The Balsamic Cheat
Basic Asian Marinade
Purée together a 2- to 3-inch piece fresh ginger, 4 large garlic cloves, and 1/3 cup each soy sauce and rice wine or dry sherry. Optional ingredient is 2 to 5 tablespoons sugar; another is Chinese Five Spice powder or 1 star anise, broken.
Basic Mediterranean Marinade
Blend together 2 minced large cloves of garlic with 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/3 cup good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil, a tablespoon of fresh rosemary or oregano leaves, and salt and pepper to taste.
Basic Mexican Marinade
Stem and seed 4 to 6 large dried mild to medium hot red chiles (Ancho, Guajillo or New Mexican). Soak them for 30 minutes in hot water to cover.
Drain the chiles and purée them in a blender with 2 large garlic cloves, 1/3 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup canola oil, 1 teaspoon dry oregano (preferably Mexican) and enough water to make a thick, creamy consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Perfectionists strain the marinade before using it.
Basic Southeast Asian Marinade
Purée together the pulp and juice of 1 medium lime, a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, 3 to 4 large garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce, 8 branches fresh coriander or 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Add very hot fresh Thai chiles, or milder Serrano or jalapeños to taste.
Italian Balsamic Marinade
Blend together 4 minced large garlic cloves, 1/3 cup each balsamic vinegar and good-tasting extravirgin olive oil, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1 tablespoon dry or 10 leaves fresh basil. (See Sidebar: The Balsamic Cheat.)
Simplified Hot Jerk Marinade
Purée together 1 fresh scotch bonnet or habanero chile (use gloves to handle these searingly hot beauties) with 1/4 cup each of good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil and cider or wine vinegar, half an onion and 1 generous teaspoon each of thyme, allspice, black pepper and cinnamon.