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For this Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by me, I'm praising the pepper, and other hot stuff. Be sure to stop back on Monday for the recap.
The reasons for the heat are not as exotic as one would hope. Current thinking brings it all down to simple food preservation. Researchers at Cornell "focused on 43 spices used in the meat-based cuisines of 36 countries for which they could locate traditional cookbooks—a total of 4,578 recipes. Their goal was to test the age-old hypothesis that spices act as food preservatives."
Out of the 43 spices they tested the most effective were garlic, onion, allspice, and oregano with thyme, cinnamon, tarragon, cumin, cloves, lemon grass, bay leaf, capsicums (hot peppers), and rosemary all coming a close second. The hotter the climate the more spices used in combination. "All recipes from the tropics called for at least one spice, whereas one-third of the recipes from the north were spice-free."
France is not noted for its hot, spicy food. Spain, however does a bit better. One of the favorite bar snacks is a little green chile pepper (sorry, the correct name escapes me, any help?). Eleven out of twelve are mildly hot with a pleasing bite. The twelfth will leave you gasping, crying, sweating and guzzling any liquid at hand. Russian roulette with a pepper. There is no way to tell which are the hot ones.
Peppers, in particular the red ones, are loaded with vitamins and are thought to help lower blood pressure and increase the good cholesterol. As if we needed a reason….
Tortilla de Pimiento (Omelet with Red Peppers)
1 tbs olive oil
8 – 10 oz (280gr) pimientos, pimentos, roasted red peppers
1/2 tsp thyme
2 tbs freshly snipped garlic chives
banderillas olives for garnish
Truffle oil if you have it on hand
Peel and thickly slice onions. Heat oil in small, 7 – 8" nonstick skillet or omelet pan (20cm) over medium heat. Add onions and sauté briefly, stirring. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let cook for 10 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high and sauté until nicely browned, stirring frequently. Whisk eggs and thyme. Open and drain pimientos. If they are whole cut in half or quarters, depending on size – just so they are easier to lay out. When onions are browned pour in half of the eggs. Lay the pimientos on top of the eggs in one layer, cutting to fit as needed. Pour the rest of the eggs over the top. Sprinkle on the chives. Reduce heat to medium and cover. When eggs are cooked through you need to turn it: slide it carefully onto a plate, put another plate on top and turn it over. Now slide it back into the pan to brown the other side, another 1 – 2 minutes. Slide it carefully onto a plate. Cut in quarters. Put one quarter on each plate, garnish with
banderillas and small goat cheeses, olives and drizzle with Truffle oil or good olive oil. Serve.
Banderillas are another favorite Spanish tapa. Little plastic swords with an onion, jalapeno, anchovy stuffed olive, red pepper and pickle. It's the only thing I am regularly requested to bring to the U.S. with me…
As to the rest of the Tortilla (we only ate half for our starter) – a little melted cheese, a bit of fresh tomato sauce and…
Voila! Breakfast! (I'm going to get kicked out of France if the Food Police find out)
FYI: Tortillas are traditionally served at room temperature in Spain either for tapas, a light meal or sliced, in a baguette for a sandwich snack. Bueno Appetito!