A week ago I wrote about salt. Now it's time to write about its' companion: pepper. Don't discount this amazing spice as just another seasoning for your burgers or mashed potatoes. Like salt it has been elevated to gourmet level these days with stores and web site selling a variety of different ones. With these peppercorns you can turn the most boring food into something exotic and spicy.
Pepper has been around for thousands of years. Our black pepper comes from the tip of the Indian subcontinent and was considered currency during the early years of global exploration. Its' name derives from the Sanskrit pippali and the Latin piper. Back then pepper had been used to mask the taste of rotting meat. Now it's used to add zing to any dish.
For foodies there are stores and web sites specializing just in peppercorns. Before you buy, know that there are not just black peppercorns, but also pink, white, and green ones as well. Black and white peppercorns actually come from the same plant but the white are the more mature ones that have had their black husks removed. Green peppercorns have a slightly different taste. They're pistachio in color and have a fruity green flavor similar to -well those green peppers you stuff. Pink peppercorns look more like tiny cranberries and have a slightly sweet-peppery taste to them. They would be perfect for dressing duck or making a fiery vinaigrette. There are other peppers worth mentioning: the Szechuan and the French. The first is used in the cooking of the same name. They have a fiery fruity taste and a zing guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes. The second is the French , blend of black and green peppercorns, excellent for seasonings and rubs. There is a great website where you can learn more and buy pepper in bulk. Go to www.bulkpeppercorns.com
If you're too busy to web shop ,then try your supermarket's local spice section.
McCormack, the giant and grand daddy of all spice companies has good cracked pepper. I tried it in my chicken tarragon salad for zip and the peppers really livened it up. I plan on using it again when I make a lemon pepper marinade for my tofu chicken strips. It has a wonderful fire and also adds a certain crunch to anything. Try it in your marinades or just as a good coating on grilled veggies and ribs.
Pepper is hot, in more ways than one. It's a great spice to rediscover and add to traditional dishes for more zest. Make it a part of your summer.
Tarragon-Pepper Chicken Salad
2 cans chicken chunks (deviled chicken)
5 t0 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons dried tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons cracked pepper
Mix chicken and mayonnaise until well blended. Mix in tarragon and pepper. You can adjust the amounts to satisfy your tastes.
Serve on crackers or on kaiser rolls