Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette


  • Washington Post photos
    Fast Blender Marinara Sauce is one of a few sauces that can be whipped up in a jiffy.

  • Basic Red Wine Vinaigrette

  • Basic Coconut Curry Sauce

  • Cashew Cream

  • Washington Post
    Quick Stir-Fry Sauce
September 21, 2016 1:02 AM

Mixing up sauces

They can be made quick and can benefit each other

Washington Post

Most sauces are designed to develop flavor over a long time, which is a nice idea if you have the time to keep an eye on the stove. Or you can whip up five sauces in under five minutes each, using just a lidded jar or an electric blender.

Even better, these sauces mix and match with one another or with other pantry staples in a variety of ways, so you can build new recipes: Add a spoonful of the marinara sauce to the coconut curry base to create an Indian-style curry sauce; toss chicken strips and root vegetables with the red wine vinaigrette for a quick marinade; or stir honey, cinnamon and vanilla extract into the Cashew Cream to make a sweet dip for sliced apples.

Basic Coconut Curry Sauce

If you’re craving a quick curry, then start with this sauce, which provides a good base for both Indian- and Thai-style curry dishes. Mixing and matching ingredients allows you to create new sauces from a single base, and as your ingredient pantry grows, you can start to create richer curries with more depth of flavor. See variations, below.

Using raw onion in the basic sauce will give a slightly sharper flavor than is traditionally found in curry sauce, so sauté the onion with the ginger in a little oil first if you want to get a mellower flavor, then blend with the rest of the ingredients.

Make ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

27 ounces canned low-fat coconut milk (2 cans, shaken well)

1/2 cup no-salt-added vegetable broth

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon seasoning blend, such as Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute

1 teaspoon chili powder

Combine the coconut milk, broth, ginger, onion, seasoning blend and chili powder in a blender; purée until smooth. Makes 8 servings.

Variations: To make an Indian-style curry sauce (2 to 3 servings’ worth), combine 1 cup of the basic Coconut Curry Sauce, 2/3 cup Fast Blender Marinara Sauce (see recipe below), 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon curry powder and a pinch of sugar in a blender; puree until smooth. The yield is 12/3 cups. Cook in a saucepan over low heat for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop, then stir in cooked proteins, canned chickpeas or vegetables; cook for about 15 minutes while the sauce thickens. Serve over rice.

To make a Thai-style curry sauce (2 to 3 servings’ worth), combine 1 cup of the basic Coconut Curry Sauce, 2 tablespoons each of Cashew Cream and Quick Stir-Fry sauces (see recipes below), 11/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon sugar and Sriracha (to taste) in a blender; puree until smooth. The yield is 11/3 cups. Cook in a saucepan over low heat for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop, then stir in cooked proteins, canned chickpeas or vegetables; cook for about 15 minutes while the sauce thickens. Serve with rice or rice noodles and a slice of lime.

 – Washington food writer and editor Kristen Hartke

Basic Red Wine Vinaigrette

A good vinaigrette goes a long way in the kitchen, whether you’re using it on fresh salads and sautéed vegetables or as a marinade for proteins. This recipe is as basic as you can get, and it’s perfectly fine to use different kinds of vinegar and mustard, add a touch of honey for sweetness, add fresh herbs or substitute lemon juice for the vinegar.

Make ahead: The vinaigrette can be refrigerated for up to 4 weeks. Shake well before using.

1/3 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 small clove garlic, minced

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the oil, vinegar, mustard and garlic in a mason jar. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Seal and shake well, until emulsified. Use right away, or refrigerate for up to 4 weeks. Makes 4 servings (makes about 1/2 cup). 

– Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart

Cashew Cream

If you’ve ever wanted a creamy sauce but didn’t have dairy products on hand, then this is the next best thing. Made with raw cashews and water, this sauce has a nutty creaminess that is also extremely versatile. Thin it down further with water to create a savory base for macaroni and cheese, or mix in a little honey, cinnamon and vanilla extract to make a sweet dip for sliced apples.

This quick method calls for boiling the cashews for a few minutes to soften them, but you can also put them in a bowl, cover them with water, and let them soak in the refrigerator overnight.

Make ahead: The cashew cream can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

2 cups raw, unsalted cashews

1 cup cold water, or more as needed

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Place the cashews in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium; cook for 15 minutes, or until the nuts begin to plump slightly and soften.

Drain the cashews, then transfer them to a blender along with the 1 cup of cold water, the lemon juice and salt. Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the blender, as needed.

If the mixture seems too thick while blending, add more water, one tablespoon at a time. Use right away, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Makes 10 servings (makes 21/2 cups).

– Adapted from “Yum Universe: Infinite Possibilities for a Gluten-Free, Plant-Powerful, Whole-Food Lifestyle,” by Heather Crosby (BenBella Books, 2014)

Quick Stir-Fry Sauce

Salty, tangy and lightly spicy, this is a great sauce to have in your repertoire when you need to pull together a fast meal out of whatever’s in the refrigerator. Toss it with leftover rice or noodles, vegetables and any kind of protein for an impromptu dish of fried rice or lo mein, or use it as a marinade for chicken, beef or tofu.

Add it to the Basic Coconut Curry Sauce with some Cashew Cream (see related recipes), a squirt of lime juice and Sriracha to give it a Thai-inspired flavor, or substitute it for that packet of dried seasoning the next time you mix up a late-night bowl of ramen.

Make ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 4 weeks.

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup no-salt-added vegetable broth

1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

1 teaspoon vinegar

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine the soy sauce, broth, honey or agave nectar, vinegar, ginger and garlic in a mason jar. Seal and shake well, until incorporated. Use right away, or refrigerate for up to 4 weeks. Makes 20 servings (makes 11/4 cups).

– Washington food writer and editor Kristen Hartke

Fast Blender Marinara Sauce

It’s true that the most flavorful marinara sauces are cooked for hours in order to allow them to develop the richest flavors, but this quick sauce has a bright freshness that’s perfect with pasta or as a topping for a weeknight pita-bread pizza.

If you want to take some time to develop the flavor of the sauce, sauté the carrot, onion and garlic in a little olive oil before adding them to the blender, then continue the recipe as written.

Make ahead: The just-blended, uncooked marinara can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. The cooked sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

1/2 cup chopped carrot (about one 6-inch carrot will do)

3 cloves garlic

3/4 cup chopped onion

1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added, whole peeled tomatoes, plus their juices

1 teaspoon seasoning blend, such as Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the carrot, garlic, onion, tomatoes and their juices, seasoning blend and pepper in a blender; puree on low speed until all the vegetables are finely chopped.

Pour into a medium saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Use right away, or cool completely before storing. Makes 8 servings (makes 4 cups).

 – Adapted from a recipe at Vitamix.com