Plate and bowl by Jim Shack. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
This simple Puerto Rican dipping sauce is traditionally served with fritters like tostones fried green plantains or sorullitos de maiz corn fritters.
Why do I call it “The Secret Dipping Sauce”? Well, many years ago I was serving tostones and, to Scott’s disappointment, I didn’t serve it with the sauce. Not knowing the name of the sauce, he asked for “the secret sauce” and the name stuck.
The dipping sauce is so simple that I’m not sure there is an actual name for it. In Puerto Rico we might just call it salsita (sauce). It’s a basic sauce of mayonnaise and ketchup, you can vary the proportions to taste. I always like it with a few shakes of Tabasco sauce and garnished with a sprinkling of paprika, but you can play with the basic ingredients and make your own variation.
Secret Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
Tabasco sauce or 1/4 teaspoon finely minced garlic (optional)
1. Make the sauce by stirring the mayonnaise and ketchup until combined. Add optional Tabasco or minced garlic to taste. Serve cold.
Scott has been making spectacular sauces since we first met. The first time he cooked dinner for me, he served spaghetti topped with a rustic sauce made of fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers and other fresh veggies. The dinner was served in dishes he handcrafted just for that occasion. We’ve been together many years now and he still impresses me with his sauces and handcrafted ceramics.
The sauce I share with you today is the latest incarnation of his basic tomato sauce. A few weeks ago he served it. The sauce was so good that I asked him to teach me how to make it. Once you try a sauce like this, you will never want to go back to jar pasta sauce. It’s simple, super fresh, delicious and only takes about fifteen minutes to prepare. All you need to have at home are some fresh tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil.
Simple Tomato Sauce
6 plum tomatoes, blanched, de-seeded, peeled and chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
1. Heat a medium iron skillet at medium-low heat until the oil starts to gently ripple. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Do not overcook the garlic or allow it to turn brown.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes, basil and thyme. Stir and cook briefly until the sauce starts to bubble and turn it down to a slow simmer for 5 more minutes. Add salt to taste and remove from heat.
Makes 3 servings.
This recipe was inspired by an epicurious recipe: Catfish in Spicy Tomato Sauce. I found this sauce delicious, easy to make and versatile. It would be a wonderful base for vegetables, fish, poultry, or pork. In my opinion, the flavor of the catfish did not go well with this particular sauce, but lighter flavored fish like tilapia and haddock would work well. The original recipe calls for canned tomatoes, but i find the fresh stuff is so much better. Serve it with corn tortillas, tamales or even polenta. Even though this is not a true mole (which is an art form and takes hours to make), the flavors are reminiscent of mole.
6 tomatoes, blanched, de-seeded, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1. Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, spices, and 3/4 teaspoon salt, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Add chopped fresh tomatoes; coarsely crush tomatoes with fork or potato masher. Add sugar and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 12 minutes.
Makes 2 cups.