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Concept Coooking: Sauce thoughts

 
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Concept cooking is not cooking with recipes, it's cooking by knowing the functions of your ingredients, and arranging them to do what you want.
Sauces of all types are basically a base and flavorings. Some common bases are cream or other dairy or nondairy products, eggs and oil, acids and oil, tomatoes, broth with thickeners, etc. Put a base with flavorings and thickeners and you get things like cream cheese frosting, mayonnaise, gravy, salad dressing or marinara sauce.

An interesting thread was posted here that made me think about sauces. Fake guacamole SO GOOD the taco places in Mexico City and LA got busted for using it! Looking at that recipe, they used Mexican Grey Squash (a soft summer squash) for the base, added stuff, and made fake guacamole sauce. That made me think about using squash as a sauce base. The recipe posted used boiled squash, I don't boil vegetables very often, I steamed a yellow squash and some parsley that needed to be used up.  Added onions, and lemon, a bit of tomato juice, olive oil, some chia seeds (for thickening), mixed it all in a food processor, then tossed it into the fridge for a few hours. Re-stirred it as my dinner cooked, and I have an excellent sauce on a big pile of steamed cauliflower, kind of sour cream and onion with a parsley accent. Very tasty!

So if we can use tomatoes as a sauce base, and tomatillos (salsa verde!) and summer squash, and I like winter squash (I make a decent fake cheddar sauce out of butternut) and herbs are traditional for pesto, what other veggies would make a good sauce base?

The summer squash is mild enough to take sweetening and spicing to make a fruit topping pretty easily. Cauliflower probably would too, it's very mild, it's a bit wet when mashed, would need to drain it out a touch or thicken it well before flavoring it.

What else can we make sauces out of?
 
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I make a pasta sauce out of smashed cauliflower and my zucchini spread, add in some steamed carrots and bell peppers, butter, olive oil, parmesan, lots of garlic. My family loves it.

 
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In the concept cooking i have had good succes. I can up chicken ala king every year after chickens are harvested. A light bulb went off and i put shrimp in instead of chicken. Not for canning, just for a meal. Omg. If i was at the Olive Garden they would have gotten a big tip from me.

The other thing i am doing (not sauces) is using every veggie in my cupboard for tortillas/flat bread. It has been interesting. Some change the taste, some don't.  So far i have used sweet potato, zuchini, and yellow squash. Next up is carrots then canned corn. Its simply mixing flour with the softened veggie till its not sticky, then roll ot out and heat both sides. Thread is here:

https://permies.com/t/119431/kitchen/Sweet-potato-tortillas-flat-bread
 
Pearl Sutton
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Wayne: I made an awesome batch of bread using winter squash, whole grains, and doing a 3 day ferment on it. That was some excellent sourdough! I'll have to make your veggie tortilla things, I do a bean flat bread that way, run beans and spices through the blender, add flour till it's bread dough. Haven't tried random veggies! You adding any spices? I like my flat breads spiced.
 
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My wife has been stretching avocados with zucchini for a long time now.


We just bought  5 lbs of red lentils to play with, due to their reputation for disintegrating when cooked.


I'm planning on harvesting the bitter leaves from our bolted lettuce, blanch them and make a pesto of sorts.
I have surplus of grape leaves, but I dislike them pickled/ stuffed.
They have a nice lemony taste when fresh,  but even the smallest ones are too tough,  so again, pesto might work.
I use sunflower seeds or almonds instead of pine nuts in pesto  'cause I'm cheap.

I have some wheat gluten and I just bought some barley that I'm going to grind up.
We shall see if either can make a decent roux, and also if they work in dumplings.

 
wayne fajkus
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Wayne: I made an awesome batch of bread using winter squash, whole grains, and doing a 3 day ferment on it. That was some excellent sourdough! I'll have to make your veggie tortilla things, I do a bean flat bread that way, run beans and spices through the blender, add flour till it's bread dough. Haven't tried random veggies! You adding any spices? I like my flat breads spiced.



No. Just keeping them as tortillas. Sometimes a little salt. I do see trying some spices though. Right now just tortillas for fish tacos, eggs, or just on their own. I do have black eyed peas i canned last New Years from leftovers. I just recently thought about trying that.

Its nothing life changing. Its a way to use up canned veggies to rotate stock, or get someone to "Eat their squash" without knowing it.
 
