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Grilling, smok­ing and bar­be­cu­ing are all pre­ferred meth­ods of sum­mer­time cook­ing.

If you are the cook, you have a “secret sauce” of some kind in the out­door cook­ing arse­nal. Shar­ing it with oth­ers depends on how close to the vest you want to play it.

Those of us merely the lucky recip­i­ents of good food cooked by oth­ers can only imag­ine what goes into the secret sauce. A hint of honey, a hit of ginger…sweet apri­cots or plums all just a guess.

Mas­ters of mari­nades and glazes typ­i­cally have a “go to” one that can be applied to a choice of poul­try, fish, pork, beef or veg­eta­bles. Divulging any fam­ily recipes might be tricky.

A quick inter­net search results in thou­sands of rec­om­men­da­tions for rich, lusty, sticky sauces that can be appro­pri­ated as our own.

Spicy, sweet, savory, tangy and smoky. These culi­nary paths all take a dif­fer­ent leap depend­ing on a few key ingre­di­ents. Those ele­ments are worth explor­ing and tin­ker­ing with when decid­ing which direc­tion to fol­low.

Gin­ger root, gar­lic, chili pep­per flakes can bring the spici­ness. Mus­tards and vine­gars pro­vide the tang. There are too many vari­a­tions of both to prop­erly call out by name. Check out a gro­cery aisle to study these tangy options.

When it comes to sweet­ness, maple syrup, honey and molasses might be the top three con­tenders. A finely aged true Bal­samic vine­gar can impart ter­rific sweet notes and depth of fla­vor.

Juice from cit­rus fruits (oranges, limes, lemons and tan­ger­ines) plays into all eth­nic sen­si­bil­i­ties. Strik­ing it rich using cit­rus zest cat­a­pults any sauce or mari­nade into new ter­ri­tory.

Some­thing can be said for remem­ber­ing the SAF acronym. Salt, acid and fla­vor­ing. Those three vital signs typ­i­cally yield a good com­bi­na­tion for mari­nades and sauces.

Salt can be found in soy sauce, tamari and other sources besides plain kosher salt. Acid­ity comes from fruit juices, vine­gars, alco­holic bev­er­ages like wine or bour­bon. Yogurt or but­ter­milk works, too.

Typ­i­cal fla­vor­ings include herbs and spices (oregano, basil, thyme, cumin, paprika, gar­lic, onion pow­der, etc.) and even veg­eta­bles such as onion, leeks, mush­rooms or jalapenos and other chili pep­pers.

Enhance out­door cook­ing with a secret sauce.