Summer Grilling Season Done Right with Healthy Oils and Condiments

If you didn’t get around to spring cleaning your kitchen – finally discarding that bag of quinoa that’s been lurking in the back of your top cabinet for years – summer is a great time to refresh the pantry and the fridge with the items we use most – oils and condiments. Though not considered perishables, they too lose freshness which diminishes the flavor and nutrients. Especially prone to oxidation, polyphenol, omega and oleic acid-rich oils can go rancid, thus ruining all the healthy benefits. Just in time for the summer BBQ season kicked off by the July 4th weekend, it’s time to replace those murky bottles of oils and crusty jars of mayonnaise and ketchup with all manner of weird things growing under the lid.

As part of a series on wellness-based kitchen staples for summer, including “Bid Adieu To Takeout With These Authentic Asian Kitchen Staples” and “Summer Pantry Refresh – Gluten-Free Snacks, Sweets & Treats,” I’ve curated a list of oils and condiments which prioritize fresh, sustainably-sourced ingredients free of the ickies – artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, seed oils, preservatives, dyes, etc. which align with a variety of nutritional priorities whether plant-based, Whole 30, paleo and/or allergen-free.

First the staples of all staples, the ancient emerald elixir, the workhorse in most kitchens and an essential component in Mediterranean dishes from Tortilla Española, Gambas al Ajillo, Moroccan Tagines, Greek Salad, Italian Bruschetta, and Pesto  – Olive Oil. With a plethora of regional origins, versions, and varietals, from the spicy, herbaceous earthy ones to the lighter and fruitier, it’s no wonder the global olive oil business is valued at $15 billion dollars annually. Given the myriad of suppliers and purveyors, it’s a market rife with questionable business practices and not uncommon for mass-produced bottles to contain vegetable oils, even the dreaded seed ones, jeujed up with green dye. 

Black market scandals aside, when it comes to a substance I use in such abundance, whether to saute veggies, roast fish, dress salads and blend into hummus, I want it as fresh as possible and certified. In Italy, the yearly harvest of olives and their pressing has been a ritual for ages for good reason. Clif Family, a sprawling vineyard and farm in Napa, in keeping with this Italian tradition, cultivates, picks, and presses olives with the same care as grapes for their robust collection of wines. Every autumn, Clif Family produces an artisanal, small-batch of organic cold- pressed extra virgin olive oil with a green, vegetal brightness so fresh it pays off the popularity of the farm-to-table food movement. With only 100 cases of this prized oil produced on the farm last year, each bottle is stamped with the date of the olive pressing, as well as a recommended expiration date. When have you seen that on a bottle of oil?

Like a fine wine or scotch, I reserve it for my most special recipes, with a preference for raw dishes. Given both sweet and savory notes, Clif Farm recommends recipes that showcase the freshness of the recently pressed olives whether in Rosemary Almond and Pistachio Green Olive Tapenade or Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake.

For Asian dishes, some of us may try to use a lighter olive oil, though a  neutral oil with a high smoke point for high-heat cooking methods like stir-frying and BBQ are recommended to nail the complex flavor profiles for which Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese cuisines are known. Similar to olive oil, avocado oil is rich in oleic oils and antioxidants, and has an even higher smoke point. It’s the main oil used in the wide range of sugar and gluten-free condiments crafted by Primal Kitchen. Founded in 2015 as a purveyor of collagen peptide powders, the brand was the first to launch an avocado oil-based mayonnaise which remains one of its best sellers. 

Currently available in original, Chipotle Lime, Pesto, and Buffalo, these avocado-oil mayos are as creamy as the traditional brands given the addition of Certified Humane Cage-free Eggs, while remaining sugar and gluten-free. To further stock the condiment shelf, Primal Kitchen uses similar ingredients in Organic Sugar-free Ketchup, salad dressings, and a new line of internationally inspired dipping sauces.

At the top of the best-selling list of salad dressings are the Ranch and Caesar dressings. Without dairy products, and free of gluten, sugar, soy, and canola oil, both dressings capture the savory creaminess of these classic salads through a mixture of cage-free eggs, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Nutritional Yeast, and Avocado Oil. For vegans, Primal Kitchen also make plant-based Caesar and Ranch dressings, minus the eggs.

Just in time for grilling season, the recent additions of several dipping sauces with nods to widely-loved international condiments deliver umami savoriness for versatility and maximum flavor.

Yum Yum Sauce, inspired by the ubiquitous Japanese steak house condiment, is equally umami, spicy, and sweet to kick grilled chicken, meat, and seafood into chef-prepared territory. It’s particularly handy for drizzling on salmon and seaweed rice bowls when craving sushi. For lovers of Mexican cuisine without time to ripen and mash avocados, the Avocado Lime Dipping Sauce delivers a herby, citrusy zest equally delicious on fish, steak, or mushroom tacos without seed oils, sugar, or preservatives, and doubles as a salad dressing.

If craving honey mustard for chicken tenders and oven frites, without the calories and artificial ingredients of fast food, Chicken Dippin’ Sauce works as a sandwich spread and crudité dip. With a pinch of ancho chili pepper, it gives tanginess and smokiness without excess sodium.

For homemade smash burgers heavy on that relish-enhanced je ne sais quoi, the Special Sauce Dipping Sauce combines several umami powerhouses for a sauce as tasty and craveable as the burger itself. Like all of Primal Kitchen’s condiments, it’s made from real, non-GMO ingredients and is finger-licking good.

Gesha-Marie Bland


Not bland at all. Gesha-Marie Bland is an essayist, Vanity Fair-published film and television writer, and unrepentant beauty junkie who jumpstarted her career at NYU’s Master’s Program in Cinema Studies. In homage to her beauty icons Jeanne Moreau, Dolly Parton, and Grace Jones, she is forever in search of the perfect cat-eye liner, a killer pair of heels, and unforgettable statement accessories. Currently NYC-based, this dual American-French citizen still wears all-black and has a soft spot for clean beauty, pharmaceutical-grade actives, and most ingredients sourced from vineyards in the south of France. She loves New Wave cinema, Mary Gaitskill’s fiction, Spain, and matcha double-shots. After selling "The Ripper," her Alexander McQueen-Issie Blow biopic to the Cannes-winning production company Maven Pictures, she remains convinced fashion and couture are the next frontiers for edgy cinematic stories.