Pearl Sutton
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wayne fajkus wrote:
No. Just keeping them as tortillas. Sometimes a little salt. I do see trying some spices though. Right now just tortillas for fish tacos, eggs, or just on their own. I do have black eyed peas i canned last New Years from leftovers. I just recently thought about trying that.

Its nothing life changing. Its a way to use up canned veggies to rotate stock, or get someone to "Eat their squash" without knowing it.



I disagree, it can be life changing. Wheat flour used to have a lot more protein in it, when combine harvesters came in, the higher protein grains gummed up the machinery (partly because they were not letting the harvest dry out naturally between cutting and threshing) so production shifted to the lower protein varieties. What is sold for bread at this point was not legal to sell for human consumption 120 years ago, it was classed as low nutrient animal feed. So the cultures who based a lot the nutrition in their cuisine on breads, or flat breads are not getting the nutrition they used to. A lot of people currently avoid nutrition dense foods like squash because things like potato chips are more familiar to them, and humans tend to eat familiar foods. Any nutrients we can add to foods that people will eat because they are familiar is a major positive life change.
You ARE changing the world, you just hadn't noticed!!
:D

And I was thinking last night of using some of my leftover sauce from last night to make myself a tortilla or two for breakfast, bet I'd get good flavor off them. Thank you for this whole idea, I have only ever used beans and spices in my flat breads.
 
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Back when I had an oven...and a kitchen :/ I used to thicken tomato sauces with roasted veg rather than tomato paste.

Roast whatever veg you were planning on putting in the sauce - onion, garlic, celery, zucchini, carrot, etc. - plus mushrooms. A good amount of mushrooms. Roast until good and caramelized, then blend into a thick paste, adding a tiny bit of water if your blender needs it as you go. Then stir that into your fresh or jarred tomatoes and season.

You get a nice thick, reeeeally flavourful sauce.
 
Jan White
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Not a vegetable, but I sub in chickpeas as a base for stuff quite a bit.

One thing I make in the summer that I really like is a hummus/pesto kinda thing. I call it pusto to gross out my husband :)  I was thinking of ways to make condiments into food, an idea I really liked from one of Carol Deppe's books. I try to get my fats from whole food sources rather than refined oils, so I don't eat traditional pesto.

I put lots and lots of basil, some chickpeas, lemon juice, walnuts, and miso in the food processor until it's thick and smooth. Make sure it's salty and tangy and funky and basily and you're good to go. Really nice mixed into grilled zucchini and adds some calories to make it a meal.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Jan White wrote:

One thing I make in the summer that I really like is a hummus/pesto kinda thing.

I put lots and lots of basil, some chickpeas, lemon juice, walnuts, and miso in the food processor until it's thick and smooth. Make sure it's salty and tangy and funky and basily and you're good to go. Really nice mixed into grilled zucchini and adds some calories to make it a meal.



I do all kinds of terrible things and just call it all hummus if it has a bean base and is a dip type thing. Any vegetable is fair game! My favorite is beans (not just chickpeas, I always do mixes too add more nutrients and flavor) with sweet potato. I don't like sweet flavors too much, so it dilutes down the extra sugar taste for me. Add some hot sweet spices, and oooh, that's tasty.
I love your tomato sauce idea, I'm snagging that one! Sounds like you and I would have fun in a kitchen together :D
 
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My general thinking on this is that if it can be pureed, it can be a sauce. Some things will need thinning; others, thickening. The trick is primarily finding the consistency you like, and the flavor combinations that appeal. Hubs makes a butternut squash ravioli filling that, thinned with a bit of chicken stock, would also make an incredible sauce for poultry or pork.

He also makes board sauces, which are simply sauces made from the fluids left on the cutting board, after the (usually roasted) meat is removed: herbs and seasonings are sprinkled generously on the cutting board, the roasted meat is then placed on top, to 'rest'. After resting, the roast is sliced and removed, and everything left on the board is stirred or blended together,  and served with the meat. The flavors are robust, and divine.
 
Stacy Witscher
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I remember making a chickpea/ tomato pasta sauce based on a Moosewood cookbook recipe that was tasty. Nowadays, that's too much starchy carbs for me, but my vegan kid might like it, minus the cheese.

