These four sauces, though basic, add so much flavor, dimension, and color to meals that I can’t imagine cooking without them. Any one of them can pull a meal together and turn a simple plate of meat and vegetables into a finished dish; and they’re so easy to prepare that once you’ve made them a few times, you’ll never have to look up these recipes again.
Pour into a small bowl:
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Fresh-ground black pepper
Stir to dissolve the salt, taste, and adjust if needed. Use a fork or small whisk to beat in, a little at a time:
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Taste as you go and stop when it tastes right.
Combine in a small bowl:
1/3 cup coarsely chopped parsley (leaves and thin stems only)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 small garlic clove, chopped very fine or pounded into a puree
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained, and coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh-ground black pepper to taste
½ cup olive oil
Mix well and taste for salt. Let the sauce sit for a while to develop the flavors.
2 or 3 small garlic cloves
Separate into a mixing bowl:
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon water
Mix well with a whisk. Into a cup with a pour spout, measure about:
1 cup olive oil
Slowly dribble the oil into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. As the egg yolk absorbs the oil, the sauce will thicken, lighten in color, and become opaque. This will happen rather quickly. Then you can add the oil a little faster, whisking all the while.
If the sauce is thicker than you like, thin it with a few drops of water. Taste and add more salt and garlic, as desired.
Stir together in a small bowl, mixing well:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
½ cup chopped herbs (such as parsley, chervil, and chives),
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
A pinch of cayenne
Taste and adjust the salt and lemon as needed.
Serve the butter as is, soft and spreadable; or roll it into a log in wax paper, chill until hard, and cut it into coin-shaped pieces.
From The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter, 2007).