Ajar is a delicious Balkan red pepper and eggplant spread. It’s really simple to make, too. Vinka Vukicevic, my Pilates coach, introduced me to ajvar. She is from Bosnia and tells me that no house in the former Yugoslavia is ever without this tasty spread. She always looked forward to arriving home after school and enjoying it as a snack, spread on bread and sprinkled with crumbled feta cheese. Once I learned to make ajar, it quickly became a popular appetizer at my house – I spread goat cheese over toast triangles or crackers and top them with a good dollop of this instant, positively ambrosial treat.
My favourite afternoon pick-me-up is a cup of hot ginger tea. I shred ginger root on the coarse holes of a box grater, add it to boiling water, stir well and let it steep for a minute or two. Then I strain it into a mug and stir in honey to taste. Delicious and good for me, too. Ginger is highly anti-inflammatory and an excellent digestive.
How’s this for cold-weather hospitality? If you are entertaining on a chilly night, start the evening with a welcoming shooter of hot soup. I serve this parsnip soup in espresso or demi-tasse coffee cups before a glass of wine. It makes about 16 shooters.
Pimiento peppers are a well-known variety of C. annuum. They are small and can be heart-shaped (like the Spanish piquillo) or round and ridged. They are sweeter than bell peppers. Fresh ones are very difficult to find; most end up canned (and called pimentos) and are used to stuff olives or to make pimento cheese, a favorite in the American South According to pepper expert Jean Andrews, the canned pimento industry didn’t develop until after 1914, when a roasting machine was invented that made peeling easier.
Many aspects of the chile are extremely confusing, from its historical misnomer (pepper) to the nomenclature of its many varieties, which even horticulturalists have difficulty sorting out. So it is probably not surprising that the spelling for the word itself is somewhat problematic. Is it chili, chilli or chile? You are likely to come across all of those spellings if you are reading up on the topic.
According to horticulturist and capsicum expert Paul Bosland, the name is derived from the word chil, which comes from the Aztec dialect and refers to plants from the Capsicum genus. The “e” ending is the correct Spanish spelling. English linguists (who probably didn’t know any better) changed it to an “i.”
Although most people associate the word chile with hot peppers, in fact the word refers to capsicums in general, whether they are spicy or not. The word chili refers to the dish, as in chili con carne.
One of the fun things about receiving copies of a book you wrote is leafing through it and being reminded of its content. Take the story of peppered sherry. This condiment was invented in Bermuda by British sailors, who steeped wild chile peppers in barrels of sherry and used the results to mask the taste of aging food. Outerbridge bottles the product today but it’s easy to make your own. Naturally, there is a recipe in The Chile Pepper Bible
Along with kale, collards and other dark leafy greens, Swiss chard is a nutritional superstar. A relative of the beet family, Swiss chard is a good source of numerous vitamins and minerals, including vitamins K, A and C, as well as magnesium and potassium. In fact, a half-cup (125 mL) serving of Swiss chard contains more than 150% of the recommended daily value of vitamin K.