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Condiment creativity turns good meals into great ones

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Posted: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 8:00 pm

(ARA) - Burgers and hot dogs may be the darlings of summer barbecues, and grilled goodies get all the glamour, but what would summer dining be without condiments? While tried-and-true favorites like classic Vlasic dills will always have their place on a summer table, the sky is the limit when it comes to new condiment options to transform the flavors of any meal. Here are a few ideas for using creative condiments to add flare to your summer dining.

Experiment with fruit

Do you love cranberry relish at Thanksgiving? Have you explored the possibilities of fruit as a condiment all year round? Fruit options abound throughout summer, and can add a splash of flavorful creativity to any meal when used as a condiment. A fruit-and-nut relish can be a great complement to chicken, turkey or even fish. Sweet citrus like pineapple or mandarin orange enhances the flavor of saltier meats like pork and ham. Peaches, pears and even apples can add a whole new depth of flavor to beef dishes. Fruit can act as a condiment when presented as a relish or simply sliced and served fresh as a side dish.

Add a pickle punch

Over the last few years, pickling has gained popularity with people having fun trying new flavor combinations. Just like wine brings out the flavors in food, pickles can brighten or revamp the taste of any meal. From sweet and refreshing to spicy, experimenting with pickle varieties is a great way to expand your taste experiences. The good news is you can now explore the trend without having to put in the work. Try Farmer's Garden by Vlasic, a new line of home-style pickles conveniently found at Walmart and major supermarkets. Much like the homemade variety, these pickles have no artificial colors or flavors and no corn syrup, allowing the natural, pure flavors of the pickling process to shine. And, don't forget the most perfect pairing - a great pickle and the right sandwich.

Sweeten the pot

Fruit isn't the only sweet condiment that can complement summer meals. You may have brushed honey on ham or enjoyed mole sauce made with chocolate in the past, but both sweet treats can actually act as a topping for other dishes too. When used as ingredients for sauces or relishes, honey and chocolate both add natural sweetness to a dish. They can be equally versatile for meats or vegetables.

Spice up your sauces

Ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and sour cream are all common condiments for summer meals. But even these tried-and-true dressings can step up the flavor of a meal when you try exotic variations on these standard themes. Try replacing plain sour cream with "crema agria," a Latin variation that blends sour cream and buttermilk. Ketchup takes on a whole new persona when infused with chili or chipotle peppers. Mayo goes from mild to wild with the addition of flavors such as sundried tomato, chive or even champagne. Mustard can be sweet or spicy, depending on the type you choose. You can find a plethora of ethnic varieties to enhance virtually any dish.

Go ethnic

From Greek tzatziki to Indian tikka masala, ethnic sauces offer the opportunity to explore new flavors in exciting ways. You might know tzatziki sauce as the dressing that gives gyros their unique flavor, and tikka masala as a perfect simmering sauce for chicken. But both sauces can be used in creative ways, such as a dip for raw veggies. Other ethnic options to try include hoisin sauce (a combination of soy sauce, peanut paste and other ingredients), and tahini sauce (made from sesame seed paste).

This summer, why not try some condiment creativity to spice up your meals? Your taste buds - not to mention your guests - will thank you for it. Here's a creative recipe to get you started:

Jicama Taco

Ingredients:

6 slices jicama, very thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh salsa or pico de gallo

3 Vlasic Farmer's Garden Deli Style Half, sliced into strips

Lettuce, shredded

1 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Slice jicama and place in a bowl of water to soak for about 15 minutes. Remove the jicama from the water and dry lightly with a paper towel. Season with salt, pepper and chipotle powder. Place sliced pickle, lettuce and pico de gallon on the jicama round and gently fold the sides to resemble a taco. Secure with a skewer or tooth pick. Enjoy!

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