Turning Fresh Herbs Into Simple Summer Sauces

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Summer is here, and with it, an abundance of fresh vegetables and herbs, perfect for making simple homemade sauces.

The word sauce "scares people," says Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst. "I think people envision French chefs whisking butter... and heavy cream being reduced and Béarnaise. Well no, it's summer, we are eating lighter, we are grilling, we're eating out of the garden, we're eating out of farmer's markets. The idea of a summer sauce is that it is very simple, it uses only seasonal ingredients and it enlivens all these simple foods that we rely on in the summer."

Kathy Gunst shares seven of her favorite summer sauce recipes with host Robin Young:

  1. Green Sauce
  2. Garlic Scape and Pistachio Pesto
  3. Peanut Butter Sesame Sauce with Cilantro
  4. Cold Sesame Noodles
  5. Maple and Chile BBQ Sauce
  6. Summer Salsa
  7. Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
See more cooking segments and recipes from Kathy Gunst here.

Green Sauce

(View/print a PDF of all of the summer sauce recipes)

Kathy’s Note: This is like an Argentinian chimichurri sauce, chock full of garden fresh parsley, scallions, chives, basil and capers. Serve it alongside grilled meats, poultry or seafood. It makes a great dip with pita bread and grilled shrimp. Try it on a cheese or roast beef sandwich. The sauce will only keep it vibrancy for about a day.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 cups packed parsley leaves
3 scallions, white and green, chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh chives
3 1/2 ounces nonpareil capers, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup olive oil plus 1 tablespoon

In the container of a food processor or blender, pulse the parsley and scallions until chopped. Add the chives and basil and pulse another 6 times. Add the capers and pulse again until the sauce is quite thick but not fully blended. Add a very light touch of salt and a good amount of pepper and pulse again. Add the oil and pulse a few times more until the sauce is thick and chunky— a coarsely chopped very green sauce.

Garlic Scape and Pistachio Pesto

Kathy’s Note: Garlic scapes are the shoots that grow on garlic plants in late June/early July (depending on where you’re growing garlic). They are literally the “flower stalks” of hard neck garlic plants and they are delicious to cook with. I like to sauté them or grill them and serve with grilled meats, seafood, poultry. This garlic pesto has a gorgeous avocado green and can be tossed with your favorite pasta shape, spooned onto grilled chicken, served as a dip, drizzled over a grilled steak, as a dip with kebobs and more. It takes about ten minutes to make and will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days or frozen for 6 months.

Ingredients for "Garlic Scape and Pistachio Pesto." (Kathy Gunst)
Ingredients for "Garlic Scape and Pistachio Pesto." (Kathy Gunst)

Makes about 2 cups

4 ounces garlic scapes (look for them at farmer’s markets), about 14 large scales
1 cup olive oil, plus about 1 1/2 tablespoons
1/2 cup shelled salted pistachios
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (easy on the salt since the nuts are salted)
1/2 packed cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Place the scapes in the container of a food processor and pulse about 10 times, until finely chopped. Add the 1 cup oil and the pistachios and pulse until thick and chunky. Season to taste. Add the cheese and stir.

Place the pesto in a 2 cup glass jar and cover the top of the pesto with the 1 1/2 tablespoon of oil to keep it from discoloring. Seal tightly and refrigerate.

Peanut Butter Sesame Sauce with Cilantro

Kathy’s Note: This is a peanut-butter based slightly spicy sauce perfect for Cold Sesame Noodles (toss with 1 pound udon noodles and top with chopped cucumber, sesame seeds and chopped fresh cilantro). You can also use this as a dipping sauce for grilled chicken or meat or seafood kebobs. Or serve as a dip for cooked shrimp or raw vegetables or summer rolls.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce 

1 cup unsalted smooth or chunky peanut butter
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese chili paste or hot pepper sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup (very warm but not boiling) water
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
1/4 cup room temperature tahini

In a medium bowl mix the peanut butter with the tahini, scallions, ginger, garlic and chili paste. Add the vinegar, and water stirring to create a somewhat thick sauce. Add the sesame oil and soy sauce and the cilantro leaves and stems. Taste for seasoning adding more chili paste if needed. If the sauce is too thick add a bit more warm water. If too thin add more scallions.

Cold Sesame Noodles

Kathy’s Note: This favorite Chinese cold pasta dish is simple to make if you make the sauce ahead of time. Don’t toss the noodles with the sauce until about 2 hours before serving.

"Cold Sesame Noodles" are a perfect summer dish. (Kathy Gunst)
"Cold Sesame Noodles" are a perfect summer dish. (Kathy Gunst)

Serves 2 to 4

1/2 pound udon noodles
Pinch salt
About 1 cup Sesame Sauce with Cilantro (above)
1 cucumber, peeled cut in half and then into small pieces
1/2 cup peanuts
Sprinkling fresh chopped cilantro

Bring a large pot lightly salted water to boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook until almost tender. Drain and rinse under cold running water until completely cool. Drain again.

Toss the noodles with the Sesame Sauce making sure to coat all the noodles. Place in the center of a plate or bowl and surround with the cucumber slices. Sprinkle the peanuts and cilantro in the center.

Maple and Chile BBQ Sauce

Kathy’s Note: This dark sauce is a nice balance of sweet, spicy, and sour. Brush on ribs, burgers, chicken or serve as a condiment with any grilled food.

Makes about 1 cup

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Chinese chili paste, or hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup medium or dark maple syrup
1 cup ketchup
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan heat the oil over moderate heat.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 4 minute. Stir in the chili paste and cook 5 seconds. Add the soy sauce and vinegar and then stir in the vinegar and ketchup, stirring to create a smooth sauce. Let cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until thickened.  Let cool. The sauce will keep for about 4 days in a covered jar in the refrigerator.

Summer Salsa

Kathy’s Note: You can use any type of tomato you like for this salsa — heirloom varieties, yellow, red, green— and the more varieties you use the better.

Makes about 2 cups

4 large ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 small green or red pepper, cored and chopped
1 scallion, finely chopped, white and green
3 tablespoons chopped red onion
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 small limes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot pepper sauce, to taste or 1/2 small jalapeño, chopped and seeded

In a medium bowl, gently toss the tomatoes, peppers, scallion, red onion, cilantro and lime juice. Add the oil, salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste. Serve within an hour or two.

Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

Kathy’s Note: This is a thoroughly refreshing summer sauce based on the Indian sauce called Raita. You can serve it with virtually anything or eat it on its own for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I love serving it with spicy grilled chicken, seafood dishes and as a dip.

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients/Instructions: Mix 1 cup plain low fat yogurt with 1 cup grated cucumbers, 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, 1/4 cup chopped fresh scallions, salt, pepper, and a splash of hot pepper sauce. You can also add 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds. Will keep for about 2 days.

This segment aired on July 8, 2014.


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