Welcome to issue no. 9 of Foodstuff

March 14, 1998

In this issue:

Dear Subscribers,

So sorry for the delay. I've been really busy promoting my new cookbook. Of course I'd love to meet any of you at one of my signings, so check thecrèmebrulee.com Website for a list of my appearances.

Also, for those of you who have been active on the PI Food Community, I'd like to announce my move to Prodigy Excite's Food Community. I will have more information on that in the next newsletter.

CHILE PEPPERS

(The Chile-Heads have a great web site! http://neptune.netimages.com/~chile.)

One of the wonders that Christopher Columbus brought back from the New World was a member of the Capsicum genus, the chile. Fresh, smoked, pickled or dried, this pungent pod plays an important roll in the cuisines of many countries igniting taste buds from Argentina to Zimbabwe. There are more than 200 varieties of chiles, over 100 of which are indigenous to Mexico. As a general rule, the larger the chile the milder it is. Small chiles are much hotter because, proportionally, they contain up to 80 percent of a chile's CAPSAICIN, the potent compound that gives chiles their fiery nature. Since neither cooking nor freezing diminishes capsaicin's intensity, removing a chile's seeds and veins is the only way to reduce its heat. After working with chiles, it's extremely important to wash your hands thoroughly; failure to do so can result in painful burning of the eyes or skin. Wearing rubber gloves will remedy this problem. Chiles are used to make many products including chili paste, tabasco sauce, and cayenne. Chiles are cholesterol-free and low in calories and sodium. They're a rich source of vitamins A and C (in fact higher than citrus fruits), and a good source of folic acid, potassium and vitamin E.

One of the most popular chile peppers in Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. is the jalapeno. Green jalapenos are the most commonly available (and the type usually called for in recipes). If left on the vine to ripen further, they turn red. Most of us are familiar with jalapenos as one of the prime ingredients of salsa, but in Mexico the chili shows up in just about every meal. They are combined with eggs for a spicy breakfast, stuffed with cheese and fried as an appetizer, and added to soups and stews to add kick.

I have always wondered if eating spicy food and/or chile peppers is addicting. For years I've noticed my mother-in-law can't really enjoy a meal without a serrano or jalapeno to bite into, and she is one of the healthiest women I know! There are many people who don't enjoy tortilla chips unless they have salsa to eat with them. Studies have shown that, yes, eating spicy food is addicting. What happens after eating something hot, is your body nerves feel pain. These pain signals are immediately transmitted to your brain. Your brain interprets this signal and automatically releases endorphins (the body's natural pain killer). The endorphins kick in and act as a pain killer and create this temporary feeling of euphoria. Hot and spicy food lovers soon begin to crave this feeling and are hooked.

MORE HOT FACTS ABOUT CHILE PEPPERS

Chile peppers are easy to grow. I have no trouble with my little garden of chile peppers, even though I have what's known in the gardening world as a black thumb!

In 1912, Wilbur Scoville developed a method to measure the heat level of a chile pepper called the Scoville Organoleptic Test. The test used a group of five people that tasted the different chilies and analyzed the heat. The pungency is measured in multiples of 100 units from the bell pepper at zero to the incendiary Habanero at 300,000 scoville units.

The hottest chile ever tested was the Red Savina Habanero. At a whopping 577,000 scoville units.

OFFICIAL CHILE HEAT SCALE
from CHILE PEPPER MAGAZINE
RATING APPROXIMATE SCOVILLE UNITS CHILE VARIETIES
10 100,000 - 300,000 Habanero, Bahamian
9 50,000 - 100,000 Santaka, Chiltepin, Thai
8 30,000 - 50,000 Aji, Rocoto, Piquin, Cayenne, Tabasco
7 15,000 - 30,000 de Arbol
6 5,000 - 15,000 Yellow Wax Hot, Serrano
5 2,500 - 5,000 Jalapeno, Mirasol
4 1,500 - 2,500 Sandia, Cascabel
3 1,000 - 1,500 Ancho, Pasilla, Espanola
2 500 - 1,000 NuMex Big Jim, NM 6-4
1 100 - 500 R-Naky, Mexi-Bell, Cherry
0 0 Mild Bells, Pimiento, Sweet Banana

Chile peppers have had many uses throughout the years. Indian tribes strung chilies together and tied them to their canoes and used them to ward off evils that lurk in the water. Today, "ristras" are commonly seen hanging in households. Ristras are a symbol of welcome and a superstitious way to ward off all evils. It is also reported that chile peppers were once traded as common currency.

