The answer: make Spicy Sauce. All year long, over and over again, make Spicy Sauce.
It's the invention of Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, the geniuses behind Torrisi Italian Specialties, but below you will find a perfectly scaled version for your kitchen.
It calls for ingredients you already have -- or can find in the midsection of your local grocery store -- and has but one step: blend. (Two if you count "mise en place" a.k.a. opening some jars and cans).
It's fiercely addictive stuff: electric, a tiny bit creamy from whipped up olive oil, and as spicy as you want it to be. (Unlike with fresh peppers, you can easily adjust the heat in the moment.)
Our Editorial Assistant Brette Warshaw got so hooked on it this summer that, lacking a blender in New York, she was known to cart tubs of it back from weekends home in Connecticut on the train. (Did I mention that Brette is my hero?)
It's the house hot sauce at Torrisi and its little sister Parm, where they mix it with sautéed broccoli rabe and spread it on roast turkey sandwiches.
It also makes a bang-up edible gift, for that person on your list who has everything and maybe doesn't want another tin of snickerdoodles.
Hoping that it could be safely water-bath canned too, I wrote to Food52's local canning expert, MrsWheelbarrow. She let me down gently (it involves olive oil, and thus would require some special equipment and recipe reverse-engineering -- it could probably be done, but I'll leave that to professionals like her to figure out).
Here's what I will advise: instead of giving people a shelf-stable year's supply, give them just a small jar, with the recipe printed out all cute (here's your inspiration).
This will be serve to both get them hungry for more -- as I was after the jar Brette gave me for my birthday this year was gone -- and provide them with a go-to recipe they too can blitz up at a moment's notice. I suppose this is what drug dealers do, but let's not think about that.
MrsWheelbarrow says it should keep in the fridge for up to 6 months, but it won't need to.
Recipe adapted very slightly from New York Magazine
Makes about 2 cups
4 ounces B&G hot cherry peppers (or other pickled hot peppers), stemmed
2 ounces roasted red peppers
2 ounces crushed tomato
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom (except Marc Carbone & Rich Torrisi, by Marilyn K. Yee for the New York Times)