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Piedmontese Peppers Balance Sweet, Bright, Salty and Fresh Flavors


Piedmontese Peppers

The price of peppers at Sprouts lately has been great. Bell peppers of all colors have been far less than you generally pay for them elsewhere. On one visit I even found red bell peppers for the low price of three for $1.

So, what do you do with colorful beauties? Mince them into a confetti that you can toss in salads or fritattas. Or soften them in a touch of oil or butter and then use them as a garnish on seafood or chicken.

I also discovered this savory recipe in “At Elizabeth David’s Table: Classic Recipes and Timeless Kitchen Wisdom” (Ecco, $37.50). Piedmontese Peppers can be either a side dish or an appetizer, and you can make them in the quantity you wish. You can also play around with the fillings and modify them to your tastes.

The recipe calls for anchovies; but if you wanted to make this strictly vegetarian, use capers instead. You could add a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top or incorporate some tiny bits of prosciutto or salami. Or you could up the heat with a slight bit of minced serrano pepper.

The main point is to have a good balance of acid from the tomatoes, the sweet crunch of the peppers, the saltiness of the anchovy (and the umami feeling that capers don’t provide), the burn of the garlic and the freshness of the parsley on top.

For those who don’t know her, Elizabeth David is considered by many to have been one of the best food writers in the business. As Ruth Reichl writes in the introduction to this handsome book, “To Elizabeth David cooking was an affirmation of everything good about being alive.” One bite of Piedmontese Peppers should convince you of that.

Piedmontese Peppers

Bell peppers
Garlic cloves, sliced thin
Tomato, cut into chunks
Anchovy fillets
Butter
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Flat leaf parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut your peppers in half lengthwise. Take out all the seeds and wash the peppers. (You can leave the stems on if you choose.) If the peppers are large, cut each in half again. Into each piece, put 2 or 3 slices of garlic, 2 small sections of tomato, about half a fillet of anchovy cut into pieces, a small nut of butter, up to 1 teaspoon olive oil and a very little salt, to taste. Arrange these peppers on a flat baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes. They are not to be completely cooked; they should in fact be al dente, the stuffing inside deliciously oily and garlicky.

Serve them cold, each garnished with a little parsley.

Allow 1/2 or 1 pepper per person.

From “At Elizabeth David’s Table” by Elizabeth David

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Pepita-roasted Tomatillo Dip


Pepitas, or roasted pumpkin seeds.

San Antonio loves a good tomatillo dip, and this version benefits from the addition of garlic, tangy lemon juice, the nuttiness of roasted pumpkin seeds, and the freshness of cilantro leaves mixed with the tart tomatillos.

It’s a  perfect treat, whether you’re looking for something to snack on while cheering on the U.S. Women’s National Team as they play in the World Cup finals or just munch on any mid-afternoon.

“For a special presentation, try serving this smooth, rich-tasting dip in a hollowed-out squash,” say the editors of the new “The Sunset Cookbook” (Oxmoor House, $34.95).

Pepita-roasted Tomatillo Dip

3 fresh tomatillos (about 6 ounces), husks removed
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds or pepitas
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Tortilla chips

Put tomatillos in a small baking pan and broil 4 to 6 inches from heat, turning once, until skins are lightly charred, 5 to 8 minutes.

In a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, toaste pumpkin seeds until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes.

In a blender, whirl tomatillos, pumpkin seeds, garlic, lemon juice, oil, cilantro and salt until combined but still slightly chunky. Scrape into a small bowl; add more salt to taste. Serve with chips.

Make up to 1 day ahead, chilled.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

From “The Sunset Cookbook”

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Make Your Own Flavored Popcorn


Why buy flavored popcorn when you can flavor it yourself?

“Why pay a premium for flavored popcorn when making it yourself is so simple?” ask the editors of the new “The Sunset Cookbook” (Oxmoor House, $34.95). Gouda and garlic give this party food extra flavors your family will love.

Gouda Garlic Popcorn

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
2 cups finely shredded smoked gouda cheese
Garlic salt

Coat bottom of a wide, lidded pot with oil. Add popcorn kernels and set pot, covered, over high heat. Pop corn, shaking pot often. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle popcorn (still in pot) with gouda and garlic salt to taste, tossing well.

Makes 6 servings.

From “The Sunset Cookbook”

Variation: Indian-spiced Popcorn

Pop corn as directed in Gouda Garlic Popcorn. Transfer to a large bowl. In same pot, melt 1/4 cup butter, add 1 teaspoon garam masala and a little cayenne and turmeric to taste. Drizzle over popcorn. Sprinkle with salt, to taste.

Makes 6 servings.

From “The Sunset Cookbook”

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Smoked Trout Pâté Comes Together Quickly


Smoked Trout Pâté

If you want an easy appetizer or a light summertime salad topper, try this Smoked Trout Pâté, which goes together easily. But don’t get too hung up on the type of fish you use.

