Sauces

A ball glass jar filled with orange miso dressing speckled with chopped dill bits

Orange Miso Dressing with Dill

One of the best things about discovering food is suddenly imagining all the places it belongs. Such is my relationship with dill. Dill was a plant that I had heard of. I might even have eaten a few things with dill. Then suddenly I decided I wanted to cook with dill and now I see the possibilities. This Orange Miso Dressing with Dill is one of those possibilities.

CONTINUE
Baked potato on white plate served with tomato eggplant sauce

From the Yoruba Kitchen…

Tomato Eggplant Sauce in a black cast iron pan.

As a child, living in Lagos Nigeria, I was more familiar with garden eggs than I was eggplant. Sometimes, tomato sauces were made with the garden eggs. I never liked the tomato garden egg sauce. Something about the text just put me off. Many years later in adulthood, this same sauce is the inspiration behind this tomato eggplant sauce.

As with many vegetables that I eat, my relationship with eggplant was frosty to begin. I am not sure when I became a fan of eggplant but here we are. Suddenly, grilled eggplants have become a signature item of my kitchen. The other way I love my eggplant is in this versatile Tomato Eggplant Sauce.

This sauce is perhaps the most Nigerian recipe I have shared so far. It features the classic trifecta of a Yoruba woman’s kitchen; onion, tomato and red pepper. I should add that Yoruba people love spicy food so there is fourth item, habanero, that is used in the traditional blend. Every Yoruba woman, and many Nigerian women, have their preferred ratio for these vegetables. Some like a sweeter mix and others prefer a spicier or more pungent mix. Sometimes, the tomato pepper mix also changes with the dish being prepared.

Baked potato topped with tomato eggplant sauce, basil, and cheese on a white plate

Growing up, the tomato pepper mix I have used in this Tomato Eggplant sauce was always available in the freezer. On Sundays, a fresh tomato pepper blend would be made, boiled down to get rid of the moisture and then stored in the freezer. This blend was then used during the week to make stews, egg sauces, beans, and other items. It was the backbone of many meals.

I don’t eat as much tomatoes as I did when I lived in Lagos. This is mostly because I find the quality of tomatoes disheartening. Too watery in most cases, not enough sweetness and definitely missing a lot of the tartness that balances a good tomato. In the winter, I often choose processed and packaged tomatoes over fresh ones because the quality is better and more consistent. Also, I like that I can get fire-roasted tomatoes when I make things like Jollof Rice or even this Tomato Eggplant sauce.

spooning out slices of cooked onions from tomato eggplant sauce in a black cast iron pan

One of the things I have grown to love about this Tomato Eggplant sauce is its versatility. For this post, I have served it with baked potatoes. The slightly spicy edge of the sauce is perfect for a hot potato with cheese. Plus, I really can’t resist the sweet tendrils of caramelized onion covered in tomatoes with pillowy potato morsels.

The tomato eggplant sauce would also make a good dressing for pasta or even a base for shakshuka. There are many possibilities for the sauce; you need to be a bit adventurous.

Smoky Tomato Eggplant Sauce

A simple and relatively quick tomato sauce that is versatile and filled with lovely vegetables. 
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Dinner, Sauce
Cuisine: African, Nigerian
Keyword: Aubergine, Eggplant, Pasta Sauce, Tomato Eggplant Sauce, Tomato Sauce
Servings: 10
Author: Sinmi

