If you’ve spent any time travelling around the globe, your burning lips have made you well aware of the way various guises of chili peppers have become a fixture of so many world cuisines.
A papaya salad from a Thailand street market or a fragrant curry dished out by a family restaurant in southern India wouldn’t be the same without their chili punch. Just imagine eating street tacos in Mexico if they didn’t induce a few drops of sweat. What we typically eat in North America is relatively tame in comparison.
Capable of turning the blandest soup or sauce into a palate-exploding triumph, cooking with chili peppers—from mild poblano to volcano-like habanero—will dial up the excitement of your dishes. Use them to accentuate both savoury and sweet ingredients.
You don’t have to be a heat freak to enjoy eating chili peppers since their “spice” levels vary greatly—enough to suit all tastes. Beyond their culinary virtues, research suggests that hot peppers may literally be the “spice of life” by improving the chances for healthy longevity.
It’s time to bring the heat into the kitchen, and let the table dares begin.
This brightly coloured soup for chili lovers is the perfect way to welcome back warmer weather. Looking for a little less heat? Substituting serrano pepper with jalapeno will make a slightly less spicy soup. Garnish options include pea shoots, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, sliced roasted almonds, chives, or a swirl of sour cream.
A good option for both backyard barbecues and healthy snacking, this creamy dip benefits from a little spicy crunch, courtesy of quick-pickled peppers. If you want your dip to have a smoky edge, blend in a chipotle-flavoured salsa. Or forgo the salsa and, instead, blend in a couple tablespoons of tomato paste and a single canned chipotle chili pepper. Extras of the pickled peppers are an exciting topping for burgers, sandwiches, and tacos.
This Mexican-Mediterranean hybrid dish gleans its tempered kick from parched ancho chilies, the dried form of poblano peppers known for their smoky quality and sweet to moderate heat. It’s a fantastic saucy, and comforting, appetizer or meal on its own. Serve with crusty bread to sop up every last bit of the red sauce, or spoon over cooked grain.
These Asian-inspired salmon burgers won’t leave you missing the beef or the bun. And keep this fruity and fiery salsa in mind the next time you want to jazz up grilled chicken or taco night. Serrano pepper or chile de arbol would be good swaps for bird’s eye pepper in the salsa. You can even mix some Sriracha sauce into the burgers to further punch up the meal.
For flaming hot health, go ahead and turn up the heat. A recent study from the American Heart Association found that people who eat chili peppers regularly may be 26 percent less likely to die of heart disease and 23 percent less likely to die of cancer than those who don’t.
While this investigation can’t prove cause and effect, nor did it nail down how many or which chili peppers lower the risk the most, it’s believed that capsaicin—the compound that gives chilies their fiery kick—can be good for our health by reducing inflammation and even bolstering metabolism. More research is needed, but if you like to spike your meals with chili peppers, you may reap some health and longevity rewards for doing so regularly.
When preparing chili peppers, if your fingers come into contact with the ribs or seeds (the hottest part of the pepper) and then sensitive areas such as your eyes, you’ll likely feel a very unpleasant burn that could bring you to tears. Very hot peppers can damage your eyes and burn the skin.
After slicing any hot peppers be sure to immediately wash your hands with hot, soapy water. You should also clean the knife and cutting board before proceeding with your recipe. To be safe, you can also wear a pair of gloves while handling chili peppers, especially those that rank very high on the heat scale, so the volatile oils will not get on your skin.
Contrary to popular belief, most of the capsaicin in chili peppers is found in their inner white membranes and not the seeds. So, if you want to moderate the heat of a pepper, be sure to strip the membrane and the seeds, though doing so may dial down the health benefits.
In general, select peppers that are firm, have vibrant, shiny skin, and feel heavy for their size. Try to avoid peppers that are limp or shrivelled and have soft spots or bruises. When the good ones are brought home, they should last in your fridge when stored in a paper or cloth bag for at least two weeks.
Heat intensifies the flavour of sweet ingredients, while sugars tend to tame “spicy” ingredients and highlight their fruity notes. This is why delicious results always come when you spike chocolate cake or pudding with a hit of chili pepper.
If what comes to mind when you think of “seaweed” is “sushi” or “slimy,” you’ve got a whole new plant-based world to discover. These five recipes put the superfood seaweed to good use. From a seafood pasta with wakame pesto to an alkalizing and anti-inflammatory spirulina smoothie, and plenty of seaweed adventure in between, these recipes will have you diving for more. Seaweed’s biggest attraction may be its subtle flavours and versatility. It adds a hard-to-define savoury note to vegetarian dishes and an umami-heavy body to seafood, and it even replaces bacon in a BLT. And let’s not forget about the health benefits. Seaweed is swimming with nutritious minerals, including calcium, potassium, and magnesium, and vitamins. Dive into the world of seaweed, and come back with a healthy haul of fabulous flavours to make dinner more delicious.
Lime juice and ginger add a tropical whiff to this French-Japanese mashup, where seaweed tendrils and Dijon mustard bring out the umami flavours in mushrooms and eggplant. The ingredients might seem to be strange bedfellows, but they work. The result is somewhere between a quiche and a soufflé, with a gluten-free eggplant crust featuring punchy mustard and citrus. This makes for a hearty vegetarian main for brunch, lunch, or dinner with a side salad, or a filling side dish. Fresh or dried If you don’t have fresh thyme and parsley, use 1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme (divided) and 1 Tbsp (15 mL) dried parsley. The flavours won’t be as pungent, but a little flavour is better than none.
These are the perfect two-bite appetizers. Though the first bite likely won’t “wow” you, the more you chew, the more the salt from the dulse soaks into the avocado and tomato. Wait for it. You can also turn these into breakfast à la avocado toast by substituting a piece of your favourite bread for a slice of baguette. What’s in a name? Theoretically, this should be called a “DLTA” because of the avocado (dulse, lettuce, tomato, and avocado). And if you left out the lettuce, you’d have a “DTA.” A DTA would arguably be a better overall eating experience, since lettuce slightly waters down the rich and creamy result and makes it harder to keep the tomatoes from sliding off the top of the crostini. But the juicy lettuce is actually helpful, since it spreads the salt from the dulse throughout the entire bite, making the “wow” moment come sooner. Besides, neither DLTA nor DTA is as fun an acronym as DLT.
This triple-threat recipe is made with (up to) three types of seaweed. Wakame is essential for the pesto, but kombu boosts the umami punch of sautéed garlic and cherry tomatoes, while kelp noodles are a low-carb substitute for flour-based noodles. Because kelp noodles can be hard to find (you’ll likely need to order them online), feel free to use your favourite boxed linguine, zucchini noodles, shirataki konjac, tofu, or yam noodles instead. You can also leave out the vongole (clams) to keep the recipe plant-based, or use mussels, which are usually more affordable than clams. Both clams and mussels are generally sustainable, as, like seaweed, they’re farmed without feed or antibiotics, unlike many farmed fish operations. Double-duty pesto Make a double batch of seaweed pesto, and enjoy it with eggs, scrambled tofu, or toast.