Friday, January 20, 2017

Slice and Dice: Chiles

Jalapeno and serrano peppers
My mom is marvelous cook, and early on I discovered that chiles are her secret weapon. She is a strong advocate for the spunky lot, and when I joined a community garden, she insisted that a Jalapeno plant make it into my tiny plot. Chiles not only add heat to curries, stir-fries, and casseroles, they heighten the flavor of other ingredients. They are affordable and available year-round. I suggest keeping an ample supply in your kitchen. 

How to Select

Chiles continue to ripen after they are harvested and many become hotter as they mature. Their color also deepens or changes. Jalapenos, for example, go from green to red as they age. If you're looking to maximize heat, select darker chiles from the bunch. Taut, shiny skin is a sign of freshness. Avoid soft, wrinkled one that look like they could use a boost of Botox.

How to Remove the Seeds and Inner Tissue

Chiles get their kick from capsaicin, a chemical concentrated in the spongy inner tissue and seeds. It has an irritating effect, so avoid touching any part of your face (especially your eyes) when preparing chiles. If you have sensitive skin, consider wearing gloves. During clean-up, carefully wash your hands and kitchen equipment with soapy water to cleanse away any capsaicin that may have lingered behind. Chiles can be prepped with the capsaicin-laden tissue and seeds intact. If you want to dial down the heat, use these steps to remove them:


Thoroughly wash and dry the chile. Lay it on its side on a cutting board and slice off the stem end.





Slice the chiles in half lengthwise.

Place one half of the chile on the cutting board with the cut side facing up. Slide the tip of the knife under the tissue and carefully cut it away from the inner wall without cutting through the flesh.




Use your fingers or the tip of the knife to scrape out the tissue and seeds.



How to Chop

Lay one half of the trimmed, deseeded chile on a cutting board skin side down. Cut it in thick slices lengthwise.



Rotate the slices 90 degrees and cut across them width wise. 



 How to Julienne

Lay one half of the trimmed, deseeded chile on a cutting board skin side down. Cut it in thin slices lengthwise.

How to Mince

Lay one half of the trimmed, deseeded chile on a cutting board skin side down. Cut it in thin slices lengthwise.

Rotate the slices 90 degrees and cut across the slices width wise.


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