Ingredient Highlight: Piment d’Espelette

Piment d’Espelette is a hand-harvested red chile pepper grown in the Basque region of France.  In 2007, this locally grown pepper was granted the ‘Appellation d’Origine Protégée’, a European provenance guarantee, acknowledging  that Piment d‘Espelette is authentic only if grown and processed in the region that, with its specific terrain, grants the coveted spice its inimitable flavor profile.  Under this strict standard, only hand-harvesting of the pepper is allowed and specific processing techniques must be adhered to. This pepper is prized for its fruity flavor and fragrant red pepper aroma.  It is mildly spicy with a bright clean ‘sparkle.

Our kitchen has found that this wonderful pepper lends itself to innumerable applications – as a dry rub ingredient for meats, poultry and fish, a perfect seasoning for sauces and salsas, a great addition to salad dressings and pasta dishes. It has even found its way into our pastry department.  *It can be obtained at specialty food stores or ordered online.

The recipe which follows is also from the same region that produces Piment d’Espelette, and uses the chile as a key ingredient in its preparation.

Piperade | Recipe

Piperade is similar to Ratatouille. It can be served hot or cold. Piperade makes an excellent sauce or topping for meats, poultry and fish.  Top grilled bread slices with Piperade for a quick bruschetta appetizer.  Toss with pasta or mix with rice. Piperade has a great affinity for egg dishes; scrambled, poached, or as filling for omelets.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 green or red bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips or medium chunks (your preference)

1 large Spanish onion, small diced

2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced

1 large can diced tomatoes with juice (around 16 oz.)

* You may use fresh tomatoes, blanch first, then peel and discard skin

1/2 tsp. Piment d’Espelette

Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the green peppers and onions and sauté, stirring frequently until the vegetables have softened and have some slight color.  Stir in the garlic. Add the tomatoes (with their juice) and the Piment d’Espelette.  Lower heat and simmer until mixture has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

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