I also agree with Carla, seasoned purees work beautifully as sauces. I've made a carrot-red pepper puree that we ate with pork roast. You can also fold said purees into some kind of dairy, like whole milk ricotta, cream cheese, creme fraiche. I'm always looking for ways to use more dairy.
 
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Great topic Pearl!! I like how you think about cooking!

You all have made a great start so it's not easy to add things, but here goes...

Flirting with veganism a few times, once or twice with a raw food twist, sharpened my cooking skills. That's actually what kept me entertained long enough to keep at it for a while. I appreciated how the restrictions made me more creative and I really enjoyed finding out how people pushed the boundaries in order to keep enjoying delicious foods.

The basis for a lot of vegan cheeses and such is often raw cashew nuts, soaked overnight. (Raw foodies often soak almost all their nuts in order to remove a substance that makes them hard to digest -- I bet it's the same thing that keeps them from sprouting too early.) Soaked raw cashews puree up into a really nice "creamy" thick sauce that you can use like cream sauces. Having a really, really, really good and powerful blender helps a lot. Actually it helps making a really fine puree out of anything. But cashews win the "creamy" contest. If cashews aren't in the budget, then you can try pureeing whatever peeled nuts you have on hand to try, remember to soak overnight first.

No one has mentioned so far the humble potato. Here people spend all winter long having cream-less cream soups based on potatoes, and they've usually got a bunch of leeks thrown in too, white part only. (I know a soup is not a sauce, but hey, the point is potatoes have thickening power and can form a sauce base, even if you thin it to cream soup consistency. Anyway, back to the soup...) Add whatever garden veggie you like for your featured flavor to your potato and leek base, puree it, and you've got dinner. (A little fried garlic and olive oil drizzled on the top is heavenly. And fry a couple of 1/4-slices of bread in the leftover oil you fried the garlic in and put those on top too... Ooops I'm getting carried away. Anyway, Basque cooking is famous for focusing on the flavors of the main ingredients, and they don't use herbs at all (OK, maybe some parsley) and almost no spices. You'd be surprised (I was) how much you can taste the quality of the potatoes, leeks and carrots (let's say if your carrots are what you used for flavoring) if you don't add in too many other ingredients or herbs and spices. One of my first Basque homey dinners featured one of these soups, delicious by the way, accompanied by a very long, animated 5- or 6-way conversation about which of the neighboring valleys the potatoes must have been grown in and how new or old they were, judging by the taste of the soup... I was like, "umm, they're potatoes." But eventually I began to notice the subtleties, and now I too argue about these things. Oh and one more note, chop up your leftover leek greens real fine and feed them to your chickens, and the yolks of their eggs will take on a beautiful orange color, and they will taste like heaven.

Two more notes from my vegan days. Pearl, I think you mentioned chia seeds as a thickener which is great. Lots of omega 3s! Another great one if you're blending but not heating (I've never heated things with them so I don't know) is psyllium husks. Great source of fiber. Raw vegan tortillas are great and you can make them out of any veggie. Again, the high-powered blender helps. Whiz up whatever veggie(s) you want, raw or cooked, with X amount of water (experiment) and maybe 2 tablespoons of psyllium husks, and salt if you're like me. Spread the thick mixture out on a silicon sheet and dehydrate. Peel it off, flip it over, dehydrate some more, and you've got a tortilla you can fill with anything. But stop short of making the tortilla, and you can just make a sauce. So psyllium husks can help make your sauce base if you've got a good blender, no cooking required.

Last note is for flavor, if you happen to have a juicer. A raw food cooking course I did once really turned me on to this possibility. I think it's great to do this just to train your taste buds, and it's a real treat for the senses too, because the colors and smells are fabulous. Do monthematic juices. Beet juice. Cucumber juice. Carrot juice. Parsley juice. Ginger juice. Cabbage juice. Some are super powerful and you need to watch out for them. All are heavenly if added to the right thing in the right context. Or just drink them. A great way to take advantage of your permie garden and a real health boost too. Leave them raw and you will feel very vital after consuming them. Or just experiment with adding them to your cooked dishes -- sauces, or mashed potatoes for instance -- and see what you get. It opens up a whole new avenue for fun and experimentation.
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Cashew sauce
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Eggplant soup (potato and leek base) with fried bread
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Beet juice
 
Pearl Sutton
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Dave: Oooh, good thoughts! Now you have me wanting potato soup. I doubt I have exotic vintage potatoes, I have cheap ones from a store that sells scratch and dent items. Non-gourmet :D

I have done cashew sauce before, but find cashews too pricey, I use peanuts more often, the same way.

