Tamed Salsa Macha!

8th June, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, Salsas, easy

Last week, Steve Sando, heirloom bean king and mastermind of Rancho Gordo, peppered his Facebook page with pictures of amazing looking food from his recent visit to Veracruz. One photo in particular had me, a confirmed chilephile, almost ready to eat my screen. It showed a beautiful bowl of glistening salsa macha, made from local dried chiles, peanuts and garlic. Steve didn’t have a recipe, so I took it on as a personal mission to develop one. After a little research and a few experimental batches, here’s what I’ve come up with. It may not be 100% authentic, but it sure tastes good.

The traditional Salsa Macha of Veracruz is made with the dried chile comapeño, a small orange chile that is unavailable outside of the region. I’ve substituted a combination of ancho and de árbol chiles to bring up the flavors, and tame the flame a bit. Use more ancho if you want it milder, more de árbol if you want the heat. Dried chiltepins and pequins, widely available, can also be used to add even more fire, and the true die-hard can add dried habanero, which will also add wonderful layers of fruitiness to the salsa. Read more…»

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Alejandra’s Sweet Chipotle Pickles

28th April, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, easy

The chipotle is a beautiful thing; a dried, wrinkled morsel of spicy, smoky goodness, full of flavor and pungent aromas, and ready to add depth to many dishes.

Chipotles begin life as lovely, deep red jalapeños that have been left on the plant to ripen fully. When the fruit has begun to give up its moisture and is wilting slightly, it’s harvested, and smoked in a closed chamber over wood fires, drying and preserving it, and imparting that distinctive and wonderful smokiness.

The morita variety (Spanish for “little blackberry”) is a lovely dark reddish purple pod. This is the typical variety of northern Mexico, and the one most often found in the United States. It is not smoked as long or as deeply as the ahumado variety, so its flavors are more subtle and fruity. They’re easy to find in any Mexican grocery, and many supermarkets will have them in hanging plastic bags.

Daniel’s neighbor, Alejandra, a wonderful cook, introduced him to these fantastic sweet pickled chipotles, and graciously shared the recipe with us. They’re fantastic with huevos rancheros, or on a burger, or used to spice up a grilled cheese sandwich. Try them in an egg salad, or with some lime juice, cilantro and chopped onion as an addition to some simply cooked beans. Or, add some zest to a quesadilla. Read more…»

The Fireclown

11th February, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, Editorial

Several years ago (could it be over a decade?), I was eating with some friends at one of the local Indian restaurants that I’d become quite fond of. I’d come to know the people there, and there were often tasty treats available to their friends that were not on the menu. Most of us were willing to put our collective culinary fates into the hands of our waiter. As there were about half a dozen of us that evening, an excellent feast was promised, and I had little doubt it would be delivered.

One of our party, call him The Fireclown (with apologies to Michael Moorcock), had to have his own way. He often took great and foolish pride in proclaiming that a chile had not been bred that could best him. (This was long before the development of the Dorset Naga, a fruit I’m sure would have sent even him scurrying to find the nearest tequila-charged fire extinguisher.) He would brag to anyone who would listen about his superhuman tolerance for hot food. His asbestos lined tongue, it seems, was a legend in his own bouche, immune to spice that would make any mere mortal beg for the mercy of death. And, it wasn’t just about his tolerance for the pungent fruit. He was an equal opportunity braggart.

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If You Can Stand the Heat

2nd February, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, easy

I’m no master gardener, but everyone knows I love chiles, and the variety available in the markets is usually somewhat spare, so I try, each year, to grow some interesting ones with the hopes of enjoying them fresh during the summer, and having enough by the end of the season to put up for use throughout the year. Last year, I had Habaneros (always a fave), Caribbean Reds, Infernos, Thai Dragons, Tabascos, Cayennes, and Yatsufusa chiles growing, and no doubt keeping the bugs away. They didn’t produce with the vigor of previous years, but offered some interesting fruit to tantalize (or torment) the tastes of the adventurous.

One day, I picked the first of the Infernos, a lovely hot yellow hybrid of a Hungarian Wax. These 8″ fruit have a delightful sweetness up front, and a cunning afterburn. Having a large papaya in the kitchen, ripe, but not flavorful enough to enjoy solo, a fruit salsa seemed a perfect use for both. Read more…»

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Too Hot to Handle

26th January, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, Editorial

It’s no secret that I love spicy, fiery hot foods. I enjoy the virtues of the hell-borne Habanero, the potent Pequin, the artful Ancho, the raucous Red Savina. But, even to the most dedicated hothead, it’s possible to go overboard; too much really can be too much! Ben Franklin suggested things be enjoyed in moderation. An experience with the infamous “Habanero Hamburger,” a few years ago, painfully proved his rule true, at least for me.

Some friends and I, dedicated chilephiles, had been talking for weeks about experiencing “The Hottest Habanero Hamburger in the World” at the now unfortunately shuttered Prince of Wales Pub in Menlo Park, California. Talk is cheap, we figured. Anyone can make audacious claims, but could they back this one up? Could they challenge the champions of Capsaicin (the chemical responsible for the “heat” in hot peppers)? There was only one way we were going to find out. We went. We ate. We were conquered. Read more…»

Now, That’s a Spicy Pizza

12th January, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, easy

An Essential Ingredient

I’d intended to go out for dinner one night, having been planning for it all day. At about 5pm, I was made aware that plans were changing, and that, though I hadn’t planned dinner, I would be cooking at home. Okay. Not a problem. Grumble.

There was still some nice grilled squash from the previous night, which, sliced thin, would make a lovely addition to a field greens salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. There was a frozen pizza Quattro Formaggi from Trader Joe’s. With a little doctoring, these things are quite nice. There was a jar of Mezzetta’s fabulous pickled Habaneros. (Actually, there was a six pack of the things that had recently arrived. They’re fantastic, and I always keep a few jars in the pantry. While I prefer fresh or frozen, they’re not always around. I’d used up all the Habanero paste I made up earlier in the summer, and the frozen stock was also depleted, so pickled it would have to be. If you like Habaneros, give the Mezzettas a try.) There are always some nice Parmigiano, salt-packed anchovies, jars of green olives, and plenty of fresh garlic. Sounds like dinner. Top that pizza with some spicy goodness, and it would be great. Read more…»