Yesterday I went to the store just for eggs. I didn't even get a cart because I only needed eggs. Alas, when I passed by the cheese on the way to the cackle-berries, I couldn't resist picking up a package of Cabot Hot Habanero Chedder.
I have a special place in my heart(burn) for spicy foods. (Indeed, my entire kitchen is decorated in the style.) If it makes me sweat, I love it. But, I should quantify that statement; altough I once took 3rd place in the Bayou Boogaloo & Cajun Food Festival hot pepper eating contest, hot is not enough (or perhaps too much) for me - it has to taste good too. I don't like to suffer unless it is worth it.
Growing up in MeatandPotato Town, Ohio, the spiciest thing I ever ate was black pepper - the preground stuff from the shaker can. Once out in the wide, wide world, I easily became tempted by the forbidden (or should I say forsaken) fruit. I speak, of course, of the Capsicums, the more popular being:
~Capsicum annuum - jalapeño, pimento, cayanne, and even bell peppers (ok, so I had those before)
~Capsicum frutescens - tobasco (as in the sauce - did you know it has to age THREE YEARS before hitting the grocery shelves?!) and my true love Thai (aka Bird's eye) peppers
~Capsicum chinense - habanero and Scotch bonnet
And, yes, they are fruits - technically berries but not technically "pepper". (Black pepper = Piper nigrum. Black peppercorns are the unripe, dried, fermented version, white peppercorns are ripe and dried with the outside husks removed, and green peppercorns are also unripe and usually preserved in brine. PS - The brine is a killer add to a Bloody Mary)
My first time with this potent produce involved margaritas and a glut of jalapeños. As a neophyte, I was unaware of the end consequences of my actions (but I digress). Later in life I was exposed to the fabulous world of Thai cooking (by my neighbor Anne), and learned the hard way the hazards of playing with fire when cooking with the aforementioned Thai peppers. (Always use gloves and NEVER rub your eyes - especially if you wear contacts. Owich!) Nevertheless, my consumption of these has matured and is as frequent and varied as possible.
My preferred application of any pepper is salsa. And, one of my absolute favorites is a black bean and corn salsa I make to top grilled chicken breasts (or often just to eat alone.) Here's roughly how I do it:
1/3 cup olive oil
juice from two limes
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t fresh gound black pepper
Wisk to combine. Place four thawed boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or equivalent chicken parts) and marinade in zip top bag for minimun one hour (or overnight).
1 can yellow corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 large vine ripe tomato, diced
1 medium sweet onion (vidalia or walla-walla preferred), finely diced
1 green pepper, seeded & diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 (or 2) fresh jalapeño, seeded & finely diced
juice from one lime
kosher salt to taste
Combine all and let set at room temperature to allow flavors to meld. Grill chicken, top with salsa and eat!
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