Pink Peppercorns (Schinus terebinthifolius), a.k.a. Brazilian Pepper, Rose Pepper and Christmasberry aren’t true peppercorns. That’s right, they’re all dressed up, pretty as can be in that deep, sexy pink; they look like peppercorns and they have a nice peppery taste, so what’s the deal? Well, they’re imposters, I tell you. Pink peppercorns are grown in the Réunion Islands, for the European market, but for the North American market they are grown in both Brazil, Peru (they are indigenous to Peru) and to a lesser degree, in other tropical and sub-tropical climes, such as Florida (where they are considered a pest). One of the Amazon-based tribes used them in beer making, so they’ve been used for culinary purposes for quite some time. I’ve also read that some Chilean wine producers use them in their wines, but I don’t know if that’s true or not.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION: If you have an allergy to tree nuts, you may react adversely to pink peppercorns. They are a member of the family Anacardiaceae, to which both cashews and pistachios belong. This is a very rare allergy, but you should be away of this, particularly if you have ever had an anaphylactic reaction to cashews or pistachios, then you may wish to avoid pink peppercorns. You may want to take a look at this article from the NIH.
Pink peppercorns have a gorgeous color, as you can clearly see, a tart-sweet flavor profile with a peppery taste, some citrus and pine-y back flavors and just a hint of licorice. They seem to work wonderfully with a salty-sweet combination. They are more fragile than regular peppercorns and the outer pink layer is rather papery and can fall off easily (use it for garnish on fish or fowl!). I like to use them in curry, or sprinkled over a salad, or coarsely chopped, stirred into feta with some honey, as a spread for crackers or added to tartar sauce…use your imagination. And then there are these…
These Goat Cheese Cakes are to die for. These are the invention of Dan Fortin, the Executive Chef for Infinity Music Hall and Bistro in Hartford and Norfolk, CT. And what an invention they are. The Spice Mill has cooking demonstrations once a month from September through May. This month, Dan was our guest chef. He came with David Gilmore, their Chef de Cuisine for the Hartford restaurant. Infinity has wonderful food, but they also offer great live entertainment, as well. He served these lovelies over baby arugula that had been dressed with a honey vinaigrette. Those flavors play off each other spectacularly well. The Goat Cheese Cakes can be made ahead and then pan-fried at the last moment, just before serving. Dan also mentioned that these can be formed into smaller “patties” and used for hors d’oeuvres or as a first course. I think drizzling them with a maple syrup reduction or a balsamic reduction could be a nice complement of flavors, too. Here’s Dan’s recipe.
Goat Cheese Cakes
- 1 tablespoon black Hawaiian sea salt
- 2 tablespoon pink peppercorns, ground
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
- 1 pound goat cheese
- 1/2 cup pinenuts
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 2 eggs, well beaten
- 2-3 tablespoon olive oil
Mix together goat cheese (it helps to let it set on the counter for 30 minutes), basil, peppercorns and Hawaiian sea salt.
Divide the mixture evenly into 4-6 portions. Using your hands, shape into balls and flatten slightly, into thick “patties”. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (it makes coating them easier).
Place pinenuts and bread crumbs in the bowl of a food processor. Grind together; pour onto a plate. (I whirl the nuts for a few seconds, then add the bread crumbs and whirl together).
Place the beaten eggs in a bowl; place the bowl next to the crumb mixture.
Gently place the goat cheese patties in the egg, then place in the crumb mixture and coat evenly with the crumb mixture. (This can be done several hours ahead. Place waxed paper or plastic wrap on the plate, then the patties and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until needed, up to 8 hours. Do not return to room temperature before frying).
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when hot, place the crumbed goat cheese patties in the hot oil. Pan-fry until the goat cheese softens, about 30 seconds on each side.
Remove carefully and place on dressed arugula greens (a honey or maple syrup vinaigrette works well with the goat cheese).
Goat Cheese Cake Recipe©Dan Fortin 2015. All rights reserved.
It is accomplished by simply laying several large leaves, in this case, the leaves are fresh basil one-on-top-of-the-other.
Then using the largest leaf, roll them into a cigar-shape. Holding a very sharp chef’s knife perpendicular to the roll, slice into thin, thin slices, the thinner the better. You can do this with any large leaf, such as basil, spinach, even lettuces and kale.
To crush pink peppercorns, simply place the peppercorns on a cutting board and take a heavy knife or as you can see here, a heavy, flat-bottomed pan. Using a circular motion, work the pan over the peppercorns until they are crushed to your liking. I know the recipe calls for ground. This can be done in your trusty coffee grinder or a pepper mill.
This is a delicious salad. I made it this evening for our dinner. You may recall that The Latin Lover isn’t crazy about vinaigrettes, but this sweet one he enjoyed. It turns out he likes goat cheese, despite the fact that it’s slightly sharp and acidic.