Preparing and Cooking with Chilies

Preparing and Cooking with Chilies

Buying and Storing : Some fresh chilies look wrinkled even in their prime and therefore this is not a good guide to their freshness. They should, however, be unblemished, and avoid any which are soft or bruised. The substance which makes the chili hot is a volatile oil called capsaicin. This differs not only from one type to another but also from plant to plant, depending on growing; the more the plant has to struggle to survive in terms of light, water, soil, etc, the more capsaicin will be produced. It is therefore impossible to tell how hot a chili will be before tasting, although some types are naturally hotter than others. The belief that green chilies are milder than red ones does not necessary follow; generally red chilies will have ripened for longer in the sun with the result that they will only be sweeter for all that sunshine. Chilies can be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for a few days.

Preparing : The capsaicin in chilies is most concentrated in the pith inside the pod and this, together with the seeds, should be cut away unless you want maximum heat. Capsaicin irritates the skin and especially the eyes, so take care when preparing chilies. Either wear gloves or wash your hands thoroughly after handling chilies. If you rub your eyes, even if you have washed your hands carefully, it will still be painful.

Cooking : In Mexican cooking chilies play a vital and almost central role, It is difficult to think of any savory Mexican dish that does not contain either fresh chilies or some form of processed chili, whether canned, dried or ground. Other cuisines, however, are equally enthusiastic about chilies. They are essential in curries and similar dishes from India and the Far East, and in Caribbean and Creole food they are also used extensively. If you have developed a tolerance for really hot food, then there is not reason why you shouldn't add as many as you wish. In general, use chilies discreetly, if for no better reason than you can't take the heat away if you make a mistake.

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