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Bittman’s guide to 5-minute drizzle sauces

New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, author of "How to Cook Everything," shares his simple recipes to add a splash of spice and sizzle to pasta, fish and chicken dishes.
/ Source: TODAY recipes

Nothing could be easier or more versatile. All you have to do is boil some pasta or rice or broil a piece of chicken or fish, then get this going while it cooks. I’ll start you off with the base recipe — a kind of warm vinaigrette — and a handful of variations, but no doubt you’ll soon come up with even more ideas.

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, or lemongrass
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or mild vinegar, like balsamic
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the oil or butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is warm or the butter is melted, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens (turn the heat down if it starts to color), a minute or two.

2. Stir in 2 tablespoons water and the lemon juice and sprinkle with some salt and pepper; maintain the heat so it bubbles gently for a minute or two. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.

Spiced Five-Minute Drizzle Sauce
Along with the onion or other aromatic, add a pinch of any spice (such as ground cumin, coriander, or saffron) or spice blend like chili powder or curry powder, or a small cinnamon stick or piece of vanilla bean.

Herbed Five-Minute Drizzle SauceJust before serving, stir in some chopped fresh herbs: 2 tablespoons of milder herbs like parsley, basil, chives, cilantro, or mint or 2 teaspoons of more potent herbs like rosemary, tarragon, sage, or oregano.

Fiery Five-Minute Drizzle SauceAlong with the onion or other aromatic, add 1 tablespoon minced fresh chile (like jalapeño or Thai) or a whole dried chile (chipotle is wonderful; whatever you use, remove it before serving) or a sprinkle of hot red pepper flakes or cayenne.

Sesame-Soy Five-Minute Drizzle SauceReplace the olive oil with 2 tablespoons each of dark sesame and peanut oil; replace the lemon juice with soy sauce. Along with the onion or other aromatic, add 1 tablespoon sesame seeds or finely chopped peanuts if you like. Finish by adding 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves just before using if desired.

Miso Five-Minute Drizzle SauceScrap the whole main recipe and do this: Combine 1/2 cup miso, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup mirin (or 2 tablespoons honey mixed with 2 tablespoons water) or sake (white wine or even water is okay too) in a small saucepan. Bring almost to a boil to dissolve the sugar, then just keep warm until ready to serve.

Ten-Minute Juicy Drizzle SauceAlmost any high-quality juice works here — try carrot, tomato, orange, or pomegranate, for example. Omit the lemon juice and water. In Step 2, stir in 1 cup fruit or vegetable juice instead. Bring the mixture to a boil and adjust the heat so it bubbles steadily. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the juice reduces by half and thickens almost to a syrup, about 5 minutes. Add herbs (see the first variation) if you like and serve.

Best-selling cookbook author Mark Bittman is the creator and author of the popular New York Times weekly column “The Minimalist,” and one of the country's best-known and most widely admired food writers. His flagship book, “How to Cook Everything” (John Wiley and Sons, 1998), is currently in its 14th printing and has, in its various formats, sold more than a million copies.