Please pass the pepper.
Not the salt? Salt and pepper have to go together.
Regularly in recipes there is a line that reads, “Season to taste with salt and pepper.” But, why is pepper always last? Does it mean that if all else fails, sprinkle on some pepper? All too often, that pepper shaker sits idly by and lets salt take all of the credit.
Salt and pepper go together and I am not suggesting omitting the salt. It is just time for pepper to take a starring role.
Food trends today give credence to the fact that we like bolder flavors. The rise of many ethnic dishes has jump-started our taste buds to enjoy the hot, spicy, full flavors of the world. Such spices as cumin, coriander, turmeric, mustard, ginger and hot paprika are now common.
But what about that pantry staple, pepper? Not the fancy seasoned peppers, nor the pink pepper or red, cayenne pepper. Plain, black pepper.
What dishes come to mind when thinking about pepper?
Most egg dishes, including our favorite fried or scrambled eggs thrive with a grind of black pepper. Yes, add a shake of salt, but they scream for pepper.
Country gravy may be the most common all-American dish that needs black pepper. The wonderful, comforting white gravy we ladle over biscuits and chicken fried steak is seasoned with pepper. Salt and maybe sausage for the biscuit gravy add flavor, but pepper is vital.
Many restaurants feature the classic French dish, steak au poivre. This dish, nearly 100 years old now, features beef steak with a crust of crushed black pepper. Whether the sauce is cream or brandy laced, it is delicious and it has withstood the test of time.
Maybe it is time to try a new pepper-forward dish. Here are a few recipe suggestions to get your taste buds started.
Pasta, black pepper, Pecorino Romano and arugula make a simple, winning combination for dinner. Giada de Laurentiis shares this recipe for Linguine with Butter, Pecorino, Arugula and Black Pepper. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/linguine-with-butter-pecorino-arugula-and-black-pepper-recipe
Black Pepper Potato Chips http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/patrick-and-gina-neely/black-pepper-chips-recipe — Patrick and Gina Neely, a Food Network Team season homemade potato chips with black pepper, a treat that just might become addictive.
The Chew’s Carla Hall features black pepper in the crust in this Lemon Shaker Pie with Black Pepper Crust http://abc.go.com/shows/the-chew/recipes/lemon-shaker-pie-with-black-pepper-crust-carla-hall
Pepper is ready to use at a moment’s notice and “use it” is the first tip for the best flavor. Other tips include:
Pepper should be freshly ground. A few turns of the wrist and the flavor of pepper (as well as many other spices) soars. Maybe it is time to set that old pepper shaker aside and replace it with a pepper grinder.
Add pepper at the end of cooking to give the most flavor. Long cooking will diminish the pungent flavor.
Old spices lose their flavor and become stale and off-tasting. Keep all spices fresh. If you insist on keeping that bottle of ground pepper in the pantry, toss the old one now and replace it, ideally every 6 months or at least once a year.
Now is the time to let pepper shine.
Kathy Moore is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is Delicious Dump Cakes. Other recent books include Slow Cooker Desserts, Oh So Easy, Oh So Delicious and The Newlywed Cookbook: Cooking Happily Ever After. She develops the recipes for the “Eating for Life” column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier. She blogs at pluggedintocooking.com.