What’s Cara Cooking? Summer Sauces!

What’s Cara Cooking? Summer Sauces!

My daughter is imploring me to write a cookbook. Maybe, if I ever retire, I will. The problem is, I can rarely recreate the same meal twice, as each dish is inspired by ingredients of the moment. Having a full pantry helps. Having a CSA or farmers market is also a source of inspiration. Finding a bottle of pomegranate molasses might lead me on a journey that results in dinner. Often, I write about the intersection of food, nutrition and Chinese medicine. Right now, I’m just focused on delicious. The lovely Samin Nosrat wrote of the best salad in the world. It’s magic ingredient is water. But it’s fussy. I did it. I’m not sure I see myself blanching shallots again. But I appreciated the precision and the technique. 

Summer’s here and in our house, that means two things: Grilling and lobster. We don’t own a beach house, but we are fortunate that we can get to the shore in a little over an hour from our house in Philadelphia. My husband and I work incredibly hard. A few hours at the beach is incredibly restorative. When we leave, we drive to a seafood store and we pick up lobsters. When we get home, I prepare the simplest of feasts with less than 8 ingredients all in all.

I always ask for female lobsters because I like to eat the roe. Lobsters have been a life-long special treat. My step-mother taught me to eat them. By eat- I mean literally ALL of it! everything but the shell. When we cook them, I feel her presence around me, and it fills me with warmth. 

Guess what? They’re pretty nutritious. Lobsters are excellent sources of selenium and also contain omega-3 fatty acids. Selenium is a key nutrient for healthy thyroid function. (see my blog Take 2 Nuts and Call me in the Morning for more info on this). They also contain a good amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for brain and mood health. No wonder I feel joyful when I eat them. As far as the roe is concerned: Most fish roe is high in protein, b-vitamins (especially B12). Lobster roe- and all fish roe is one of the few food sources of Vitamin D!

If you keep kosher, or have a shellfish allergy, no worries! – this would be lovely on fish, tofu, meat. 

I like to boil new potatoes, corn on the cob and green beans (this year from my garden!). Bonus points for a ripe heirloom tomato. 

A few summers back, I decided it was going to be the summer of aioli. I was going to make it every week and eat it on everything. Now, every summer in my house is the summer of aioli. What is it? It’s a garlicky mayonnaise sauce that only takes a couple of minutes to make in the food processor. 

There’s no comparison to whatever it is that comes from a jar. I don’t even really eat that. But when made with organic olive oil, fresh garlic lemon juice and salt- it’s transcendent and we put it on everything. 

Homemade Aioli 


1 egg yolk

juice from ½ lemon or to taste

healthy pinch of salt

2-5 garlic cloves- it’s up to you!

Whizz this in either a blender or, I have a mini-prep Cuisinart that’s perfect. There are little holes in the top that drips the oil in at just the right speed to prevent it from breaking

Little by little, add ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil. If the sauce is too tight, add 1-2 tablespoonfuls of water. Check for salt. Add pepper if you like and serve! On everything. Even the lobster. Yummy and healthier than all that butter. 

We also grill a lot. It’s pretty much always the same meal: a protein and many veggies: potatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions. Right now, we’re into grilling carrots and those Japanese purple sweet potatoes. We also like to grill bread or pizza dough. 

This year, I decided it was the year of Chimichurri, an herbaceous green sauce that’s adaptable based on what herbs are around. The basis of course, is parsley and cilantro. I read about it in Bon Appetit Magazine and it sparked this year’s obsession. Here’s their recipe: 


1 shallot, finely chopped

1 Fresno chile or red jalapeño, finely chopped

3–4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped

½ cup red wine vinegar

1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more

½ cup finely chopped cilantro

¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 Tbsp. finely chopped oregano

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

This is just a guide. I used a cup of olive oil. Part lemon juice and part sherry vinegar. I added some lovage leaves, because I’m a slave to a giant plant in my garden (really- who wants some? hit me up!) . Eric grows about a dozen chili peppers and then dries them, so I grabbed whatever was in the jar in front of me. I might have added some Dijon mustard. Blend until all mixed and serve it on, well, everything! 

OK- one final sauce. I’ve been making this one for a few years. In the spirit of snout to tail butchery, I became obsessed with root to leaf use of veggies. Or, as I call it, veggie offal. By far, the very best is radish-leaf pesto. Like their roots, radish leaves are spicy. They tend to be prickly, but that aspect disappears when blended. In contrast to pesto made of all basil, this one had a peppery brightness that makes your whole mouth feel awake. 

Wash a bunch of fresh radish leaves well- they can be sandy. Add about an equal amount of basil. Then proceed as you usually would- lots of garlic, great olive oil, pine nuts or whichever nut you prefer and a nice amount of sharp pecorino or asiago. 

While we’re at it, carrot top pesto also was a hit in my house. This one has a more vegetal taste and feel. Like carrots, but green. Whereas radish leaf pesto dominates springtime and early summer, Carrots have a more autumnal feel. It’ especially nice over roasted vegetables. 

You simply have to pick the tender leaves off the woody stems and again, just keep going. I found it worked really well with pistachios and pistachio oil (this is one of those strange ingredients I find myself buying when I’m roaming around Marshalls, TJ Maxx or Home Goods. They always have such fun ingredients).

Have a great summer everyone and eat well!