Chile Peppers are as different from each other as are fine wines. Each has its own distinctive taste and heat level.

And by the way (speaking of wine), a good wine to pair up with chili-based dishes would be a red, with a good amount of youth and fruit.

After salt, the chile pepper has become the most frequently-used seasoning and condiment in the world.

If you overdose on chile, douse the heat with milk, ice cream or yogurt. These dairy products are especially effective at breaking down the oils. Beer and water only spread the flame.

SPICY GRILLED SHRIMP WITH HABANERO/GINGER PASTE (serves 4)

Habanero, one of my favorite chiles, has a unique citrus flavor and incendiary bite. Let me know how you like this very easy recipe.

4 wooden skewers, soaked in water overnight*
16 jumbo shrimp (peeled and deveined)
1 dried habanero, reconstituted (soaked in water for at least 1/2 hour)
2-3 tablespoons chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ounce candied (or crystallized) ginger, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons sesame oil

Pre-heat grill. Skewer shrimp 4 to a skewer. Meanwhile, puree the habanero, onion, garlic, ginger and curry. Add the sesame oil and blend until smooth. Brush the paste on the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes on each side. If desired, serve on rice pilaf.

*Soaking the skewers prevents splintering

PICO DE GALLO

6 cups drained chopped tomatoes (about 6 large)
3 medium onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
6 jalapeno chilies, seeded, finely chopped

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you're like me, you can't get enough good chile pepper recipes and chile pepper info! That's why the Chile-Heads home page is so great. (The address is at the top of this page.)

Great stuff such as:

~Recipes, Restaurants, and Festivals
~Growing, harvesting and preserving peppers
~Science: Botany, Chemistry and Medicine
~Information on subscribing to the Chile-Heads mailing list
~Access the Chile-Heads Archives
~Additional resources (books, magazines, catalogs, etc.)

Chile Pepper Magazine is a really wonderful source for recipes, products, features and more. Much more!

NEW PRODUCTS/FANTASTIC DISCOVERIES!

While we're on the subject of chiles and recipes, there's a new product available that is absolutely fantastic. SIOUX Z WOW GOURMET CHILE MARINADE SAUCE is a fat-free, low calorie, and versatile all-purpose sauce. The possibilities for using this great sauce are endless. One taste and you'll be hooked. It's now available all over Southern California and will soon be in stores all over the country. If you can't wait to try it, Sioux Elledge, the owner and inventor of SIOUX Z WOW, will be happy to ship it to you. Call (714) 495-2552 for more information. If you're in Southern California, you can find SIOUX Z WOW at these following locations: Gelson's, Bristol Farms, Hughes Family Markets and about 200 other markets and specialty food stores.

This is a recipe I developed using the SIOUX Z WOW sauce. It's really tasty and great for entertaining. Enjoy!

MARGARITA CHICKEN FETTUCCINE (serves 8, generously)

3 (9 ounce each) packages fresh fettuccine
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast meat, cubed
2 tablespoons gold tequila
The juice of 1 lime
1 bottle Sioux Z Wow Chile Marinade Sauce
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 each red, yellow, and green bell pepper, thinly sliced

Prepare rapidly boiling, salted water to cook pasta. Cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside. Melt the butter in a medium sized sauté pan. Add the chicken and sauté just until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the tequila, lime juice, Chile Marinade Sauce and cream. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the bell peppers and continue cooking until the peppers are slightly limp, and the sauce is thick and creamy. When the sauce is done, toss with well-drained fettuccine and serve hot.


COOKBOOK REVIEW

DELEITES DE LA CONCINA MEXICANA [DELIGHTS OF THE MEXICAN KITCHEN]

This book has much more to offer besides being filled with wonderful recipes. First, half the royalties from sales go toward scholarships for San Antonio Mexican-America women. Second, you could conceivably learn to read Spanish with this cookbook. Each page contains one recipe, printed in English on the left and Spanish on the right. Educational comments on many recipes share short history lessons about specific ingredients or where the dish came from. Third, the recipes in this book are mainly traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex, but with a difference. Many recipes show how to make our old-time favorites with much less fat, but no loss of flavor. Don't miss the frijoles made with serrano chiles, a winner for sure.


DINING IN SAN FRANCISCO

This last weekend had me wondering, can you have a bad meal in San Francisco? Five out of the five meals we had the pleasure to eat were all fantastic. The service was outstanding in each place too. It was especially nice to have four very close girlfriends along for the ride; nice because none of us thinks anything of eating from each other's plates. In fact, is there any other way to dine? In no particular order, here are the places we went:

We also ate hot fudge sundaes at Ghirardelli Square, lobster sandwiches at Pier 39, and clam chowder in sourdough bowls all over town.

