No, not the hysterically funny Billy Wilder movie with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, but rather a great exhibit of chili peppers at The Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, N.J. The peppers are growing in a series of raised beds, complete with a cell-phone guided tour. Each species is identified both by its common name, as in Habanero pepper, as well as its place on the Scoville scale which measures peppers as to how hot they are; for instance, a garden-variety green bell pepper measures 0 units.
A jalapeño can be rated anywhere from 2500 to 8000 units, probably depending on the particular variety. For peppers on the top of the scale, only the cement-mouthed need apply.
Peppers notwithstanding, the Arboretum is a glorious spot that made me feel I was miles away from civilization but is actually just off a major traffic artery. The one hundred twenty seven acres include the family home, a modest Colonial Revival Mansion I’m glad I don’t have to heat.
Around it are immense lawns, nature trails including one labeled in Braille, a special garden kids work in during spring and summer and innumerable other gardens with well-identified trees, shrubs and plants. There are educational programs like an upcoming Halloween and Thanksgiving Centerpiece Demo (great for those who get sick of cornucopias); Grow Great Garlic; a garden lovers’ book club; Gingerbread Tips in preparation for a holiday craft fair and gingerbread house show and a zillion other offerings for kids and adults. At almost any time of year, one could spend a very pleasant time here and thank the Frelinghuysen family whose summer farm and carriage house (filled with a collection of beautifully maintained carriages) became the Arboretum.
Of course a recipe for this post has to include chili. (I suppose it could be leaves or grasses in keeping with the garden theme but somehow…) Herewith:
Add the cooked bacon, sausage (uncooked), tomatoes with their liquid, stock or water, rice, parsley, chili powder, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce and a dash of the hot red pepper sauce.
Bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook 25 minutes. Check; if rice seems dry, add more stock or water. Then stir well and add the shrimp, cover and cook a few minutes more until shrimp are hot (if already cooked ) or pink (if raw) . It’s done when rice is al dente and shrimp are pink
It’s not the work of a minute but it feeds 8 or more people and makes a great impression. Serve with a dry white wine, a green salad and some good bread as it yields juices that deserve to be mopped up. If you’re a huge fan of hot food, up the amount of hot sauce