Saturday, August 11, 2007

Muy Caliente

The discovery of the new world gave the Europeans, and from there, the rest of the globe a treasure trove of culinary sensations. One of Columbus’ main purposes behind sailing west was to unlock the Moor’s monopoly on the spice trade out of Southeast Asia giving the Europeans their own access to mace, clove, nutmeg and peppercorns. Upon landing in modern day Haiti Columbus experienced the fiery assault of what we have come to call the chili pepper. In the same botanical family as the tomato and potato this sun-loving nightshade contains a chemical called capsaicin that stimulates the nerves ending on our bodies -- anyone who has rubbed their eyes after slicing the hot varieties of this pepper knows the potency of this small fruit. The chemical is most concentrated in the membrane and seeds so removing them will lower their heat impact. I strongly recommend donning a pair of gloves when chopping a chili pepper for it can be a few hours later, and you are reminded of the chili work you did earlier in the day. If you find your mouth on fire a swig of milk or any other dairy product will help alleviate your discomfort while a water flush for the eye is the remedy of choice.

Though not all chili peppers are equal.


Anaheim-- Mild-- Great to stuff, batter and fry. Roasted, seeded and skinned
and added to grain dishes.

Cascabella-- incendiary…be careful-- Add into pickles, or used dried in
many Mexican sauces.

Cayenne-- Hot-- Primarily used dried – add in sparing
amounts to a dish as the flavor will
develop during cooking.

Habanero-- explosive!!-- One of the hottest chilies on earth.
Used very judiciously, though it has great flavor along with its heat. Look
for a Chocolate variety.

Hungarian Wax-- Mild-- Great for pickling or stuffing.

JalapeƱo-- hot to hotter-- In the summer the heat level of this
pepper is at its most intense.
Probably the best known of the
American chilies with great
versatility. When dried and smoked
they become known as Chipotle.

Pasilla-- Mild-- Used in Mexico’s famed mole sauce Add it into a tomato sauce for some
extra zing.

Poblano-- Mild-- When dried it becomes known as a
ancho. A must for chili con carne. Or,
roast them and add them into a
vegetable salad.

Serrano-- very hot-- Great in pickles, salsas and a must for

Thai Chili-- very hot-- Also known as Bird’s Beak Chili.
Used throughout all Southeast Asian

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