LAYERS OF GRASSY, FRUITY, FLORAL, AND spicy notes in peppers and chilies bring food to life. Eating becomes exciting when a touch of fiery spice explodes on your palate, a smoky firecracker to awaken the senses.
When we’re feeling tame, we’ll harvest a handful of sweet peppers from the garden and enjoy their fruity accents in stir-fries and salads. A spectrum of sweet banana, pimento, and bell pepper colors stretch across the garden like a double rainbow after a rain. Wherever we have extra space in the garden, you’ll find a mini patch of peppers ripening in the warm afternoon sun.
During periods when we’re feeling daring and craving something dangerous and bold, we’ll reach for a select few spicy chilies. With caution, we’ll start with a few vine-ripened habaneros for wonderful spicy, fruity, floral flavors that creep slowly and warmly onto the taste buds.
Jalapeños, serranos, cayenne, goat’s-weed, and Thai chilies all add quick hits of grassy-flavored heat when you’re ready for a rush of adrenaline. We’ve grown accustomed to using them not only to jazz up foods, but to liven up beverages as well. It takes only a chile or two to amp up a cocktail party—a few sips of spicy booze will encourage blissful conversation all evening.
A simple appetizer of charred shishito peppers and ice-cold beer embodies a brilliant balance between gentle heat and smoky sweetness. Unlike chilies used in smaller quantities, these shishito peppers are enjoyed heaped on a platter and shared among friends. The heat of shishitos is subtle and savory; they’re a friendly warm-up for those wanting to delve into spicy foods, although a devilishly piquant one will surprise you every once in a while.
If you’re new to eating spicy foods, we suggest you take your time and slowly develop your tolerance. These eclectic little spice bombs can deceive, and seasonally their heat levels can change from mild to extra strong. But if you’re a veteran to fiery foods, be fearless and experiment with different combinations of chilies. Chile mixing can be quite exciting for lion-heated eaters.
© 2013 All rights reserved. Published by Abrams Books.