On the power of having a tub of tzatziki next to your grill
Sauce is the sauce of life. It adds depth to a good meal, complements or contrasts spices, and can sometimes be a meal in itself. And when it comes to vegetarian grilling, the right sauce or condiment can rescue even the saddest, floppiest veggie skewer. If you’re grilling, here, according to the experts, are the sauces you should have around.
Ok, by “expert” here we mean me, but my summer grilling would fall apart without a tub of tzatziki, which I make by stirring grated cucumbers, lemon juice, grated garlic, salt, and pepper directly into a container of Greek yogurt. The bite of the raw garlic livens things up if I’ve decided to go light with the seasoning on the vegetables, but the yogurt also cools and balances flavors if I’ve gone heavy on hot spices. Alterternatively, you can just eat tzatziki with a bunch of grilled pita. She really is that girl.
“Anything that’s simple and bright is good,” says Eli Goldman, the owner of Tikkun BBQ in Astoria, Queens. For him, that means pickled onions. Or honestly, pickled anything. Thinly sliced carrots and radishes also work, as do scallions, peppers, or a whole scoop of giardiniera. Making a quick pickle of red onions is as easy as adding them to a bath of salt, sugar, and apple cider vinegar for a few minutes, but Goldman says it’s also an opportunity to layer on even more flavor. “You can toast mustard seeds and sichuan peppercorns and add it to the pickling juice,” he says. “That sweetness and sourness adds a lot of vibrancy to vegetarian food.”
Chimichurri may be best known as a sauce for steak, but Goldman says he also likes to use it to dress up grilled squash and broccoli rabe, as its brightness and heat work equally well for rich, sweet vegetables and bitter ones. You could also stir it into Greek yogurt to make a creamier sauce, and even serve them side by side.
“I have three restaurants now, and I use ranch at all of them,” says Greg Baxtrom of Brooklyn’s Olmsted, Maison Yaki, and Patti Ann’s. The reason is simple, he adds: “People like ranch.” You can’t go wrong with buttermilk and spices mixed into mayo, and once again you can get creative with it, adding kimchi or ajvar or any other seasonings. Or you can just go with a bottle of Hidden Valley. No one will complain.
Whatever sauce you choose to use, serve it with at least one other sauce. Baxtrom says his move is accompanying a ton of vegetables with a ton of sauces, and letting people mix and match to their heart’s content. “Having two different sauces is genuinely interesting,” he says, and allows for creations you may have never thought of before. Black vinegar and tartar? Ketchup and mango chutney? Sure, why not?