BY NICOLE MARSHALL MIDDLETON World Scene Writer
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
5/02/12 at 3:51 AM
From fresh salsa dip to meaty stews, chili peppers bring unique flavors to Latin foods.
"Basically, they are big part of the pre-Columbian culture, especially in Mexico," said Guillermo Rojas, a co-owner of Las Americas Latin Grill, 4532 E. 51st St., and Casa Laredo Latin Grill, 403 S. Cheyenne Ave.
"Chili peppers are not only to eat, but they are also used for decoration. There are many, many ways to use peppers."
Rojas said they use several varieties of peppers at his restaurants, including flavorful poblanos, spicy serranos and the well-known jalapeños.
Stuffed with cheese, beef or chicken, the poblanos become chile rellenos, which are fried or baked. Like bell peppers, their flavors are enhanced when they are grilled and served alongside steak.
Serranos and jalapeños are two spicier peppers that Rojas uses for salsa.
"But we only use the spicier peppers with Mexican food," Rojas said.
Rojas explained that he also serves Argentinian dishes, and foods from that country are not as hot as foods from other Latin countries that were influenced by the East Indian culture, where hot spices are prevalent.
To figure out the hotness of chili peppers, research their rating on the Scoville scale.
There's a wide range on the scale, from mild red bell peppers, which rate a zero, to habaneros at more than 100,000 heat units. The heat in peppers comes from capsaicin, which is manufactured in the ribs of the chili pepper.
To keep the heat down when cooking with peppers, remove the spongy inner parts. The seeds usually absorb capsaicin from resting near the ribs, so it's best to remove those, too.
This long pepper is relatively mild and very versatile. When mature, the Anaheim turns deep red and is referred to as a chile Colorado or California red chile. Anaheims are popular in salsas and Southwestern dishes.
Scoville heat units: 500 to 2,500
Relatively large in size, the bell-shaped pepper in its immature state is green with a slightly bitter flavor. If left to mature while still on the plant, the pepper will turn yellow-orange and bright red and become sweeter. With their high water content, bell peppers will add moisture to any dish. They're also great for adding color.
Scoville heat units: 0
These banana-shaped peppers change from pale to deep yellow or orange as they mature. Often confused with hotter yellow wax peppers. Sweet banana peppers may be fried or sautéed, used raw on relish platters, in salads, sandwiches or stuffed.
Scoville heat units: 500
Small and bulbous, this chile, in the same family as the Scotch bonnet, is one of the hottest on the Scoville scale. They're popular on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and in the Caribbean, where they're used to make hot sauces.
Scoville heat units: 100,000 to 350,000 and higher
This pepper looks and tastes almost like a jalapeno but can be much hotter. Fresno peppers change from green to red as they grow. Fresno chiles are popular for ceviche and salsa. The green peppers can be used in many types of dishes, but the hotter red version may be better for dips or salsas.
Scoville heat units: 2,500-10,000
hot pepper is likely
one of the best
known in the United
they are green, or
red if allowed to
ripen, and can reach
about 4-6 inches
long. A chipotle is
a smoked jalapeno
units: 2,500 -
Large and heartshaped,
the mildly hot
poblano is common in
Mexican dishes such
as chiles rellenos. At
maturity, the poblano
turns dark red-brown
and can be dried,
at which point it’s
referred to as an ancho
or mulato. If smoked
and dried, it is a chipotle,
which is used in
Scoville heat units:
1,000 to 2,000
Just a couple of
inches long with a
tapered end, this small
pepper packs quite a bit
of heat. Generally, the
smaller the pepper, the
hotter it is. When ripe,
serranos are red or yellowish
are common in Mexican
and Thai cooking.
Scoville heat units:
6,000 to 23,000
Nicole Marshall Middleton 918-581-8459
If you are planning a Cinco de Mayo party this week, here are some recipes using chili peppers:
(Serve over grilled meats such as pork or chicken or in chicken or cheese enchiladas)
2 large fresh Anaheim chiles*
1/2 pound tomatillos,** husked, rinsed, diced
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 large green onions, chopped
1 large serrano chili, stemmed, seeded
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup (firmly packed) fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon whipping cream
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (optional)
1. Char Anaheim chiles directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag; let stand 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and chop chiles.
2. Combine tomatillos, broth, green onions, serrano chili and garlic in medium saucepan; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until mixture is reduced to 1 2/3 cups, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes.
3. Transfer mixture to blender. Add Anaheim chiles, cilantro and cream. Puree until smooth. Season salsa with salt and pepper. Add lime juice, if desired. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer to small bowl; cover and chill. Rewarm before serving.)
- adapted from Epicurious
POBLANOS STUFFED WITH CHICKEN AND CHEDDAR
4 large poblano chiles
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Generous pinch ground cinnamon
1 tablesoon olive oil
2 cups shredded cooked chicken, preferably a mix of white and dark meat
1 1/2 cups cooked brown or white rice
2 cups grated sharp or extra-sharp white cheddar (about 7 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (including some tender stems)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1. Position an oven rack about 4 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.
2. Slit the chiles from stem to tip and set on the baking sheet. Broil, turning every few minutes, until blackened all over, 5 to 8 minutes. Let cool slightly, peel off the skins, and cut out the seed cores, leaving the stems on. Turn the chiles inside out, flick out any remaining seeds, and turn right side out. Return the poblanos to the baking sheet.
3. Purée the tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the purée and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture looks thick and pulpy, 8 to 11 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the chicken and rice, and then 1 cup of the cheese, the cilantro and the lime juice. Season to taste with salt. Divide the filling among the peppers, wrapping the sides of the peppers up and around the filling, some of which will still be exposed.
4. Broil the peppers until the cheese is melting and the top is beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Top with the remaining 1 cup cheese and broil until the cheese is completely melted, about 2 minutes.
- adapted from Fine Cooking
HABANERO HOT SAUCE
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large carrots, chopped
2 medium-sized red tomatoes, cut into quarters
Quarter of one Spanish onion, cut into strips
3 habanero peppers, cut in half
3 cloves of garlic, cut in half
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Salt to taste
1. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the carrots and let them cook for about five minutes. Then add to the skillet the onion, tomatoes, habaneros and garlic cloves and cook, stirring occasionally.
2. Transfer skillet contents to a blender and add lime juice, vinegar and pulse (can add a bit of water, a tablespoon at a time if it's too thick). Salt and pepper to taste.
Warning: This salsa is extremely fiery, so please be cautious! And if you have latex gloves, I highly recommend using them when chopping the peppers.
CHRISTOPHER SMITH/ Tulsa World