An Ode to Condiments

August 24, 2009 at 12:58 am 8 comments

Like buttah...

Like buttah...

Condiments are like the sassy best friend in a romantic comedy.  They add flavor and spunk.  They tie up all the loose ends and play a key supporting role — but they’re usually overshadowed by the high-maintenance main dish.

That’s why I’m paying condiments their due.  The amazing thing is how easy and affordable it is to make condiments that are more delicious than anything you could buy in a jar with a pop-up seal. Here are some of my recent trials:

I Can’t Believe It’s Butter
The biggest surprise was how easy it is to make butter.  Technically not a condiment, I know — but it is when you add herbs and make it into a spread!  To be fair, I didn’t exactly bust out my butter churn.  No, I used a stand mixer that whipped the butter into shape in 90 seconds flat.

Bonus Tips: Save the buttermilk that separates out and use it in baking.  When your butter’s ready, divide it in half and add fresh herbs and lemon to one portion to create a delicious, spreadable herb butter.

Yogurt + mint chutney = raita

Yogurt + mint chutney = raita

Yogurt: The Surprise Condiment
Despite my brush with death yogurt, I took another stab at it this week and had much better results, most likely because I used a thicker starter. It’ll be ideal for making raita, a staple condiment in Indian cuisine.  To make some, add lemon, cumin, salt, chili powder, and grated cucumber, and you’ve got yourself a delicious accompaniment.

Bonus Tips: Use yogurt in place of sour cream; add some mint chutney to make a falafel topping; or strain it through cheesecloth to make a cream cheese-like spread.

Mayonnaise Is Made Out of What?!
I didn’t realize that mayonnaise is basically egg whites and oil beaten into submission.  So if you make an egg salad sandwich on challah bread (my lunch today), you’re basically eating hard-boiled eggs, mixed with liquefied eggs, on an eggy bread … not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I must confess a mistake, though.  I used Mark Bittman‘s recipe for mayonnaise, and I completely failed to follow directions.  The recipe called for 1 cup of oil, 1/2 olive and 1/2 neutral vegetable oil.  I only used olive oil, and all I can taste when I eat my mayonnaise is olive.  Oops.

Bonus Tip: You can control the flavor of your mayonnaise by adding seasonings, like dry mustard or cayenne pepper.

Did your favorite condiment not get covered?  Never fear — my exploration continues.  Other sauces on the list include ketchup, mint chutney, and maybe, if I’m feeling crazy, some mustard.  Oh condiments, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…


Entry filed under: Condiments, Equipment, Preparation. Tags: , .

Holla for Challah: My Adventures in Breadmaking Is That a Loaf of Bread, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. amy  |  August 25, 2009 at 10:44 am

    I strongly support this turn in your culinary adventures. Let’s talk about salsas soon–both italian and mexican. I’m also making an eggplant caponata this week that would qualify.

    • 2. shiwanis  |  August 25, 2009 at 10:47 am

      Yes, I was actually thinking that Wednesday would be a lovely time for us to further explore condiments, hehe.

      I’m going to try making that yogurt spread with some dill, actually. I would also love some salsa pointers. I only seem to be able to make mango salsa with any level of success…

  • 3. Her  |  August 25, 2009 at 10:50 am

    H. makes a yummy salad dressing with powdered mustard, yogurt, rock salt and a little sugar. You have to beat the ingredients with a tiny bit of yogurt first though and the mustard flavor really comes out.

    • 4. shiwanis  |  August 25, 2009 at 10:56 am

      That sounds amazing … I’ll have to give it a try.

      I’ve been really into experimenting with salad dressings lately since I saw Mark Bittman’s NY Times video about it. Apparently, all you need is a fat, an acid, and a flavor. I used that to make a yummy lemon, olive oil, and dill dressing.

  • 5. sudha  |  August 25, 2009 at 11:20 am

    i think it’s time for me to come over for dinner!

  • 6. emily  |  August 26, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Thanks for the inspiration, I just made my own mayo when we were out at the house, and it was so fun and easy! Only problem is that now I’m really craving one of those fancy, spendy mixers you made the butter with….

    • 7. shiwanis  |  August 26, 2009 at 10:54 am

      I know, the stand mixer is a real luxury. But you can do the butter with a regular electric mixer (or arm power), too! Just be careful of splashing 🙂

  • 8. emily  |  August 26, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Mmm, yes, but it won’t be as beautiful! 🙂


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