Grainy black and white Westerns flicker silently across a TV screen at Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue, occasionally interrupted by the jarring clang of a dinner bell. Everyone turns to stare. Just another heaping mound of Chef Bryan Dooley's pecan-smoked 'cue – worth the drive from anywhere in the Valley. And the one constant on every plate at this cowboy-chic outpost is Dooley's signature condiment: the sweet-and-tangy pickled jalapeño.
As hot sauces go, heat levels are relative: What’s scorching to one palate is child’s play to another. Maybe that’s why culinary-school-trained Stuart Hutchinson, creator of a unique line of condiments called Precious Sauces, is more focused on “where” a given hot sauce brutalizes the mouth than “how much.” For example, his personal favorite among his four flavors, Liquid Gold, hits the front and sides of the tongue – first with a sweet, fruity flavor, and then with a powerful, if short-lasting, punch from habanero.
The story has all the trappings of a Hollywood screenplay – bootleggers, a remote barbecue shack in the woods of western Kentucky and a debt owed. It culminates, rivetingly, with a bottled barbecue sauce based on a 176-year-old recipe. Owner DeeDee Crook traces the sauce back to his grandfather, who owned a dairy farm in bluegrass country and had a brother who ran moonshine. One thing led to another, and the boys ended up with a secret recipe that became Old Kentucky Barbeque sauce.
When Letitia Lavant decided to market her family’s pasta sauce, she spent hours cooking with her mother, measuring and writing down the recipe. Two sauces – and a lot of memories – came out of those sessions: spicy Italian marinara and garlicky pizzaiole gravy. ($8.50 for 24 ounces; available at Luci’s Healthy Marketplace and Old Town Scottsdale Farmers’ Market.)
Tasha Mehl looked at the five olive trees in her yard and got an idea, but first she needed to do some research. A handful of trees isn’t enough to harvest olives or press them for oil commercially, but what about the leaves? Long intrigued by the health benefits of plants and herbs, Mehl wondered if olive leaves had anything to contribute. Turns out, olive leaves are high in antioxidants. The taste is mild, carrying both sweet and bitter characteristics. Olive leaves aren’t known to produce any medical miracles, but when blended with other plants, herbs and spices, they make for a comforting cup of tea.
Warm up this winter with a local family recipe that calls for Arizona ingredients.
Jeremy Cox grew up eating chili at his grandparents' cabin in Christopher Creek in northeastern Arizona. When his grandfather died, the family recipe for "cabin chili" passed to Cox's father, who took over the weekly tradition of cooking it. For the past seven years, Cox has shared his family's legacy with the public through his Phoenix-based Christopher Creek Spice Company, which sells spices and rubs complete with recipes on the boxes. "It's really hard to mess up chili," Cox says. "I love to cook and I love to experiment, and I have dozens of variations on my website (cabinchili.com) using my spices and rubs."