Hot? Or Not?

August 20, 2013

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Could hardly believe it when I found these tiny (about an inch long) pimientos de padron at the market today.  I've never seen them for sale outside of Spain.  I pounced on them and brought them home.

I feel a certain responsability for their being in this country.  When I took over Gourmet in 1999, I asked Calvin Trillin if there was any place in the world he wanted to go.  "Padron," he immediately replied, "for the peppers. They're not grown here."  

The peppers have a uniquely robust flavor, filling your mouth with a taste I can only describe as "green."  They also hide a surprise; most are merely delicious, but every fifth pepper or so you get one that's hot enough to send shivers down your spine.

Trillin's account of his pepper pilgrimage appeared in the November 1999 issue of Gourmet. It was such a passionate ode that a farmer in New Jersey began growing them. Now he sends a huge pile to Mr. Trillin, who hosts his own little pepper festival each fall. Robert Sietsema does the honors, frying them in a big pot of boiling oil while we stand around the stove, waiting for him to pull the peppers out. He sprinkles them with salt and we all make a grab for them. It's wonderful, messy fun.

I decided to try something a little different. Rather than deep-fry them, I simply slicked a cast iron skillet with olive oil and sauted the pimientos until their skins crinkled up. Then I showered wthem with salt, picked one up by its stem and stuck it in my mouth.

It was a hot one. It was delicious. More please. 






The Taste of Tiny

August 19, 2013


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I'd never seen such tiny eggplants before, and I couldn't resist them. An inch and a half long, I wondered if they'd have more character than ordinary eggplants, those chameleons of the vegetable world. 

They did! Quartered lengthwise and quickly cooked in a very hot pan with just a bit of olive oil and sliced green garlic, they were like the most delicious French fries I've ever eaten. I showered them with salt, and ate them piping hot, with my fingers. Crisp outside, meltingly soft within, they retained the faint, elusive bitterness of eggplant. But hovering at the edge was a bit of sweetness too. I ate them all, standing at the stove.

And now I'm off to the farm stand to buy some more; they won't be around very long.


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August 17, 2013

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Found elderberries at the farmers' market this morning. Never cooked with them before, but I brought them home and began to contemplate what to do with them.

Washing these tiny berries is a pain – lots of stem, and the berries themselves are no bigger than bb's But they have a wonderful bitterness – think very tart blueberries, or slightly sweeter cranberries – and would probably make an excellent pie. But I have it in mind to make elderberry syrup instead.  

David Lebovitz has what looks like a very fine recipe here, and he has yet to let me down.




Things I Love

August 16, 2013


Mea Culpa.  Last year, in my annual gift guide, I said that this rare and wonderful organic Monticello Balsamic is something you’d never buy for yourself; it’s just too expensive. But this morning, as I dribbled a single drop onto my sliced apricot, I knew that I was wrong.  This bottle was a present, but when it’s gone I’ll replace it. I never want to be without this remarkable elixir.

This is the way I think about it: it costs $150 a bottle, but if I dole it out, drop by drop, I can make it last a year. And that’s a year of coaxing the flavor out of recalcitrant apricots and berries, of making vegetables sing with flavor, of making every salad dressing deeper, richer, more delicious.  It’s also a year of remembering that American products can now compete with the very best.



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