Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: sauces (page 2 of 2)

Shrimp with Thyme-Flavored Cream Sauce

Something to start the coming year, a devilishly scrumptious entrée. It harks back to  haute cuisine. So, if you’re one of those skinny model types or a compulsive dieter, this ain’t for—-unless you crave something sinfully delicious. And, let’s be honest about it, we all need to indulge once in a while. What’s that famous line from the play Auntie Mame? “Life is a banquet and most suckers are starving to death.” So let’s break out the flour, milk, butter and wine. Add to it fresh raw shrimp, and all ladled over wholewheat linguini (my one crumb to the health conscious). And that’s it, let’s party! Oh, yes, for the wine I would suggest a good, classic white like a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc—-or champagne! Make it that special dinner. What a better way to start the new year?  


5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped shallots (can use onion, if desired)
1 pound saw shrimp, shelled and deveigned
1/2 cup dry, white wine
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 3/4 teaspoon dried)

1. 1 pound wholewheat linguini In a sauce pan or skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add shallots, shrimp and wine, and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.
2. In a separate saucepan, melt the remaining butter, add the flour and stir with a wire whisk until blended.
3. Heat the milk to a boil and add it to the  butter-flour mixture, stirring vigorously with the whisk until the sauce is smooth and thickened.
4. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to package directions (some prefer it al dente. I prefer it tender—you’re choice).
5. Add the sauce and the thyme to the shrimp mixture and cook slowly 5 minutes longer. Pour over the pasta, and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.

Meat Ring with Chili Sauce

This is one of those fancy-dan recipes when you want to impress the crowd. It calls for a ring mold, and that could be metal, copper, ceramic or other. I use a 6 cup Bundt mold. Be it as it may, the recipe is quite simple. Note that for the meat part, you can use beef, pork, chicken or my choice, ground turkey. Also, I finish the whole thing in a microwave. Now, I don’t usually cook with a microwave. My experience has been that a microwave is great for heating up stuff, and that’s about it. I’ve yet to cook a passable rice dish with it. Much as I’ve tried, it never comes out right. But in this recipe I was strapped for time so, rather than bake the thing in an oven (which would have taken longer than I anticipated), I finished it off in the microwave. And, guess what? It came out pretty good. For the chili sauce part, you can make your own, or store-bought is just as good. I’m not a purist in that regard.


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey, chicken, pork, or lean ground beef
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
2 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup oatmeal
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon mustard
Ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup chili sauce

1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add ground meat and cook over high heat until it loses its red color.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low, add onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, oatmeal, eggs, milk, mustard, black pepper and oregano. Cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes.
3. Pack into a greased ring mold; and microwave on high for 10 minutes or until meat starts to pull from sides of mold. Invert into a serving platter, top with chili sauce, and serve.
    Yield: 4 or more servings.

Scallops with Parsnips and Honey-Sage Sauce

Winter is coming. And one of my favorite winter veggies is parsnips. Parsnips comes from that line known as root vegetables, i.e turnips, rutabaga, beets, radishes, etc. For some reason or another, in my group, no one likes parsnips (or turnips, for that matter). And I can’t understand why. Properly prepared, they can be heavenly. As in the dish given bellow. I happen to be a fan of scallops, be it sea scallops or bay scallops. And this dish combines scallops with parsnips (puréed), in what is called a honey-sage sauce, or in French, a honey sage jus. I know, the thing sounds highfalutin, but it ain’t.

One last note: this dish goes great with chenin blanc, one of my favorite wines. It combines a hint of sweetness that matches well with this entrée. What I like about chenin blanc is that you can smell the flavor of the grapes; it’s like a whisper of tropical fruit that makes a wonderful pairing. So, wanna impress your dinner companions? Lie, and tell them you slaved over a hot stove whipping up this classic, and serve with the wine. Make it sound impressive: jus (like jooze—puckering up your lips like some maītre’d at some fancy restaurant).


1 pound parsnips
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 to 16 scallops, about 1 1/4 pounds, tough tendon removed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
12 sage leaves, washed and julienned (cut into thin strips)

1. Wash parsnips under cold running water, place in a pan with water to cover and boil until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain, peel, cut into chunks, and purée in a  blender or food processor.
2. Place in a small dish or saucepan, season with salt and pepper. Stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil. Cover and keep warm.
3. Rinse scallops under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet until very hot. Add scallops and sear on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn over (they should be golden-brown), and lower heat.
4. Add butter to pan in bits. Raise heat to medium-low. Stir in shallots and cook, basting scallops with pan juices until shallots soften and scallops are just cooked (1-2 minutes more). Transfer scallops to a warm serving platter.
5. Add honey and vinegar to skillet. Whisk to deglaze the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Spoon a mound of parsnips purée into the center of serving platter. Place scallops around it, spoon pan sauce over scallops, and scatter sage on top. Serve to the admiring glances of all your dinner mates.
   Yield: 4 servings.

