Mar 23, 2013

Comet's Tail Pepper

This spice has me thinking about outer space. And not just because of the word 'comet' although that has something to do with it. Also there was this event yesterday that made the evening news. It's true: our planet is being bombarded by solar objects at all times of day and night, just as I am bombarding you with odd facts about spices.
A comet is a solar system body that has a tail created by solar wind. This pepper has a tail that is the stem of the fruit. It is also commonly called 'Cubeb' pepper after its Latin name Piper cubeba, or Java pepper, for being grown mostly on the island of Java. But the word 'Comet' interestingly comes from the Greek "kometes" which translates to 'long-haired,' so I suppose the logic goes that anything that looks like a head with a ponytail of hair (spice or celestial object) can be called 'Comet.' But unlike the orbiting ball of stars, the spice has a delicious flavor that is quite different from traditional black pepper. Comet's tail has a citrusy, allspice flavor with a hint of pine. It pairs particularly well with lemon.

But let's get back to the stars. I love trying to wrap my mind around what outer space smells like. Probably nothing, because you can't even breathe up there, so it would smell like the inside of your space suit or space-pod or whatever. But even still, it is made of something, that dark space between the stars and planets, that textureless fabric, that void of emptiness that is only a lack of light. The beams of light emanating from the stars are like the spices that flavor the bland template of our known universe. Comet's tail pepper, or cubeb pepper is a great excuse to muse about outer space, especially when the earth (at least where I'm located at this exact moment) is not producing a particular sensuous experience. It's bland. The environment remains cold despite it being technically "spring" and the transition is one I always find difficult.
In the meantime, while we wait for warmer weather to lie out and gaze at the stars, here's a recipe for a strangely delicious pizza. I urge you to find some comet's tail pepper and make it immediately. I used store bought pizza dough, but if you have a favorite recipe, by all means use it!

Lemon-Pepper Pizza with Roasted Garlic 

1 head of garlic
2 Meyer Lemons, sliced ultra thin
2 TB Comet's Tail pepper, crushed
1/2 cup olive oil

1 ball pizza dough
1/2 cup corn meal
3/4 cup green olives
1 cup grated Fontina cheese
1 cup shredded mozzerella
3 leaves of kale, ripped into small bits

To prep ingredients, first roast your garlic and lemons.

To roast the garlic: Slice off the top 1/4 of the head, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap tightly in foil. Place in a 400 degree oven (or your toaster oven) and roast for 30 minutes or until the garlic is gooey inside.

To roast the lemons: Oil a cookie sheet generously with olive oil. Slice the lemons ultra thin and remove the seeds. Place slices on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle with the crushed pepper, flip and sprinkle again. Place the cookie sheet in the oven for 10 minutes, then flip the slices and cook for another 10 minutes.

To assemble the pizza: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Roll out dough, and rub with olive oil. Place on a pizza peal or cookie sheet coated with corn meal. Squeeze roasted garlic from the papery outer shell and spread across the dough with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle fontina cheese and lemons. Add olives and then sprinkle the rest of the cheese. Finish with ripped pieces of kale and another drizzle of olive oil. Bake on a pizza stone or a cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden.

NOTE: Meyer lemons are critical to this recipe, as they are sweeter and much less acidic than regular lemons. 

1 comment:

  1. Terrific piece, Claire. And your photos are amazing... Worthy of Food and Wine!