12 Days of Christmas – Ghost Pepper

I don’t run away from danger or dares . . . it’s not one of my best traits, however it does make life interesting. So when my boyfriend and I discovered a Bhut Jolokia aka Ghost Pepper Plant, at Niagara County Produce last spring, there was no question that it would be coming home with us to live in the container garden.

All summer we waited for a sign of life on the plant and finally, at the beginning of fall, one pepper appeared. He warned me not to eat it and all I kept thinking was, “how bad could it be?” So, I waited for him to not be home (actually living in another city for work) when I finally mustered up the courage to try it. Just cutting the tip off the hot red pepper, and placing it on my tongue, was enough for it to set my mouth and throat ablaze.

The Ghost Pepper originates from India and ranked at one million Scoville heat units, making it the hotest pepper in the world. Its ranking indicates the amount of capsaicin present. Capsaicin is a chemical compound that stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in the skin.

If you’re not partial to spice, the Ghost Pepper is not for you. However, if your palate favors food with heat then cook with it cautiously.

Ghost Pepper
The Ghost Pepper

Ghost Pepper Salsa

6 fresh tomatoes

1 Ghost Pepper

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 Red onion

2 – 3 garlic cloves

1 tbsp vinegar

Salt and pepper

Finely chop or process (depending on how chunky you prefer) the tomatoes, onion and garlic. Separately, finely chop the Ghost Pepper wearing gloves. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve with tortilla chips. Yields 4 – 6 servings.

12 Days of Christmas – Lavender

Lavender is more than just a pretty flower with relaxing properties. Although in the United States we’ve been using it as cake decoration and in iced teas, this holiday season let’s take a note from some modern French kitchens where it is being prepared into meals and appetizers.

This purple flower has a floral and light, sweet flavor; compliments sheep’s milk and goat’s milk cheeses, and is easy to cook with. If you aren’t able to access dried buds of lavender nearby, not to fear, a can of Herbes de Provence are just a click away.

482978_10150762705378078_1544504232_nA colleague of mine from the San Juan Islands, Washington gave me a small jar of Lavender Herbes de Provence from Pelindaba Farm. Although this blend of culinary herbs (basil, fennel, rosemary and thyme) is traditionally used in rubs for beef, lamb, chicken and duck, it also makes an ideal seafood and fish marinade. At an upcoming holiday party, add them to fresh salads for an aromatic experience.

Blending Lavender Herbs de Provence with cream cheese and minced, fresh garlic also produces an excellent hors d’oeuvre. Serve with rice crackers for a perfect party treat.