You can heat psyllium husks, those are better tasting if you grind them really fine, I have a coffee grinder that is used only for my cooking, no coffee allowed in it. Chia heats well too. Flax seed heats, it's also better ground at least a bit, the seeds are hard little bites if they full sized.

I have my grandma's juicer :) It's a well used appliance around here! Saw one just as old, in perfect condition at a second hand store for 5.00, so now we have two! I don't want to have the old juicer die and have to buy one I don't like.

Hmm, you have made me think! And it's almost time to make dinner... :D


 
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My go-to topping for fish is to go out to the herb spiral and collect a big handful of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, savory, cilantro, whatever) and then chop it all finely.  I'll mix it with equal parts sour cream and mayo, and a big handful of finely grated parmesan cheese.  A crack of fresh black pepper.  Sometimes I'll put a bit of lemon zest in it.  Mix it all up.

It makes a thick paste.

Smear the paste on top of the fish about a half-inch thick, and then bake it or grill it with a cover so the cheese herb spread bubbles and melts.  It's amazing.

So then I thought, if that tastes so lovely with fish (salty, herby, a bit tangy), why not try it on chicken.  Yum.  Then pork.  Yum.

It's something of a cheater's pesto, but more of a paste than a sauce.  But as it melts and bubbles and browns, it adds a bit of moisture to the meat and a TON of flavor.  It's a great way to integrate fresh herbs.
 
Dave de Basque
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Marco. Dude. I had no idea you could bake mayonnaise or sour cream, I figured they would curdle. Glad to hear I'm wrong. What temperature do you bake your fish at? Because I usually bake fish at maybe 220c in a convection oven maybe 7 mins followed by broiling at the same temp or higher for another 6-7. It's blazing in there. So I'm really surprised that sauce holds up.

This recipe reminds me of an Italian fresh herb covered chicken I tried in a home near Lake Como that knocked my socks off. Don't know how they did it. The herbs didn't burn with all the time it takes to bake a chicken.

But oops, I'm hijacking Pearl's thread ... back to concept cooking, sauces... bases and flavorings. The fresh herbs picked in the garden seconds before and schmeared over the chicken were a real good flavoring. I suspect the base was just olive oil.
 
Marco Banks
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It doesn't curdle at all.  Again, it's more of a paste than a cream or sauce.  It softens and browns.  Temp?  About 375 f. Not too hot.



My most basic sauce for fresh fish is a simple french lemon butter sauce.  Fry a lightly breaded fish fillet in a saute pan with a little bit of oil.  Once you turn the fish over and are almost done cooking the second side, add a pat of butter into the side of the dish.  Let it melt and start to brown for about 20 seconds.  Then add a generous squeeze of fresh lemon -- maybe a tablespoon -- and let it mix with the butter.  Done.

Plate the fish and drizzle the sauce over the top.

Sometimes I'll add a couple of sprigs of thyme into the pan just before I drop in the pat of butter.  The fat/lemon sauce will pick up the herb flavor -- not too strong.

That little bit of butter adds a nice richness and picks up some of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Since fish is so lean, it doesn't overwhelm it or make it taste heavy -- its just the right amount of richness.  The acid from the lemon cuts through the fat and smooths it out a little bit.

As far as sauces go, it's as simple as it gets.  It's a classic french technique.



 
Pearl Sutton
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Dave: you have my total permission to hijack this thread! This is exactly the kind of conversations I wanted to poke with this!!
I get tired of cooking discussions that are just throwing recipes back and forth and not thinking about how or why they work, they are just magic, they are a RECIPE, and engraved in stone. To me the interesting parts of sharing cooking ideas is "this unexpectedly went well with that"  and  "this is why that technique worked, so we can do that same concept with this too." To me the "unexpectedly" part is the creative side to cooking and the "why it worked" is the science side, and I am a big fan of both creativity and science. I use both of those extensively in both my cooking and my artwork, and I classify my cooking as part of my artwork, but rarely because of how it looks. The pics you see of things like a piece of cheesecake with a sauce artistically dribbled over it are nice, but I'd usually rather get creative with what is in that cheesecake, to make it taste incredibly different from any other. And think about other things I can do to the idea of cheesecake, savory cheesecakes are one of my standards, always surprises and pleases people.  

