Savory 'little dishes' add spice to meal

"Relish" is one of our favorite words. When we're not talking about our magazine or Web site, we're thinking about things we relish -- farmers, new dishes, food festivals and kids in the kitchen.


There are other kinds of relishes. They are the savory condiments, often with whimsical-sounding names, that add zing to food -- chowchows, ketchups, atjars, and salsas. Our refrigerator door is so stocked with them, there's barely room for milk and orange juice.

We've known for years that chutneys go with curries and kimchi is for Korean dishes, but those are only the tip of a large iceberg.

To learn more, we went to Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys and Chowchows, by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby (Morrow, 1993). Mr. Schlesinger was introduced to what he calls "little dishes" in cooking school and has become a relish expert.

He says relish with Mexican ingredients is salsa; with ingredients from Java, it's sambal; and with Indian ingredients, it's chutney.

In the South, sweet and vinegary green tomato relish with apples, prunes and raisins might be called piccalilli or chowchow, the name for any relish with green tomatoes.

A concoction of green tomatoes, apples, dried fruit, plenty of sugar (and molasses) and spices, this is like mincemeat (sans the suet). It's perfect with cheese and crackers or served along side most any meat.

Green Tomato Relish

1/2 orange, quartered and seeded

1 pound raisins, divided

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

11/2 quarts green tomatoes, stemmed and chopped

11/2 quarts chopped, cored apples

1/2 pound brown sugar

1/2 pound pitted prunes, halved

1/4 cup dark (not blackstrap) molasses

11/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine orange (including peel) with half the raisins and vinegar in a food processor. Process until a chunky, even-textured paste-purÃe is formed, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times. Transfer to a large, heavy, nonreactive pot with remaining raisins.

Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often (because of the sugar, the mixture will want to stick), 30 to 40 minutes or until thick.

The mixture should be dark and very well combined, but the apples and tomatoes, though soft, should still be distinguishable. Cool completely.

Spoon the cooled relish into zip-top plastic bags or jars and freeze.

Yield: about 4 quarts.

-- Recipe by Crescent Dragonwagon

NUTRITION PER 1/2-CUP SERVING: 120 calories, 0 fat, 1 gram protein, 29 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber and 30 milligrams sodium.