Every few months, my significant other opens our refrigerator and stares inside for a while, as people tend to do. Then he sighs and says, “Do you really need all of those condiments?” My reply is always the same. “Yes. In fact, I was thinking of buying more.”
If your refrigerator and/or pantry are stocked with great condiments, the possibilities for creating a decent meal or snack are endless. Beyond the basics, such as mayo, horseradish, or soy sauce, intensely flavored condiments—from herb-infused mustards to garlicky mint chutney—can transform basic “white” foods, with a mere dollop or a dab, into something special.
Eggs, pasta, couscous, rice, bread, crackers, fish, cold cuts, sausages, leftovers or just-roasted meats—just about any bland food you can think of will benefit from a pairing with a favorite condiment. Case in point: Blend some spicy red harissa—the classic Moroccan concoction with the heat of red peppers, sweet tomatoes, garlic and olive oil—with mayonnaise and smear it on a grilled lamb burger or a turkey sandwich, and top with arugula. You may never go back to plain mayo.
Here are some beyond-the-basics condiments to stockpile. Most are available in local ethnic markets, specialty food stores and, often, in your basic supermarket: Nirave brand mint chutney (nice and garlicky); any kind of fruit chutney; harissa; Mexican crema (refrigerated); red and green salsas; Sriracha (red chili sauce with the chicken on the label); hoisin sauce; wasabi in a tube; sun dried tomatoes in olive oil; mostarda (an Italian condiment made of fruit preserved in syrup with mustard seed); and finally, real maple syrup. You need it (according to the guy who looks down on my savory condiment collection) for drizzling over rice pudding, ice cream or bacon.