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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.

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Grilled Chili Tofu Steaks with Quinoa

Grilled Chili Tofu Steaks with Quinoa
Minty Chili Pea Soup

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.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Dip with Pickled Jalapenos

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.

Ancho Tomato Baked Feta

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.

Waffled Chicken Quesadillas with Chipotle Pepper Sauce

These whimsical weeknight quesadillas offer a great excuse to break out the long-forgotten waffle iron. The smoky, tangy pepper sauce is the perfect sidekick for this dish, but it’s also wonderful when tossed with pasta, stuffed into sandwiches, and slathered on burgers.

Salmon Burgers with Mango-Thai Salsa

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.

Paging Dr. Pepper

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.

Handle with care

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.

Cream of the crop

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.

Dynamic duo

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.

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Thrill of the Grill

Thrill of the Grill

Nothing screams sunny summer like a fired-up grill. As we like to say: where there’s smoke there’s a delicious meal in the works. What better excuse to give the oven a night off and get outdoors than to double down on the grill? Trouble is, it’s easy to fall into a burger and chick fillet rut when cooking al fresco. After one too many pieces of grilled chicken, you might be ready to fly the coop.  So how do you break away from grilling fatigue? Try thinking out of the box when it comes to preparing a feast on the grill. When you have the urge to light a fire, what better way to expand your outdoor cooking repertoire than by turning to the plant kingdom?  Certainly, meat shouldn’t get all the live-fire love. You can also count on grilling to imbue plant-based foods with tantalizing flame-licked flavour goodness. Plus, it’s a sure-fire way to up the nutritional ante of your summer menu.  Ready to think outside the grill marks? These next-level grilling recipes won’t leave you pondering “where’s the beef?”  Grill master Follow these tips for sizzling plant-based grilling success.  Play the field Remember that a bounty of plant-based foods can benefit from spending time over fire. Everything from cherry tomatoes (skewered, of course) to tempeh and even watermelon and Tuscan kale leaves are contenders for grill time. Tofu, eggplant, and zucchini have never found a grill they didn’t love.  Knife play Be sure to slice vegetables such as potatoes and bell peppers large enough so they don’t fall through the grill grates and so they’re easy enough to move around on the grate.  Rub it down Prevent flare-ups, reduce sticking, and keep grill debris off your food for safe and tasty backyard cooking. Use a long-handled grill brush to clean your grill grates immediately after use while they’re still warm. For good measure, you should also brush your grill off again after preheating it for your next meal.  Tool of the trade Long-handled tongs are ideal for moving around items such as tofu and vegetables on the grill without getting you too close to the fire.  Hot stuff Preheat your grill for at least 10 minutes. That way, food will sizzle as soon as it hits the grates and it’s less likely to stick to very hot grill grates. If you can hold your hand about 5 in (13 cm) over the grill for two to four seconds, the fire is at a high heat (450 to 550 F/230 to 290 C).  Oil slick To grease a hot grill grate, use a brush with heat-resistant silicone bristles or a wad of paper towel dipped in oil and rubbed on the grate using tongs. Never use cooking spray on a hot grill. Crowd control Leave room to spread your food out. Stuffing your grill grate with too much in the way of proteins and veggies makes it less likely everything will cook evenly. It also makes it more difficult to flip items and move them around if flare-ups occur. Seal shut The more you open your grill lid, the longer it will take to cook dinner. The grill can lose around 50 F (10 C) every time the lid is opened. Covered cooking is the best practice because it uses convective and direct heat to cook the food faster and more evenly.

Beet Falafel Burgers with Dilly Tahini Sauce

Beet Falafel Burgers with Dilly Tahini Sauce

If a falafel and burger had a love child, this would be it. The result of this hybrid is a vibrantly coloured, complex-flavoured veggie burger you’ll flip over. You can also serve them between toasted hamburger buns with toppings such as sliced cucumber, sliced tomato, and arugula.  Holding it together Many plant-based burgers are crumbly and weak, risking a patty that ends up between the grill grates instead of intact on your plate. Keep your burgers together by forming patties no larger than 1 in (2.5 cm) thick, which ensures a nice, even crust on the outside and a thoroughly warmed-through centre, then chilling the patties before grilling. You can also consider using a burger mould, which gives you denser, equally sized patties that cook evenly. Be sure your grill grates are well greased.  Deep freeze You can freeze uncooked falafel burgers on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet or plate and then transfer frozen patties to an airtight container. When ready, just thaw and cook as instructed. Falafel cooking options To bake: Arrange falafel on parchment-lined baking sheet and brush lightly with oil; bake at 375 F (190 C) for 25 minutes, or until crispy on the outside and heated through. To pan fry: Heat large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 1 Tbsp oil (15 mL) for each 2 burgers in the pan, swirl to coat pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until underside is browned. Then flip carefully and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.