Fish Steaks with Lemon-Basil Sauce

This is the time to get fresh basil. The beginning of summer and every farmer’s market is bursting with with it. One of my favorite recipes using this great ingredient is fish in lemon-basil sauce. You can elect to  use fish fillets or fish steaks. I prefer fish steaks. To me they are a more hardy, stick to the ribs alternative. And nothing is simpler or easier to make: blend basil and some other herbs in a blender,  spread over fish steaks and bake. That’s it. Served with boiled potatoes or plain, steamed rice, it’s a winner. Add a good chilled white wine (or light red, if you prefer), and you’re set.


1 cup fresh basil, washed and finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh leaf parsley, washed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon water
1 1/2 pounds fresh fish steaks (cod, halibut, tuna, ext.)
Additional basil for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Put basil, parsley, garlic, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, and water together in a blender; and puree. If desired, thin with more water.
3. Place fish fillets in a  baking dish (I prefer cast iron). Pour lemon-basil sauce over fish. Bake 15-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
4. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings. 

Cooking with Paprika

Paprika is a spice that I love. I use it often and in countless recipes. I love its flavor and color. And I discovered it has many uses, and not just as a spice. If you want to make a quick, spicy, tangy pilaf rice, add some paprika to the rice while cooking. It will impart a deep color (depending upon how much you use) and a unique taste to the rice. My experience has been that, in American cookery, you won’t find paprika used that often. And that’s sad. Because once you start experimenting with it, it will intrigue you. That being said, I find that most of the prepackage, processed American paprika sold in supermarkets is kind of mild. To my palette, pure Hungarian paprika is best. If you can’t find that, then go for Spanish paprika (pimentón), it’s just as good.

Paprika is actually a powder which is made by grinding the pods of various kinds of peppers known as capsicum annuum. The pepper varieties range from bell peppers (mild) to chili peppers (hot). And it is the fourth most consumed spice in the world. Its the national spice of Hungary (think of Hungarian goulash). There are different grades of Hungarian pepper; but the favorite variety (specially in the U.S.) is édesnemes, or “noble sweet,” which is slightly pungent and a bright red color.

Dishes which highlight this great spice include such stalwarts as deviled eggs, and the famous chicken paprikash. The dish I give below is chicken with a paprika sauce. Its tasty, innovative, and delicate. So, go out, get some chicken breasts, some paprika, and go to town. You won’t be disappointed.


4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, about 1 1/2 pounds, halved
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium to large sweet red pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into strips about 1/4-inch wide
1 small onion, peeled and cut into thin rings
2 teaspoons paprika (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Fresh chopped parsley for garnish (about 2 tablespoons)

1. Rub  chicken breasts with pepper.
2. Heat oil in a large frying pan or skillet. Add the breasts and cook about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn and cook 1 1/2 minutes on the other side.
3. Scatter the red pepper strips and onion over the chicken. Then sprinkle with the paprika.
4. Cook over low heat, uncovered, for 4 minutes.
5. Add vinegar, chicken broth, and cream. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook an additional 8 minutes.
6. Remove to serving platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.  

Swordfish Steaks in Lemon Sauce – Island Style

Back in the old neighborhood, swordfish was a mainstay in our diet. Reason was that, now as then, in  the island of Puerto Rico swordfish was readily available. This transferred over to our time in Spanish Harlem. In the marqueta, the market place on 116th street, swordfish was cheap, and it was cooked in every way possible. One of our favorite recipes was swordfish steaks cooked in lemon sauce (lemons were also very cheap and it made for an exceptional dish). Pez de Espada con Salsa de Limón, as my parents termed it, could be done today on a barbeque grill as well. We didn’t barbecue in the Barrio, we just grilled these suckers in the oven.

 One of the complaints I’ve gotten is that, in our cooking, it is traditional to pound the fresh herbs in a mortar and pestle. These, either wood, metal, or ceramic, can be found in almost any hardware or kitchen store. For those of you who don’t have a mortar and pestle (think of the kind used by old pharmacists), you can substitute by pounding the seasonings between sheets of wax paper, using a cleaver or mallet. Just make sure the edges of the wax paper are rolled up so you don’t have spices flying all over the kitchen.

In the old days the usual accompaniment to this dish was rice or potatoes. I recently did it with millet, an ancient grain common to Asia and Africa that is also rich ion iron, phosphorous and B-vitamins. It’s also quite tasty, and it goes great with pez de espada. Let me add, this swordfish recipe and others like it can be found in my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Avalon Books – Running Press).

      (Swordfish Steaks in Lemon Sauce)

4 swordfish steaks, 6 to 8 ounces each (can substitute halibut or any other white fish steak)
7-8 whole black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon fresh or dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil

1. Wash steaks under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. In a mortar, crush peppercorns, garlic, oregano, basil and salt. Add lemon juice and olive oil.
3. Place fish in a shallow dish. Add marinade; turn to coat both sides of fish.
4. Cover and set aside for 1 hour, turning once.
5. Place fish on a greased broiling pan (I prefer cast-iron) and broil at a distance of about 4 inches from heat source. Broil 5 to 6 minutes per side, brushing frequently with marinade.
    Yield: 4 servings.

