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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.

Ajvar

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Ajar is 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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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. 

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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Irish Vessels

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I keep sugar and flour in these charming canisters, which were made by the Irish potter Nicholas Mosse. I fell in love with his traditional Irish-country designs on a trip to Ireland 15 years ago and had these “cookie jars” (as they were originally purposed) shipped home. Their first abode was my previous kitchen but they happily adapted to the renovated site. Their quaint floral pattern makes me feel cheerful, even on dreary days.

 

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.

Catalonian Grilled Vegetable Salad

Catalonian Grilled Vegetable Salad
This salad is a specialty of Catalonia where it is known as escalivada, which means "to cook in ashes". That's why, for the most authentic smoky flavor, I recommend roasting the vegetables on a barbecue.
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Ingredients
  1. 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
  2. 1 eggplant (about 1 1/2 lbs/750 g), sliced
  3. 2 red bell peppers
  4. 1 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) thick rounds
  5. 4 tomatoes, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick rounds
  6. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  7. 2 tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped fresh parsley
  8. 1 red finger chile, cut in paper-thin slices
  9. Dressing
  10. 1 tbsp (30 mL) red wine vinegar
  11. 1 tsp (5 mL) red wine vinegar
  12. 1 tsp (5 mL) ground dried nora pepper or sweet paprika
  13. 1 tsp (5 mL) salt
  14. 1 clove garlic, pureed
  15. 1/4 cup(60 mL) extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. 1. Brush olive oil over eggplant, bell peppers, red onion and tomatoes. Place on preheated barbecue and cook, turning occasionally, until nicely charred. When bell peppers are done, place in a bowl and cover with a plate. Set aside to sweat. When cool, life off the skins, seed and cut into strips, reserving accumulated juices. When the onion is cool, cut the rounds into quarters.
  2. 2. Dressing: In a small bowl, combine vinegar, nora pepper and salt, stirring until salt is dissolved. Add garlic and reserved juices from roasted peppers. Whisk in oil.
  3. 3. Arrange vegetables on a platter.Drizzle dressing over top.
  4. 4. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and finger chile. Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.
Notes
  1. The vegetables will be done at different times; watch closely and remove them as completed and set aside to cool.
  2. Nora is a type of pepper that is associated with Catalonia. It has a rich, sweet flavor. If you can't find, sweet paprika (preferably Spanish) works just fine.
  3. If you want to add a bit of smoky heat to this salad, add 1/8 tsp (0.05 mL) hot smoked paprika to the dressing.
Judith Finlayson http://judithfinlayson.com/