Of The Patriot-News

Salsa is a frequent guest at springtime parties, bright
and cheerful, but cousins Chutney and Tapenade also
bring a lot to the table.

“Every single one of these condiments can go from a dip to an
appetizer to a cheese board to a sauce on your main course,” said
culinary consultant Donna Desfor, owner of There’s A Chef in My

Don’t be thrown by the “condiment” label.

“In America, our famous condiments are ketchup and mustard,” said
Michael Finch, chef instructor at the downtown teaching restaurant
Bricco. “But condiments are anything to accompany a dish or serve
as a sauce. Generally they’re savory. Chutneys tend to be more
fruit-based, but they’re still a savory component to a dish.”

They are also wildly variable.

“Take a grapefruit and ginger chutney,” Desfor said. “Put it out
with toast points. If you want to get a little more elegant,
drizzle it over goat cheese or scoop the goat cheese onto crackers
and top with the chutney. Or poach a fish, any white flaky fish.
Puree the chutney down and serve it as a drizzle on the fish.

“A condiment can literally be transformed by how you serve it,” she

The fresh ingredients for any of these independent sauces can
easily be transformed in your kitchen, if you have a few minutes
and a food processor.

But be careful. Pulse and check, pulse and check, if you don’t want
a puree for your first effort.

“With a food processor, you have to be aware of what you’re going
for,” Finch said, “so you don’t end up with paste.”

Tapenade is a good place to start, if only because the
proliferation of olive bars in local groceries has made bright,
tasty olives easy to come by. This condiment originated in
Provence, in southeastern France, and is named after the Provencal
word for capers.

Classic tapenade is a thick and slightly rough mix of capers,
anchovies, ripe olives, olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings.

“Most people say ‘Anchovies, ewww — salty, slimy disgusting,'”
Desfor said. “But really they have such a savory, pungent flavor,
reminiscent of dried tuna. It lends a platform to the taste of the

“The olives and capers are earthy kinds of flavors. Orange zest
brightens the flavors; you get a more complex, robust, briny
flavor. Put this out for people to nosh on with wine, or take a
sliver of goat cheese and add a little tapenade. You’re adding
textural and flavor complements. It’s a lovely, elegant appetizer.”

Desfor also creates recipes for what she calls a modern tapenade.

“The contemporary version of tapenade is simply green olives,
capers and olive oil. You’ll see sun-dried tomato tapenade, which
is just sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil pureed. That’s what they
will call tapenade today, with very few other ingredients, maybe
some capers.

“You could do a wild mushroom tapenade. Roast some mushrooms, pulse
it down with a little olive oil. That’s the contemporary version.”


Prepare for a bit more work, because these are cooked.

Chutneys originated in India and spread to every corner of the
globe subject to British conquest.

Sharp and sour and traditionally fruit based, they add a piquant
element to food. Chutneys contain vinegar or citrus juice and
strong spice elements. They range in flavor from mild to hot and in
texture from chunky to smooth. Mango is a popular choice, and many
Indian homes have their own version of a tomato and onion chutney.

The riper and fresher the fruit, the better. At this time of year,
grapefruits, orange and other citrus items shipped in might work

The cooking isn’t difficult. Typically it involves bringing the
mixture to a boil, turning back the heat and simmering so the fruit
component breaks down into a jammy consistency.

For flavorful heat in the dish, jalapenos work well, “but you can
go from the serranos to the habaneros,” Desfor said. “I’m kind of a
wuss with heat, so I stick with jalapenos.”

The heat is in the membranes of the chili, not the flesh or the
seeds. Control the amount of heat by how much membrane you leave
when chopping. If working with chilies gives you the willies, use
dried red pepper flakes instead. Start with a pinch and taste, and


Salsa can be a garden in your mouth.

“But it is imperative that the ingredients used be absolutely at
peak flavor, ripeness and fresh,” Desfor said. “I won’t even
attempt a salsa until I can get good vine-ripened tomatoes.”

Finch recommends waiting for heirloom tomatoes, the flavorful,
colorful joys of midsummer, and staying away from the food

“With salsa, the best ones are still done with a mortar and pestle.
For a really authentic salsa, you get a far superior finished
product by following the old techniques,” he said. “Most really
good restaurants where they’re making fresh salsa do that.”

Spanish for “sauce,” classic salsa is tomato-based and flavored by
chilies, onions and cilantro.

“Today, however, salsa can mean any cold, chunky, mixture of fresh
fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices,” Desfor said. “Salsas also
appear in a refined form as a smooth sauce.”

Red onions add color, but sweet onions push the heat, if that’s
your taste.

Salsa verde — green sauce — uses tomatillos and hot green chilies
with garlic and onions. It stands alone as a sauce, but it’s also
useful in many Mexican dishes.

Store shelf

If you feel more at ease with someone else doing the cooking, good
jarred condiments are worth searching for.

