There’s the fantasy: cooking a party spread for friends, or even just dinner on any given night. And then there’s the reality: getting home late because of traffic or meetings that run long, or simply losing the motivation to make a whole meal from scratch because of the overwhelming desire to lie on the grass (or the couch) a little while longer. When that happens, a fridge filled with homemade sauces offers the promise of a nearly effortless meal.
The quickest way to dishes that thrill with big flavor is to dollop, spread or drizzle any of the options that follow on main ingredients that require minimal to no prep: Pull out leftovers; buy a rotisserie chicken; slice a block of tofu; cook eggs or noodles or both; season vegetables, seafood or meat with only oil and salt, then grill, roast or sear. And yes, you can also just grab a bag of chips and start dipping. This collection of sauces, with contributions from Melissa Clark, Eric Kim, Genevieve Ko and Yewande Komolafe, has a recipe for just about every occasion.
Though many of these formulas start with basics like ketchup, soy sauce and mayonnaise, they taste fresh and can — and should — be customized to your taste. Or stick to the recipe. Part of the appeal here is not having to figure out exactly what to cook: Make anything and slather it with sauce. That will leave you with the time (and energy) to hang out with guests and relax with family.
Green | Salty-Sweet | Chile | Tangy | Creamy | Sweet
Melissa Clark grew up with a steady stash of green sauce in her fridge all summer, ready to be tossed with anything for instant dinners. It was how her mother used up wilting herbs, she said: “Everything green and droopy could find a place in her sauce jar — and still does.” Here, Ms. Clark carries on the family tradition, blending herbs into mixes that highlight their summery freshness.