Summer is the season of condiments, at least in my house. At no other time of the year do I pull out ketchup, mayo and mustard more. Probably because this is also the time of year when I fire up the grill the most. And what goes on the grill? Hot dogs and hamburgers, of course.
While I like the iconic condiment trio just fine, I don’t stop there. Pickle relish is often on my menu. But not dill relish. I like the sweet stuff. I know that’s heresy for many hot dog and burger purists, but there’s something about the tart sweetness that plays beautifully off the salty, savory qualities of the meat.
Having established my penchant for a sweet relish, it’s not a far leap for me to take my relish game to new heights by using summer’s favorite vegetable as the base.
It’s hard to beat corn right off the cob, dripping with butter. But cutting it off the cob and combining it with a mixture of vinegar, sugar and spices could be a close second, used as a topping for almost everything that comes off the grill.
Since the grill is my favorite way to cook corn on the cob, it only makes sense to use this same technique for cooking the corn that’s going into my relish. Grilling the corn, and for that matter, the red pepper that will later be used in the relish, gives it a slight smokiness, backed up by a bit of smoked paprika.
A few other spices also play a role in bringing a nuanced flavor to this topping. Cumin and coriander join the mix, but not until we give them a brief toasting in a dry skillet, which intensifies their flavor and gives them a slight nuttiness. Mustard seeds are also used in the relish, but toasting them dry can make them bitter, so we add them untoasted, allowing them to release their flavor as each seed pops with every bite.
The heat comes from fresh chiles, in this case either serrano or jalapeño. Serranos are more reliably hot, but jalapeños, which can sometimes be unexpectedly mild, can also add more flavor. Which chile to use and how many is up to you and your taste buds.
Once your relish is made, its uses are limitless. Yes, hot dogs and burgers are a natural choice, but it’s heaven on grilled salmon or chicken, too. It also makes a terrific topping for tacos or a filling for quesadillas, along with shredded Jack cheese and shredded chicken. And it’s also great on salads or sandwiches.
So put away the ketchup, mayo and mustard. With this sweet, hot, smoky relish at the ready in your fridge, you won’t miss them.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.