Torchbearer Sauces, a world-class series of habanero-laced
condiments made by three guys from Mechanicsburg, comes highly
recommended by Desfor.

At Peggy’s Silver Spoon in the West Shore Farmer’s Market, Peggy
Harder offers European-style condiments along with American

“Bellaria does a porcini mushroom spread, a black olive spread,
olive and artichoke, and anchovies alone,” Harder said. “How we’ve
turned around and used them in the United States is by doing
artichoke and capers, chopped up in olive oil, with lemon juice.
Rothschild Farms is doing an artichoke dip with the artichoke
hearts for a spread or a dip.”

The Rothschild raspberry salsa was rated No. 1 by Bon Appetit
PAT CARROLL : 255-8149 or
Tart relishes perk up taste buds

Here are recipes:

Classic Tapenade
(Makes about 1 1/4 cups)
1 heaping cup black olives (not Kalamata), pitted and drained
4 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated orange
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 pinch cayenne pepper (or
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1/4 cup fruity extra-virgin olive

Place all the ingredients except the olive oil in the bowl of a
food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse about 8 times to
blend. Add about half the oil and pulse a few more times. Scrape
down the sides and add just enough of the remaining olive oil to
pulse into a cohesive but coarse paste.

Green Olive Tapenade

(Makes about 11/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups pitted green olives, drained

1/4 cup capers, drained
1/4 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil

Place all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted
with a metal blade. Pulse until the ingredients come together
forming a cohesive but coarse paste. Add a drizzle of olive oil if
the tapenade appears dry.

Pink Grapefruit Chutney
(Makes about 1 cup)
2 pink grapefruit, peeled and sectioned with juices
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 scant tablespoon orange zest
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely
Sea Salt, to taste

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan combine the grapefruit
sections and juice, the sugar, red pepper flakes and honey. Bring
to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and gently simmer
until the fruit is broken down and most of the liquid is
evaporated, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the lemon
juice, the orange zest and the ginger. Allow to cool. Taste. Season
with salt.

Tomato Onion Chutney
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet (Vidalia or
Walla Walla) onion
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 jalapeno
peppers, seeded and finely chopped (to yield a scant 1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can (28 ounce) whole,
peeled tomatoes, drained and diced
3/4 to 1 cup finely chopped
candied (crystallized) ginger, to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh
lemon juice, to taste

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan heat the olive oil over medium
heat. When shimmering, add the onion and cook, stirring
occasionally, until translucent, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the
garlic, the jalapeno and spices. Stir and cook for about 1 minute
to release the aromatics. Add the wine and bring to a simmer.
Simmer for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the tomato (including any
juices that have accumulated) and the candied ginger. Simmer
uncovered for about 20 to 30 minutes until thick and jamlike.
Season with salt. Serve warm or chilled.

Salsa Verde
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)
3 to 4 (about 1 pound) tomatillos, husked, washed
and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup sweet (Vidalia or Walla Walla) onion,
coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Sea Salt to season

Place all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted
with a metal blade. Pulse about 10 times until finely chopped.
Season with salt. Drain excess liquid before serving.

(Makes about 2 cups)
4 red bananas; firm but ripe (or
substitute 2 yellow, firm but ripe bananas)
2 teaspoons jalapeno
or other hot chili, seeded and finely chopped
2 green onions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
1/4 cup red or green bell peppers (or a combination of both),
seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
(or to taste depending on the sweetness of your bananas)
1 teaspoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 teaspoons peanut, hazelnut, walnut, sesame or other nut oil
Chopped pecans, for garnish

Combine the ingredients in a medium, nonreactive bowl. Gently mix
to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve within one hour to
prevent banana from browning, or cover with cling film, pressing
the film directly on the salsa, then cover in an airtight

Mixed Olive Relish
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives
2/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon aged (or high quality) red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch dried Mediterranean oregano, crumbled between fingers
Pinch dried hot red pepper flakes
Granulated sugar, to season

Combine the olives and capers in a colander or sieve. Rinse well
under cold running water. Place the rinsed and drained olives and
capers into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.
Add the garlic, vinegar and lemon juice, and the spices. Pulse
about 8 to 10 times, or until coarsely chopped. Taste. Season with
sugar to balance the tang of the vinegar and lemon juice with the
savory flavors of the olives and capers.

Tomato Onion Relish

(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 red onion, finely chopped to yield about 1/2 cup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon aged (or high quality) red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Chopped dill, to season

Combine the water and salt and add the chopped onion. Soak the
onion for 15 minutes, then drain. In a medium bowl combine the
onion, tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Let stand until ready to
serve. Drain relish in a sieve and turn out relish into a serving
bowl. Season and garnish with chopped dill.
Recipes courtesy of Donna Desfor


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In culinary school and getting ready to trade the writing life for the cooking life. Or not. Might do both. At the moment I'm a feature writer for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. My name is Pat Carroll.

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