Cranberry Salsa? Why not?

Instead of cranberry relish, why not cranberry salsa? Every Thanksgiving, my grandmother made cranberry/orange relish. You know, the recipe from the back of the bag of cranberries? It looked beautiful in her tall, cut-glass compote and added the perfect amount of tartness to enhance the savory turkey and cornbread dressing.

My family doesn’t like gravy, so cranberry relish is what we continue to use to add that little somethin-somethin to our Thanksgiving plates. I serve it in a compote similar to my grandmother’s. But this year, I’m making a change.

cranberry salsa

I found a recipe for cranberry salsa when I was filing last week. I don’t remember printing it out, but there it was on my desk. When my sister and I started planning the Thanksgiving menu, I picked it up and read it. It’s served with tortilla chips so why not use it as an appetizer?

I like to have something for everyone to snack on in case I run long getting food on the table. Cranberry salsa seems like a perfect choice because the leftovers can be served with our meal in place of cranberry/orange relish.

Can the family weather a change in tradition without being grumpy? I’m pretty sure they can as long as the salsa tastes good. With that in mind, I made some this weekend to see.

Here’s what I combined:

2 jalapeño peppers

1 twelve-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, washed

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup minced green onions

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice              

1 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice

Remove stem and seeds from jalapeño peppers and finely chop. Set aside. Place cranberries in a food processor or food chopper and pulse until finely chopped. You want small pieces, not a smooth purée.

Place chopped cranberries in a medium bowl. Add sugar and stir together. Add jalapeno peppers, green onion, cilantro, orange juice and lime juice. Stir until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Serve with tortilla chips.*

I served the salsa with scoop-shaped tortilla chips. Half of the guests are gluten-free so having an appetizer that paired well with corn chips worked great. We had plenty for dipping and serving with a meal, plus a little left for later. As far as doing double-duty as an appetizer and meal accoutrement, we will have plenty.

The taste profile of this salsa relies primarily on the sour, bitter flavor of the cranberries tempered by sugar. In this sense, it’s not that different from my grandmother’s relish. It also contains some similar orange notes although those are less prominent. The addition of green onion, jalapeno, and cilantro will not detract from my turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans, or black-eyed peas. From the taste profile perspective, I can’t see a problem substituting salsa for relish.

I love it when a dish can do double-duty! And I really don’t see any downside of using this salsa in place of cranberry/orange relish.

So, the decision is made! This year, our cranberries will be presented in the form of salsa! I mean, really, why not?

Happy Thanksgiving!

*The recipe I found online for this was written by Kat Jeter & Melinda Caldwell.

Quick Guide to Sauces

Today’s post gives you a Quick Guide to Sauces for those days when you feel a little saucy like I do today. When I dine away from home, I prefer locally owned restaurants with really tasty food. That may mean eating tacos asada in the back of a mercado, barbecue in a dilapidated house, or ossobuco in on of those F-A-N-C-Y places. No matter what the menu, I’m careful to avoid sauces that may contain gluten.

A sauce is simply liquid, a thickening agent, and flavoring, plus a possible bit of fat from rendered meat, butter, or olive oil. If a sauce contains gluten, the culprit is usually the thickening agent. Some sauces are automatically more suspect because the traditional recipes contain flour. To make it easier for you to navigate a restaurant menu without having to ask your server a million questions, let’s take a look at the traditional composition of some common sauces so you can narrow the field.

buerre noisette
Green Bean Casserole with Buerre Noisette

You don’t have to go to a high-end restaurant to find a sauce – hamburger steak, roast beef, and mashed potatoes are often topped with gravy. Unless you are in a specialty restaurant that deliberately cooks without wheat flour, avoid gravies. You don’t even have to ask; hey will be thickened with a flour=based product more often than not.

Restaurants that incorporate French technique will often offer variations of 5 basic sauces known as mother sauces: Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise, and Tomaté (tomato). There are many variations that fall under these 5 categories. For instance, béchamel is hot milk (the liquid), white roux (the thickening agent which contains flour), and onion, cloves, and nutmeg (the flavoring). Béchamel with added cream and herbs becomes a Cream Sauce. Béchamel enriched with Gruyere and Parmesan cheese becomes Mornay. Add sautéed and puréed onions plus tomatoes and the result is Soubise.

You get the idea. The key here is that the base sauce is thickened with roux which contains flour which contains gluten. Any time you see these on a menu, they will most likely contain gluten and are best to be avoided. If you REALLY want one, you can always take the time to verify with the kitchen, but you can save yourself time and trouble by avoiding the category.