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Purple Eggplant
  • 1 can Diced Tomato
  • 1 Onion (Large)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Red Pepper (Medium)
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Parsley
  • 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tbsp Crayfish Powder optional*
  • 1 tbsp Chili Flakes
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • On a gas stove or in a grill, burn the skin of the whole eggplant. The eggplant should have a substantial char all around it. The process of charring the eggplant usually takes 10-15 over an open gas flame. Also, it is possible to do this can be done ahead of time.
  • Place the burnt eggplant in a bowl and cover. Trapping the heat of eggplant would steam off the skin. Let it rest for about ten minutes. Once it is cooled down, remove as much of the skin as possible. Don’t be tempted to scoop out the middle. The bits of the skin left after cleaning helps to give the sauce a smoky aroma.
  • Roughly chop off the cleaned roasted eggplant flesh. Don’t do this in a blender because you don’t want a paste. You want chunks of soft eggplant.
  • Add the tomato, 1/2 of the onions, garlic, the red pepper as well as the chili flakes into a blender. Pulse into a rough paste.
  • Slice the remaining onion.
  • Add the vegetable oil into a saucepan over medium heat. After a minute, add in the onion slices and a pinch of salt. Let the onion cook gently. 
  • Once the onion slices are wilted and almost caramelizing, add in the tomato sauce into the saucepan. 
  • Stir in the herbs, paprika and crayfish powder into the tomato sauce at this point. Let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes, mixing occasionally. 
  • The tomato sauce is ready for the eggplant chunks when most of the moisture is cooked off. The tomato sauce should be thick before mixing in the eggplant. Make sure to mix in the eggplant chunks so that it is well distributed within the saucepan.
  • Taste the sauce to check for salt. Now is the time to adjust.
  • Let the tomato eggplant sauce simmer for about 5 minutes and then it is done.

Notes

*I debated adding this ingredient to the recipe because it is so culturally specific but I want to be able to talk about how I cook as a NIgerian woman. A good substitute for the crayfish powder would be to melt in some anchovies into the sauce. This boosts the flavor of the sauce.
Lemony Yogurt Tahini Sauce made with a black whisk in a white bowl

Lemony Yogurt Tahini Sauce

Lemony Yogurt Tahini Sauce made with a black whisk in a white bowl

This sauce was a surprise that came out of nowhere. I needed a sauce to plate my smashed twice cooked cumin potatoes. I was fiddling with items in the kitchen for the sauce. Suddenly I remembered I had tahini in my cupboard. This is the origin story of this lemony yogurt tahini sauce.

I am writing this particular lemony yogurt tahini sauce recipe as much for you as for me. Just like I am writing this blog as much for me as it is for you. I am not even sure if it is for you. To be honest, as at the time I am writing this, this food blog is really nothing other than a project to soothe my anxiety. By embracing the idea of writing and creating food once again, I am finding control in some place. Every other part of my life is out of my control at the moment. But, this blog is within control.

A whisk coated with Lemon Yogurt Tahini Sauce

Yes, I don’t control if anyone would see this. But I control my creativity. Everyday when I go into my kitchen and I cook another item for the blog, it is another modicum of control over a situation that has escaped from my grasp. Perhaps making lemony yogurt tahini sauce is the way I will get unstuck from my life. Or maybe it will just be another thing that I do and quit when it gets too hard. Who knows? All I know is that at this moment the process of creating this space is making me happy and that is the only valid metric.

Okay! I have said too much. This is a food blog after all. This lemony yogurt sauce is just the right amount of tangy and nutty. It is what I imagine I would make if I like eating crudites (I don’t) But I’ll definitely use this on chickpeas and maybe that chicken shawarma bowl.

Give it a try! Let me know if you like it.

Crispy potatoes with lemony yogurt tahini sauce on a white plate

Lemony Yogurt Tahini Sauce

An easy sauce that makes a wonderful dip not just for crispy potatoes but also crudites and falafel balls.
Prep Time10 mins
Course: Side Dish
Keyword: greek yogurt, lemon, tahini, white sauce, yogurt, yogurt sauce
Author: Sinmi

Ingredients

  • 1 Lemon juiced
  • 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt I prefer whole milk yogurt
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 clove Garlic grated

Instructions

  • Add all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Or you could also dump it in a blender and let it do the hard bit.
Tomato Pesto Sauce on Fettucine

Tomatoes in the Winter

I get those moments when I become obsessive about a particular idea. The pass few weeks (yes weeks!) I have been obsessively thinking about how to eat tomatoes in the winter. The rabbit hole I entered led me to this wonderful creamy cheesy tomato pesto sauce.