“You can make this pâté with any smoked oily fish,” Kate McDonough writes in “The City Cook” (Simon and Schuster, $20). “Trout is usually the easiest to find, but if you can find smoked bluefish, use that instead of the trout because its strong flavor combines well with the other ingredients. For those not familiar with prepared horseradish, it’s sold in refrigerated jars, often near a grocer’s dairy case; if you have a choice between red horseradish, which is tinted with beet juice, or plain white, choose the white.” Also, look for prepared horseradish without sugar. Sweetness is not what this dish is about.

“This spread is nice on small squares of toasted bread, crackers, croutons or thin slices of seedless English cucumber,” McDonough writes.

Smoked Trout Pâté

8 ounces smoked trout or bluefish, skin removed and discarded
1 (8-ounce) package regular or reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared white horseradish
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 to 4 drops Tabasco or other hot sauce (optional)
2 tablespoons tiny capers, drained

Break up the fish into pieces and place in a food processor equipped with a steel blade. Add the cream cheese and pulse until the fish and cream cheese are combined. Add the horseradish and lemon juice, and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon juice or horseradish if necessary. Add the Tabasco, if desired. Add the capers and pulse a few more times until they are mixed throughout.

Spread on crackers, pieces of toasted bread, or thin slices of seedless English cucumbers or use as a dip with crudités. The pâté can be made a day in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator. Just bring it to room temperature when you’re ready to serve so that it’s easy to spread.

Makes 2 cups or enough for about 40 cucumber rounds.

From “The City Cook” by Kate McDonough

 

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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Jalapeño-Lime Marinated Shrimp


Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a spicy shrimp dish.

For many, firm, sweet shrimp is a cause for celebration. Then what better way to honor Cinco de Mayo than with an easy shrimp dish, such as Matt Martinez’s Jalapeño-Lime Marinated Shrimp. Serve this colorful dish as an appetizer or as a salad on lettuce leaves.

Jalapeño-Lime Marinated Shrimp

1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 cup chopped or julienned red bell pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped white onion
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar, or less, to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed leafy oregano (Mexican oregano works best)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Grill or broil the shrimp and let them cool.

In a bowl, mix the bell pepper, onion, lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, salt, sugar, oregano and black pepper, and taste for seasoning. Add the shrimp and toss. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

From “MexTex” by Matt Martinez

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Warm Eggplant (Aubergine) and Anchovy Salad (Ensalada Templada de Berenjenas y Anchoas)


Use small egplants in this warm tapas recipe.

Look for small eggplants to use in this recipe, not the ones generally used in eggplant Parmesan.

Warm Eggplant (Aubergine) and Anchovy Salad (Ensalada Templada de Berenjenas y Anchoas)

3 eggplants (see note)
1 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
3 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and crush
Juice of 1 lemon, strained
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Peel the eggplants – although this dish is delicious if they are not peeled – then cut them into slices about ¾ inch thick, sprinkle with salt and place in a colander. Leave for 1 hour to draw out the juices, the rinse off the salt and pat dry.

Heat the oil in 1 or 2 skillets or frying pans over low heat and arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer so they have plenty of room. Cover and cook, turning once, for 20 minutes, or until the eggplants are tender and softened. Drain off nearly all the oil, leaving just enough to prevent the slices from sticking. Sprinkle the garlic, parsley and salt over them.

Mix the anchovies with the lemon juice and season with a little pepper. Pour this over the eggplants, covering them evenly, and serve.

Note: Don’t look for the large eggplants often used in eggplant Parmesan. Look for smaller eggplants, about 8 inches in length and 3-4 inches in diameter.

Makes 4-6 servings.

From “The Book of Tapas” by Simone and Inés Ortega

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Hard-boiled Eggs with Anchovies and Mayonnaise (Huevos Duros Rellenos de Anchoas y Mayonesa)


Anchovies add richness to deviled eggs.

Give your deviled eggs a savory makeover.

Hard-boiled Eggs with Anchovies and Mayonnaise (Huevos Duros Rellenos de Anchoas y Mayonesa)

9 eggs
1 ounce canned anchovies in oil, drained and chopped
¼ cup mayonnaise, or more, to taste
1 generous teaspoon stone-ground mustard
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Parsley sprigs or watercress, to garnish

To boil the eggs, pour enough water to cover them into a large pan, add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil. Add the eggs carefully and stir gently with a wooden spoon so that when they set, the yolks will be in the center. Cook medium-sized eggs for 12 minutes. (Add 1 minute for bigger eggs and subtract 1 minute for smaller eggs.) Drain off the hot water, fill the pan with cold water and leave the eggs until required.

