CULINARY THRILL SEEKING: Our Christmas luxury pepper

Published 11:39 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I’m thrilled I raised a daughter who identifies with the “great comfort” part of the definition of luxury  more than the “extravagant living” part.

A warm cup of cocoa on a chilly night, quiet time with friends and an early bedtime could be luxurious for us. We both hear stories of people not quite satisfied with the size of their diamond earrings or bummed about toting last year’s designer handbag.                                                                                                                                           She called to say a giant bag of crushed red pepper would be a luxury item for her gourmet Christmas basket and I ran out to a Vietnamese store for one. Guess we ran through the bag we shared two years ago. Neither of us can go without hot pepper too long, say three meals in a row.

The next day I texted her to ask if she agreed that Dawn dishwashing liquid, noted for grease-cutting power and cleaning oily birds, was to be considered a luxury item. She sent back a yes and a smiley face, so I sent her a photo of Dawn in New Zealand scent, which is where she would have liked to go on her honeymoon. We decided to share a bottle. I refilled my pump bottle and handed her the rest when I saw her. She suggested I put it in the gourmet goodie basket, still under the tree. Crazy, but I like living in a world where two women can be happy with a half bottle of dishwashing detergent.

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Korean pepper shreds

My plan was to fill little jars of Korean pepper shreds I found at a Houston market and give them to foodies I know. Pepper power is subjective, but I didn’t find these hot at all. I did love how the thin red strands formed a little nest when sprinkled over a dish. They’re an edible conversation starter.

When a friend gave me jars of every combination of orange, lemon, pineapple and ginger marmalades I could imagine, I wanted to share pepper shreds with her. The next day she texted me an image of her strands over an omelet and how they added a sweet, smoky flavor.