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.
How can winter be all bad when part of my cold -weather ritual is making a pot of this Quebec-style split pea soup with ham?
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.
I’m hosting book club tonight and spent the morning making a variety of nibbles – including these delicious parmesan crackers. They are shortbread like with butter, parmesan and cayenne dissolving in a creamy umami bite. They’re really delicious with a glass of red wine…
Pimiento peppers are a well-known variety of C. annuum. They are small and can be heart-shaped (like the Spanish piquillo) or round and ridged. They are sweeter than bell peppers. Fresh ones are very difficult to find; most end up canned (and called pimentos) and are used to stuff olives or to make pimento cheese, a favorite in the American South According to pepper expert Jean Andrews, the canned pimento industry didn’t develop until after 1914, when a roasting machine was invented that made peeling easier.
Dal can be pungent or very tame, and it plays a significant role in Indian cuisine. This mildly spiced version makes a delicious main course over hot cooked rice; it can also be served as a side dish.
Do you ever stop to think that all the casualties of war aren’t just human lives? Take Aleppo pepper, for instance. It’s a Syrian chile, dried and crushed with a mild, fruity flavor and it’s one of my favorites. It has been grown in that country for centuries. Sadly, because it is traditionally cultivated in the war-torn region around Aleppo, the city for which it is named, this pepper is no longer available for export. Most suppliers now substitute Turkish Maras pepper.
The Maras pepper is a very close relative – probably even the same variety — and it is grown in a very similar terroir, so for culinary purposes, if properly grown, it is probably a satisfactory swap. But I am grieving the loss of the authentic Aleppo. I discovered it many years ago in Montreal; Phillipe de Vienne, an extremely knowledgeable spice vendor, imported it for his shop Epices de Cru in the Jean Talon market. At the time, I was experimenting with a Middle Eastern cooking and was immediately smitten by the pepper’s sweet yet spicy flavor. I associate it with a time in my life when I was learning about Middle Eastern cuisine and exploring other regional spices and herbs such as sumac and za’atar. It is part of my memory bank — like Proust’s madeleines – and in some ways, I feel like I have lost a friend.
If peace ever returns to Syria I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the farmers will return to their land and our supply of authentic Aleppo pepper will begin again. In the meantime, chile growers are keeping the variety alive. Thanks to chile grower extraordinaire, Rebecca, Johnston at chilli-seedz.com for cultivating the Aleppo pepper in Queensland Australia, and also for her beautiful photo.