I was living in Stockbridge, Massachusetts the first time I ate a searing hot pepper. It was one of those long, pointy, skinny numbers popular in Asian dishes. Since it arrived on my plate at a neighborhood Thai restaurant, I figured I was supposed to eat it. Who knew? Seconds after chewing it up and swallowing part of it, a volcano erupted in my stomach all the way up to my throat. Water was absolutely useless. A friend sitting across from me had an untouched Piña Colada in front of him. Boom! I gulped down the whole thing in about 3 seconds. The waitress found some milk tucked away in the kitchen to help the cause. It was my last Thai restaurant for a very long time, and I learned a very valuable lesson in treating peppers with respect.
Having learned my lesson, I use peppers in LOTS of dishes today, and I'm far from alone. Follow the equator around the globe, and you'll see that they show up in food from Asia, Spain, Italy, South America, Central America, and North Africa, and the Middle East.
If you're a pepper-lover, there's a new cookbook out there for you – The Chile Pepper Bible by Judith Finlayson (a link is provided further down the post for ordering the book!). This book celebrates all kinds of peppers in dishes, but opens with a bucketful of information on chilis – their history, diversity, and health benefits, along with an explanation of the Scoville scale – a measurement for the spicy heat individual peppers pack. Oh, and there's also an useful section on the types of chiles. (More than you can imagine.)
But my favorite part of the book is the diversity of the recipes. Judith shares 250 recipes from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Indonesia, and from the Caribbean and many other areas of the world. How do I know? Because the intro to each recipe provides a brief exploration of its roots.
If you're a vegetarian, I should mention this is not a vegetarian cookbook. There are a large number of vegetarian recipes in the cookbook for desserts, appetizers, condiments, sides and a few main dishes. Many of them are vegan friendly too. But most of the main dishes incorporate either fish or meat. Obviously you can have some fun with substitutions, but I didn't want you to be surprised.
To give you a taste of the type of recipes in this wonderful book, I'm sharing this one with you (with permission from the publisher). But first a couple of tips in working with the recipes.
- Some of the peppers may be unfamiliar to you. I recommend checking the section of the book that talks about the different types of chiles, and if they're not mentioned there, research them on the internet to get a sense for the amount of heat they pack. The book's recipes cover a wide range of heat.
- If you can't find the peppers called for in any recipe, research their level of spicy heat as measured on the Scoville scale, and substitute one that's similar. If substitutes are suggested in the recipe, they might not be equivalent in spiciness, so it's good to do a little research. If you do, I think you'll enjoy the recipes as much as I have.
- I used Idaho® russet potatoes, 2 red sweet bell peppers, 2 Anaheim peppers, and 1 Korean (spicy) pepper, and for me it had a perfect level of medium spice.
- I used a small hand-held mandolin for evenly slicing the potatoes. It's also quick. I have 3 different mandolins, and this one from OXO is my favorite (affiliate link).
- I used a frittata pan to make this dish, which made it very easy to flip the potatoes. But you can obviously use a regular sauté pan, which is explained in the recipe directions. Here's a link to the pan I used if you're interested (affiliate link) – just click on the photo. You'll be surprised how many ways you can use a frittata pan. They're great for eggs (duh), hash brown potatoes, and this dish :-).
Calabrese-Style Fried Potatoes with Peppers
- 4 to 5 bell Shepherd or Cubanelle pepper (see Tips, below)
- 1 red or green finger chile see Tips, below
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 lbs floury potatoes about 4 medium, very thinly sliced (see Tips, below)
- Hot pepper flakes preferably peperoncino (optional)
- Finely chopped fresh parsley optional
- Peel, seed and cut bell peppers into thin strips. Thinly slice finger chile. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add bell peppers, finger chile and garlic and cook, stirring, until peppers are softened, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. Season to taste with salt and black pepper and set aside.
- Add potatoes to pan, in batches. Spread first batch evenly across the bottom and cook for 1 minute. Move to 1 side of the pan and repeat with remaining batches of potatoes. Continue to cook potatoes, turning often, until evenly browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.
- Return peppers to pan. Stir well to combine. Season to taste with hot pepper flakes (if using).
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer potato mixture to a warm serving platter. Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper. Garnish to taste with parsley (if using). Serve immediately.
This recipe has been reprinted courtesy of The Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet & Mild to Fiery & Everything in Between by Judith Finlayson © 2016 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold. I received one copy compliments of the publisher. No other compensation was received. Links to the book are affiliate links.