Saucier Chicken And Fish

Posted: March 29, 1989

With many people trying to eat light these days, chicken and fish have become menu mainstays. That's good. But many of those people just keep grilling that fish and chicken, serving them unadorned in the name of calorie- counting. They have become boring. That part's bad.

Take a cue from restaurateurs, who earn their living perking up ordinary foods. Enliven fish and chicken with simple fresh vinaigrettes, salsas, cold sauces or whatever you call them.

Tomato Basil Vinaigrette, chef Wolfgang Puck's creation, is served with grilled fresh tuna and has been on Spago's menu since the Los Angeles restaurant opened. It's really not difficult to prepare with fresh basil, tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil and garlic. If you're watching calories, cut back on the oil, and if you're partial to basil, it won't hurt to use more than the recipe calls for. This vinaigrette is great served with grilled swordfish, halibut and salmon, as well as with grilled chicken breasts.

The next two recipes contain cucumbers, which offer a refreshing flavor in tandem with fish or chicken. The Cucumber Yogurt Dill Sauce couldn't be easier to make, needing only a carton of plain low-fat yogurt, dried dill weed, chopped cucumbers and a little dry Ranch House dressing mix for added flavor interest. The Tomato Cucumber Salsa, from Diane Worthington's cookbook The Taste of Summer, has a Mexican twist with cilantro and jalapeno chili in combination with chopped tomatoes and cucumber. The author suggests trying it with grilled seafood or as a dip with tortilla chips.

For a salsa with an Asian twist, try Thai Tomato Salsa, adapted from a recipe gleaned from Mustard's Grill in Yountville, Calif. It's not only fresh and interesting tasting, it will jazz up any grilled or broiled fish or chicken.

With a little imagination, any of these recipes can be varied to suit your tastes, your mood and the food you might have on hand. Feel free to improvise.


3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon good red or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

2 medium shallots, minced

6 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

2 cloves garlic, blanched and cut into julienne strips

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Taste carefully and correct seasonings.

Serve with grilled tuna, salmon or swordfish. Makes enough for four servings.


8 ounces plain lowfat yogurt

1 to 2 tablespoons dry Ranch House dressing mix

1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber

1 teaspoon dried dill weed

Combine all ingredients in small bowl, mixing well. Keep refrigerated. Use sauce to top grilled fish or chicken, or serve with meat-filled pita sandwiches. Makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce.


2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

1/2 cup peeled, seeded and finely chopped cucumber

1 medium jalapeno chili, seeded and finely chopped (see note)

1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and mix well. Taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate. Serve on grilled seafood or as a dip for tortilla chips. Makes 2 1/2 cups. May be kept up to three days in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

Note: When working with chilies, always wear rubber gloves. Wash the cutting surface and knife immediately afterward. Canned jalapeno chilies may be used if fresh are not available. If using the canned variety, omit the lemon juice. Canned diced green chilies also can be substituted for jalapenos; use three to four tablespoons, or more, to taste.


2 scallions, cleaned and 3 inches of green left on and slivered lengthwise

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 large bunches cilantro, leaves removed and finely minced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

1/4 cup slivered fresh basil leaves

4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch dice

1/4 cup peeled and diced purple onion ( 1/8-inch dice)

1 1/2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh gingerroot

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and white pepper to taste

In a small bowl, soak scallions in lemon juice for 30 minutes. Drain; reserve half of lemon juice. Mince scallions. In a medium bowl, combine scallions, reserved lemon juice and remaining ingredients. Mix together well.

Serve over grilled or broiled fish or chicken. Makes six to eight servings.

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