Black pepper beef with Kampot pepper from the Pepper Project
Black pepper beef is a weeknight-quick classic Chinese stir fry. Onion, fresh ginger, red bell pepper, celery, garlic and lots of black pepper offer plenty of flavor. The Pepper Project helps Cambodian pepper farmers and communities.
One simple ingredient can often make all the difference when you’re cooking. And now that’s more true than ever. The ingredient in this case is black pepper – freshly ground, of course, instead of pre-ground and packed in a tin. Freshly ground peppercorns pop with flavor and fragrance, becoming a true flavor, not just background noise, and you can control the grind, from fine to coarsely cracked.Skip to next paragraph
Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.
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And in Cambodia, the Pepper Project is making a difference, with pepper. Run by the husband and wife team Tom Gordon and Cris Peterson, the Pepper Project is a not-for-profit enterprise devoted to introducing products of Cambodia to the United States. Through the sales of these products, primarily pepper, they support fair trade for farmers as well as organizations that protect street children, disabled children and victims of sex trafficking.
The Pepper Project imports organic peppercorns from areas in Cambodia that are approved with the United Nations Geographic Indicator designation. They purchase only from farmers who pay fair labor wages, and and donate 100 percent of their profits to Cambodian charities and projects. You can find out more about the Pepper Project and the work it does – and purchase Kampot pepper – at its website (www.pepperproject.org).
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Pepper from the Kampot region of southwestern Cambodia has long been prized for its delicate, bright, fruity aroma and flavor by European chefs and restaurateurs. Pepper Project’s goal is to make it readily available throughout the United States. It’s already getting some attention. Anthony Bourdain says, “It’s got a floral dimension that’s really something special.” And at Le Bernardin in New York, executive pastry chef Michael Laiskonis has used it to flavor everything from ice cream to goat-cheese mousse. It also packs a subtle bit of heat that sneaks up on you.
The sample we received from the Pepper Project showed us what all the fuss was about. We’ve long been proponents of freshly ground pepper, but this was something more. I ground some of our go-to peppercorns into one ramekin and Kampot peppercorns into another. The fragrance alone told the story – the Kampot peppercorns were markedly more fragrant, brighter, bolder. We couldn’t wait to cook with them.