peppers

  • Dial It Up!

    Chili pep­pers are a sta­ple of most Mex­i­can food recipes. The sheer pop­u­lar­ity of Mex­i­can cui­sine and the ever grow­ing His­panic pop­u­la­tion in the United States make chili pep­pers an essen­tial daily ingre­di­ent.

    Fresh chili pep­pers are gen­er­ally avail­able year round. They are grown in Cal­i­for­nia, New Mex­ico, Texas, and Mex­ico. Dried chili ver­sions are also avail­able year-​round.
    California’s extreme sum­mer tem­per­a­tures are con­ducive to grow­ing a wide vari­ety of mild to very hot spec­i­mens. Cul­ti­vated in a full range of sizes, shapes, and degrees of hot­ness, the num­ber of vari­eties is impres­sive.

    The head-​scratching comes with try­ing to prop­erly iden­tify the var­i­ous pep­pers by name and fla­vor pro­file. It gets com­pli­cated when the name of a pep­per may vary from region to region. The name changes again when the pep­per goes from being fresh to being dried.

    With a vari­ety of heat lev­els and fla­vor pro­files, ver­sa­til­ity is a key attribute of both fresh and dried chili pep­pers.

    Har­vested through­out the sum­mer, some green chili pep­pers are left on the plants until autumn. They will go from bright green in color to their final hue of yel­low, orange, pur­ple or red, depend­ing on the variety.
  • PPP…Peppers!

    Pep­pery foods have been a part of the human diet for more than 8,000 years.

    Long before the ancient Greeks and Romans gave mon­e­tary value to pep­per­corns, South Amer­i­can Indi­ans were eat­ing fiery hot wild chili pep­pers.

    Chilies were eaten in Mex­ico, Brazil and Peru 6,000 years B.C. and were one of the first domes­ti­cated plants in the New World.

    The love affair with chili pep­pers con­tin­ues. Most of us asso­ciate chili pep­pers with vary­ing degrees of heat. Super­hot chili pep­pers go beyond habanero pep­per heat and sur­pass 350,000 Scov­ille Heat Units.

    Any num­ber of vari­eties of these super­hots have sur­passed two mil­lion Scov­ille Heat Units. Treat these pep­pers with the utmost respect when han­dling or cook­ing with them.
  • Salsa Crush

    Chips and salsa are pretty stan­dard fare in most Mex­i­can restau­rants. At home, we rely on them for a go to snack or pre­cur­sor to an enchi­lada or chili rel­leno din­ner.

    The combo is a good stand-​alone bite when hang­ing out with friends on the patio.

    Salsa lit­er­ally trans­lates to sauce. Don’t get stuck think­ing that tor­tilla chips are the outer lim­its to what pairs per­fectly with salsa.

    Purists might fol­low the pico de gallo or rojo route. That’s a ter­rific jump­ing off point for home­made salsa. Chili pep­pers, toma­toes, onions, fresh lime and cilantro get the job done. The fresher the bet­ter wins over salsa fans.

    Step­ping away from this clas­sic, expand to other ingre­di­ents to pump up the salsa reper­toire. Explore unlikely sum­mer and trop­i­cal ingre­di­ents. Straw­ber­ries, man­gos, peaches, pineap­ples and even water­melon rise to meet salsa aspi­ra­tions.

    Pome­gran­ate arils are a sur­prise ele­ment that deliver on zing and crunch fac­tors. Dessert is unique with a ladle full of fruit salsa over vanilla ice cream, chur­ros or cin­na­mon tor­tilla chips. Bold is not bor­ing when it comes to new ways to inter­pret tra­di­tional appli­ca­tions of how we put salsa in motion

    Con­sider serv­ing these level up con­coc­tions with tra­di­tional menus choices like Baja style tacos or faji­tas. When cook­ing chicken, fish or pork, those bright and fruity ver­sions con­vert ordi­nary din­ner to one of higher inter­est.

    Tomatil­los can be added to nearly any­thing salsa. Tangy, more acidic, and less sweet, this green tomato-​looking thing is in the fruit family.
  • Tinga This

    Tinga is a pop­u­lar stew using a blend of Mex­i­can and Span­ish cook­ing meth­ods. The result is a per­fect mar­riage of spicy, sweet and smoky fla­vors.

    Chicken or pork are favored meats used in this tra­di­tional Pueblo dish. Lentils, chick­peas or pota­toes are solid veg­e­tar­ian twists.

    Onions and gar­lic are sauteed first. Like most authen­tic Mex­i­can recipes, white onions are pre­ferred. Toma­toes are then added. Fresh toma­toes are used when avail­able and taste great. Vari­ety isn’t really impor­tant.

    Oth­er­wise, canned toma­toes are quite suit­able. Good choices dur­ing win­ter months would be to use fire roasted toma­toes, crushed toma­toes or even tomato sauce or tomato paste in a can.

    Next comes adding the stock, herbs and spices. Bay leaves, salt, pep­per and Mex­i­can oregano are stan­dard spices used in a tinga. Corian­der, thyme and mar­jo­ram take another culi­nary path.

    Chipo­tle chilies in Adobo sauce give the stew a sub­stan­tial kick. Essen­tially, chipo­tles in adobo are smoked and dried jalapeños chiles– rehy­drated and then canned in toma­toes, vine­gar, gar­lic, and spices.

    Decide on the heat pref­er­ence before adding a whole can of pep­pery heat. There’s no turn­ing back once they go into the stew pot or slow cooker.

    House made chipo­tle chilies are doable, but require more effort. If han­dling chili pep­pers is no prob­lem, look for jalapeños that are firm. The fresher the pep­pers, the bet­ter the result.

    The mix­ture is sim­mered long enough to allow all of the ingre­di­ents to meld nicely together. If meat is desir­able, add that to the sim­mer­ing sauce. If not, add legumes or other vegetables.