I come from a culture that eats pickles and chutneys at every meal. As we snacked on samosas that I served with coriander chutney, A. voiced her curiosity about the difference between these two condiments. Chutney is a spiced condiment made with fresh herbs that are crushed in a mortar and pestle and usually eaten immediately. Indian pickles are made with fresh fruits and vegetables that are picked at their prime and preserved (with lemon, tamarind, or vinegar) to be enjoyed well past the fruit’s season. As I explained the difference, I realized that relish, chutney, and pickles are different names for seasoned sauces. They all fit under the broader term of condiments.
Condiments balance out a meal’s bitter, hot, salty, sour, or sweet aspects. Sometimes, as in a salad dressing, they aid in bringing together disparate flavors of bitter greens, juicy tomato, and creamy avocado. Often, as in the case of mustard and coriander chutney, they add pungency that cuts into fatty sausage or spices up a samosa (a potato-filled pastry). Condiments in each culture may look different, but I am amazed at similarities in techniques that were used (such as the mortar and pestle to crush and release flavors), and the principal ingredients (like herbs and spices).
As I gathered the last of my basil and coriander from the garden, it was their fragrance that inspired me to make three enduring condiments: Pesto, Coriander Chutney, and Pico de Gallo. While cooking, the aromatic scent of crushed leaves and the texture of coriander chutney reminded me of pesto — before I had even made it!
Basil – 4 cups
Garlic cloves – 4
Pine nuts – 1 cup
Olive oil – ¾ cup
Parmesan-Reggiano cheese – 1 cup
Salt and pepper – 1 tsp. each
- Wash the basil and drain well. Remove the stalks.
- In a food processor, mince the garlic, pine nuts, and cheese.
- Keeping the food processor running, add the basil leaves and oil.
- Stop intermittently to push the contents from the sides of the processor. Process until you have a grainy, semi-liquid paste.
- Season with salt and pepper.
Pesto can be mixed in with fresh pasta or used as a salad dressing.
Coriander (Cilantro) Chutney
Coriander – 1 bunch
Jalapeno (Serrano) – 2
Lemon juice – from 1 lemon
Ginger – 1-inch
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Red onion – ¼
Vegetable oil – 1 tsp
Sugar – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
- Wash the coriander and drain well. Remove the thick stalks.
- Process the jalapeno, ginger, cumin, and red onion in a food processor.
- Stop intermittently to push the contents from the sides of the processor.
- Add the coriander and oil and continue processing, until you have a semi-liquid paste.
- Add the lemon juice, sugar, and salt. Taste and adjust to balance the salt-sour-sweet flavors. Refrigerate.
Coriander chutney can be eaten with samosas and other snacks. It can be spread, like butter, on bread and served with thinly sliced tomatoes.
Pico de Gallo
Juicy, heirloom tomatoes – 3, chopped
Garlic cloves – 3, chopped finely
Red onion – ½, chopped finely
Cilantro (Coriander) leaves – ¼ bunch, roughly chopped
Jalapeno – ½, chopped finely
Lemon juice – from ½ a lemon
Salt — 1 tsp
Cumin – ½ tsp. (optional)
- Mix all the chopped ingredients in a large bowl.
- Add the lemon juice and salt.
- Refrigerate until needed.
This Mexican salsa, without avocado, is an easy side salad that works with meat or fish-based main dishes.