Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chile Peppers: They're Hot Stuff in the Kitchen

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chile Peppers: They're Hot Stuff in the Kitchen

Article excerpt

CHILE PEPPERS come in all shapes and sizes - and temperaments. The rule of thumb to guess spiciness, or heat, is this: the larger and greener the pepper, the sweeter; the smaller and redder, the hotter. Some exceptions exist. The searing habanero, the hottest pepper around, can be green, red or orange.

Chiles are great to keep low-fat foods from tasting bland; used carefully, they add interest and pizazz.

More local supermarkets are carrying varieties of chile peppers. Hundreds of types of chiles are cultivated worldwide. A chile may have one name when fresh, another when dried. Sweet or hot, they are all members of the capsicum family.

Chiles get their heat from the interior membrane, skin oils, and especially seeds. You can adjust the fire of a dish by including fewer seeds and membrane. When working with fresh chiles, it's good to use rubber gloves; human eyes and skin can be very sensitive to the hot oils.

May is a good month to start chile pepper plants in the back-yard garden or a sunny windowsill. Chiles are extremely easy to grow; they like a rich soil and heavy mulch in hot weather. Bonemeal can be added to the soil to provide phosphorus. Harvest chile peppers green or let them ripen to a deep red. Or string them to hang and ripen in the kitchen.

Roasting chile peppers brings out a delicious barbecued flavor. This can be done under the broiler or on the grill. Let the pepper skin bubble and blacken on all sides. Then place peppers in a paper bag, fold the top of the bag to loosely seal, and let them steam for 10 minutes. This loosens the skin, which will easily slip off under cold running water. Freeze extra roasted and seeded chiles for later use.

This vegetarian casserole is adapted from a recipe from Shepherd's Garden Seeds in California, (408) 335-6910. The company is a good source of chile plants and seeds. TEX-MEX VEGETABLE BAKE

1/4 cup dry sherry, white wine or defatted chicken broth

3 medium onions, thinly sliced

6 medium zucchini, thinly sliced

1 large tomato, seeded, chopped and drained

1 cup chopped fresh tomatillos

2 Anaheim chiles, seeded and chopped

3 cups corn kernels

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

Salt

Ground black pepper

1/3 to 1/2 cup shredded low-fat Cheddar cheese

Heat sherry to bubbling in skillet over medium-high heat. …

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