The setting: Your home.

The event: A dinner party.

The problem: Fear of boring your guests with the same, old dishes.

The solution: A little jar of Washington State innovation.

Pike’s Place Market in Seattle is full of delights and surprises for the visitor and the Seattleite alike. One of the longest-lived tables at the market is a custom booth slinging jars of some of the most unique spreads in the world. Put away the strawberry preserves, keep the marmalade on the shelf. Seattle is a town that knows the joy of pepper jelly. Sweet, spicy and delightfully strange, this unique creation is potent, organic and versatile. That’s why the locals love Mick’s Peppourri jellies.

Walt Mick was an elementary school principal in the late 1970’s when some of his cousins, farmers in Eastern Washington with a nose for peppers, passed along their homebrew recipe for pepper jelly to him as a gift. What began as a hobby for Walt and his wife Ginger soon evolved into a business. They set up shop at Pike’s Place to sell their Peppourri in 1982 and have since become a fixture at the market, providing adventurous passers-by with free samples delivered on long, wooden sticks and engaging in some friendly banter.

Since then, Mick’s has expanded the menu to include what is now 27 varieties of unusual jelly. Neophytes should start with the award-winning red pepper jellies (of which there are both mild and hot versions), then move up to some of the harder-hitting styles like Death Valley and Beyond Buzztail for an intense habanero experience.

Mick’s has also branched out into gourmet jellies, including their wine, sake and beer varieties. The Cabernet and Chardonnay styles practically beg for a melted brie while the sake jelly could bring some diversity to a sushi plate.

But if you want to use Mick’s like some of Seattle’s premiere restaurateurs have been using it for years, you’re going to want to learn the art of the glaze. The good folks at Mick’s are happy to provide some killer recipes, including this one for grilled prawns.

Larry’s Grilled Prawns

1 lb. prawns, cleaned and deveined
8 oz. jar Mick’s Peppourri
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic

On hand: Bamboo skewers for prawns

Preheat grill or broiler to very hot for 8-10 minutes. Brush with vegetable oil. Skewer 3-4 shrimp to each skewer.
Grill 1-2 minutes on each side or just until they curl and turn pink

Glaze: Gently warm pepper jelly with the vinegar just until jelly melts and starts to bubble.
Brush prawns with glaze. Serve on platter sprinkled with chopped cilantro.

Serves 4-6.

Photo: Michael Sarko