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Aioli is said to have originated in the Provence region of Southern France. It’s a traditional sauce composed of garlic, olive oil and egg. Yet there are many variations. Catalonia, in the northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula, makes a version that uses olive oil and salt, pounded in a mortar until smooth, but minus the egg. The call it allioli. In Malta, they add crushed tomato to the mix. In other variations, mustard may be added, or even pears. Most people likened aioli to mayonnaise, because of its smooth, creamy texture. But it’s nothing like mayo, it’s distinctively garlicky.

Some of us may have experienced aioli as a spread on sandwiches or as a side for fries. It’s more versatile that that. You can drizzle it on salads, or as a dipping sauce for seafood, meat and vegetables. It’s good on cold roasts, and perfect as a tasty addition when a teaspoon or two is added to fish soups. You can toss some spaghetti or linguine with aioli sauce and top with Parmesan cheese for a rich pasta dish.

Aioli is a popular summer dish when fresh vegetables and juicy garlic are all over the place. That being said, as a creamy condiment it’s good any time of the year. And it is quite easy to make at home. You can bypass the traditional mortar and pestle by using a bender or food processor. Saves a lot of time and mess. The only caveat is the question of using a raw egg. If you are concerned about this, then an egg substitute can be used in place of the raw egg.


Note: all ingredients must be at room temperature
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4  teaspoon salt, or more to taste (preferably sea salt)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper to taste

1. Place garlic and salt in a blender or food processor, and pulse for about 2-3 seconds.
2. Add lemon juice and egg. Pulse the mixture in intervals until it well combined. Do not blend the mixture more than necessary.
3. Turn on the food processor again, and slowly add the oil, a few drops at a time. After about 1/3 of the oil has been added, add remaining oil in a slow steady stream. If the mixture is too thick, you can add a little water and blend in into the mixture until desired consistency.
4. Season with pepper and serve.
    Yield: approximately 1 1/2 cups.

Note: picture courtesy of Anne Cusack/LAT  

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Rossana Rossi’s Red Clam Sauce

One of my dear friends, Rossana Rossi, had sent me (at my request) a delicious clam sauce. It is truly scrumptious. Now, in her recipe, fresh clams are used. If you don’t want the bother or trouble of shucking fresh clams, I guess you can buy chopped or whole clams from a jar at the supermarket. But, I tell ya, it ain’t the same. The taste and texture of fresh clams is unequal in this dish.

As to the type of clams used? There is a variety. You got Chowder clams that are used for (you guessed it) clam chowder. There are Cherrystone clams, not as large as chowder clams. You could say they’re the second largest, and go great in a clam sauce. Then there Top Neck clams that are used mainly for clams casino and clams on the half shell. And, finally, Little Neck clams that can be used in a clam sauce as well as steamers. They are tiny and sweet.

Rossana says this is her personal recipe for clam sauce, and she invented it about a month ago while working on a “super tasty awesome tomato sauce.” It’s a “Dominican/Italian” recipe.


2 dozen Cherrystone clams, or 4 pounds Little Neck clams, scrubbed clean and picked over
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons vinegar (preferably herb-infused)
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 whole cinnamon stick

1. In a large frying pan or skillet, heat olive oil. Add garlic and saute quickly (do not let the garlic burn). Add tomatoes, oregano, thyme, vinegar, rosemary and cinnamon stick. Lower heat and simmer about an hour or so (Rossana says she cooks her sauce for 2 hours).
2. While the tomato sauce is cooking, place about 1-inch water in a large saucepan, add clams and steam them open. Place shell-less clams in a plate and set aside. Save the water left in the saucepan. If you desire, once clams have cooled you can chop them before adding to the sauce, or you can leave them as is.
3. When the sauce is just about done, add the clams and clam water. Simmer until the flavors are blended. The trick is not to overcook the clams; just reheat.
4. Serve over any long-type pasta such as linguini, spaghetti, perciatelli, or fettuccine.
Yield: 6 servings or more

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Quick Meat Patties in Mustard Sauce

Sometimes, the best meals come out of necessity. You know, those times when you have to whip up something with a particular item, and use what’s available in the fridge. Recently, me and my beloved mate acquired some bison patties. Yup, bison patties—as in buffalo meat. We’ve become partisans of bison because of its nutritious element and minuscule cholesterol content. But this recipe I conjured up can be done with beef , turkey, chicken or lamb patties. Or you can Take some hamburger meat and cook it the same way.


4 patties, beef or other (see above)

Salt and black ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons mustard (if you have Dijon, great. If not, any good mustard will do)

1. Season patties with salt and pepper on both sides.
2. Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add patties and cook over medium heat about 1-2 minutes on each side. The cooking time will vary depending on type of meat used. Bison patties take less time to cook than regular burger patties. Just trust your judgement.
3. Stir in sour cream and mustard. Cover and cook until sauce is heated (about 1minute longer).
4. Serve over rice, boiled potatoes, kasha, or couscous.
Yield: 2 servings for big eaters; or 4 servings for regular eaters.

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