The Spicy Food Lover’s Media Tour, Part 1

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By Dave DeWitt 

The Spicy Food Lover’s Media Tour


The Sur La Table Menu:

Pimentón Garlic Soup

Bolivian Quinoa Salad

Habanero Spiced Black Beans
and Rice with Cuban Sofrito

Potato Cakes with Cilantro

Gaucho Grilled Beef with
Molho Campanha

Fresh Margarita Strawberries with
Tequila and Cracked Black Pepper


  Part 1: From Scottsdale to Long Island

    Part 2: The Left Coast

    Part 3: Wrap Up, Credits, and Media Tour Awards


Before The Spicy Food Lover’s Bible was even published, the sales, marketing, and editorial gurus of Stewart, Tabori & Chang treated me to an incredible lunch at Spice Market in Manhattan. During the dining, publicity director Ron Longe promised that they were sending me on a media tour to promote the book. I thought he meant a few cities convenient to Albuquerque, so you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that I would be doing 12 cooking demonstrations, plus numerous media and bookstore appearances that encompassed 18 days and about 10,000 miles of air travel!

Arizona and Texas

The tour began in Scottsdale, where I stayed with friends and had Gregg Byfield as my media escort. During the Channel 12 appearance in Phoenix, I cooked the Pimentón Garlic Soup in four minutes flat and the host of the show, Janine, not only tasted it, she ate an entire bowl! The station had a beautiful kitchen set with a boom camera that could look directly down into the cooking pot.

As I would discover at all the Sur La Table locations, the culinary coordinator and staff were well-prepared and fully prepped each dish, with my help chopping and pouring. Generally speaking, each menu item had its own tray.

Prepped food in the Sur La Table demo kitchen



Prepped food in the
Sur La Table demo kitchen.



The demo that evening was well attended and went well for my first appearance, with the exception of the potato cakes—they kept falling apart, but I managed to keep enough together to serve the crowd. Sometimes when you multiply a recipe three or four times, the proportions of ingredients are skewed, so I would have to make some corrections. The students were skeptical of the strawberries and black pepper dessert, but raved about it after the tasting. I discovered and purchased an ingenious tomato peeler, which looked like a potato peeler except that the blades were serrated.

Sur La Table Sign



Signage for the event was evident
outside and inside the stores



In Houston, my media escort was Becky Stewart, who was a real big help because she assisted with the prep work. She is the media escort to the mystery writer stars, including Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Harlan Coben, Robert B. Parker, and Steven Cannell, and she had a lot of interesting stories to tell. My friend Michael Briggs of KRBE radio videotaped the cooking demo. John DeMers, who I’ve known for years, did an excellent, 15-minute interview with me for his food show on KIKK-FM.

Speaking Spicy



Speaking Spicy
Sur La Table



At the cooking demo, again I had difficulty with the potato pancakes falling apart, despite taking more time to make the patties. The Sur La Table assistants suggested that the egg was adding too much moisture to the potato and cheese mixture. The strawberries were a big hit for the second time.

The next stop was Dallas and media escort JoAnne Crandall was very efficient and helpful. I even had a food stylist, Kathleen Livington, to prep the food and decorate the set for my TV appearances. I appeared on Fox 4 “Good Day” Show (KDFW-TV) with Tim Ryan and Megan Henderson and nearly burned an omelette due to a faulty electric burner. Tim, while talking, helped me move the pan off the burner. I muddled through and saved the omelette—barely. At the end of the show I appeared with the rock group Better Than Ezra, who were promoting their new CD. Then I had a 15-minute interview with Cheryl Nason on her show “Metroplex Today” on Comcast Cable. She asked very intelligent questions. A five-minute interview on WFAA-TV’s “Weekend Morning News” completed the interviews, where I prepared a spinach and nopalito (cactus) salad with a spicy dressing—it was much easier than the omelette.

The cooking demo was set up by Christine Carbone, who did a great job. I decided to adjust the potato cake recipe by eliminating the egg and adding more cheese. It was a poor decision as the cakes completely fell apart. My Sur La Table assistant, Sandy, said: “You cook the beef and I’ll fix the potato cakes.”

