REMIX: Red pepper flakes (recipes, stories and sources in The Perfect Pantry)
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.
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!
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:
- Pasta puttanesca
- Penne with roasted red pepper pesto
- Salmon, asparagus and lemon pasta
- Pasta with clams and vegetable sauce
- Whole wheat penne pasta with sausage, fennel, tomato and olives
- Tex-Mex penne
- Pasta with roasted tomatoes, artichoke hearts and shrimp (or no shrimp)
- Slow-roasted tomato macaroni and cheese
- Pasta salad with feta, basil, olives, fresh and slow-roasted tomatoes
- Fregula sarda with leeks and sausage
We've used red pepper flakes in dishes from other parts of the world, too:
- Laotian chicken and herb salad
- Cheese and red pepper empanaditas
- Roasted vegetables with yogurt and fresh tomato sauce
- Mediterranean red snapper
- Pad Thai
- Rice stick noodle salad with caramelized shrimp
Chicken, fish and vegetables really came alive with a pinch of red pepper flakes:
- Cucumber ribbon salad
- Broccoli raab with honey and grapes
- Stir-fried corn and red pepper with ginger and garlic
- Laurie Colwin's roasted pepper chicken
- Salmon croquettes with sesame-lime sauce
- Stir-fried garlic lettuce
And we didn't forget the soups:
- Turkey-escarole soup
- Hot and sour soup
- African-inspired squash and peanut soup
- Vegetable-beef soup
- Black bean and peach soup
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?