Sweet on Pepper


 courtesy of McCormick

After hiding in plain sight for so many years, pepper is finally capturing the spotlight. Its up-front bite and lingering sensation offer the next wave of spicy flavor. In these recipes, pepper’s tongue-tingling, bold edge is tempered by naturally sweet ingredients.

Dragon Fruit & Strawberry Poke

makes 10 (2 piece) servings

Pepper’s mouth-prickling boldness is softened by naturally sweet dragon fruit in this creative take on poke. Serve fresh strawberry and diced dragon fruit salad (mock poke) atop a dollop of peppered whipped cream and crispy wonton triangles. Drizzle with a balsamic-pepper syrup for an assertive spice sensation that’s here to stay.

1/2 cup brown rice syrup1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 teaspoons McCormick Gourmet Organic Coarse Ground Black Pepper, divided
1 tablespoon lemon juice 1/2 cup heavy cream
8 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups diced strawberries (1/4-inch dice)
5 egg roll wrappers
1 cup oil, for frying
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups diced peeled dragon fruit (1/4-inch dice)

Bring rice syrup, vinegar and 1 tablespoon of pepper in small saucepan to boil, whisking occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 15 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Let stand 1 hour. Strain balsamic pepper reduction through several layers of cheesecloth into small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, beat cream, 2 tablespoons sugar and another 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Mix strawberries with another 3 tablespoons sugar in small bowl. Let stand at room temperature 10 to 15 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut each egg roll wrapper in half to create 2 rectangles. Then cut each rectangle in half diagonally to create 4 triangles.

Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Fry triangle wrappers in batches until puffed and golden, about 1 to 2 minutes per batch, turning once. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

Mix remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons pepper in small bowl. Brush fried triangle wrappers with 1/2 of the melted butter.

Sprinkle each triangle wrapper with 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper sugar mixture. Brush triangles again with remaining butter.

Place triangles on baking sheet. Bake 6 minutes or until golden brown and pepper sugar mixture is caramelized. Let cool slightly on wire rack.

To assemble for serving, place 1 tablespoon peppered whipped cream on the wide side of each triangle crisp.

Top with 2 teaspoons each strawberries and dragon fruit. Drizzle with balsamic pepper reduction.

TIPS: Dragon fruit is a tropical fruit with bright pink skin and white or red flesh with tiny black edible seeds. Its flavor is mildly sweet and similar to kiwi. Since the skin is not edible, it must be peeled before eating.

Pulled Jackfruit Tacos 

makes 8 (one taco) servings

Authentic vegetarian tacos become reality with canned jackfruit. This large tropical fruit is deceptively meat-like in texture, with a sweet, impressionable flavor. It takes on a warm, smoky taco taste in this recipe. Grill it, shred it and pile it into tortillas to be topped with onion, cilantro, sour cream and the upfront heat of a Cider Pepper Syrup.

Cider Pepper Syrup: 

1 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons coconut sugar
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons crushed rosemary
1 tablespoon ground white pepper

Pulled Jackfruit Tacos: 

2 cans (20 ounces each) jackfruit, drained
3 tablespoons coconut sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Organic Smoked Paprika
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Organic Saigon Cinnamon
8 corn tortillas
1/2 cup diced onion (1/2-inch dice)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

For the Cider Pepper Syrup, mix all ingredients in small saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Let stand at least 4 hours or overnight. Strain through several layers of cheesecloth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the Jackfruit Tacos, mix jackfruit, coconut sugar, lime juice, oil, smoked paprika, garlic salt, white pepper and cinnamon in large bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes.

Grill marinated jackfruit and tortillas quickly over high heat until grill marks appear. Shred or cut jackfruit into thin strips.

To serve, place jackfruit on tortillas. Top with diced onion, sour cream and cilantro. Drizzle with the Cider Pepper Syrup.

TIPS: Jackfruit is a large tropical fruit with bumpy, green skin and yellow-orange, fleshy pods that surround large, white edible seeds that can be boiled, baked or roasted. It can be consumed in its unripe and ripe state, and has a distinctively fruity aroma with a sweet, bland flavor. Unripe jackfruit is often used in curries and stir fries, while ripe jackfruit is generally used in desserts. Since jackfruit does not keep long after harvesting, it is often preserved by canning. In the U.S., jackfruit is most readily available canned in Asian markets or specialty stores.

Black Pepper Date Cocktail 

Hello, happy hour! This unique Black Pepper Date Cocktail features a fiery simple syrup starring the contrasting flavors of bold black pepper and naturally sweet Medjool dates. Mix with dark rum, elderflower liqueur and fresh lime juice to experience the next wave of spicy, refreshing flavor.

Black Pepper Date Simple Syrup: 

enough syrup for 12 Black Pepper Date Cocktails

10 ounces whole Medjool dates, pitted
2 cups water
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed rosemary
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Black Pepper Date Cocktail: 

makes 1 serving

1/2 cup ice
2 tablespoons Black Pepper Date Simple Syrup
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) dark rum
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) elderflower liqueur
4 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

For the Black Pepper Date Simple Syrup, bring all ingredients except cornstarch to simmer in medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve, being careful not to press too much of the pulp solids through the strainer. Place cornstarch in small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the strained date mixture with the cornstarch; mix well.

Return remaining strained date mixture back to the saucepan. Stir in cornstarch mixture with whisk until well blended. Bring to simmer. Cook and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Store syrup in tightly covered, clean container in refrigerator until ready to use. (Makes 1 1/2 cups syrup. Enough for 12 Black Pepper Date Cocktails.)

For one Black Pepper Date Cocktail, place ice in cocktail shaker. Add Black Pepper Date Simple Syrup, rum, elderflower liqueur and lime juice; shake until well mixed and chilled. Strain into beverage glass. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary, if desired.

Serve immediately.

TIPS: Leftover Black Pepper Date Simple Syrup can be used to prepare additional cocktails.



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