Sunday, July 27, 2008

SaucyScheming: Sesame Peanut Sauce

One of the things I most enjoy about developing cooking skills is having the ability to tailor good foods to various needs and preferences. I've got lactose-free alternatives for myself, low-saturated-fat options for those watching cholesterol, vegetarian recipes and locales, sugar-free opportunities, gluten-free baking, kosher dishes - and I'm sure the list will continue to grow. I'm on a long-term quest to understand how foods work so that I can create tasty and visually pleasing food experiences that hopefully remain faithful to the qualities of the natural foods AND permit my friends to forget that they are having to eat carefully. Not everything I make is healthy, of course, but I'm shooting for a good mix of healthy and decadent!

This sesame peanut sauce is one that I see fitting all the categories above: no dairy, no gluten, no sugar if desired, vegetarian (vegan, even!), low-fat - and VERY tasty! It is versatile; I put it on a noodle dish and on a stir fry, but it could be thinned or thickened to be a dipping sauce for tofu, a marinade for chicken, or whatever else you want it to be. It's easy to halve or double, and once you have the ingredients on hand you may want to make it regularly (as I did this past week). I discovered this recipe in The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, a much-loved book full of quality basic recipes and cooking techniques, including reviews of food brands and cookwares that go along with the recipes. Costco is a great source for these cookbooks, so keep an eye out for them whenever you're there.

All you need is a food processor or blender and you're set to go:

Sesame Peanut Sauce (from Cold Sesame Noodles recipe in ATKFC, p. 78)

5 T sesame seeds
5 T soy sauce (sub. light soy sauce to reduce sodium)
1/4 C chunky or creamy peanut butter (sub. Better than Peanut Butter to reduce fat)
2 T rice vinegar
2 T light brown sugar or Splenda brown sugar
1 T grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Tabasco
1/2 C hot water

Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Purée the sesame seeds with the soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, sugar, ginger, garlic, and Tabasco in blender or food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the hot water, 1 T at a time, until the sauce has the consistency you desire (you may not need all the water).

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