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8 Summer Sauces for Quick, Easy Dinners

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The best summer cooking is really about NOT cooking. Days are long and spent outdoors, so when dinner time rolls around, these simple sauces and dressings are your secret weapons. Cook big batches of grains and veggies ahead of time, grill some meat, and mix and match them with this arsenal of homemade condiments.

  • Recipe

    Carrot Top Arugula Pesto

    Don’t throw out those carrot tops! They make a vibrant pesto, with rich flavor from toasted walnuts instead of the traditional pine nuts. Arugula adds a peppery bite. The pesto pairs perfectly with grilled or roasted carrots, and is also wonderful swirled into a summery vegetable soup as a finishing touch.

  • Recipe

    Soy-Scallion Butter

    Savory soy and scallion flavors are a match made in heaven in lots of Asian cuisines and beyond. This butter is a shortcut to complex flavor for meat and veggies: melt it over hot-off-the-grill salmon or steak, toss it with steamed green beans, or use it in a quick pan sauce to go with pan-fried chicken thighs.

  • Recipe

    Garlic Vinaigrette

    This is a classic go-to vinaigrette that every cook needs, with garlic to add savory flavor and a touch of rice vinegar and honey to mellow things out. It's delicious dressing a grain salad or kale salad (massage the vinaigrette into the leaves to tenderize them). It also makes a fantastic marinade for grilled chicken.

  • Recipe

    Spicy Peanut Sauce

    Cold vegetables, meat, or noodles instantly become a meal when you have peanut sauce around. Whatever kind of peanut butter you normally eat—crunchy or smooth, natural or sweetened—will work. Use it to build a rice bowl with the meat of your choice, steamed bok choy or watercress,  sliced fresh cucumbers, peppers, and carrots, peanut sauce, and roasted peanuts for crunch.

  • Recipe

    Preserved Lemon Tahini Sauce

    Mild sesame tahini sauce gets a kick of savory flavor from white miso and some briny, pickled notes from preserved lemons. Use as a dip for falafel, or spread on lamb or veggie burgers, or thin the sauce with more lemon juice and use it as a dressing on green salad.

  • Recipe

    Shallot & Herb Aïoli

    This bright, creamy, goes-with-everything sauce combines fresh summer herbs with shallots and garlic when they’re at their peak. Slather it on toast and top with sliced ripe tomatoes, serve as a dipping sauce for crab cakes, or put it at the center of a composed Nicoise-style salad.

  • Recipe

    Zhoug

    This traditional falafel condiment is the fiery Middle Eastern answer to pesto. It’s commonly made with cilantro, but parsley and mint take its place in this version. If you’re a cilantro lover, feel free to add a handful to the mix. Beyond falafel, try tossing it with roasted or grilled potatoes, or dolloped over grilled lamb chops.

  • Recipe

    Ume Scallion Dressing

    This bright green sauce gets intense flavor from peppery watercress and briny umeboshi vinegar. Try drizzling it on a cold soup, like the Classic Vichyssoise shown here, or toss with cold steamed greens like Napa cabbage, kale, or watercress for a simple, Asian-inspired side.

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