Black pepper is underappreciated!

Black pepper is about as ubiquitous as any spice can possibly be.  It would probably be hard to find a kitchen without it.  Sometimes is preground (yuck) and doesn’t really have much except enough heat to make you sneeze.  It’s something many probably pick up in the grocery store without thinking about it.  But, black pepper is black pepper is black pepper is not true.  It is often added as kind of an afterthought amongst other spices and herbs.

Whole Special Extra Bold Indian Black PeppercornsI’ve always been picky about my black pepper–my favorite is from Penzeys.  I’ve been mail-ordering it from there for ages–and have kept on even with the local store since I’ve got my established list of herbs and spices there.

If you peruse the list of black peppers from Penzeys, you’ll find quite a selection:  India Tellicherry, India Malabar (both excellent) and then there’s the Special Extra Bold Indian Black Peppercorns.  True more expensive than either of the others, but worth every penny more.

However, as much as I liked black pepper (over eggs, in mashed potatoes, with strawberries, balsamic, and black pepper), I didn’t really appreciate black pepper as the main seasoning until I made fårikål.  The seasoning is black pepper!  Lots of whole black peppercorns that cook right with the cabbage and the lamb. And should get eaten rather than picked out; after the long cooking they still have some tooth but are soft enough to eat easily and the flavor is just amazing.

Black pepper is worth exploring as something other than an add-on to other herbs and spices.  It should always be bought whole rather than ground or cracked.  While you can spend a small fortune of a pepper mill, you can also get a reasonably inexpensive one.  It will open a whole new world of flavor.  The highly recommended mill from America’s Test Kitchen was from Cole and Mason, and surprisingly, very reasonably priced.

Another tasty dish featuring lots of black pepper that you should make once you have some really good black whole peppercorns to go with you pepper mill is cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta).  But do try it with good ripe strawberries, too.  Or on a lusciously ripe muskmelon or watermelon.

A son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

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Holiday gift shopping

book

for the wine lover

Do you have someone for whom you can’t decide on a gift for this holiday season?   With exception of the last item on the list, these are all products that I use and admittedly, they reflect my personal preferences.  I have no affiliate connection with any of these; I receive no consideration or remuneration for promotion.

With that said, here are a few suggestions:

  • For the wine lover you know who would like to get off the beaten track and find uncommon grapes and explore obscure wines Godforsaked Grapes by Jason Wilson is a delightful, slightly irreverent when it comes to the mainstream wines that we hear so much about. It’s a delightful, easy to read book.  Available in Kindle, hardcover, paperback, or audio.
  • For the working person who would like hands-off cooking or rapid meals after work, you could go for an Instant Pot.  The different functions can replace lots of other small appliances that might be already in the kitchen.   It’s not going to replace the dutch oven, but it does a lot of things.  Here’s information on what is available.  You can find them at a number of specialty stores like Williams-Sonoma
  • of if there is already an Instant Pot in that kitchen, how about some cookbooks to help really getting into using it.?
  • If you know someone who loves good olive oils, Bull City Olive Oil has a great selection of fused, infused, and ultra premium extra virgin oils, as well as flavored balsamic vinegars.  For some heat and green chili flavor, the Baklouti green chili fused oil is fantastic.  Or blackberry-ginger dark balsamic is wonderful with seared duck breasts.  Salad lover?  Well, to make a salad special the herbs de Provence infused olive oil with lavender balsamic vinegar can make an outstanding vinaigrette dressing.  There is also sherry vinegar and roasted sesame oil that nothing like what you’ll find on the grocery store shelves. Then, there is truffle oil too.
  • For some kitchen basics, consider some traditional cast iron.  Lodge is a brand that you can probably even find at your local hardware store.  Once cured or seasoned, it can be used on the stovetop or in the oven.  For a perfectly seared steak, cast iron is a must; it allows stovetop searing and then finishing in the oven for perfectly cooked steak.  A 6.5-inch skillet is great for roasting spices, and for cooking one or two eggs in the flavorful olive oil without using a lot of oil.
  • The adventurous cook will always love trying new herbs and spices.  Penzys has a great selection and you can get small jars (1/4 cup) which are wonderful if you’re cooking for one.  Pick one of the selections of gift boxes, or make up your own.
  • Give some relaxation with a selection of tea or tisanes from Harney and Sons.  You’ll find a wide selection of black and green teas, as well as fruit and herbals infusions.  Wu Li Quing green is lovely. Peach and the mango fruit tea are warm and cozy, or great iced in hot weather.  Ginger licorice herbal is a favorite of mine.
  • How about some chocolate?  Chuao Chocolate is my go-to for me and for gifts.  There are bars (Honeycomb and Spicy Maya are favorites).  Or check out the organic lavender blueberry,  hibiscus rose combinations.
  • To give a vicarious trip around the world, a subscription to Milk Street magazine (digital or print) will provide you with recipes with a definite 0mandarin-mninternational flair but adapted for the American kitchen.  I still love Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, but Milk Street has become my new favorite because of the variety.
  • For someone who loves citrus fruit, Mixon Fruit Farms provides the best grapefruit (either red or white), mandarin oranges, tangerines, and a variety of oranges from Florida.  Absolutely luscious!
  • Last but not least, if you’ve been hearing about sous vide cooking consider one of the immersion heaters from Joule or Anova.  (Sorry, no recommendations from personal experience (yet) but here’s a review from Epicurious).  I noticed that Instant Pot also has a sous vide circulator that I think I would consider after reading the review.  I’ve not finished research on these but I’m hoping that the cat will give me one for my holiday gift.  I’ve tried some jury-rigged sous vide cooking including the beer cooler method and I really do like the results.

