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Peppering with Paprika!
June 2nd, 2011
Paprika is a spice made from the grinding of dried peppers. In many European languages, the word paprika refers to bell peppers themselves. The seasoning is used in many cuisines to add color and flavor to dishes. Paprika can range from mild to hot and flavors also vary from country to country (my personal favorite is smoked paprika).
Paprika is produced in a number of places including Hungary, Spain and California and is used as an ingredient in a broad variety of dishes throughout the world. Paprika is primarily used to season and color rices, stews, and soups (such as Hungarian goulash), and in the preparation of sausages as an ingredient that is mixed with meat and other spices. In North America, paprika is frequently sprinkled on foods as a garnish, but the flavor is more effectively produced by heating it gently in oil.
Capsicum peppers used for paprika are unusually rich in vitamin C (contains more than is found in lemon juice by weight) and other antioxidants (about ten percent of the level found in acai berries).
The World’s Hottest Chile!
November 17th, 2010
The Naga Jolokia (the name originates from the ferocious Naga warriors what once inhabited Nagaland, an area in the far north-east part of India), also known as the Bhut Jolokia, ghost or cobra chile, is considered to be the hottest in the world. The Guiness World Records certified in 2007 that the Naga Jolokia was the hottest chile pepper recorded to date, being 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.
The Naga Jolokia is found in Bangladesh, the Assam region of northeastern India and Sri Lanka. These fiery little peppers (2 – 3 1/2 inches long and 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide) range in units of heat on the Scoville scale from 850,000 units to 1,042,000. For comparison purposes, Tabasco sauce measures from 2,500 to 5,000 units. Yikes! The Scoville rating of these chiles is dramatically impacted by the climate they are grown in (they will have far less heat if grown in an arid versus a humid climate).
Believe it or not, this chile is used in India as a homeopathic remedy for stomach ailments, as a spice to induce perspiration in the heat of summer (for natural air-conditioning purposes), in smoke bombs or smeared on fences to keep wild elephants away, as a hand grenade ingredient for crowd and terrorist control, and as a pepper spray ingredient for police use and self-defence.
If You Can’t Stand the Heat………..!
October 12th, 2010
Wear gloves to protect your hands when using fresh or dried hot chile peppers. Capsaicin oil, the substance that is the source of “heat” in chiles, can cause severe burns.
If your bare hands and fingers do come in contact with your hot chiles, wash thoroughly with soapy water (a dish washing liquid that cuts oil works well). If burning persists, soak your hands in a bowl of milk. Also, be careful not to touch your eyes or other sensitive areas.
When grinding dried chiles, use a mask as the chile dust in the air can irritate your eyes and throat.
If you eat a chile or food that is too hot, don’t try to extinguish the heat with water! Capsaicin is an oil that will not mix or be diluted with water (or beer!) and will instead distribute the heat to more parts of your tongue and mouth. To cut the heat as quickly as possible, drink some milk (rinsing the mouth while swallowing it), or eat some ice cream or yogurt. Eating starchy foods like rice or bread will also absorb the heat.
Drinking tomato juice or eating a fresh lime or lemon will help as well as the acid will counteract the alkalinity of the capsaicin oil.
Did You Know That……
August 6th, 2010
- Capers are the unopened flower bud of a bush that grows in the Mediterranean. Contrary to popular belief, they are in no way related to fish! They are usually packed in brine, so they should be rinsed before using. Select small capers and try them in everything from salads, pasta dishes, with smoked salmon or other fish dishes, in egg salad sandwiches and devilled eggs, in vegetables, sauces to pizza!
- Tomatillos are surprisingly not members of the tomato family, but are actually members of the gooseberry family. They are available at Latin-American markets and some large supermarkets. They have a papery outer husk which should be removed, and them the tomatillos should be rinsed in soapy water, followed by clear water, to remove the sticky residue of the husks.
- To quickly slice mushrooms, strawberries or kiwis, try using an egg slicer, preferably with stainless steel wires for strength.
- The tart and tangy flavor of the versatile lime adds a sprightly touch to margaritas, other fruit drinks and desserts. It adds zest to ceviche, salad dressings, barbecued fish and poultry. An excellent source of vitamin C, limes grow in the tropics and subtropics, Mexico, the Caribbean, Florida and California.
The Birthplace of Chocolate
May 27th, 2010
Mexico is the birthplace of chocolate (thank you for such a wonderful gift to the world!). It was revered by the Aztecs and was served exclusively to priests and kings with such additions as herbs, chiles and honey. Although the hot chocolate of Mexico is famous throughout the world, they are also well known for their use of chocolate in a sauce called mole, where it is used as one of many spices.