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Chile peppers bring both sweet and fiery zest to dishes — discover a fascinating and seemingly endless variety within the pages of this delightful book.Contrary to popular belief, a pepper does not need to make your eyes water or start a fire in your mouth to qualify as a chile. “Chile” is simply the common name for the fruit of the capsicum plant and chiles come in a wide variety of colors, shapes and flavors.

There are five major species of chile peppers and thousands of varieties, in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors. Even experts disagree about how many there actually are. So it is probably not surprising that the spelling for the word itself is somewhat problematic. Is it chili, chilli or chile? You are likely to come across all of those spellings if you are reading up on the topic.

This comprehensive book (which serves as both a reference and a cookbook) from bestselling author and expert researcher Judith Finlayson takes you through dozens of chiles and provides absorbing information on everything from the historical and geographic origins of chiles to information on the Scoville scale (which measures the hotness of a chile and was invented by Wilbur Scoville) to the health benefits of chiles and finally, 250 delicious and inventive recipes.

Full color throughout, this book takes inspiration from chiles and embraces them with an enthusiasm that maximizes their true flavor potential. From fiery Tex-Mex inspired meals to savory and sweet Thai dishes, this incredible collection of recipes is sure to make you a lover of all things chile.

Korean-Style Chicken Wings

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What could be better than chicken wings bathed in spicy gochujang, the hot red pepper paste that helps to imbue Korean food with its unique flavor? The proliferation of restaurants specializing in Korean fried chicken has popularized this rather addictive dish. My version is grilled, which reduces the quantity of fat. Serve with beer and, perhaps, some fresh cucumber or radish kimchi to add freshness and crunch.

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Cape Verde Sausage Stew (Cachupa)

Cape Verde is a collection of islands off the west coast of Africa, and cachupa is their national dish. There are many different versions, but most are based on some kind of pork or perhaps freshly caught fish, although vegetables may be substituted. Since Cape Verde was a Portuguese colony, this rendition contains chorizo. Because sausage is relatively pricy, the result is probably deserving of the description cachupa rica, which means it was prepared when the family was feeling prosperous.

 

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Austrian Red Pepper Vinegar

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I bought this vinegar from a vendor in the market in Vienna last year.  It is infused with sweet red pepper and makes a delicious substitution for vinegar in a traditional vinaigrette.  I watch it carefully because I’ll need to return to Vienna to replenish my supply. 

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Making Chile Sauce

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Original San Antonio Chili

If you are looking for the ground beef chili your mother made for Friday night dinner, this isn’t it. If instead you want to taste what amounts to a fabulous, highly spiced beef stew, then I highly recommend this chili. Leftovers reheat well.

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Ginger Tea

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My favourite afternoon pick-me-up is a cup of hot ginger tea. I shred ginger root on the coarse holes of a box grater, add it to boiling water, stir well and let it steep for a minute or two. Then I strain it into a mug and stir in honey to taste. Delicious and good for me, too. Ginger is highly anti-inflammatory and an excellent digestive.

Parsnip Soup Shooters

How’s this for cold-weather hospitality? If you are entertaining on a chilly night, start the evening with a welcoming shooter of hot soup. I serve this parsnip soup in espresso or demi-tasse coffee cups before a glass of wine. It makes about 16 shooters.

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Ajvar

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Something else I made for book club: ajvar, a delicious Balkan red pepper and eggplant spread. It’s really simple to make, too.  Vine Vukicevic, my Pilates coach, introduced me to ajvar.  She is from Bosnia and tells me that no house in the former Yugoslavia is ever without this tasty spread.  She always looked forward to arriving home after school and enjoying it as a snack, spread on bread and sprinkled with crumbled feta cheese. Once I learned to make ajar, it quickly became a popular appetizer at my house – I spread goat cheese over toast triangles or crackers and top them with a good dollop of this instant, positively ambrosial treat. 

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