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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke

German researchers have discovered that the flapping of bees' wings scares off caterpillars, reducing leaf damage on bell peppers and soybeans.

Many wasp species lay their eggs in caterpillars, and so caterpillars have evolved to avoid them. The sounds of bees' and wasps' wings are similar.

Researchers suggest this is an added bonus of having bees around, as well as the pollination they provide.

The scientists wrote in the journal Current Biology: "Our findings indicate for the first time that visiting honeybees provide plants with a totally unexpected advantage. They not only transport pollen from flower to flower, but in addition also reduce plant destruction by herbivores."

For the experiment, researchers used bell pepper and soybean plants, beet armyworm caterpillars, and honeybees. They set up experimental plots of the plants, added the caterpillars, and allowed the bees to enter some of the plots but not others.

When the caterpillars had turned into pupae and buried away in the soil, the scientists went back into the cages and measured the extent of leaf damage - the amount of munching that the caterpillars had indulged in.

The presence of bees reduced caterpillar damage by about 60% in plants that had not fruited.


My First BBQ Joint Still Open!

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: history , barbecue products

I was looking through Michael Karl Witzel's fun new book, Barbecue Road Trip, when I spotted a reference to Bill's Barbecue in Richmond, Virginia.  This brought back a flood of memories.  In 1967, I was in graduate school at the University of Richmond and lived on Monument Avenue, just a few blocks from Bill's.  I never had much BBQ when I was growing up in northern Virginia, so I started getting takeout from Bill's.  Invariably it was the same thing everytime: minced pork topped with coleslaw and a eastern North Carolina-style barbecue sauce.  And Bill's is still in business today, 78 1/2 years after its founding on June 2, 1930.  There never was a "Bill."  An out-of-work sign maker named the restaurant and painted the logo on the front window--in trade for some barbecue, of course.  The logo is still the same, and it looks like it was designed in 1930:

 


Prolific 'Bhut' Keeps Producing

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: gardening , chile varieties

                                                                                                             

Neil O'Connor, who lives in Cape Coral, Florida, had a nice Christmas present in the fiery form of a prolific 'Bhut Jolokia' ("Ghost Pepper") plant. Neil writes: "While I was writing my email to you, my wife, Diane, looked over my shoulder and said 'You don't have 50 peppers on that plant.' She went out to count them and told me that she stopped at 65." Amazing. Good job, Neil! 


Many years ago I wrote a novel that was never published called Sidewinders, and in it my hero, a journalist, uncovers a plot to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. in cans of Mexican food products like enchilada sauce.  Well, today in Durham, Ontario police arrested Mahendrapaul Doodnauth (how could I make that name up?) and charged him with smuggling 276 kilos of pure cocaine in 1,250 boxes of Sari hot sauce, which is made in Guyana.  Doodnauth is the owner of Caribbean International Food Distributors.  The cocaine was in plastic bags that were taped to the cardboard inserts that separated the bottles of hot sauce.  Once again, fiction becomes fact!


31 Million Foodies in U.S.

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

According to the new report from Packaged Facts,  31 million foodies, or 14% of the population, are shaping the American palate and offering food manufacturers a willing audience for new product launches.  The report, with a very bulky title, Foodies in the U.S.: Five Cohorts: Foreign/Spicy, Restaurant, Cooks, Gourmet, and Organic/Natural, uses data from Simmons Market Research to segment the overall foodie demographic into the five segments reflected in the title.  Foreign/spicy and restaurant foodies are the two largest foodie groups with approximately 71 percent of all foodies, representing 10% of U.S. adults, or about 22 million people.  It is the foreign/spicy segment that's helping to introduce the next wave of international cuisine to the American palate.  The study examines foodies' demographic characteristics and includes separate chapters on each of the five foodie segments.  For more information on the study, go here--but be forewarned that these kinds of studies are very expensive to purchase.


Recipes:

Green Chile Tortilla Pinwheels
Chile de Arbol Salad
Posole (Pork and Posole Corn)
Red Chile Sauce
Biscochitos (Anise-Flavored Cookies)

Go here.

 


More Italian Hot Stuff

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

I mentioned in an earlier post that Marco Budinis had visited the Natalidea show in Genoa and had found a bunch of spicy foods.  Now he shares more pix with us, from standard fare like crushed chiles and chile powder...

To spiced-up olives from Puglia...

And chile-laden hard Pecorino cheese from Calabria...

The Calabrians love spicy cheese, so why not put some chile in a soft cheese like Ricotta?

And for those rare Italians who can't eat spicy food, how about the ultimate chile house decoration?


Curry-ing Favor at Christmas

Posted by: Neil Travis Honaker

Tagged in: holidays , fiery foods

By Neil Travis Honaker

The weather outside may not have been frightful, but it was darn cold for this time of year in Kentucky. A skiff of snow lay on the ground making the roads just slick enough to send traffic into a tailspin--literally. So when my neighbor called and asked how curry chicken sounded for dinner, I knew that the temperature inside was going to be more hospitable. In other words, it was a great night to spend indoors with a roaring fire and pots on the stove.