Mayonnaise does sort of melt in an oven, not a lot, it's made of eggs and oil, neither of which is damaged by heat. Mixing it with the sour cream gives it more body. Sour cream slumps, and dries out a bit (that's why people put mayonnaise with it, the extra oil keeps it from drying out, the eggs keeps the oil from just turning it to too oily and melting all over) the mix holds spices in place really well, and retains moisture in the food underneath. Curdling is an acid reaction with dairy, not a heat reaction. Some dairy kind of breaks apart a bit when cooked, but it doesn't affect the flavor, just the texture. Curdling affects the flavor as well as the texture. I like some things curdled. Some not...

That herb covered chicken: if I were trying to replicate that, I think the trick would be to let the chicken dry enough that it tastes baked and not steamed, but keep the herbs moist enough that they don't crisp into a hard, maybe burned, crust. I'd cover it, a lid might be too much moisture kept in, and foil might be too, I think I'd try a parchment paper tent, or a lid with steam holes, or a lid that isn't on tight.

 
Carla Burke
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Oh! Yes! (Thanks for the reminder, Marco!!) One of our favorite things, is to make a chipotle aioli (you can substitute mayo), and coat steaks or pork chops with it. Let them rest in it, for 15 to 20minutes, then onto the grill they go! So very good! If you like, a squeeze of lime juice over them, at the table, is incredible.
 
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Following Pearl's lead on this, the science side of this is that fat and acid need one another.  Just adding fat gives a sauce a luscious richness, but it coats the tongue and becomes heavy after a few bites.  It loses it's loveliness.  You find yourself wanting to eat something dry or "clean" to get some of that fat off your tongue and out of your mouth.  But adding a bit of acid cuts that fat.  It still tastes wonderful and rich, but not overwhelming.

Thus, Carla's squeeze of fresh lime over the top of a lovely steak --- it cuts through the fat and gives it a brightness.  My favorite preparation for a ribeye is using a hot cast iron skillet, cooking the steak with a high smoke-point oil (like canola or grapesead), and then after you flip the steak, you throw about 3 pats of butter and a bunch of thyme, a sprig of rosemary as well as one smashed clove of garlic.  You tilt the skillet and using a spoon, continually baste the top of the steak with the melted browned butter.  It picks up rendered fat from the steak, and the flavor of the herbs and garlic as you baste it.  Then right before you pull it out of the skillet, you hit it with a squeeze of lime and let that lime juice also deglaze the pan briefly (like 2 seconds).  Pull the steak out and let it rest, and pour a little bit of that butter/herb/lime sauce on the side of the steak.  Cover it for 10 minutes let it rest.  Then it's good to go.  Fat, acid, herbs, delicious.

A salad dressing is the most basic of sauces: oil and vinegar (fat and acid).  

A fish taco with "crema" and a squeeze of lime.  The English always serve fish and chips with malt vinegar to cut through the oily batter on the fish and clean up the taste a little.  Nobody wants to be left with the taste of cold oil on their tongue.

A luscious fatty brisket that's been smoked for 14 hours, with a bit of tangy BBQ sauce (there is usually some white vinegar as well as the acid from the tomato sauce and ketchup in the sauce).

French fries are paired with ketchup.  The acid in the ketchup works so well with the fried potato.  You don't really think of ketchup as a sauce, but it is, and it makes the oil on the potato taste so much better.

If the dish or the sauce doesn't work with acid (like a white sauce for pasta that is basically heavy cream), then you serve something acidic on the side, like a salad that's dressed with a vinegarette or broccoli with a nice squeeze of lemon on top of it.  

Even ice cream does better with some berries that bring a bit of brightness and a touch of acid to the party.


Fat and acid, BFF's.
 
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Y'all are much better cooks than I, but one cheat I learned from my mom was for grilling or baking salmon, which borrows from the discussion above:  

Put filet skin side down on sheet of aluminum foil, slather on mayo, sprinkle with rosemary (or lay springs on), wrap up and put in-coals/on-grill/in-oven for 10-ish minutes.  You can be lax with the timing in either direction.  Pull out, sprinkle with lemon juice, always fabulous.  Of course, it's salmon, so it's always going to be fabulous, but I imagine this would work for other fish as well.  Other meats would take more precise timing, of course.
 
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