Friday, January 21, 2011

When Is A Vegetable Not Just A Vegetable? Chiles, Two Ways.

    I have been totally consumed by my firni experiments... and still have not perfected my own twist on this Indian dessert. When the work week rolled around, I figured it was time to get sane again, put the sweets aside and cook some vegetables.
   In one of the Indian cookbooks Paula Wolfert gave me was a recipe for bell peppers as a side dish. Now bell peppers and I have a long long history together. Anybody who grew up in a blue collar household is familiar with two things, Mac and cheese in a box and bell peppers in the week before payday. The Mac and cheese in a box I have to admit I still have a weakness for, even though I've eaten gourmet versions of Mac and Cheese in some of the best restaurants in LA. Mac and cheese, why can't I quit you?! The bell peppers I've never been able to reconcile with. Maybe it was because they were always bell pepper "surprise," the "surprise" being whatever the hell they were stuffed with, which around my house could have been anything (Quick! Check the hamster cage!)
   There are two words I've learned to be wary of on any menu. One is "our famous" and the other is "surprise." So when I started hunting around, doing some research on bell pepper curries, I found quite a few where Anaheim chiles were substituted for bell peppers. Ok, now that's the kind of surprise I can deal with.
   Anaheim chiles were also on sale at Sonoma Market, so I was happy all the way around. This dish makes up in less than a half hour and once you've found your Anaheim chiles, everything else is probably already in your larder.

Eggplant Spinach and Peppers

Here's what to do:
Stem the chiles, take the seeds out.
cut them into about 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces.
Finely chop 1 large shallot.
In a large skillet or kadhai heat 2 Tbs of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot toss in the shallots and chiles.
Stir fry them at a moderate high heat for about 5 minutes or so until the chiles and shallots are a bit browned.
Turn down the heat and add in:
 2 tsps of light brown sugar
1 tsp of sesame seeds
1/4 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of ground cumin
2 tsp of lemon juice
Stir it around and continue to cook at a low temperature for about another 5 minutes.
 Stir in 2 tsps of grated coconut and serve.

    I served these peppers with a grilled, spice-rubbed, skinless chicken breast, spinach with garam masala, a simple raita and a bit of homemade apricot chutney that I canned last summer. They were great, mildly hot, slightly sweet. The big discovery however was Alan's. He loved it with the chicken but he also felt it would be a great side dish to be served with any sort of barbecue, or even... steak.   I called it a vegetable. He calls it a hot salsa or relish. Fine. It's the spice that makes a marriage
   Now for the non carnivores, this dish would work wonderfully with a nice paratha or chapatti along with a rice and dal dish. I would think the addition of other vegetables  (think peas, cauliflower, squash) along with the peppers would also fill the dish out as a stand alone vegetarian special.  
  I also found out this week that I'm going to be one of the participants in this months' Foodbuzz 24 x 24. It's going to be on the 29th and I can't wait to get cooking.


  1. Oh, my mouth is drooling at the thought of chilis. You're a brave woman - I can't handle chili pepper seeds with bare fingers...oh, it hurts!

  2. I WANNA live near you dammit! This actually made my mouth water.

  3. Funny, your story with stuffed bell peppers :)) Over here, I had a similar experience with stuffed cabbage leaves - anything small enough to fit in was more than an unexpected surprise; it was my mom's best recipe :)))

  4. Wow you must be immune to hot hands! I was fooled buying the wrong ones year ago. , no one told me they were hot peppers and the basket they were in were labeled wrong..burned on the skin first time, my hands hurt then my eyes... I truly needed this post then! nice job.. those are lovely peppers and I love hot foods!

  5. A nice yogurt will be good to cool the heat too!

  6. @claudia, @penny aka jeroxie,
    these peppers aren't hot just mildly warm and they bring a more interesting taste than plain old bell peppers..which I am not too crazy about.



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