Dave and Sandy



Sandy perfects the potato
cakes while I grill the beef.



Minutes later, she had perfectly round cakes browning nicely in the oil. I asked what she had done and she told the audience that she had added the egg back and some flour. She got a round of applause for her efforts. Again the strawberries got the most praise. Later, I consulted with Nancy Gerlach about the potato cakes and we concluded that the flour had been accidentally cut from the recipe during the editing process.

For Mary Jane, at home and running the house and business, I bought Riedel wine glasses without stems and with weighted bottoms so they wouldn’t tip over, and a Unicorn Magnum Plus pepper grinder—the highest rated pepper grinder.

During the Dallas stop, I had lunch with my long-time writer Sharon Hudgins and her husband, Tom. She was writing an article about me and the new book that would appear on the front page of the food section in the Dallas Morning News.

The East Coast

I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., so it was great to be back after more than thirty years. I still remembered the names of landmarks, bridges, and highways, and at least the Georgetown area of D.C. hasn’t changed much. My media guide was Paul Peachy (real name), who is an excellent cook and he helped me prep for cooking the omelette. This time, I prepared a perfect one before the appearance just in case—and we needed it because while I was cooking it, they went to a break, and when they came back to us, the omelette was too brown, so I piled the chutney on top of it and we used the perfect one for the tasting and all was good.

Chutney conceals the overly-browned section of the omelette



Chutney conceals the overly-
browned section of the omelette



The host of the show on WUSA, Channel 9, was Andrea Roane, and she has been with the station for 25 years and is a real pro. I told her that I used to watch her station when the call letters were WTOP-TV, and she laughed at the ancient history.

Dave with Andrea



On the WUSA-TV set with Andrea Roane.



I ate a delightful lunch with with Sallye Broome, who was in the same class with me in high school. The food was great at Harry’s Tap Room in Clarendon.

The cooking demo at Sur La Table in Arlington had a bunch of enthusiastic spice lovers—and one critic. A woman said to me, “You overcooked the quinoa,” and another woman turned to her and snapped: “No he didn’t—it was perfect.”

Then the east coast part of my tour concluded with quick trip to New York—less than 24 hours in the Big Apple and Manhasset. Ron Longe, who doubled as media escort and publicist, treated me to a delicious lunch at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. Then we went over to the publishing offices, where I had a discussion with my editor, Marisa Bulzone, about the potato cake recipe. She promised me that the recipe would be corrected in future editions of the book. Then it was on to Manhassett for a cooking demo at Sur La Table in front of an older audience professing to be wary of spicy foods. I promised not to burn them out, and I think that I won over some converts.

The first leg of the tour was now completed, but I had more adventures awaiting me in the west.


Pimentón Garlic Soup

The classic garlic soup of Madrid is transformed into a smoky-hot masterpiece with the addition of pimentón, a powder made from oak-smoked chiles. In Spain, pimiento is a generic term for chiles, and the ones used in pimentón are either a long chile that produces a sweet powder, a round cascabel-like chile that is the hot variety, or a third one that is used for the agridulce or bittersweet pimentón. The trick to a good garlic soup is to cook the garlic very slowly so that it’s soft and creamy, not browned. The amount of garlic can be adjusted to suit your tastes. If you can’t locate pimentón, mix equal portions of red New Mexico chile powder and chipotle powder.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, Spanish preferred

  • 2 to 3 slices bacon. diced

  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

  • 11/2 tablespoons hot pimentón

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 6 cups chicken broth

  • Salt to taste

  • 10 baguette bread slices, crusts removed, sliced 1/2 inch thick and toasted

  • 4 eggs

  • Garnish: Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, 4 lime wedges

Heat a saucepan or stockpot over medium heat, add the oil and bacon and when hot, add the garlic, reduce the heat and slowly saute until the garlic is soft, being careful that it doesn’t brown.

Add the pimentón and cumin and stir to mix. Whisk in the broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat add the bread and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt.

Carefully break each egg into the soup so that it rests on top of the baguettes in the soup. Cover the pot and simmer until the whites of the eggs are set and yolks are soft, about 4 minutes.

