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May 8, 2011

REMIX: Red pepper flakes (recipes, stories and sources in The Perfect Pantry)

Red pepper pesto pasta

Ten years ago, my husband Ted and I bought our log house in the woods in Rhode Island. At the time we didn't know much about this part of the state, or the village where we now buy our milk and bread.

Rhode Island has its share of quirks, like any small place. And though I'll never be a native, I try hard to fit in.

I keep Autocrat coffee syrup in the pantry, to make the official state drink (coffee milk). I eat clam cakes and clear clam chowder (I know, I know, but I'm trying to do the right thing here). I smile when I pass the Del's Lemonade trucks on every street corner in the summertime. I haven't yet been able to manage New York System hot weiners, but I love Stanley's burgers, mixed with sauteed onions and so thin you wonder whether the Del's truck ran over them.

And I keep both hot and mild red pepper flakes on my spice rack at all times, a badge of honor in a state where every pizzeria puts a shaker jar of red pepper flakes on every table.

In the past few years, I've come to appreciate red pepper flakes for more than pizza topping. They add heat without vinegar, making the flakes a better choice than a Tabasco-type hot sauce, and the smallest pinch can brighten the flavor of a soup without numbing your tongue.

Red pepper flakes

Do you remember when we learned how to make our own red pepper flakes? Have you tried it? If not, preheat the oven, get out your rolling pin, and have some fun!

Salmon asparagus lemon farfalle

I've featured red pepper flakes three times on The Perfect Pantry, and used it in dozens of recipes from China, Laos, Japan, the United States, and, of course, Italy. After all, Rhode Island is the most Italian state in the United States. We've made our share of pasta dishes:

  Slow-roasted tomato mac and cheese

We've used red pepper flakes in dishes from other parts of the world, too:

Chicken, fish and vegetables really came alive with a pinch of red pepper flakes:

Cioppino

And we didn't forget the soups:

Red pepper flakes keep in the pantry for up to two years. Store them away from heat, in a ziploc bag or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Unlike ground pepper, red pepper flakes shouldn't be stored in the freezer, as they'll absorb too much moisture. And if, like me, you keep both mild and hot pepper flakes, be sure to label the jars, as they look almost identical.

Use the search box on the right (up near the top of this page) to find more recipes and fun facts about red pepper flakes in The Perfect Pantry. 

Do you keep red pepper flakes in your pantry? What's your favorite way to use them?

Comments

I enjoyed this post, Lydia, because it made me stop and think about the importance of this simple ingredient. I use it all the time, but never thought to make my own blend at home. Of course, I will have to try it now. I recently started making a simple rice side dish that starts with heating a bit of red pepper in oil. That little bit of heat makes all the difference and the simplicity of the dish highlights the importance of the pepper flakes. I think that must be why my fellow Rhode Islanders put it on everything.

I like to sprinkle a few rp flakes on shrimp before roasting or grilling. I toss The shrimp with oil , garlic and a few rp flakes. After the shrimp are cooked I add fresh lemon juice. This a nice, simple way to serve shrimp tossed with pasta or with cocktail sauce The rp flakes add just the right touch of flavor , otherwise the shrimp seems bland.

Red pepper flakes were part of my husband's NJ history, always at his side at meals.
Happy Mother's Day, Lydia!

Red pepper flakes are something I never used before I started food blogging, and I've come to love the little hint of spice that a pinch can add to food. And of course I fondly remember your wonderful Cioppino!

Why the negative comment about clear clam chowder?

Donna, I love the sound of that rice dish.

Debbie, your shrimp cocktail with a bit of red pepper flakes sounds delicious, too.

Susan, I hope your husband has brought his love of red pepper flakes to NH! Happy Mother's Day to you.

Kalyn, I love being able to add heat without vinegar, which is what you get with hot sauce. I first discovered the two different "strengths" of red pepper flakes at Penzeys.

Pauline, you know that I come from white clam chowder country! To me, chowder isn't chowder without a bit of milk or cream.

I have only just found your blog, but I think from now on every meal I have will be sprinkled with red pepper flakes! What a great idea.

Chef, that's how we do it here in Rhode Island!

Coffee syrup? Del's? Oh, you know how to make me nostalgic for RI, Lydia.

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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