Most of the time – and, mostly, in the interest of time – I’m perfectly content to eat steak seasoned only with salt and pepper, salmon flavored with a spritz of lemon or green beans with a pat of butter. But adding sauce not only makes for more flavor, it can turn old standards into completely different meals.

While I often make a white wine pan sauce with chicken, can whip up a pesto or put together a simple vinaigrette, that’s pretty much where my skills end – and why “Just Add Sauce,” a veritable bible of all things slatherable by America’s Test Kitchen, appealed to me.

“Just Add Sauce: A Revolutionary Guide to Boosting the Flavor of Everything You Cook,” America’s Test Kitchen, 2018, $29.99

Flipping though this volume only emphasized the power of sauces to transform meals – as dips, dressings, marinades and more. I thought I’d had my fill of asparagus for the season, but seeing it served with Mustard-Dill Hollandaise made me think again.

Each classic sauce recipe is presented along with variations (Beurre Blanc has ginger, orange and rosemary versions), recommendations for its best uses (Mediterranean Almond Sauce goes well on roasted cauliflower) and complete dishes that incorporate them.

Although the book is divided by the purpose of the sauces – “Toss with Pasta” or “Spoon Over Dessert” – several lists allow you to find a sauce based on your needs. Already have a meat selected? One table of contents is broken down into different proteins, each followed by a list of all the sauces you could pair with it. If you know you’re looking for something creamy or herby, a relish or a glaze, another list breaks them down into those categories as well.

Finally, if you’re starting with an ingredient – maybe an herb you have in abundance or a bottle of wine you want to use up – flip to the index and find out all the sauces you can concoct.


I landed on Creamy Roasted Garlic and Miso Dressing (a variation on the Creamy Roasted Garlic Dressing, made by substituting white wine vinegar and mustard with rice vinegar and white miso) via some old-fashioned perusing and was pleased to see that there was a recipe for a cucumber salad to use it on.

Looking at the list of ingredients, I figured it would be quick enough to make and didn’t bother to read the instructions until right before dinnertime. It turned out the first step is to roast garlic for an hour – not something my hunger level was willing to handle. Instead of idly snacking the time away, I realized I had some semblance of the ingredients on hand to make a modified version of the Porcini-Marsala Pan Sauce (here, with baby portabellas) for pork chops I otherwise would have eaten dry.

Although I’ve ad libbed marsala before, making it according to a recipe made me realize it’s just as easy to do properly – and get a consistent result – as it is to throw ingredients into a pan and pray. And it’s just as fast. I finished eating my saucy chop with minutes to spare on the oven timer and used them to prep the other ingredients for the salad.

The rest of the salad recipe was as quick and easy as I’d thought, while still producing some pretty intense flavors between the roasted garlic and honey in the dressing and the minced chile and mint in the salad, all of which came together for a bright, creamy, spicy and refreshing side dish.

It also made a delicious addition to salad greens for lunch the next day, breathing life into my tired routine, as sauces are wont to do.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:


[email protected]

Twitter: lesliebridgers

Cucumber Salad with Creamy Roasted Garlic and Miso Dressing

Serves 4 to 6

4 cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced very thin

3/4 cup Creamy Roasted Garlic and Miso Dressing (see below)


2 Thai chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/4 chopped fresh basil


1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, chopped coarse (optional)

1. Spread cucumber slices evenly over paper towel-lined baking sheet and let drain for 15 minutes.


2. Gently toss cucumbers with dressing, chiles, mint and basil in large bowl until evenly coated. Let salad sit for 5 minutes, then toss again. Season with salt to taste. Sprinkle with peanuts, if using, and serve immediately.

Creamy Roasted Garlic and Miso Dressing

Makes about 1 cup

3 large garlic heads (3 ounces each), outer papery skins removed and top third of head cut off and discarded

1/4 cup rice vinegar

3 tablespoons water


2 teaspoons honey

1 tablespoon white miso


1/3 cup vegetable oil

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap garlic in aluminum foil and roast until golden brown and very tender, an hour to hour and 15 minutes. Remove garlic from oven and carefully open foil packets. When garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze cloves from skins (you should have about 6 tablespoons); discard skins.

2. Process garlic, vinegar, water, honey, miso and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in blender until smooth, about 45 seconds, scraping down sides of blender jar as needed. With blender running, slowly add oil until incorporated, about 1 minute. Season with salt to taste. (Dressing can be refrigerated for up to 1 week; whisk to recombine before using.)

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.