Here’s a quick reference list:
Béchamel – thickened with white roux. Variations: Crème Sauce • Cardinal • Mornay • Soubise • Nantua • Cheddar Cheese • Mustard

Velouté – thickened with roux. Variations: Chicken Velouté • Veal Velouté, Suprême Sauce • Allemande • White Wine Sauce • Normandy • Bercy • Hungarian • Mushroom • Aurora • Poulette • Shrimp • Curry • Herb Seafood Sauce

Espagnole or Brown sauce – thickened with roux then often further refined into a demi-glace. From the demi-glace come the following variations: Marchand de Vin (Red Wine Reduction) • Bordelaise • Robert Sauce • Charcutièere Sauce • Lyonnaise Sauce • Chasseur • Sauce • Bercy Sauce • Mushroom Sauce • Madeira • Périgueux • Port Wine Sauce

Hollandaise – thickened with eggs. Variations: Aurore Sauce • Béarnaise Sauce • Créme Fleurette • Dijob Sauce • Foyot Sauce • Choron Sauce • Maltaise Sauce • Mousseline Sauce • Paloise

Classic Tomato Sauce – sometimes thickened with roux. Variations: Chaufroid • Spanish Sauce • Creole Sauce • Meat • Portuguese Sauce • Provençal Sauce

That’s a lot of sauces, but of course there are more:

Aioli is a version of Provençal Sauce but in American cuisine has come to be used as a term for flavored mayonnaise.

Alfredo – traditionally Parmesan cheese and butter but American versions often have cream and flour, roux, or starch.

Arrabbiata – garlic and tomato base usually served on pasta

Au jus – means with it’s own sauce. In American cuisine, this refers to light sauce for beef often served on the side made by skimming the fat off the juices left from cooking the beef and bringing them to a boil.

Avgolemono – thickened with egg

Barbecue – most commonly made with a tomato purée or vinegar base, but sometimes tomato paste containing flour is used.

Beurre Blanc – emulsified butter sauce with a vinegar reduction

Beurre Noisette – a brown butter sauce. Meunière sauce is a variation of the brown butter sauce, but meunière is also a technique that includes dredging in flour so trout meunière will most likely have been dredged in flour even though the sauce contains none.

Carbonara – composed of cream, eggs, Parmesan cheese, and bacon bits most often served with pasta

Chateaubriand sauce is usually a Bernaise or Bordelaise although the traditional sauce is a variant of Bercy Sauce.

Chimichurri – green sauce with vinegar base

Clam sauce – usually made with minced clams and sometimes a tomato sauce

Cocktail sauce – ketchup base

Coulis – made with puréed and strained vegetables or fruit

Crème Fraîche – matured, thickened cream

Duck Sauce – fruit base

Duxelles – mixture of finely chopped mushrooms, shallots, and herbs slowly cooked in butter until it forms a thick paste

Fumet – fish stock with lemon, white wine, peppercorns, white onion, and parsley

Gastrique – caramelized sugar deglazed with vinegar used to flavor sauces

Genovese – onion base sauce usually served over pasta

Gremolata – parsley base with lemon zest and garlic

Harissa – Tunisian hot sauce usually made with hot chiles, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway, and olive oil

Marinara – tomato base

Mayonnaise – combines oil, egg yolks and vinegar. Variations include: Fry Sauce • Buffalo Wing Sauce • Marie Rose Sauce or Russian Dressing • Ranch Dressing • Rémoulade • Tartar Sauce • Thousand Island Dressing • Fancy Sauce • Honey Mustard (sometimes)

Mignonette – white wine & vinegar base

Miso – fermented soybean paste comes in 3 categories – barley, rice or soybean all of which are developed by injecting cooked soybeans with a mold and then aging them

Pesto – crushed basil, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese

Ragù – meat based. Variations include: Ragù alla Bolognese • Ragù alla Napolentana • Ragù alla Barese

Rouille – aîoli with added olive oil, garlic, saffron & chili peppers and sometimes breadcrumbs

Salsa – often tomato based and typically piquant, it usually contains no thickening agent other than the vegetables or fruits from which it’s made. Variations: Red Sauce • Pico de Gallo • Salsa Cruda • Salsa Verde • Salsa Negra • Salsa Taquera • Salsa Criolla • Salsa Criolla • Salsa Brava • Guacamole • Mole (the kind in a jar almost always contains wheat) • Mango Salsa • Pineapple Salsa • Chipotle Salsa • Habanero Salsa • Corn Salsa • Carrot Salsa • Mojo • Piri Piri • Sambal

Sofrito – tomato base

Soy sauce – fermented paste of boiled soybeans, roasted grain, and mold

Teriyaki sauce – soy sauce base

Tzatziki or Cacik– strained yogurt or yogurt base

Hopefully this list will save you some time and trouble when reading menus and deciding what to order. If you dine at chain restaurants or purchase sauces from the grocery store, remember formulations may be different from traditional recipes. Often they will contain added starches or wheat to make the texture of the product stand up to lengthy stays on warehouse shelves. Please be sure to read the labels.

Do you have a favorite sauce that we missed? Please let me know so we can add it to our Cooking2Thrive® Quick Guide to Sauces.