Past Peppers

August 14, 2015

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You and I are going to live longer!

That’s the takeaway from a new scientific report that eating spicy food reduces your risk of death by ten percent.  If you’re a hot food fan – and that includes just about everyone I know – this is great news.

But it turns out that Gourmet got there first.  Trolling through a vintage issue of the magazine, I came upon this article on chili peppers – an upbeat users manual – in a thirty-one year old issue (June 1984).

Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger walk us through a market in Guadalajara, describing the different notes of each pepper they come across. It’s totally instructional. Better yet, they offer this very appealing recipe for a corn and chili pepper soufflé.

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The authors throw in a well-meaning (if patronizing) note of caution. Their disclaimer:

“Some cautionary notes are in order for novice chili pepper consumers. In cultures where large amounts are eaten, people develop a tolerance for their pungency.  The best way to achieve this tolerance is to begin by eating small amounts frequently.  If you are not accustomed to eating hot peppers, consuming a large amount at one time can cause a great deal of unpleasantness.”

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Things I Love: Roe Rocks My Boat

August 13, 2015

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This is Mentaiko – spiced pollack roe.  Originally Korean, it's become a Japanese staple. I think of it as soft Asian bottarga with a little chile kick.  And I use it in almost everything I'd use bottarga in. Sometimes it stands in for uni, although more for texture than for flavor, and it makes a really delicious pasta dish.  You can find mentaiko at most Asian markets; I bought mine at Sunrise Mart.

But my favorite way to eat mentaiko?  Very simply.  Squeeze the roe out of the sac onto a small bowl of hot rice and mix like crazy.  

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If you're looking for a good pasta recipe, here's one I like very much from Grace Keh: it's not only an excellent recipe, but a very good explanation of exactly what to expect when you're using mentaiko.

And while we're on recipes I like…. A recent post on Zester about savory peaches intrigued me too much to resist. I've never thought of using peaches as if they were a vegetable and the result was really fantastic.  The peaches I used were hard as rocks – so hard I peeled them like apples – but in the end they were tender, fragrant and absolutely delicious.  If you've never thought about peaches with ginger and garlic, they're a fine surprise.  They made a perfect accompaniment to a bowl of spicy Chinese noodles. 

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Edouard de Pomiane’s Tomates a la Creme

August 12, 2015

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De Pomiane's Cooking in Ten Minutes may be my favorite cookbook.  If you don't know it, you're in for a treat.  

I wait all year to cook his extremely simple tomatoes in cream, which may be the first three-ingredient dish I ever attempted.  All it takes is butter, tomatoes and cream.  (Although I admit that I occasionally break down and sprinkle on a little salt as well.)  And of course, you do need a bit of bread to mop up the spectacular sauce. 

Here's the recipe, via Elizabeth David, from the 60th anniversary issue of Gourmet (September 2001).

I'd print the photograph – the tomatoes are right here, sitting in front of me – but this dish is the best argument I know against taking pictures of your food.  And I wouldn't want to do a single thing that might deter you from cooking this most delicious summer dish.

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(Although the version printed above is the one I've always used, I've just discovered that the version in the first English translation, pictured above, from 1948 is slightly different. It includes not only salt and pepper, but also onions.  Do what you will with this information.)

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And since I'm looking through this book, I thought I'd toss in the preface so you get some sense of the delightful Dr. de Pomiane.  (He was a serious scientist who also had a long-time cooking show on French radio.)

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Meet the Frog Man of Florida

August 11, 2015

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As promised, that cherry soup from the tenth anniversary issue of Gourmet (1951).  

And then, just because I agree with the author, Samuel Chamberlin, that the trout recipe sounds delicious, I'm including that.  Along with one for salt rising bread; this is different than the one Marion Cunningham gave me, years ago, but it too captures natural yeasts from the air.  I'm going to try it. (Marion's salt rising bread has the most remarkable cheese-like flavor; I wonder if this one does too?)

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A Requested Recipe: Fast, Easy, Delicious

August 11, 2015

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"Help!" a friend of a friend wrote.  "I've lost the recipe for an easy cake printed in one of the last issues of Gourmet."

She said the cover was a beautiful apple (actually, it was a beautiful quince).  A group of us scrambled around, trying to find it.  And here it is.  

You could make this with just about any fruit.  Hard to think of a better way to spend fifteen minutes. 

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