Wednesday, March 23, 2016

East Meets West for Easter... Aleppo Pepper Deviled Eggs

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I love the global economy.  The Fountain of Youth for new flavors and fragrances.  Just when we were getting tired of the old and tried recipes, the doors burst open to new cuisines and methods of cooking. When tagines can be found at TJMaxx, deeply discounted, you know this is no longer something new.  Now I know how the courts of Europe must have felt when they first tasted these spices and why they spent so much money sending men and ships in search of the Spice Islands.

Aleppo pepper flakes are now my new heat of choice.




 I know what you are going to say....Oh God here we go.  Now that we've gone through the salts, here come the peppers.  No, I stopped at Himalayan pink salt.  I still have a burlap bag of sea salt from Guarande that I brought home from France about 10 years ago,  It still sits on the shelf.  Too precious to use. Never got over that feeling.  So it sits on the shelf waiting for "just" the right occasion while  I use sea salt or Kosher salt. Julia Child used to say, salt is salt. Wrong.  Not all salts are created equal, nor are peppers.

As you know I am an Ottolenghi groupie and I have noticed that a lot of his recipes call for Aleppo pepper.  I have been substituting my regular old red pepper flakes, as heat is not a big thing with me. Don't get me wrong.  The right amount of heat is necessary to bring up a recipe to perfection but not enough for me to have a shelf full of different peppers.  That changed on my last visit to the World Market last week.  I love this place...you never know what you will find. Into my basket went a tin of Aleppo pepper together with a bottle of preserved lemons.  You can get all this at a Middle Eastern market but I am in Georgia, in the country, and heaven knows where that is.

I couldn't wait and had my first taste tonight...over Fettuccine Alfredo.  Oh my.  I have never gone this wild for heat!  Mildly hot and so classy and elegant.  I am a fan.  If this is on leftovers I can't imagine what it will be like on an Ottolenghi recipe.

The pepper is named after Aleppo, an ancient city in Northern Syria  long considered one of the culinary meccas of  the Mediterranean and an important part of the Silk Road.  It is also grown in Southern Turkey.   It has a moderate heat level with some fruitiness and mild, cumin-like undertones, with a hint of a vinegar, salty taste. Use it for authentic chili flavor in any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean dish. 



The blue line above is the old Spice Route.  The Red the Silk Route.  They both meet at Aleppo in what is now Syria.
Aleppo chili offers a nice variation from your usual crushed red peppers. It has a very robust flavor that hits you in the back of your mouth, tickles your throat and dissipates quickly. Try it in place of regular crushed red pepper flakes on pizzas, salads, and pasta.  From The Spice House

Like this review, what struck me was that it hit me and then poof!.. it dissipated.  I did not get choked with a lot of  heat that, to me, gets in the way of the food you are trying to taste.  A very elegant way to awaken your taste buds.

One of the most popular reasons for the craze of cooking with Aleppo Pepper is due to its friendliness with other spices. It blends exceptionally well with spices like Coriander,Cumin, and even Cinnamon. The dynamic flavors of Aleppo accentuate similar flavors in these spices to create an incomparable palette-pleaser. The flavors of an Aleppo pepper can be described as sweet and salty with fruity notes.. and if you feel for it- a touch of smokiness similar to the one found in Cumin. Normally, the saltiness found in an Aleppo is after math of the drying process in which salt is commonly used. In addition to these diverse flavors, these peppers are sun-dried and commonly used in a powder or crushed form which can present an essence of tomato flavor. from About.com
I suggest getting acquainted with Aleppo pepper in a dish you are familiar with and one that is fairly bland so you can really experience the taste.  Macaroni and Cheese is one (I usually sprinkle paprika or cayenne for a kick): Deviled Eggs are another. I have been singing the praises of this pepper to my son, who loves heat, and can't wait for him to try it this Easter Sunday.

My friend and fellow blogger Sam Hoffer of My Carolina Kitchen is as taken with Aleppo pepper flakes as I am.  It is amazing how synchronized she and I are on our recipes.  When she published her post mine was getting the final touches!

There are a million combinations for deviled eggs, from capers and tarragon, to plain old paprika and mustard. Experiment with what you like, and make them your own. In the meantime, try these. For big holiday meals such as this, I go light on hors d'oeuvres, but for Easter, there's always a tray of these around.

