Monday, July 12, 2010

Feeling hot hot hot!!!

It's July and the East coast has been cooking- temps are up in the 100's and if heat hasn't got you, maybe the electric bills will. While we sweat and wilt, my peppers thrive. This year I planted a variety of chili peppers and herbs up on the second floor deck which has easy access from the kitchen. Full sun and and a serious watering regimen have paid off and I am left with a pretty decent crop. Some looked so perfect that I was certain that they would be sweet and bland. In fact they were quite the opposite with varying levels of intense heat and wonderful aromas.
My herb collection was freshly potted or banished outdoors from the kitchen window earlier in the year. They now sit beside the peppers on the deck. Some, like the Lemon grass flourish indoors throught the winter and survive year after year. Mint, basil, parsley, chives and oregano thrive in the heat and only the rosemary didn't make it. But I digress, so back to the peppers it is....
I never pass up an opportunity to use my chili peppers. Thai Birdseye peppers are sliced diagonally into a stir fry with Shitake and Choy sum. A lentil stew gets its flavors from the sauteed onion, garlic and Serrano peppers slit down the center. Diced jalapenos give a roasted corn and 3 bean salad oomph and Habaneros make my Jamaican peas and rice finger licking good!

How high one aspires to go on the Scoville scale is definitely a matter of personal taste. The irony that I was born in Assam where the Bhoot Jalakia or Naga Chili hails from, is not lost on me. This was voted the worlds hottest pepper and translates directly to " ghost pepper". The tiniest nibble can make a grown man cry for his mama but things were different in our household. My dad would pick one up, dunk it in salt, and take a hefty bite out of it accompanied by a sip of gin and tonic. I wouldn't dream of trying that but I do have a taste for the dried and powdered Naga Chili. Available in most local markets and even upscale grocery stores when in season, this chili pepper does a disappearing act during the cooler winter months. There are always a few tucked in my suitcase whenever I can get my hands on some on my trips home.

I can safely say that the chili pepper is second only to salt in the hierarchy of my kitchen staples. In the Third World it is often the only luxury that a vast majority of the population living below the poverty line can afford. But the addiction to hot food is now a global phenomenon. A sensation not unlike an adrenalin rush keeps us craving for more.