From my years of cooking, I have found you can never have too many interesting sauce ideas. They are the important finishing touch to so many quick meals. Whether I'm cooking calamari or lamb chops on the barbecue, or poaching salmon in my kitchen, the sauce I finish off the dish with is what people always comment on.
When choosing a sauce, think of what you need to balance the main ingredient. A rich, juicy pork cutlet is lightened by a herby, refreshing green sauce. Eggplant goes well with an interesting take on pesto that is popular in Sicily, with their love of almonds, ricotta and chilli.
This pesto can also be folded through warm pasta, used to top grilled prawns or smeared over pan-fried chicken breast.
The chilli, almond and pecorino flavours come alive when they mingle with the warm chicken - the smell of herbs and garlic is amazing. Serve the pesto on grilled eggplant for a quick and delicious meal with a small green salad.
SICILIAN PESTO AND GRILLED EGGPLANT
1/2 bunch basil
1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley
100g almonds, blanched and toasted
1 garlic clove
1/4 mild green chilli, seeds included
100g fresh ricotta
50g grated pecorino
250ml olive oil
2 medium eggplants
Salt and pepper
Place herbs, almonds, garlic and chilli in a food processor and pulse to a fine crumb. Add cheeses then add enough oil to make a smooth, thick sauce. Slice eggplants in half lengthways, then each half into 4 long wedges.
Sprinkle salt over eggplant and leave for 15 minutes, then rinse and dry. Preheat grill, season eggplant and brush with oil, then grill until golden and cooked. Serve warm with pesto. Leftover pesto will keep in the fridge for a week.
Makes about 500ml pesto
MOJO VERDE (SPANISH GREEN SAUCE) WITH PORK CUTLET
2 large handfuls flat-leaf parsley, including stalks
3 garlic cloves
100ml white wine vinegar
150ml extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
Salt and pepper
4 pork cutlets
Remove and discard the ends of the parsley stalks and roughly chop remaining stalks and leaves. Put parsley and garlic in a food processor, blend and add a couple of tablespoons each of vinegar and oil.
Continue blending and slowly add remaining vinegar and oil. Add cumin. Season to taste with a pinch or two of salt.
Preheat grill, season pork cutlets and grill until medium or slightly firm when squeezed with a pair of tongs, about 5 minutes each side, depending on the thickness.
Rest in a warm place for 4 minutes before serving on a warm plate. Serve with mojo verde and a green salad.
Makes about 300ml, enough for 4 cutlets