For the love of chili peppers…
Hello my lovely readers! Today’s post is a bit of a random one, but I figured that since you see enough recipes on the site, it might be interesting to do an “ingredient” post. I actually haven’t done one in a really long time…
A few weeks ago, a friend came over to my place and since she loves cooking as much as I do, I had to show her around my kitchen. Not that there’s much to show since I have a closet-sized kitchen, but there is one thing I’m proud of – my spice cabinet. I’ve got almost every spice under the sun and it’s all organized and “documented” on a piece of paper that’s taped on the inside of the cabinet door. Before I had that list, it was a nightmare to find what I was looking for. Now, it takes just seconds. Anyways, I digress. So, I was showing my friend the insane number of spices I have and it dawned on me that I have almost a dozen types of chili peppers/powders and I haven’t been using them lately. They somehow managed to get pushed to the back of the cabinet this summer and I completely forgot about them. They looked so lonely and unappreciated…. Usually, I’ll just use Kashmiri chili powder (the mild stuff you can find at the local Indian store) or Sriracha sauce to add some heat to my meals, but sometimes I like to experiment with different chili peppers. It’s a great way to add a unique flavour to a dish and shake things up a bit. Now that I’ve rediscovered my chili peppers, I’m on a mission to find new ways to use them. Want to take a peek into what I have in store? Read on….
When it comes to chili peppers, I like to use them in their dry form or powdered form. Fresh isn’t always easy to find and somehow I always manage to get spice burns on my fingers after chopping fresh chilies. Even with mild ones like jalapeno! If anyone has a fool-proof way of preventing spice burns, please let me know. I’ve tried everything and while I get relief for a while, the burn keeps coming back! Anyways, I can’t really use fresh chilies, so I’m always trying out dried ones and powders. If you’re on the lookout for new chili peppers, try the local ethnic markets or for hard-to-find peppers, I recommend My Spice Sage. I ordered a few of my spices from them last year and I’m quite happy with the quality.
So what do I currently have in my kitchen?
1. Pasilla – Pasilla is the name of the dry form of the chilaca pepper. It only rates 1500 Scoville units (units to measure the heat in chili peppers), so it’s a good chili powder for those who can’t handle too much heat. It has a rich and slightly fruity flavour that pairs well with seafood, lamb, garlic and mushrooms.
It’s traditionally used in Mexican cuisine, but you know me – I hardly use ingredients in the traditional sense. I add it to sauces, dips, soups, turkey chili and sometimes to ground meat.
Interesting recipe to try: Pasilla chile lime cabbage from Sprouted Kitchen
2. Chipotle – This is hands down one of my favourite chili peppers because of its unique flavour profile. It’s got a rich smoky flavour that really works its magic in dishes like burgers, meat loaf, stews and turkey chili. I also love combining it with Indian spices such as cumin, coriander powder and garam masala to make fusion dishes.
Chipotle is a hotter than Pasilla and comes in at 5,000-7,000 Scoville units, but I don’t find it all that spicy. I think it’s got more smokiness than heat.
Interesting recipe to try: Quinoa Taco Salad with Chipotle-Lime Dressing from Love and Lemons
3. Cayenne - This is the perfect chili pepper to use in dishes that require some heat and intense flavour. Cayenne comes in at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units make it much hotter than the previous two chili peppers.
Cayenne is a very versatile pepper that can be used in many different dishes. My preference is to use in to dips and crackers. The best homemade cheese cracker I ever ate had a generous amount of cayenne it in. I think cayenne and cheese are perfect flavour partners.
Interesting recipe to try: Spicy Kettle Corn by The Sweets Life
4. Guajillo - This is one of the peppers that’s been sitting in my spice cabinet patiently and hasn’t been used – yet. It comes in at 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units, so it’s got some heat but nothing too intense. It supposedly has a green tea flavour with berry undertones. Hmm…wonder what that tastes like?
Interesting recipe to try: Chicken Fresca Tacos
5. Thai red - I usually buy these as dry, whole chillies and then rehydrate them just before use. They come in at about 100,000 Scoville units, so they are pretty hot! Use with caution.
My favourite way of using them is rehydrating them for 15 minutes in hot water and them grinding them up with desiccated coconut to make a quick coconut “chutney”.
Interesting recipe to try: Grilled Lemongrass Chicken by Just One Cookbook
6. Ancho - These peppers come in at 1,000 to 1,500 Scoville units so they are really mild compared to some of the other chilies out there. Ancho has a rich, fruity flavour that works well in sauces, dips, stews and burgers.
Interesting recipe to try: Homemade Sriracha by Farmgirl Gourmet
7. Kashmiri - Kashmiri chili powder (as known as Deggi Mirch) is my everyday go-to chili powder. It’s not too hot as it comes in at 2,000 Scoville units, but it does have a vibrant red colour that can make any dish look more appealing. This is not to be confused with the usual Indian chili powder, which is much hotter and similar to cayenne.
I use it in Indian dishes as well as spiced desserts that don’t require too much heat.
Interesting recipe to try: Spiced Avocado Mousse
8. Arbol - I have whole, dry Arbol chilies instead of the powder, which is probably a good thing because whole, dry chilies have a more interesting flavour than powders. Arbol comes in at 15,000 to 30,000 Scoville units so it definitely has got some kick. Use it in soups, stews, tacos, enchiladas…the list goes on.
Interesting recipe to try: Spicy Mango Ice Pops from Fany Gerson
Most of us think of chili peppers as a way to add some flavour and heat to a meal, but they actually have quite a few health benefits. As with most spices, chilies have anti-inflammatory properties. They can also help boost your immunity and clear nasal congestion. A recent study suggests that they may also be able to reduce blood pressure naturally. Not sure if I believe all the claims, but it’s good to know that they “may” be benefits to eating chilies!
If you’re new to the whole chili pepper scene, start off with milder ones and limit the quantity you use to prevent any digestive upsets. Personally, I always saute chilies (fresh or dry) in oil before eating them. I’m not sure why, but it’s something I learned from my mother and I’ve never questioned it. I think cooking them in oil makes them somewhat less irritating to the stomach. If you have a really delicate stomach, tread carefully!
Hope you enjoyed a little peek into my spice cabinet! Happy cooking!
Question of the day: What’s your favourite chili pepper and why?