When I was younger and first discovering a love of cooking, I was never really certain if curry referred to a spice mixture, a type of cuisine, a method of cooking or an ingredient. Of course, it's a little of all of these things. Over the years it's a flavor I've grown to love, although one I don't enjoy nearly often enough. As the evening progressed, I found I was playing very little part in the cooking, being relegated primarily to stirring the curry and tending to the fireplace. Since my neighbor Charlotte had more experience cooking Indian cuisine, I was content to sit back, watch and learn. Accompanying the dinner would be an Indian rice dish Charlotte learned from a friend, who had in turn learned in from an Indian cook while living in the Middle East. The fact that curry has no fixed recipe made the evening's culinary experimentation all the more interesting. We cooked adding a little of this and that, tasting as we went, all the while discussing the flavors of the curry as it developed. As the fire warmed the house, the curry began to scent the kitchen. Of course we could have search on the internet for a curry recipe, but the dish would not have been as much fun to prepare. Like curry itself which differs region to region (and sometimes even family to family) we were creating it to our own tastes which were very much a product of that night, the weather outside and our particular moods that evening.

Food, friends and a roaring fire. It turned out the night wasn't going to be that cold and dreary after all.

Curry Chicken

Vegetable oil
2 to 2-1/2 lbs chicken breast, quartered
3 to 4 medium shallots, minced
1 habanero chile pepper, minced (without the seeds) - you can substitute a jalapeño for a less spicy version
2 tablespoons flour
 1 15-ounce can coconut milk
8 ounces chicken stock
Juice of one lime
3  to 4 tablespoons curry powder
1 to 2 tablespoons  Garam Masala
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Heat a small amount of oil in a large pan. Add in the chicken pieces and saute until the chicken starts to brown, approx. 5 minutes. Do not cook the chicken all the way through. Add a small amount of oil to pan in which you sauteed the chicken. Saute the shallots and habanero in the oil until fragrant, but not browned. Add the flour and stir constantly (just like making a roux). Add the chicken stock a little at a time and keep stirring. When the mixture starts to come together, add the rest of the stock and the coconut milk. Stir in two tablespoons of curry powder and one tablespoon of Garam Masala. Let the mixture simmer for a while, then taste. Add salt and pepper as required, and more curry and Garam Masala as desired. Continue simmering and add the juice of one lime. When the mixture is well combined, fragrant and tasty, add in the chicken pieces. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the chicken is done (approx. 20 to 25 minutes). Serve with Indian rice. For an even spicier curry add either ground cayenne or hot curry powder to the sauce before adding the chicken.

Yield 3 to 4 servings
Heat Level: Medium to very hot, depending on your taste

Indian Rice

Vegetable oil
1 cup long grain Indian Basmati rice
1 3/4 C water
Cinnamon sticks
Whole Cloves
Whole Cardamom
Whole Coriander

Add a small amount of oil to medium pot (large enough to add water to later and cook the rice). Break the cinnamon sticks into pieces. Count the number of cinnamon pieces and cardamon seeds (you'll want to remove these later before serving the rice, so you need to know how much is in the mixture). Saute the spices in the oil until fragrant. Add the rice and stir constantly until coated with the spices and oil. Add the water, bring to a boil, then drop the heat to a simmer and cook until the rice is finished.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

Nobilo Regional Collection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008

 


While I would have been content to never leave the house, I did venture out long enough to pick up something to drink with dinner. Although I love Indian food, I can't claim to have eaten very much of it or really to know anything about it. I made an inquiry at the Liquor Barn (in Kentucky everything it seems is named after a barn) and was pointed in the direction of a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough district of New Zealand. As it turned out it was a excellent accompaniment to the dinner. The Nobilo had bright, citrus flavors and paired perfectly with the aromatic curry .

 


Nduja: The Spicy, Spreadable Salami

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: fiery foods , bacon

I am constantly amazed to discover spicy Italian foods I've never heard of before. Marco Budinis, one of my Italian chilehead friends, recently attended Natalidea, a Christmas trade show in Genoa, where he bought some nduja and sent me a pic of it, below. Nduja is a soft, spicy hot, spreadable salami considered to be one of the most famous, if not the most famous, of typical Calabrian foods. Nduja originates from Spilinga, though great nduja can be found in all areas of Monte Poro. The name nduja (I have no earthly idea how it's pronounced) comes from the french word "andouille," which means "sausage." Nduja is made with pork meat, a bit of fat, salt, and a lot of red chile powder, so it is quite spicy. This spiced paste is either put in jars to use as a spread or is stuffed into a casing just like salami. It was a good way to preserve the fat, if you were lucky enough to have a pig to slaughter or access to its offal. It is probably the earliest form of Calabrian convenience food, as it can easily be rendered in a saute pan with chopped onions, garlic, and either a few fresh tomatoes or a small jar of tomato sauce, and then tossed with cooked pasta like penne.

Quick Nduja

1/2 pound finely chopped bacon
2 ounces finely chopped pork shoulder
2 tablespoons ground red chile, hot (some recipes call for smoked chiles or hot smoked paprika)
1-2 tablespoons sea salt

Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl. Place the mixture in an old-fashioned meat grinder and process through a fine die. You can also use a food processor, but use the pulse mode so that you don't over process or overheat the mixture.
Yield: About 1 1/2 cups
Heat Scale: Hot


Photo by Marco Budinis

 

During the winter, my thoughts travel south to the Caribbean and I remember all our great trips and the recipes we collected.  Recently I've been adding articles about these trips, including one by Nancy Gerlach.

  • Belize, 1988, here.
  • Trinidad & Tobago, 1992, here.
  • British Virgin Islands, 1995, here.
  • Barbados, 1996, here.

 

 


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