Sunday, November 30, 2008

A brief history of peppers and 2 of the best pepper sauces

The strange allure of peppers.

I was a huge fan of the original Iron Chef series. This would be a confession if I felt the least amount of shame about, but I don't. Now, if I was to proclaim my love for the American version of the show, that would be a totally different story — it's all kinds of lame — but the original, in my opinion, is beyond criticism.

For those of you who don't know the series, I've prepared a primer.

Here's where the peppers come in: Chairman Kaga, the insane host of the show, had a thing for peppers, as evidenced by the show's opening. IC was also filled with legend and obscure sayings, several of which involved peppers like: "Red peppers are for the King, orange peppers are for the Queen, and yellow peppers, for the Prince" that gave peppers a special mystique.

And so, I tend to think about IC, that masterwork of television, whenever I cook with peppers.

Anyway, thanks for letting me reminisce about IC, and share a bit of food culture. Here are two of my favourite pepper sauce recipes:


DEVILED PASTA

Ingredients
1 1-lb box penne
2 tbsp olive oil
3 bell peppers (any color), cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 24- to 26-oz jar pasta sauce
1/2 cup ricotta

Instructions

Cook the penne according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the bell peppers, salt, and 1/4 tsp of the black pepper. Cover and cook for 4 min. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 to 2 min. Add the pasta sauce and cook until heated through, about 3 min.

Drain the pasta and divide it among individual bowls. Top with the sauce, a dollop of the ricotta, and the remaining black pepper.


SWEET RED PEPPER SAUCE

Ingredients

2 tsp olive oil
3 large red bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed through a press
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 lb pasta

Instructions

In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over low heat. Add bell peppers, onion and garlic, and cook until very soft, about 15 min.

Stir in tomato paste, sage, sugar, salt, and 1 cup water; cover and cook until peppers and onion are meltingly tender, about 20 min.

Transfer bell pepper mixture to food processor and process to smooth puree. Return puree to skillet. Serve with pasta.

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