Cooking with Spicy New Flavors

Try these great recipes with pomegranate molasses, Espelette pepper and fennel pollen

by Susan Spungen
Espellete peppers

Salad of Tuna, White Beans and Red Peppers
High-quality ingredients make this simple dish worth eating.

Prep time: 10 minutes

  • 1 4-ounce can tuna packed in olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • ½ 14-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 red pepper marinated in olive oil, cut into strips
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion (or 2 sliced scallions, including their green parts)
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Put the tuna in a bowl with its oil and the lemon juice. Add the beans, red pepper and onion, and toss gently. If necessary, add a little more olive oil.

2. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Spaghetti Al Limone
Parmesan in a chunk is great for the single cook. Wrap it in wax paper, then foil and put in a plastic bag to keep it moist. It will keep for weeks in the freezer. To calculate the portion of spaghetti for one, make a circle with your thumb and forefinger between the size of a nickel and a quarter. Enough strands to fit inside this circle will amount to about 2 ounces.

Prep time: 12 minutes
Cooking time: 9 minutes

  • 2 ounces spaghetti 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon basil and/or parsley leaves, snipped

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the spaghetti. Meanwhile, combine the cheese and the lemon juice in a small mixing bowl. Gradually beat in the olive oil so the mixture is thick and creamy (the cheese will melt into the oil). Stir in the grated lemon zest.

2. Cook the spaghetti until al dente, drain, and empty it into a warmed medium-size bowl.

3. Pour the sauce over the spaghetti, and toss it well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with basil or parsley, and serve.

Pasta Con Le Sarde
A tasty last-minute pasta dish made with ingredients from the pantry.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

  • 2 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 4-ounce can good-quality sardines packed in olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and dried on paper towels
  • 1 small onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the spaghetti. Drain the sardines. Put them in a bowl that’s large enough to hold the spaghetti, and cut them into smaller pieces, using a fork.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small frying pan. Add the capers, and fry, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, until crisp. Remove them with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, about 8 minutes, until translucent. Put them in the bowl with the sardines.

3. Put the spaghetti on to cook. Add remaining oil to skillet. When it’s hot, add the breadcrumbs and the pepper flakes. Stirring frequently, cook the breadcrumbs until they are lightly browned (3 to 4 minutes). Remove from heat. Add them to the sardines and mix them in with a fork.

4. Drain the spaghetti when it’s al dente, and add it to the bowl. Toss well, and season to taste with the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and capers, and serve. No cheese is necessary with this dish.

Portobello Mushroom and Yukon Gold Potatoes Provençal
This is a vegetarian meal made with a portobello mushroom prepared like a steak. It is rich, meaty and filling.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

  • 2 small Yukon gold potatoes (cut into 1-inch pieces, skin on)
  • 2 plum tomatoes (or 1 large regular ripe tomato)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 portobello mushroom
  • 6 to 8 pitted black olives
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (flat leaf)

1. Cook potatoes in lightly salted water until tender. Drain, and set aside.

2. Dice tomatoes, reserving their juice.

3. Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the potato cubes. Sauté, about 3 to 5 minutes, turning them from time to time, until they are golden brown.

4. Meanwhile, wash the mushroom and cut off the stalk and discard. Pat the mushroom dry with paper towels.

5. Remove the potatoes from the skillet, and keep them warm in a low oven. Add the mushroom, and sauté it, turning it over a few times, until it exudes its juice and starts to brown. Add the diced tomatoes with their juice, and the olives. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the tomatoes have reduced to a sauce (if it gets too dry, moisten with a dash of water or dry white wine). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place the mushroom on the plate that holds the potatoes, and surround it with the sauce. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Lamb Merguez Sausage with Mint Couscous, Watercress and Endive
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

  • ¼ pound merguez sausage*
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Coarse sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon red wine vinegar (or more to taste)
  • 1 to 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup watercress leaves
  • 1 small endive, cut vertically into thin slivers
  • ½ cup couscous, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, snipped

1. Grill or broil the sausage until brown on both sides (about 7 to 10 minutes).

2. Meanwhile, make the salad dressing: Peel and chop the garlic. Place it in a mortar with a dash of salt. Pound until you have a paste (or mash with a fork). Mix in the mustard and the vinegar. Gradually add the oil until you have an emulsion. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and vinegar, if necessary.

3. Trim the stalks from watercress. Place about a cup of the leaves in a salad bowl (refrigerate the remainder of the bunch in a wet paper towel placed in a plastic bag). Slice the endive vertically into thin slivers. Cut the slivers in half, and add them to the watercress leaves. Toss with the salad dressing, and set aside.

4. Cook the couscous (this should take a matter of minutes). Fluff it with a fork, and sprinkle with mint. Place it with the sausage on a warmed plate. Serve the salad on the side.

*Merguez is available in specialty stores or at

Glazed Pork Chop with Balsamic Vinegar and Rosemary
The chop is seared and finished in the oven with slivers of roasted fennel.

Prep time: 21 minutes
Cooking time: 36 minutes

  • 1 small bulb fennel
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ½-inch-thick pork chop
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Cut the fennel in half, removing the stalks and the tough end and paring away any browned bits. Slice the fennel, and place it in a roasting pan large enough to hold the slices in one layer. Add the garlic, shallot, rosemary and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Toss so all are coated, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, turning from time to time.

2. Meanwhile, pat the pork chop dry with paper towels, and season it with ¼ teaspoon salt and 1⁄8 teaspoon pepper. In a small frying pan, heat the remaining oil over moderately high heat until hot, but not smoking. Brown the chop on both sides, and place it on a warm plate at the back of the stove.

3. Add the vinegar and a little water to the frying pan, bring to a boil, and scrape up the brown bits.

4. Remove the fennel from the oven. Make a space for the pork chop in the center of the pan. Pour the sauce over the chop, and return the pan to the oven. Roast for a further 8 to 10 minutes, or until the chop is done, turning it once.

Stir-Fried Spicy Garlic Shrimp With Rice
Really easy: Sauté some garlic and hot pepper flakes in oil, add the shrimp, and cook quickly until opaque. Serve with rice and a sprinkling of herbs.

Prep time: 18 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

  • 1/3 cup long-grain rice
  • 8 jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left on
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika (smoked, if you like)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, cilantro or mint leaves

1. Cook the rice according to directions on the package.

2. Meanwhile, place the shrimp in a bowl with the olive, garlic, pepper flakes and paprika. Toss to coat well with the oil.

3. When the rice is ready, keep it warm while you cook the shrimp. Heat a small frying pan over medium-to-high heat. Add the shrimp, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, turning, or until the shrimp are barely opaque (do not overcook them or they will become rubbery).

4. Place the rice on a plate, and top it with the shrimp. Sprinkle with lemon juice and herbs, and serve.

Moira Hodgson, a food writer and restaurant critic, is the author of a memoir, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday).

Next: Take It With a Grain... Recipes

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First Published Thu, 2012-05-10 14:27

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