Piment d'Espelette (Recipe: grilled vegetables with piment d'Espelette sauce)
Hatch has its chile peppers, Gilroy its garlic.
My little town in Rhode Island has no food to call its own, no festival that draws people from all over the world to celebrate its unique cuisine. We do have some pretty good pizza, but nothing that's grown here and only here.
The small town of Espelette in the Basque region of southwest France has its mildly smoky, sultry, absolutely sensational piment d'Espelette, the pepper grown nowhere else on Earth. And they have a festival every year, to celebrate the harvest.
If you can't find piment d'Espelette (unless you live near a very good market, you won't find it, but it's easy to buy online), you can substitute hot paprika, mild New Mexico red chile powder, or a combination of the two with a bit of pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika) mixed in.
Wouldn't it be more fun, though, to travel to Espelette and buy the pepper at its source?
(The festival is in late October, if we're making plans to go.)
What is piment d'Espelette?
A deep reddish-brown, flaky dried pepper with a mild smoky taste. It has a strong peppery kick, but not what you'd call "heat". Substitute it in recipes calling for urfa pepper, Aleppo pepper, or paprika.
How/where to store:
On the spice rack, away from heat, for up to one year.
More facts about piment d'Espelette, and ingredient photos, in The Perfect Pantry:
Piment d'Espelette (Recipe: chicken basquaise with piperade)
Grilled vegetables with piment d'Espelette sauce
This sauce, from Bon Appetit, dresses up any grilled vegetables; the smoky mayonnaise-based sauce marries well with the smoky char of the grill. You can make the sauce a day in advance, and refrigerate in a covered container. Makes 1 cup of sauce, enough for a vegetable platter that serves 8.
1-1/2 Tbsp finely chopped shallot
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp Sherry wine vinegar
1-1/2 tsp finely grated lime peel
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp piment d'Espelette
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetables: any combination of zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, bell pepper, red or white onions, eggplant, asparagus, trimmed and sliced for the grill
Combine shallot, lemon juice, vinegar, and lime peel in medium bowl. Cover; let stand 30 minutes. Whisk in mayonnaise and piment d'Espelette. Season with salt and pepper. Cover; chill 2 hours.
Meanwhile, heat your grill (or broiler, if you're cooking inside). Brush the vegetables on both sides with a few teaspoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Cook on the grill (or in the broiler) for 2-3 minutes per side, until the vegetables are just cooked through but still crunchy.
Arrange vegetables on a platter and let cool for at least 15 minutes. Top with piment d'Espelette sauce, and serve at room temperature or cold.
Other recipes that use piment d'Espelette:
Salad of black radishes and shrimp, from Stephencooks
Tuna tartare and wasabi ice cream, from La Tartine Gourmande
Artichoke mousse with goat cheese and arugula salad, from Chez Myrtille
Chocolate covered almonds with chile, from David Lebovitz
Dry cured Spanish chorizo, from Wrightfood