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GOOD COOKING

Better Than Ketchup

June 15, 1995|ABBY MANDEL

A condiment may be a sauce or a relish, cooked or raw, with a flavor that is savory, sweet-and-sour or spicy. The idea of condiments may sound old-fashioned, but they add flavor to plain meals such as sandwiches or simply grilled meats. They give a personal, home-cooked (and delicious) imprint even when the food is take-out.

Consider the following condiments that are distinctive combinations and appealingly flavored. Their advantages are many. They are easy to make, fresh looking, low in fat and versatile enough to go with many foods. More than that, they can be kept up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Sweet onions and balsamic vinegar are a tasty combination. It's delicious--hot or cold--spread on a sandwich or as a relish or as a sauce on simply prepared meats, fish and poultry. The garden chutney features all the spices that are typical of a chutney, but the vegetables are still crunchy and vibrant looking, not limp and drab. The chunky rhubarb sauce with fresh ginger is a more assertive, sweet-tart alternative to applesauce that works especially well with smoked meats and poultry.

A small bowl of any one of these condiments will enhance your table and personalize your meal. And they have tremendous impact in al fresco dining.

GARDEN CHUTNEY

Unlike commercial chutneys, this one still has a lot of crunch. Serve with ham, smoked turkey, duck or fish.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup minced onions

4 small zucchini, diced

1 sweet red pepper, diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup apple juice

Scant 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 cup currants

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/3 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

Hot pepper sauce

1 large tomato, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice

Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add onions, zucchini, sweet red pepper, garlic and salt. Cook until mixture is heated through, about 4 minutes, stirring often. Add 1/2 cup apple juice, mustard, ginger, allspice, cloves and currants. Simmer, uncovered, until zucchini is cooked but not quite tender, about 6 minutes.

Combine cornstarch and remaining apple juice in small dish. Stir until smooth. Add to skillet along with vinegar, sugar and dash hot pepper sauce. Simmer until mixture thickens, about 3 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from heat. Stir in tomato. Let cool at room temperature. Can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

Stir well before serving. Adjust seasonings and vinegar to taste. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 16 to 20 servings.

Each of 16 servings contains about:

40 calories; 76 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.30 gram fiber.

* Carsconne square yellow French ceramic salad plate from Room with a View, Santa Monica.

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