There are just about as many different types of condiments as there are different types of food, with various cultures having versions that are unique or particularly important to the people of that culture. Common examples of condiments include ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressing, soy sauce, barbecue sauce and relish. Often added to a food to introduce new flavors or enhance existing ones, a condiment is seldom served or eaten by itself and does not typically contribute much nutritional value.
Many condiments are culturally connected to different types of foods. French fries are often eaten in America with ketchup, while in Belgium they are often served with mayonnaise and, in the United Kingdom, they are commonly sprinkled with vinegar. Similarly, certain types of foods are often served with specific condiments, such as soy sauce being commonly served with Asian dishes and grated cheese, such as Parmesan, being a staple condiment of Italian cuisine.
Condiments and spreads add that little kick to many dishes and, whether you’re eating hummus as a dip for vegetables or blue cheese sauce on chicken wings, these additions have become essential accompaniments. Sometimes, though, those little additions aren’t doing you any favors. Most of them aren’t very good for you. Most condiments, like ketchup, have a ton of added sugar and very little nutritional value. Even bottled salad dressing usually has a lot of fat and sugar in it!
Not all condiments are dangerous (especially when they’re made at home), but added ingredients can cause problems. While ’50 percent less sodium’ or ‘less fat’ seems appealing, these labels can get confusing. It’s important to understand how to read labels and not just compare them with other products. Light salad dressings, for example, can get tricky, according to Women’s Health Magazine, since most people assume ‘light’ refers to healthier, they often end up using more. Some lowfat condiments add extra sugar or salt to make up for fat and taste.
Sometimes, condiments may be the reason your meals are unhealthy. As far as nutrition goes, most of us already know that adding a few dabs of ketchup on your burger won’t kill you. Getting rid of condiments and sauces altogether isn’t the answer either, instead, look for healthier options and make homemade recipes as alternatives. Try the recipes below for some healthy homemade versions of your favorite condiments.
Makes about 3 ½ cups
- 1 small sweet onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 28 ounce can of Italian plum tomatoes with juices
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Place the olive oil in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Add the spices, stir and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, paste and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by half. This will take about 20 minutes.
Add the brown sugar and vinegar. Stir and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then run through a food processor until very smooth.
Return to the saucepan. Season to taste with salt. Gently reheat over low heat for 8 minutes.
Pour into a sterilized jar and place in the refrigerator until needed. Use extra ketchup to make some of the sauces below.
Seafood Cocktail Sauce
- 1 cup homemade ketchup (recipe above)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (or more if you want it hotter)
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, recipe below
- Large pinch of Kosher salt
Mix all ingredients together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, hot sauce or horseradish to taste.
Chill until ready to use – for best results allow sauce to chill at least 1 hour before serving.
Peach Barbecue Sauce
About 4 cups
- 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon onion salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 2 cups homemade ketchup (recipe above)
- 1 cup peach purée (recipe below)
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon butter, cubed and well chilled
In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
(You may want to have a lid handy to protect yourself and your kitchen from any sputtering.)
Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated.
This sauce freezes well.
Makes 1 cup, enough for the recipe above.
- 1 cup peeled and chopped fresh peaches or 1 cup frozen
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
Process peaches, sugar and water in a blender 1 minute or until smooth.
Herbed Honey Mustard
- 1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
- 3 tablespoons dry yellow mustard
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup tarragon vinegar (or any herb vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Put the seeds, dry mustard, and water in a bowl. Let this mixture stand 2 hours or until the seeds become soft. Stir the mixture every 15 minutes.
When the seeds are soft, put the mixture in the food processor and run until the mixture is smooth. This takes about 5 minutes.
Add the vinegar, honey, salt and herbs. Place in a lidded jar and allow to stand at room temperature to mellow (about 1 1/2 hours).
Store the jar in the refrigerator. It will keep for several months.
Olive Oil Mayonnaise
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup plus 1 cup light olive oil (Not extra virgin.)
Place the egg and lemon juice in a blender or food processor bowl. Let them come to room temperature together, about 30-60 minutes.
Add the dry mustard, salt and 1/4 cup of the oil. Blend until well mixed – about 20 to 30 seconds.
Incorporate the remaining 1 cup oil into the mixture. To do this, you must pour very slowly… the skinniest drizzle you can manage and still have movement in the oil. This takes about three minutes.
If you’re using a blender, you’ll hear the pitch change as the liquid starts to form the emulsion. Eventually, the substance inside the blender will start to look like regular mayonnaise.
Store in the refrigerator.
