salmon or grilled skirt steak.
Who knows? These condiments -- or your twists on them -- might become the new classics in your own kitchen.
Rather than let them languish at the back of the refrigerator, you'll want to reach for fresh condiments often. Here are some of our favorite matches.
Keep this spicy ketchup close to the grill during the summer months. The ketchup -- with its playful heat -- also makes a dynamite substitute for the common horseradish-based cocktail sauce. Serve it alongside a platter of chilled shellfish. Or, for updated Bloody Marys, try swirling a few tablespoons into tomato juice.
Tarragon Tartar Sauce
Tartar sauce perfectly complements any fish or shellfish preparation, especially that seaside favorite, the New England fried clam roll. Remember that tartar sauce is really a mayonnaise with intrigue; use it to perk up such landlubber favorites as sweet potato wedges or onion rings. Or make it into a refreshing dressing for coleslaw by adding more lemon juice.
With its subtle sweetness, this confit flatters savory main dishes such as sliced pork tenderloin. To make quick hors d'oeuvres, you can pair it with soft, mild cheeses such as Taleggio or fresh ricotta. Like cranberry relish, this fruity confit is a good match for roast turkey or a turkey club.
The low-heat Mexican classic is a good partner for tacos, enchiladas, and tamales. Try tucking it into a breakfast wrap of scrambled eggs and diced bacon, too. Or use it as a dip for crunchy cauliflower florets.
This sweet chutney is a natural accompaniment to Indian flatbreads and pappadams. It also can jazz up roast chicken, couscous, or any pilaf made with an aromatic rice such as basmati. Or use it as a grown-up dessert topping for rice pudding or vanilla ice cream.