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Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.

All About Crushed Red Pepper

by Sandra Bowens

When looking for a quick fix for bland foods, most people will reach for some sort of pepper. Chile peppers have become the most consumed spice in the world. This is due in large part to the vast number of different chile peppers. With such variety, often referred to by assorted regional names, it's difficult to single out a particular chile.


Even so, most of us are familiar with the terms "crushed red pepper" or "red pepper flakes." It's not so much a chile as a style. A jar filled with red flakes intermingling with yellow seeds is front and center in most spice cabinets. No particular chile pepper is used, rather just a combination of C. annuum and C. frutenscens varieties, often ancho chiles.


Crushed red pepper shakers have become as standard as salt and pepper on tables at Italian restaurants and especially pizza parlors. So common, in fact, are the red pepper flakes as a pizza ingredient that the spice is also known as "the pizza pepper."


These spicy flakes are frequently used in pickling, sausages and sauces of all kinds. You might use it to jazz up soups, marinades or an omelet. The heat of the spice has a special affinity for all things creamy such as a cheese sauce or cream of spinach soup.


Unless you are certain of the tastes of those you cook for, use it sparingly. A little goes a long way. Start with just a dash or two then pass more at the table for those who desire more heat. Use about 1/2 teaspoon to equal one small dried red chile.



Spicy Pasta for One


1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 or 2 cloves garlic, sliced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, more or less to taste

1 small tomato, cored and chopped fine

few dashes salt

1 1/2 cups hot cooked pasta

grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish, if desired


Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced garlic and red pepper. Cook and stir for one minute, taking care not to burn the garlic. Stir in the tomatoes and salt. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes "melt," about 3-5 minutes. Add the hot pasta to the skillet and stir in to coat with sauce. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with grated cheese if using.


Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.

 Cook up some sunshine anytime of the year with a book that's as fun to read as it is to eat from. Alligator anyone?

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