3/30/2016 Note: You will not be able to find the authentic flakes from Aleppo due to the war in Syria.  You will be able to find them from Southern Turkey or styled Mediterranean Aleppo pepper flakes.  Sadly ISIS has not only destroyed antiquities but also Aleppo pepper fields as well. They are not sure when the fields will be back in production, if at all.

Aleppo Pepper Deviled Eggs
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

12 large eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or Durkees Famous Sauce
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or cayenne
Salt
Special equipment: a pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch star tip (optional)
Garnishes: Aleppo pepper, paprika, chopped fresh chives or Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cover eggs with cold water by 1 1/2 inches in a 3-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a rolling boil, partially covered. Reduce heat to low and cook eggs, covered completely, for 1 min. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 15 minutes. Transfer eggs with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking and let stand 5 minutes.

Peel eggs and halve lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and mash in a bowl with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard, and Aleppo or cayenne pepper and stir with fork until smooth, then season with salt and pepper. Fill pastry bag with yolk mixture and pipe into egg whites.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese and Aleppo pepper sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Celebrate St. Patricks Day With A Reuben!

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I will be celebrating St Patricks Day tomorrow with a corned beef brisket and cabbage.  Don't laugh.  I know you know I'm not Irish;  but the reason behind this meal is to have enough corned beef to make Reuben sandwiches until I say enough!  Yes, the Reuben is up there as one of my three top favorite sandwiches of all time.  So much so that this is one of the first recipes I posted when I started this blog in the Spring of 2009.

You don't have to make a corned beef brisket to have a Reuben.  Go to the store, buy everything you need and make them at home.  So much better...that is, unless you are in New York City.  Nothing can beat the ambiance of a good New York Jewish deli. 

The Reuben Sandwich is unquestionably one of New York's greatest contribution to the world of eating. It was named for Arnold Reuben, owner of Reuben's Restaurant and Delicatessen located at 6 East 58th Street in Manhattan. The restaurant closed its doors in the late 1960s.

Nowadays, if you are in New York City and get a yen for a Reuben, you can go to the corner deli or a nearby coffee shop and get a fairly good one. If you live in Miami, like I do, you can always cross the bridge into Miami Beach and get a fabulous one at the Epicure Market on Alton Road. But who wants to go through all that trouble for a sandwich? I do. There are times, however, when I don't want to go through the process and seeing that I get the yen pretty often, I decided to start making them at home. It is also a treat and something different to serve to your guests for a very informal lunch by the pool. All you need to do in advance, is make sure you have a chilled stein and a cold beer as the perfect companion to the Reuben sandwich experience.

Serves 2

Butter
4 slices rye bread or marbled pumpernickel and rye bread
1/2 lbs. corned beef
4 slices Swiss cheese
Sauerkraut
Thousand Island Dressing

Preheat a large skillet or griddle on medium heat. Add some butter and lay all four slices of bread. Lay a slice of the Swiss cheese on two of the bread slices, followed by half the corned beef and the sauerkraut (drained). I like to add the Thousand Island dressing on top of the sauerkraut, followed by another slice of Swiss cheese. Top with the remaining bread slices, buttered sides out. Press the grill down or place a heavy skillet over the sandwich if you are cooking on top of the stove.

Grill sandwiches until both sides are golden brown, about 3 more minutes on each side. Serve with potato chips, dill pickle and a cold beer.

Thousand Island Dressing

2 TB mayonnaise
1 TB catsup
1/4 tsp chili sauce

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Orchids...Cymbidium

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It's hard to capture the loveliness of this orchid in a photo taken inside the house on a rainy Sunday.  I almost killed myself trying all angles atop the kitchen steps!  No matter, you get the picture (no pun intended).


They were a present for Madame Mere and these particular ones came from Costco.  Look for them at your local nursery and at Trader Joe's, Kroger and other stores.  This is their time of year.




Cymbidium, often called boat orchids, are known for their large spikes and long lasting blooms.  If you take proper care of them, the flowers will last for 8-10 weeks.

They need lots of light, no direct sun, and a moist soil .  Madame Mere's apartments are the best place for them.  She is the Orchid Whisperer!




For how best to care for them, follow the tips from this source or the one that comes with your orchid.  If you live in California, you can grow them outside. Anywhere else, including Florida (it's too hot for them in Summer), stick to the pot.
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