< Fresh Approach

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Those deliriously perfect, outrageously cheerful red cascabel peppers drive me to distraction. I am constantly buying them, without plans for what on earth I can do with them. They normally end up mixed with some eggplant, or minced into any number of rice and pasta dishes. But that always seems so UNFAIR. How can something so whimsical not earn a starring role?

That, coupled with an article in The New York Times Style Magazine on the Spanish affinity towards filadefia cheese (that's what they call any cream cheese) led me to a transatlantic culinary pow-wow with Maria-Jose, my resource for all things Spanish (and beloved sister-in-law). Could I make something with these peppers AND some cheese?

One thing instantly came to mind for her, and she was all about me trying it. With her Andalusian lisp (yes, she lisps, yet, hasn't got a lisp.) meshed into her dead-sexy English, she instructed me "Oh Ray-schell! You thake de filadelfia, and you, how is it you say? Give it mince up with thelery, and you take thee limon, and deth-herb-thes..." well, you get the idea. I could listen to her talk all day all lilting and joyful. The recipe she did end up giving me was delectable, but for my taste, I added some goat cheese just for the tang, but other than that, it is indeed her creation. And exactly like her, they are stop traffic glamour, super model beautiful, internationally spicy (oh, you know what I mean) and a vision indeed.

The other night, to get ourselves (more) excited for the annual Warren Miller movie, Higher Ground (which I highly recommend!) I had some friends over and offered the resulting peppers with some extra smooth sipping tequila and put out the extra filling as a spread for crackers. The crowd seem to have enjoyed them immensely. Thank goodness I set one aside for myself, because otherwise, I would have been shut out. I suggest doing the same if you are offering these as a cocktail nibble. I cut down on the anchovies called for in this recipe, but if you like them the way I do, go ahead and use three instead of one. Either which way, I urge you to try this...and enjoy!

26 cascabel peppers
olive oil
1/2 cup goat cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cream cheese
zest of one small lemon
a few teaspoons minced chives
1 small anchovy, minced
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 large pinch Spanish paprika
Chives for garnish

Preheat your oven to 300F

Pull off the stems of the peppers and fish out the seeds. When you have them all done, put them in a nice oven proof pan (I used my loaf pan, lined with foil for easy clean up) and cover with olive oil. Roast for about 25 minutes or until they are just starting to soften. Remove from the oven and let cool in the oil.

Meanwhile, combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl. Season to taste. The butter is in there for a few reasons, one to add a smoothness and pleasant mouth feel, but also it cuts the taste of the stronger goat cheese, and potentially too recognizable cream cheese. It also makes it just taste yummier.

When the peppers are cooled, use a slotted spoon to remove them and do your best to wipe off the residual oil. The oil left in the pan is a keeper. It will taste slightly sweet.

Fill the peppers with the cheese mixture. The best way to do this is to wet your hands (slightly) and roll small balls, then drop them into the peppers. Garnish with sliced chives and serve.

Makes about 26


Cascabel peppers are moderately hot (4 on a scale of 10) and the name means "jingle bell" in Spanish.

"Over breakfast in San Sebastia¡n, Spain, a friend I was visiting volunteered a list of the five things the Spanish could not live without: 'coffee, cigarettes, jamon, freshly squeezed orange juice and filadelfia.' - Peter Meehan, NYTimes.com

Cream cheese originated in the United States in 1872 when a dairyman in Chester, NY, developed a "richer cheese than ever before," made from cream as well as whole milk. In 1880, a New York cheese distributor, A. L. Reynolds, first began distributing cream cheese wrapped in tin-foil wrappers, calling it Philadelphia Brand. - Kraft.com

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