As some of you may already know, I have begun a tour to promote my new book, Elegantly Easy Crème Brûlée, and San Francisco was the first stop. I'm taking a short breather before heading to NYC. (I look at my trip to SF as a dress rehearsal for NYC.) Besides eating, I did manage to squeeze in a few radio interviews and book signings.

Now, on to the restaurants:

Betelnut is an Asian restaurant unlike anything I've ever experienced. This one is really hard to put into words, except to say, don't miss it. Low prices, large portions, and some very unusual flavors.

Rose Pistola. Was it Italian? Mediterranean? Californian? I'd guess it was more Italian than anything else, but done with much flair and originality. We loved everything we ordered, including stuffed focaccia with white truffle oil, the thinnest crust pizza with the most delicious goat cheese and olive topping I think I've ever had, and a wonderful cioppino made perfectly spicy to our order.

Café Pescatore isn't just your average restaurant in a hotel. It's outstanding but a bit over-priced. We had calamari and a selection of antipasti. It was a light meal to hold us over for a very late dinner at...

Little City. To start with, we were all in a festive mood after seeing the Beach Blanket show. Then it turned out that the owner's wife went to Taft High School in Woodland Hills with one of the girls in our group. We then find out there's a lemon grass crème brulee on the menu that seemed to be just different enough to go into the second edition of my book. This all added up to the most memorable AND the lowest-priced meal of the trip. More about why it was so low priced in a minute. Oh, and by the way, I still have the menu, and so can give you prices for this one too.

For starters, the girls let me choose a few appetizers. The fact that ordering the antipasti was my job plays an important role here. We had Ahi Tartare (9.50). This was served with jalapeno, shallots, ponzu sauce, quail egg and shiso leaf. Sounds kind of weird? Well, it was! But it was also very tasty. We also had Grilled Japanese Eggplant with an herbed ricotta cheese fritter and warm tomato chive salsa (5.50), Crab Cakes with a habanero cream fraiche (9.50), and Smoked Duck with Chinese spinach (7). I don't think I've ever had Chinese spinach before. It's got an unusual nutty flavor and is exceptionally delightful. I've got to find someplace that sells this stuff. Anyway, our main courses were Caramelized Pear and Roquefort Cheese with walnuts, arugula and basalmic reduction (7.95), Peppered Pan Seared Ahi with crispy mango ravioli and japanese salsa (18.50), Linguine with Day Boat Scallops with anchovy, garlic and red pepper (15.50) and Salmon in Rice Paper with quinoa risotto and crimson orange reduction sauce (15.50). For dessert we had Fugazi Lemongrass Crème Brûlée (5.50) and Caramelized Nut Tart with Vanilla Bean Gelato (6.00). It was all great, but the highlight (we all agreed) was the Linguine with Scallops. And none of us thought we liked anchovies!

Okay, so the waiter found out why we were in town, and took me to meet the chef. I promised to bring him a copy of my book before going home, and I also promised to put his crème brulee into the second edition. When the bill came, everything that I ordered was removed from the bill! The chef had told the waiter that he'd like to pay for "my" order, so the waiter took off the appetizers in addition to my meal! The bill, including drinks, and a 25% tip, based on the total bill before the credited items, came to about $11 for each of us!

Our last meal was brunch at Mama's on Washington Square. This may have been the best breakfast that any of us have ever had, EVER! Chocolate and candied orange peel French toast with fresh raspberries, Home baked Broiche French Toast, Banana nut French toast, and a few omelettes made with peppered jack cheese, pancetta, ortega chiles, avocado, and mushrooms. It was all very fresh and out-of-this-world delicious.

The end of the trip was a delightful ride to the airport in a stretch limo with a bottle of champagne, compliments of our hotel. Another surprise was a box of chocolates that one of the girls bought at See's in the airport.

Total weight gain for the trip:

Linda, 3 pounds, Mary Kay 3 pounds, Debbie B. 1 pound, Debbie P. 2 1/2 pounds, and Marla, who refused to get on the scale, but we would guess 3 pounds.

In the next issue of Foodstuff: Reviews of the best "Foodie" movies, the birth and history of California Cuisine, fantastic recipes and more!


© 1998, 2003 Debbie Puente
All rights reserved. You may print for personal use, however, without express written permission, you may not reproduce, reprint, or distribute. All content on www.cremebrulee.com is original copyright.