To serve, carefully ladle the soup and an egg into individual bowls being careful that the yolks don’t break. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve with a lime wedge for sprinkling over the soup.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Bolivian Quinoa Salad

Quinoa, prounced KEEN-wah, is a grain that’s native to the Andes where it was grown on the terraces of Machu Picchu, as it grows at high altitudes. It was a staple of the Incas, who called it “the mother grain” and considered it sacred. Today, it’s still an important food in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Called a miracle grain because it contains all eight essential amino acids and is therefore a complete protein, its popularity is increasing due to its versatility and flavor as well as its nutritional value. When cooked it becomes almost transparent, and has a delicate yet sweet nutty flavor similar to wild rice. Since quinoa is a member of the spinach family, we like to serve it on a bed of spinach, and we’ve added a touch of citrus to counterbalance the sweetness of the grain.

  • 1 cup quinoa

  • 1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper

  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

  • 2 ají chiles, stems and seeds removed, finely chopped or substitute yellow wax or jalapeño chiles

  • 1 small orange, divided into segments and chopped

  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Garnish: Chopped fresh spinach, chopped fresh Italian parsley, orange zest

  • Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, fresh preferred

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse until the water runs clear.

Heat a saucepan over high heat, add the quinoa and twice the volume of water. The water should be 1-inch above the surface of the grain. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the quinoa is tender. The quinoa should absorb all the water but if some remains, drain. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and chill.

Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and whisk to blend.

Add the bell pepper, chiles, orange, and walnuts to the quinoa and season with the salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss to mix.

To serve, line a chilled platter with the spinach, mound the quinoa on top and garnish with the chopped parsley and orange zest.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

Habanero-Spiced Black Beans and Rice with Cuban Sofrito

This is a variation of the popular Cuban classic, “Moors and Christians.” The recipe gets its name from the black of the beans and the white of the rice. Sofritos are a mixture of sauted vegetables and seasonings are used to flavor soups, sauces, and dishes in Spanish and Italian cooking. The Spanish influence is very evident in the cuisine of Cuba, where sofritos are widely used. In the following recipe, the beans are cooked from scratch, but if you are pressed for time, canned black beans can be substituted. If you are cooking the dried beans, always add salt or an acid after the beans are done, adding them sooner will make the beans tough. Epazote is an herb that is always used when cooking black beans in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean as it reduces the gas-producing properties in the beans as well as flavoring them.

  • 1 pound black beans, rinsed and picked over

  • 1 teaspoon dried epazote, omit if not available

  • 1 habanero chile, stem and seeds removed

  • 1 tomato, skin removed and chopped

  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry, optional

  • Salt to taste

  • 2 cups cooked long-grain rice

  • Sofrito:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 small green bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, sliced

  • 1 small onion, sliced

  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced2 habanero chiles, stems and seeds removed, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the beans in a stock pot and add cold water to cover. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, and boil the beans uncovered for 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and allow the beans to sit for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans.

Return the beans to the pot, add the epazote, habanero, and 2 quarts of water and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for a 1 to 2 hours or until the beans are tender. Add the tomato, vinegar, sherry, and season to taste with salt. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes to blend the flavors.

To make the Sofrito, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil and when hot, add the green pepper, onions, garlic, and chiles. Saute the vegetables for a couple of minutes until softened. Add the oregano, cumin, bay leaf, and black pepper and continue to saute for an additional minute. Cover and simmer for an additional 15 to 20 minutes

To serve, place the rice on a large serving platter, ladle the beans along with some of the sauce on the rice, and top with the sofrito.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium to hot

Potato Cakes with Cilantro

We have adjusted this recipe because of extensive testing on the road. This recipe is based on one from South America where versions of these potatoes are a popular appetizer and served with a bowl of salsa. We’ve added some of our favorite ingredients to the recipe, so serve them as a side dish at dinner or at breakfast or brunch in place of hash browns. We rinse the onions, because these potatoes don’t cook long enough to remove the sharpness of raw onions.