Homemade Tartar Sauce
- 1/2 cup homemade olive oil mayonnaise (recipe above)
- 1/4 cup pickle relish, see recipe below
- 1/2 teaspoon capers, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce or more to taste (recipe below)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill
Makes about ¾ cup of tartar sauce.
Sweet Pickle Relish
Great sandwich spread.
Makes 3 cups
- 3/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Pinch crushed red chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 medium or 4 small cucumbers (about 1 1/2 pounds total), peeled, seeded and finely diced
- 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
Combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, chili flakes and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
Add cucumbers, bell pepper and onion. Return to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Transfer to jars and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors blend. This mixture will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
Easy Refrigerator Pickles
Use these pickles to top your burger.
Makes 3 cups
- 3 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
- 1 cups thinly sliced sweet onions
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Place cucumbers and onions in a large bowl; set aside.
Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook and stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumber mixture in the bowl; cool.
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. You can, then, transfer the mixture to jars with tight fitting lids and store them in the refrigerator.
Homemade Hot Sauce
Makes 2 cups
- 12 ounces red jalapenos, stems removed but not the seeds and sliced
- 7 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons honey
Wear gloves to clean the peppers and don’t touch your eyes.
In a large jar, combine the sliced chiles (and seeds), garlic, kosher salt and cider vinegar. Screw the lid on and give it a few little shakes to mix. Leave the mixture on the counter overnight.
The next day, pour the contents of the jar into a medium saucepan and add the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir a few times, then lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the stove and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
When cool, pour the mixture into a blender and puree until very smooth (this will take a few minutes). Stop and scrape the sides down a couple of times.
Pour into a jar and store it into the refrigerator for up to one month.
Blue Cheese “Hot Wing” Dip
Makes about 1/1/2 cups
- 4 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened and cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
- 2 tablespoons homemade olive oil mayonnaise (recipe above)
- 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 small garlic clove (or half a large), minced
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (recipe above)
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
- 2 oz good quality crumbled blue cheese
Pulse the first the 10 ingredients in a food processor 4 times or just until blended. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and gently stir in blue cheese.
Cover and chill 1 to 2 hours before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
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The onion or allium family is a large and diverse one containing over 500 species. It has not one, but four possible wild plants it could have evolved from, all of which originally grew in central Asia, according to many archaeologists, botanists and food historians. Because onions are small and their tissues leave little or no trace, there is no conclusive evidence about the exact location and time of their origin.
It is presumed that our predecessors discovered and started eating wild onions very early, long before farming or even writing was invented. Very likely, this humble vegetable was a staple in the prehistoric diet. Since onions grew wild in various regions, they were probably consumed for thousands of years and domesticated simultaneously all over the world.
For over 4000 years, onions were used for medicinal purposes. Egyptians numbered over 8000 onion alleviated ailments and there is documentation which describes the onion’s importance as a food and its use in art, medicine and mummification.
Onions grew in Chinese gardens as early as 5000 years ago and they are referenced in some of the oldest Vedic writings from India. There is evidence that the Sumerians were growing onions as early as 2500 B.C.
Onions may be one of the earliest cultivated crops because they were less perishable than other foods of the time. They were transportable, easy to grow and could be grown in a variety of soils and climates. In addition, the onion was useful for sustaining human life. Onions prevented thirst and could be dried and preserved for later consumption when food might be scarce.
In India as early as the sixth century B.C., the famous medical treatise Charaka – Sanhita celebrates the onion as medicine “…a diuretic, good for digestion, the heart, the eyes and the joints”.
It was the Romans who introduced the onion family to Europe. The Romans ate onions regularly and carried them on journeys to their provinces in England and Germany. Pliny the Elder, wrote of Pompeii’s onions and cabbages before he was overcome and killed by the volcano’s heat and fumes. He cataloged the Roman beliefs about the ability of the onion to cure vision, induce sleep, heal mouth sores, dog bites, toothaches, dysentery and lumbago. Excavators of the destroyed city would later find gardens where, just as Pliny had said, “onions grew”. The bulbs had left behind telltale cavities in the ground.
By the Middle Ages, the three main vegetables of European cooking were beans, cabbage and onions. In addition to serving as a “…food for both the poor and the wealthy…” onions were prescribed to alleviate headaches, snakebites and hair loss. They were also used as rent payments and wedding gifts.
The Greek physician, Hippocrates, prescribed onions as a diuretic, wound healer and pneumonia fighter. Likewise, Dioscorides, another Greek physician noted several medicinal uses of onions. The Greeks used onions to fortify athletes for the Olympic Games. Before competition, athletes would consume pounds of onions, drink onion juice and rub onions on their bodies.
