Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I've been holding out.

I know about something awesome, in so many ways, and I haven't gotten around to telling y'all about it. So for that, I apologize.

Man, I just got myself on the edge of my seat with that intro. No, people, it's not THAT kind of announcement (one of these days, just hold your horses)…what it is, however, is something delicious and special and virtually unknown in this part of the world: Kampot Pepper.

The boss lady and her husband are quite the world travelers, which is awesome in and of itself, namely cause they always bring me back a little something (xo!)…but it seems that they have finally chosen one place—Cambodia—as one, if not the one, of their favorite places to visit, learn from, and form a lasting bond with. They fell in love with the people, the culture, and the country's stories of perseverance, and decided to dedicate a large part of their own lives to bridging the gap between Cambodia and the rest of the world. Starting from their home in the OC.

Seriously, I can't ever write those two letters together without hearing "Californniiaaaaa" in my head. I wonder what Mischa B. is up to these days…and now I also apologize for getting that song in your heads, too. You know it's there and will be for bad. Sigh. I miss Seth.

Anyway, all that being said, let me introduce you to something that really is worth thinking about, and my whole long-winded point: The Pepper Project. The site explains what and why, but here's the gist, in their own words:
"The Pepper Project is a not-for-profit enterprise devoted to introducing the unique products of Cambodia to the United States. Pepper from the Kampot region of southwestern Cambodia is our primary offering. The pepper has long been used in the finest restaurants of Europe and our goal is to make it available at an affordable price in the U.S.

We are working with various groups, such as the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association (KPPA) and Starling Farm to make this a reality. The packaging is created by Daughters of Cambodia, a fair trade organization that reaches out to victims of sex trafficking and teaches them the skills needed to live independently and achieve a higher quality of life."

In other words, my boss and her hubby are a selfless, amazing couple. Especially since they know how much I cook and sneak me some samples now and then (I can make anything about me, it's amazing...and I will be paying for my pepper next time, I swear). I have pretty much completely replaced my 'regular' pepper with kampot, and for good reason…it's so fresh and interesting tasting—far better than the store bought stuff.

If you're interested in learning more or trying some out for yourself, visit their website at or find their page on Facebook. They also offer a wide range of Cambodian cooking and beauty products, so make sure and check out the products page.

They also have quite a few recipes on the site, a few of which I have tried, but for the most part, I just use kampot for my everyday cooking (I grind enough for a week or two at a time in a coffee spice grinder to keep it fresh). Especially good when you're using quite a bit of pepper in something…it's mild yet flavorful enough to actually inspire me to use more than I normally would. Last night, for example, was filet mignon with a light mushroom/stroganoff style sauce, and I used lots of pepper both as a rub on the steaks as well as in the sauce. And all was fantastic.

Filet with Mushroom Sauce
(based off of Cooking Light's Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom Gravy )
Cooking spray
2 6-8oz cuts of filet mignon
Fresh ground pepper
Sea salt
1 package presliced mushrooms
1 medium brown onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
broth (about a 1/2 cup or so)
About 1/3 cup 0% greek yogurt or fat free sour cream
small handful minced fresh parsley

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steaks with pepper and salt, rub in just a bit. Add steaks to pan; cook about 5 minutes a side or or until cooked—we like filets rare; do the finger test to get it how you like it. But if you purposefully overcook a good piece of steak, I will hunt you down and remove your eating rights.

Remove meat from pan and loosely cover with foil. Add onion to pan, and move around a couple minutes until it begins to brown just a bit. Add mushrooms and garlic to pan, and stir in a good pinch of pepper. If it seems too dry, add a splash of broth. Add more broth now and then until the veggies are cooked—there should be a bit of liquid still in the pan when everything is done, so if there isn't, add about 1/3 cup or so before you turn off the heat.

Place yogurt and parsley in a medium bowl. Gradually add mushroom mixture, stirring the whole time until all is combined and it thickens just a bit. Season with more S&P, and serve with the steak. Good with simple mashed red potatoes.

Serves between 2 and 4 servings depending on cut size. One 4oz serving is about 200 cals. Not bad at all for steak and sauce!

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