Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hot off the Press: Pop those Peppers!

Image courtesy of renestravels.blogspot.com
I love peppers, but peppers don't love me. I have proof. One snowy winter past, I came down with a mean cold (as we all do living in NYC riding the subway together, passing germs off like it's our job). While I was home sick, I had the inspired idea to make some homemade pico de gallo, in an attempt to clear my sinuses with something spicy. I chopped and chopped and chopped, but then forgot to wash my hands afterwards. Yikes.

On cue, my nose began to run, I took a tissue to it and wouldn't you know? Those jalapenos were so hot that the spice fought it's way through the tissue to my nasal cavity and...

AGH!!!!! The pain! The intense, burning, horrible pain!

To make matters worse, I was home alone, my face was on fire, and my brain wasn't functioning at a level capable of problem solving (I was sick, give me a break!).

Thankfully, Adam walked through the door at just the right moment and always quick on his feet, grabbed the carton of milk out of the fridge, rushed me into the bathroom and made me snort it out of the palm of his hand. Now if that isn't love, I don't know what is.

I learned my lesson that day and the lesson is this: Never handle peppers when you are sick, not thinking clearly and may or may not have milk in the house. Consider yourself warned.

Peppers are really great for you though IF you can hack 'em! Peppers get their heat from a chemical called Capsaicin. Capsaicin is considered a thermogenic chemical because it raises your body's temperature and causes you to burn more calories (that's why you may have seen Capsaicin as an ingredient in some weight loss pills). 

In addition to speeding up your metabolism, Capsaicin...
  • Lowers your cholesterol.
  • Is a proven anti-inflammatory.
  • Has anti-bacterial properties that have been shown to prevent or heal chronic nasal congestion.
  • Helps to relieve pain caused by headaches and arthritis.
  • May have properties that help with certain intestinal diseases, such as IBD.

Obviously, you can incorporate all types of hot peppers into your diet and since I told you the embarrassing story above, I might as well share Adam's Famous Pico De Gallo recipe with you...

Dice 4 large roma tomatoes to your desired size (I like mine a little smaller so it's easier for dipping).
Dice one large white onion.

Combine both the tomatoes and the onion in a large mixing bowl (the onion can be overpowering so sometimes
I don't use the whole onion - use your good judgment!)

Finely chop 2-3 heads of garlic and add to the mixing bowl.

Take 2 jalapenos, chop them in half and remove the centers (unless you like to
live on the edge and can handle that kind of heat).

Finely chop what's left of the jalapenos and add to the other ingredients.

Wash and finely chop one small head of cilantro and add to the mix (again, put as much or as little in as you like).

Add the juice of 2 whole limes (I have a handy dandy lime squeezer. Aren't you jealous?).

Add the juice of 1 whole lemon.

Now, it's time for some flavor! Flavor to taste with salt, pepper, basil, oregano and maybe
a hint of garlic powder or garlic salt. This step usually requires some taste testers (who shouldn't be hard to find).

Once the taste testers have given their two thumbs up, put your pico in the fridge so that the flavors 'can get
to know each other.' Or dive right in, if you're not one for patience! Enjoy!

And because I like you, here's another idea. Grab a handful of shishito peppers from the farmer's market or your local grocery. You can identify them by their cute wrinkly outsides. They're green and about the size of your pinky finger. These are not especially hot... they're just packed with flavor. 

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized saute pan. Once it's hot, throw in the peppers and cook for a few minutes until brown. Once you remove them from the pan, lightly sprinkle them with salt (sea salt preferably) and pepper. Eat them as a snack or a side dish. They're absolutely delicious!

We made a round this weekend after talking to someone at the farmer's market who recommended them.

Here are a few more recipes to get you started...

Asparagus with Jalapeno Peppers, Pecans and Feta Cheese
Image courtesy of jalapenomadness.com

Pear-Jalapeno Slaw
Image courtesy of jalapenomadness.com

Spiced Shrimp with Green Beans and Lime
Image courtesy of realsimple.com

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