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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).
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.
Measuring the Heat
December 11th, 2008
In 1912, a pharmacist by the name of Wilbur Scoville developed a method to measure the heat level of chile peppers. The pungency is measured in multiples of 100 units from the bell pepper, which rates at zero, to the fire-breathing habanero, which measures in at the highest end of the scale at three hundred thousand. The units of measurement are referred to as “Scoville units” or “Scovilles” and are best described as units of dilution. A chile that rates 1 Scoville unit would take 1 unit of water to negate the heat. For example, it would take 30,000 to 50,000 units of water to neutralize a Tabasco pepper.
These days, many chile lovers use a new system which is referred to as the Official Chile Heat Scale, which rates the heat of chiles from 0 to 10. On this simpler scale, bell peppers still rate as 0 and habaneros rate at the top end of the scale with a 10. Comparatively, jalapenos rate as 5, serranos at 6, and cayennes and Tabascos at 8.
It’s interesting that regardless of the heat rating that a chile may have, everyone’s palate is different and some lower registering chiles will taste hotter to some people than a higher registering chile. For example, an East Indian dish may taste very hot to someone used to Mexican spicing, even though the chiles used measure lower on the heat scale.
Fortunately, most chile lovers are more concerned with flavor than with the heat measurement!
Hot and Spicy Mood Lifter
July 30th, 2008
We all know someone who loves their spicy food. Well, as it turns out, there is some science behind the love of hot flavors. Capsaicin, the chemical that produces the heat in chiles and peppers, increases the release of feel-good endorphins when the spice hits the tongue, according to Dr. Paul Rozin, Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Endorphins are known for their ability to reduce stress, relieve depression, and significantly raise the spirits. So, if you need an emotional lift, add some hot sauce or cayenne pepper to your next meal.
A Chile By Any Other Name
April 10th, 2008
Fresh chiles have different names than their dried counterparts. The following is a description of some of the more common fresh and dried chile combinations:
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