If I'm feeling like I need an infusion of cooking inspiration, I go ingredient hunting. Finding that one, special new thing I haven't cooked with before can be the catalyst for dozens of new recipe ideas. This ingredient, however, found me: Calabrian peppers, my newest obsession. A friend brought them over for a pizza night at my place, and I was instantly hooked after the first taste.
These tiny, red little bundles of joy pack the perfect amount of heat, balanced by a pleasingly salty, vinegary bite. They hail from Calabria, Italy (the toe of the boot!), a place where they take spice very seriously. Lest you think these peppers are simply a spice-addict's dream, they're so much more than that; they're deeply flavorful and surprisingly complex. They're so tasty, I'm always tempted to eat them straight from the jar, but they're hot enough that they need to be tempered by something else. I've chopped them up and put them on pizza, I've stirred them into sauces, I've baked them into pasta, and now–as a woman on a mission to consume them in every possible form–I've figured out a way to both eat them for breakfast and serve them to party guests!
KEEP YOUR BAGEL GAME STRONG
First, let's talk about the Calabrian pepper cream cheese. This isn't so much a recipe as it is two ingredients coming together to be more than the sum of their parts. Add the Calabrian peppers and some cream cheese to a food processor, mix, and presto! The most interesting cream cheese you've ever tasted. Your bagel routine will never be the same.
PARTY ON, WAYNE
Anyone can slap some cream cheese on a bagel, so I wanted to use it in a more creative way. Knowing that holiday party season is just around the corner, I thought that snackable party food was the perfect way to go. I had some leftover pizza dough and sopressata (also from pizza night), so it all came together with the Calabrian pepper cream cheese. Once you have the pizza dough made, this recipe is unbelievably simple. You could whip it up for a party in 30 minutes flat. Full recipe below. Happy cooking!
CALABRIAN PEPPER CREAM CHEESE
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
10-15 Calabrian peppers, top stems removed
Place the peppers and cream cheese in a food processor. Process, scraping down the sides with a spatula as necessary, until evenly mixed.
EASY PIZZA TWISTS
1 ball pizza dough [I use this recipe]
1/2 cup Calabrian pepper cream cheese, or more as needed
12-15 slices Sopressata, sliced into 1-inch by 1/2-inch strips
grated Parmesan cheese
fresh thyme leaves for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Get a baking sheet ready and line it with parchment paper.
2. Roll the dough out till it's about 1/4-inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 1-inch wide strips. The average ball of dough will yield 8-10 strips.
3. Use a spoon to spread the cream cheese along the length of each strip of the dough. Place strips of the sopressata along the cream cheese, pressing down slightly to make them adhere to the cream cheese.
4. Grab the dough strips by each end, and twist them around a few times to make the dough into a loose corkscrew shape. The cream cheese will help the sopressata adhere, but a few strips may fall off; you can just tuck them back in once the dough is on the baking sheet.
5. Lay each twist on the baking sheet and grate Parmesan cheese over each of them.
6. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and fully cooked. Remove from the oven, cool, and serve!