Tomato runs in my blood. As a Yoruba woman, who was born and bred in Lagos for the entirety of my childhood, the tomato is a thing. It has taken a long time to not compulsively eat tomato sauce/stew with every meal. Growing in Lagos, we had really good tomatoes year round. I mean, there were times when there was scarcity and you wondered why the whole country had to subsist on tomatoes. However, more often than not, there was abundance. So many baskets of ripe and juicy tomatoes spilling over the woven basket. The market floor was often littered with rotten and underripe tomato tossed out carelessly by the traders.

I left that place of abundance to come to America, where tomatoes are mostly just passable. At first,I did not realize what I had given up because I lived in California. It seemed almost season-less. And I mean both the tomato and the state. Then I dragged my life over to Massachusett and suddenly, tomatoes have seasons. There is a very short window where I allow myself to eat tomatoes. it is usually from the middle of summer to late summer.

This short window of time is when the tomatoes are just about right to be eaten raw. A good tomato is juicy, almost like a ripe peach. When you bite into it, the juice oozes out uncontrollably. It should have a nice acidic edge that is only mellowed by its own sweetness. There is no way to write fully in words the magic that happens when you get a truly ripe tomato of good pedigree.

So, as you can imagine, given the frigidness I live with in New England, the magic of the tomato is one that is hard to lay my hands upon in the winter. I have had to come to terms with this. Come to terms means I don’t eat tomatoes in the winter, except it is canned. That is until I discovered a way to have cheesy tomato pesto sauce in the winter.

Tomato Pesto Sauce on Fettucine

Lately, I have discovered a new class of tomato products for the winter. It started with Divina tomatoes last year and this year has escalated to the marinated cherry tomatoes from Trader Joes. Goodness me! When I first tried the Divina Roasted Red Tomatoes, I knew it was a love that might not stand the test of time. I could not justify to myself, and my bank account, the wisdom of buying eight dollar jars of tomatoes. I knew it was something I would only ever be able to eat when it is on sale (trust me, I keep my eye on the price sticker at my grocery store).

The Trader Joes semi-dried and marinated Cherry tomatoes has been a perfect way to ease the hurt of not being able to afford the Divina tomatoes. If I am being honest, I also realize that the Trader Joes and Divina tomatoes are best for different purposes. The Trader Joes semi-dried tomatoes are best for cooking sauces. The Divina roasted tomatoes work best as a topping.

I have recently been using the Trader Joes semi-dried cherry tomatoes in this quick cheesy tomato pesto sauce. It requires no cooking and it is a reliable 15-25 minute meal provider. Most of that time is spent cooking pasta or prepping vegetables. The sauce comes about quickly in a blender and works so well went add to hot freshly cooked pasta.

The tomato pesto sauce is super easy to make. The ingredients mostly come out of a jar. Plus, the sauce does incredibly well in the fridge, on its own or mixed in with food.

Tomato Pesto Sauce

A quick and easy tomato sauce that creates goodness from roasted cherry tomatoes and a few other items from a jar.
Prep Time10 mins
Course: Main Course
Keyword: Pasta, Pesto, Sauce, Tomato
Servings: 4
Author: Sinmi

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Trader Joes Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 Roasted Medium Red Pepper
  • 1/3 Cup Pesto
  • 1/3 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tsp Chilli Flakes
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • Smoked Gouda Cheese Optional
  • Salt

Instructions

  • Add all of the ingredients, except salt and cheese, in a food processor and pulse until it comes into a smooth consistency.
  • Taste the sauce after blending. Season with salt to taste.
  • Tomato Pesto Sauce tastes best when mixed into freshly boiled hot pasta. The heat from the pasta heats the sauce. A bit of pasta water can be added to loosen up the sauce to desired consistency.
  • Shred the gouda cheese and sprinkle on top of the pasta as desired.