The first Pilgrims brought onions with them on the Mayflower. However, they found that strains of wild onions already grew throughout North America. Native American Indians used wild onions in a variety of ways, eating them raw or cooked, as a seasoning or as a vegetable. Such onions were also used in syrups, poultices, as an ingredient in dyes and even as toys. According to diaries of the colonists, bulb onions were planted as soon as the Pilgrim farmers could clear the land in 1648.
During World War II, the Russian soldiers were so taken with the onion’s ability to prevent infection, that they applied onions to battle wounds as an antiseptic.
And through the ages, there have been countless folk remedies that have ascribed curative powers to the onion, such as putting a sliced onion under your pillow to fight off insomnia.
Yet today, onions are still considered a modern day preventative and healer. Herbalists use the plant for treating such ailments as earaches, hemorrhoids and high blood pressure. While garlic, another allium, has been highly touted as a cancer preventative, most people consume far greater quantities of onions.
There are many varieties of onions, each with a different taste and/or texture. They are generally categorized by two types, green or dry onions. Green onions are ones that are harvested when roots are still very young and stems are green. These onions are typically used as toppings for salads and soups. Dry onions on the other hand are harvested after their shoots have died. These onions are distinguished by a papery shell that must be removed before cooking.
Why Onions Are A Healthy Choice.
The World Health Organization (WHO) supports the use of onions for the treatment of poor appetite and to prevent atherosclerosis. In addition, onion extracts are recognized by WHO for providing relief in the treatment of coughs, asthma and bronchitis. Onions are known to decrease bronchial spasms. An onion extract was found to decrease allergy-induced bronchial constriction in asthma patients.
Onions are a very rich source of fructo-oligosaccharides. These molecules stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria and suppress the growth of potentially harmful bacteria in the colon. In addition, they can reduce the risk of tumors developing in the colon.
Onions contain a number of sulfides similar to those found in garlic, which may lower blood lipids and blood pressure. In India, communities that never consumed onions or garlic had blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels substantially higher and blood clotting times shorter, than the communities that ate liberal amounts of garlic and onions. Onions are a rich source of flavonoids, substances known to provide protection against cardiovascular disease. Onions are also natural anti-clotting agents since they possess substances with fibrinolytic (means the ability to suppress blood clots) activity and can suppress platelet-clumping. The anti-clotting effect of onions closely correlates with their sulfur content.
Onion extracts, rich in a variety of sulfides, provide some protection against tumor growth. In central Georgia, where Vidalia onions are grown, mortality rates from stomach cancer are about one-half the average level for the United States. Studies in Greece have shown a high consumption of onions, garlic and other allium herbs to be protective against stomach cancer.
Here are a few characteristics about the most popular onions.
Leeks are known for tasting like a cross between an onion and garlic. The edible part is the long white stem which is generally cut up and used to make soup and stews .
These onions are of the dry variety and have a purple shell. They are semi-sweet and actually can grow quite large. They do not keep long as their fleshy inside layer is very thin. Raw red onions are popular as toppings for a salad as well as cooked in dishes.
Though commonly thought of as a separate vegetable, shallots are actually part of the onion family. They have a mildly sweet flavor and are grown the same way as garlic. They are slightly more delicate than other onion varieties and are best used in fine, thin sauces.
Vidalia or Walla Walla Onions
The Vidalia is considered the sweetest onion variety. They are rounded with flat bottoms and have a copper-gold, thin skin with milky, white flesh. Their delicate sweetness can be attributed to a mild climate, sandy, low sulfur soil, selective seed varieties and farming practices.
Scallions are another green onion known for their mild taste and decorative appeal. The stems are the edible part and are usually diced up in a vegetable medley for seafood and meat dishes.
Yellow Onions are the most common onion characterized by a brown shell and white fleshy insides. These onions have a strong, sharp flavor and its taste cuts through when used with multiple ingredients.
These onions have a white skin. They have a strong flavored flesh that is usually used in Mexican recipes. These can be sauteed to a deep brown color. They are great in recipes that require a sweet and sour flavor.
These onions are a small-sized variety, that are also called baby onions. They are sweeter than bulb onions and are often used in casseroles.
This is a sweet onion that is not very pungent when compared to other varieties. It is a big onion that has white flesh and a mild flavor. It is often used as a condiment on hamburgers.
Boiling onions are good storage onions. They have a very thin skin and this makes them a favorite ingredient in stew recipes.
Cipollini are small onions that originated in Cipolla, Italy. They have a very rich and sweet taste with a high sugar content. They tend to be as small as a ping-pong ball and have a flat top. They are used in baking dishes, such as roast chicken and roast pork.
