Saturday, December 2, 2017

PEPPERS OF THE AMERICAS, the cook's introduction or the coffee table's glory

10 Speed Press
$35 hardcover, available now

Rating: 5* of five

The Publisher Says: From piquillos and shishitos to padrons and poblanos, the popularity of culinary peppers (and pepper-based condiments, such as Sriracha and the Korean condiment gochujang) continue to grow as more consumers try new varieties and discover the known health benefits of Capsicum, the genus to which all peppers belong. This stunning visual reference to peppers now seen on menus, in markets, and beyond, showcases nearly 200 varieties (with physical description, tasting notes, uses for cooks, and beautiful botanical portraits for each). Following the cook's gallery of varieties, more than 40 on-trend Latin recipes for spice blends, salsas, sauces, salads, vegetables, soups, and main dishes highlight the big flavors and taste-enhancing capabilities of peppers.

My Review: The simple glory of eating peppers is their surprising, underutilized versatility. Nothing is more delicious than a juicy piece of cantaloupe sprinkled with a salt, sugar, dried pepper blend. Oh wait, squeeze some lime juice on it first! The pass out from the pleasure of savoring the sweethottart explosion in your brain.
This beautiful page shows the ingredients for true peppery happiness.

I grew up on the Texas/Mexico border and was indoctrinated early in the ways of hot and spice, to my resolutely Anglo mother's mild horror and refined disgust. (She also disapproved of fried foods, another thing I can't get enough of; her goddesses were Elizabeth David and MFK Fisher, worthy objects of veneration, but not to the exclusion of Madhur Jaffrey and Maria Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo.) I was thrilled with the recent rise of the sriracha cult, I am a huge fan of Tabasco, pretty much if it's under 250,000 scovills I'm on board and above that if there's a pitcher of milk nearby.
Here we see the Gates of Heaven, aka dried peppers and how to make them.
This volume is a gorgeously illustrated single-subject encyclopedia. It is history, sociology, mixology, on and on, in an oversized trim and printed so beautifully you won't want to use it in the kitchen. Resist this impulse. Make turkey in mole coloradito (p317) to shake up your Yuletide table with a truly American dish. Besides, it's so delicious it slips under my no-turkey table rule which is a major feat.

Live in a pepper desert? Page 330 has you covered...Author Presilla gives you her online sources for all things pepper. There's a gallery of fresh peppers for the aesthetes, complete with potted histories and good guidance on what to expect from each.

I would give this beautiful item to a coffee-table cook without a second thought. I'd far prefer to give it to someone with a need for heat whose sophistication of palate has gone beyond a squirt of something red from a bottle, whose horizons need broadening, and who can benefit from a thorough, well-organized "Cooking With Peppers" guide to comfortable handling and effective preparation of these magical, savory, versatile fruits.

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