Peppers, Chilies, Cheese and Salsa
Chili Peppers commonly used in the Southwest:
• Anaheim – mild to slightly hot, often used for stuffing; also called California green chilies
• Ancho – mild to slightly hot, dried poblano pepper
• Cayenne -- hot
• Chiletepin – very hot, small round pepper; native to Texas
• Chipotles – medium to hot, smoked and dried jalapeños
• Jalapeños – medium to hot; called escabeche when pickled in vinegar
• Pasilla – mild to slightly hot, dried Anaheim chilies; also called New Mexico chilies
• Pequín – very hot
• Poblano – mild to slightly hot; often used for chili rellenos
• Santa Fe Grande – fairly hot to very hot; used pickled or fresh in a range of dishes including salsas, salads, and vegetable dishes
• Serrano – fairly hot to hot; used fresh or pickled in many dishes
Chili Pepper Advice:
When handling chili peppers, wear rubber gloves to avoid getting the hot oils from the peppers on your skin. Be careful not to touch eyes, lips or any open wounds with hands that cut the peppers because it might burn.
The hot, pungent substance that makes peppers hot, capsaicin is most prevalent in the seeds and the membrane of the pepper. To reduce the heat from the pepper, remove the seeds and membrane.
Ingredients and foods commonly used throughout the cuisine of the Southwest include:
• Pork, beef, lamb, goats, and game, including deer and turkey
• Fish and seafood, including shrimp, oysters, snapper, flounder, grouper, redfish, trout and mackerel
• Corn and cornmeal
• Beans and peas
• Squash, pumpkins, and tomatoes
• Rice and wheat
• Many varieties of chili peppers
• Onion & garlic
• Cantaloupes, peaches, and cilantro
• Pine nuts, pecans, and pistachios
• Asadero- melting cheese similar to mozzarella but richer and more tangy; a Mexican cheese
• Cheddar- one of the first cheeses produced in the United States; ranges from mild to extra sharp flavor; firm texture
• Colby- mild cheese good for melting or topping salads
• Cotija- aged, sharp-flavored, crumbly cheese used on top of dishes; a Mexican cheese
• Monterey jack- white semi-soft, mild cheese; melts well
There are never ending varieties of salsa; only your imagination will be your limit. Salsa can be made with any assortment of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and or spices. The different recipes for salsa will range from mild to very hot, as the salsa can contain very different levels of spice and chili peppers. The Mexican word picante means hot in terms of spice, not temperature. Tomatoes usually provide the basis for a red salsa and tomatillos are the foundation for green salsa. A bowl of salsa on the table often replaces salt and pepper on the table for the inhabitants of the Southwest.
When a diner orders “Christmas” in New Mexico, it means to crown the entrée with both green and red chili sauces.
Kick up the heat!