Also known as tree onions or walking onions and they grow as a cluster of bulblets. The name “Walking Onion” was given to this plant because it literally walks to new locations. When the cluster of topsets becomes heavy enough, it will pull the plant over to the ground. They have a strong flavor and have a tough skin. They are elongated in shape and look similar to scallions.
Green onions are small varieties that are harvested when the shoots are still green. They are often confused with scallions but are thinner. These are used as toppings for many uncooked dishes.
Pickling onions are usually thin layered and small. They are similar to pearl onions but a little larger, yet a little smaller than boiling onions. Pickled onions have a very pungent flavor.
These are long storage varieties that come in yellow, white and red colors. Each variety has a distinct taste and flavor.
They are also known as summer onions. They come in three different varieties red, yellow and white. They are very thin-skinned and light in color. They have a high water and sugar content. They are usually used for salads and recipes that do not require long cooking.
This North American native spring onion is edible in its entirety, from the tops of its lily of the valley looking leaves and stems, all the way down to the bulb. Eaten raw, a ramp tastes strong and more like garlic than scallion, but if cooked, its flavor turns mildly sweet. They are also used in salads.
Some New Ways To Use Onions:
Homemade Beer-Spring Onion Mustard
Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
- 3 tablespoons safflower canola oil
- 2 1/2 pounds thinly sliced Vidalia onions
- 1/2 cup mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 1 cup pale ale
Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat. Reduce heat to medium. Cook onions, stirring often, until very soft, about 30 minutes. Stir in mustard powder, salt, and turmeric. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Stir in cider vinegar and raise heat to high. Add pale ale, and cook, stirring often, until mixture is thick, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely.
Baked Onion Rings
Cornflakes and a hot sheet pan are the secrets to the crispiness of these onion rings.
- 1 1/2 cups cornflakes
- 1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, sliced crosswise and broken into rings (discard small center rings)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
In a food processor, pulse cornflakes and breadcrumbs until fine crumbs form, then transfer to a medium bowl.
In another medium bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, flour and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper.
Dip onion rings in egg mixture (letting excess drip off) and dredge in cornflake mixture; place on a large plate.
Pour oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and heat 2 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and tilt to coat evenly with oil.
Arrange onion rings on sheet. Bake, turning once, until onion rings are golden brown, about 16 minutes. Season with salt.
Use as a topping for bruschetta. This sauce is also very good on a hamburger. You can skip the ketchup.
Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
- 4 plum tomatoes (about 3/4 pound), halved lengthwise and seeded
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 3 thyme sprigs
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Spanish onion (about 3/4 pound), quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil
Heat oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and spread tomatoes cut side up on baking sheet. Season with sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Scatter thyme and garlic on top, and oven-dry for 4 hours.
Meanwhile, in a medium saute pan, heat olive oil. Add onion and season with salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until very tender and golden brown, about 35 minutes.
Cool tomatoes, then peel and place on a cutting board. Finely chop tomatoes with cooked garlic. Place in a bowl. Pull oven-dried thyme leaves off their stems and add to the tomatoes; discard stems. Add sun-dried tomatoes, onion and basil to bowl and combine. Taste compote and add salt and pepper if needed.
Yield: About 1 1/2 cups.
Caramelized Onion Jam
Use as an appetizer with Brie or other soft cheese and serve with crisp crackers or crostini.
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 large onions, sliced
- 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup brown malt vinegar
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
Heat butter in large pan, add onions and cook gently for 20 to 30 minutes until onions are very soft and lightly browned. Add sugar, stir to melt sugar, simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until mixture is thick and caramelized. Add vinegar and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes until thickened slightly. Stir in the rosemary.
Sausage-Stuffed Red Onions
- 8 small-to-medium red onions
- Coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage
- 1/3 cup grated tart green apple, such as Granny Smith
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
- 3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese (3 ounces)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice off a thin layer from the tops and bottoms of the onions, leaving at least a 2-inch diameter exposed at the top. Scoop out the inside of each onion (about halfway down) using a melon scoop or a grapefruit spoon. Season insides with salt. Transfer onions to a baking dish, and cover with parchment, then foil. Bake until just starting to soften, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Crumble sausage into skillet, and cook, stirring, until almost cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add apple and fennel seeds, and cook until sausage is no longer pink, about 2 minutes.
Drain sausage mixture. Finely chop the sausage mixture and place in a mixing bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs, parsley, sage and 1/4 cup Gruyere. Let cool.
Fill onions with stuffing (about 3 tablespoons each), then top with remaining 1/2 cup Gruyere. Bake until tops are crisp and brown, about 20 minutes more.
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