  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

  • 1/4 cup coarsely grated cojita cheese or substitute Parmesan cheese

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onions

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 1/4 cup flour

  • 1 chipotle en adobo, finely chopped

  • Salt to taste

  • Vegetable oil for frying

Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water, and cook until tender. Remove, drain and place in a bowl. Roughly mash the potatoes, using a fork, so that they still have some texture.

Place the onions in a strainer and hold under cold running water for a minute to remove any bitterness. Drain well and add to the potatoes. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the oil, and mash to stir and mix with a wooden spoon or even your hands to prevent the potatoes from breaking down. They need to retain some of the lumps and texture. Make small patties.

Heat a heavy wide skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil to a depth of 1/4 inch and when hot, place the patties into the hot oil. Fry until brown on one side, turn once and brown on the other side.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Gaucho Grilled Beef with Molho Campanha

Gauchos are the cowboys of Brazil’s pampas of Rio Grande do Sul in the southern part of the country. Gaucho churrascos, as barbecues are called in Portuguese, consist of large pieces of meat, usually beef and sausages but sometimes lamb, that are threaded on large sword-like skewers and grilled over wood fires. They are served in restaurants called “churrascarias” throughout Brazil and are gaining popularity in this country as well. In these restaurants, a variety of marinated meats are served “rodzio style” meaning the waiters with swords of meat circulate through the dining room cutting pieces of meat to order at the table. This recipe is loosely based on the churrascos Nancy enjoyed in Rio de Janeiro as well in the tiny churrascarias in the back country on the way to Igauzu Falls. A typical sauce called Molho Campanha accompanies them. Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.

4 tenderloin or T-bone steaks, about 1-inch thick, or substitute beef cubes

Molho Campanha, see recipe below

Barbecue Marinade:

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, fresh preferred

  • 2 habanero chiles, stems and seeds removed

  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon salt

Place all the ingredients for the barbecue marinade in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Put the steaks in a non-reactive bowl or resealable plastic bag, add the marinade and marinate the meat in the refrigerator for 12 hours or overnight, the longer the better.

To prepare the meat, remove from the marinade and reserve the marinade for basting.

Heat the grill to medium-hot and grill the steaks, basting frequently with the marinade and turning often, to desired doneness, about 10 to 12 minutes for medium rare. Remove the meat from the grill and allow to sit for 5 minutes for the juices to reabsorb. Either slice the beef into thin strips or leave whole.

Arrange the meat on a large serving platter and pass around along with the salsa.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Variation: Substitute lamb chops or pork cubes for the beef.

Molho Campanha

This is a very simple to prepare salsa that accompanies Brazilian barbecues and is salsa is similar to the Mexican/Southwestern Pico de Gallo. Serve this salsa at room temperature for maximum flavor.

  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

  • 3 malagueta chiles, stems and seeds removed, chopped or substitute Tabasco or chile piquins

  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix. Allow the salsa to sit at room temperature for an hour to blend the flavors.

Yield: 1 to 11/2 cups

Heat Scale: Medium to Hot

Fresh Margarita Strawberries with Tequila and Cracked Black Peppercorns

Strawberries and black pepper may seem like a strange flavor combination, but the pepper actually enhances the fresh flavor of the berries. If you don’t like to use alcohol, you can simply leave the tequila out of the recipe, the flavor will be different but still tasty. This quick and easy dessert has a sweet and sour taste, and the peppercorns leave your mouth warm after eating a bowl of strawberries. Denice Skrepcinski shared this recipe and since she is a food stylist, she knows how to turn a simple bowl of fruit into a very special dessert.

  • 4 cups sliced fresh strawberries

  • 1/3 cup orange juice, fresh preferred

  • 1/4 cup tequila

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, fresh preferred

  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground coarse black pepper

  • Garnish: Lime slices and sugar

Combine the strawberries, orange juice, tequila, lime juice, and vinegar and toss to coat. Add the pepper and toss again.

For a dramatic presentation, rub the rims of Margarita glasses with lime juice and dip them into the sugar. Divide the strawberries between the glasses, sprinkle a little sugar over the berries, garnish with lime slices and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Mild


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