Sauce Tricks

In warm weather, easy weekday meals based on fresh and colorful sauces become a standard. They are not complex, yet they add great flavor without much effort or many calories.

My favorite sauces for savory dishes are a fresh pineapple salsa on seafood, poultry and pork, and a tomato, red onion and caper sauce for pasta. For desserts, a versatile strawberry sauce with balsamic vinegar and orange zest always does the trick.

Mandel's latest book is "Celebrating the Midwestern Table" (Doubleday & Co., 1996).


1/2 pineapple

1 jalapeno, partially seeded and minced

1/3 cup finely diced red bell pepper

1/3 cup thinly sliced small green onions

1/3 cup lime juice

2 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons chopped cilantro

Pinch salt

Peel and core pineapple, then cut into small dice.

Put pineapple, jalapeno, bell pepper, green onion, lime juice, honey, cilantro and salt in 1-quart bowl and toss well to mix. (Salsa may be made several hours ahead and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature and drain off some of excess liquid before using.)

6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings:

39 calories; 31 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.41 gram fiber.


4 to 5 ounces pennette pasta

Olive oil

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 large tomato, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon capers

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons sliced basil leaves

Cook pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until tender but firm, 10 to 12 minutes, or according to package directions. Drain, rinse and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil and Parmesan.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. When hot, add onions and stir-fry until edges are scorched, about 1 minute. Add tomato, vinegar, capers, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes, stirring well. Cook until heated through, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Toss with pasta. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

2 servings. Each serving:

385 calories; 451 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 52 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 1.36 grams fiber.


4 teaspoons grated orange zest

1/2 cup sugar, or less if strawberries are very sweet

2 pints strawberries, hulled

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Process orange zest and sugar in food processor until mixed. Remove 3 tablespoons and set aside.

Puree 1 pint strawberries with remaining sugar zest in food processor. Pour into saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Slice remaining 1 pint strawberries into bowl and add reserved 3 tablespoons sugar zest and vinegar. Gently toss. Let rest at room temperature until sugar is dissolved and mixture is juicy, about 15 minutes. Fold into cooled sauce. (Sauce can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated. Let rest at room temperature 15 minutes before using.)

6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings:

73 calories; 1 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.42 gram fiber.

* Frosted dishes from Williams-Sonoma, Pasadena.

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