When the eggs are cool enough to handle, shell and halve them lengthwise, then scoop out the yolks with a teaspoon, without piercing the whites.

Mix the anchovies, mayonnaise and mustard with the egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper, but remember the anchovies will be salty. Using a teaspoon, fill the egg white halves with the anchovy mixture and place in a serving dish. Garnish the serving with sprigs of parsley or watercress and chill in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours. (Any longer and the mayonnaise will become dry.)

Makes 18 deviled eggs.

Adapted from “The Book of Tapas” by Simone and Inés Ortega

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Fig, Anchovy and Cheese Tapa (Tapa de Higos, Anchoas y Queso)


Fresh figs and goat cheese make for a simple yet flavorful tapa.

You can make the cheese spread ahead of time, but have it at room temperature so you can spread it easy on the just-toasted bread.

Fig, Anchovy and Cheese Tapa (Tapa de Higos, Anchoas y Queso)

3 canned anchovy fillets, drained
½ clove garlic
3 ½ ounces goat cheese
2 slices thick country-style bread, quartered
Olive or sunflower oil
9 ounces figs, peeled and coarsely chopped

Preheat the broiler to high. Pound the anchovies, garlic and cheese with a pestle in a large mortar, or process briefly in a blender, until well blended, then set aside.

Toast the bread slices for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Brush each with oil on one side, then spread with the anchovy mixture and top with pieces of fig. Serve immediately or the toast will become soggy.

Makes 4 servings.

From “The Book of Tapas” by Simone and Inés Ortega

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Garlicky Habanero Macadamia Nuts


Garlicky Habanero Macadamia Nuts

“Most North Americans think habanero = fire,” Rick Bayless writes in “Fiesta at Rick’s” (W.W. Norton & Sons, $35). “I think habanero = aroma of tropical fruit and flowers … plus some pretty searing heat. By roasting habaneros (along with garlic) and blending them into seasoning, we’ve already mitigated their heat without doing too much damage to that beautifully aromatic flavor. Adding a touch of honey soothes the heat to a very manageable glow.

“Still scared about using habaneros? Try using two or three serrano (or two small jalapeño) chiles instead. And if your macadamia nuts come salted, cut the salt in the seasoning by half.”

These can be made a week in advance and stored in an air-tight container before servings.

Garlicky Habanero Macadamia Nuts (Macadamias al Chile Habanero y Ajo)

6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 to 2 fresh habanero chiles, stemmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups (about 1 pound) roasted macadamia nuts

Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. In a dry skillet, roast the unpeeled garlic cloves and chiles over medium heat, turning them regularly until soft and blotchy-blackened in spots, about 10 minutes for the habanero, 10 to 15 minutes for the garlic. When the garlic is handleable, peel off the paper skin. In a mortar or small food processor, combine the garlic and habanero. Pound or process to as smooth a mixture as possible. Add the oil, honey and salt and pound or process to incorporate thoroughly.

In a large bowl, combine the macadamias and flavoring, stirring to coat the nuts thoroughly. Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake —stirring occasionally — until the nuts are toasty smelling and the flavorings have formed a shiny, dryish coating, about 20 minutes. Cool.

Makes about 3 cups.

From “Fiesta at Rick’s” by Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless

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Chipotle-Roasted Almonds


Chipotle-Roasted Almonds

“Wanting a sweet-spicy nibble to set out for guests, I concocted this sweet chipotle glaze (though it works as well on peanuts and other nuts),” Rick Bayless writes in “Fiesta at Rick’s” (W.W. Norton & Sons, $35). “And you’re reading the ingredients right: I used ketchup as the medium to work the chiles, lime and brown sugar together into one pretty fine coating that’s easy to distribute evenly. When the nuts are ready to remove from the oven, they will no longer feel sticky — but they won’t be crisp. That’ll happen as they cool off.

“If the almonds you buy are blanched (peeled) but not toasted, spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 325-degree oven until they’re aromatic and lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.”

I failed to do the last step and used raw, unpeeled almonds. The nuts came out sticky. In fact, they clumped in the bowl. But they broke apart easily and disappeared quickly, sticky or not.

Chipotle-Roasted Almonds (Almendras Enchipotladas)

2 canned chipotle chiles
2 tablespoons adobo (tomato-y sauce in the can of chiles)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups (1 1/4 pounds) toasted, blanched almonds

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Scoop the chipotles, adobo, lime juice, ketchup, sugar and salt into a blender and process to a smooth purée. Pour into a large bowl along with the almonds and toss until the nuts are evenly coated. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and evenly spread the nuts on it. Bake until they are fragrant and no longer moist, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool the almonds on the sheet pan, then scoop into a serving bowl and set out for all to enjoy.

Makes 4 cups.

From “Fiesta at Rick’s” by Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless

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