 

A son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

Cyber Monday!

The season for gifts is approaching. I’ll admit that I don’t do many holiday gifts–if I find something I want to give a friend, I’ll just do it so I’ve very little “Christmas” shopping to do–and it’s already done! But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have some things that would make great gifts for the right person:

  • For the beekeeper or pollinator enthusiast on your list: some beautiful ceramics from www.honeybeeceramics.com--and I’ll admit that I don’t often find ceramics that I really like. There are clocks, decorative tiles of various sizes, and more utilitarian things like switch covers and outlet covers that are still beautiful.
  • If you know a honey fan (who doesn’t keep bees but loves varietal honeys) there is a great selection from Old Blue Raw Honey –admittedly not a new suggestion, but there are so many possibilities here or from www.beeraw.com.
  • For the “foodie” not honey- or bee-oriented Bull City Olive Oil has a wonderful selection of extra virgin olive oil–all harvest dated. I’ve found some excellent ones from places that I had not even thought of as producing olive oil, e.g. Australian Hojiblanca.  The selection will vary with the seasonal harvest.  You’ll also find a selection of fused and infused oils that are very tasty, varietal honeys, and balsamic vinegars. Not in Durham? Orders can be shipped.
  • If you have a beekeeper on your list who complains about how hot it is in the summer when using protective clothing, here is a real gem. From Beetle Jail the really cool (figuratively and literally) there’s the Cool Blue beekeeper’s jacket.  It really lives up to is name–you really can feel breeze through it, and I’ve had no stings while working in it.
  • Another that’s not new, but it’s unusual: the Potato of the Month Club. What can I say–I just love potatoes.
  • Then, there is always the Instant Pot. I finally succumbed and after a lot of research on the pros and cons, I bought an Instant Pot–and I love it. It adds a new set of functions to what I had in the Krups multi-cooker with the third-generation pressure cooking function.
  • Should you opt for the Instant Pot you might include a cookbook (or two) that provides a good introduction to using that kitchen appliance. The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook by Coco Marante fills that slot nicely.
  • Melissa Clark’s Dinner in an Instant is a wonderful book to start using the pressure cooker or Instant Pot. It’s a realistic look at what you can do with these multifunction appliances.
  • For chocolate lovers, Chuao Chocolatier is one of my favorites–good chocolate and some pretty fantastic flavor combinations. I’m especially fond of the Spicy Mayan bar and the Enamored collection–especially the blueberry and lavender combination.
  • Valrhona chocolate has a collection of single estate origin bars that provide a lot of sensual delight for the chocolate lover.

There are more gift suggestions here, here, and here–with some redundancy because some things are just too good to give up.

Disclaimer:  I have no affiliate links and receive no monetary or other considerations from any of the sources I’ve listed in these pages. They are strictly my personal preferences.

A son gôut!