Gray Brooks, chef and owner of Pizzeria Toro in Durham, North Carolina, makes a happy discovery in a jar of Italian hot peppers.
Secret Ingredient: The oil in which Calabrian chili peppers are preserved. It’s really hot, nicely salty, and a little fruity from the peppers.
At Pizzeria Toro, we’ve always been in love with the chilies themselves, and started using the oil to season staff snacks and occasionally in salad dressings to give them some heat. Then we decided to experiment with it a bit and used some in our ‘nduja (a spicy, spreadable pork sausage) recipe, and we were thrilled with the results. Since then, we’ve discovered countless ways to incorporate it.
How to Use It: We used to add it to a lot of salad dressings at Pizzeria Toro. But people started seeing us finish pizzas with it every once in a while and started asking for it, so now we just wind up letting folks use it on pretty much everything we have, to add some nice Italian heat to their pies.
We like to use it to finish soups or pizzas, and it’s really nice on top of sardines. It’s also unbelievable on popcorn. For a deliciously fiery late night snack, we like to toss some spaghetti with some of the chili oil and a bit of chopped garlic.
I really love happy discoveries like this—when the byproduct of an ingredient is just as delicious and useful as the ingredient itself. It just shows how important it is to really pay attention to what you’re buying, and how you’re using it.