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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke

Charleston Pepper SunIn an article posted on The Atlantic’s website last week, Gary Paul Nabhan, co-author of Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, addressed the relationship between farming in the Southwest and climate change—both food production and food security have been cast into question with the growing scarcity of water and unpredictable growing seasons and weather patterns, such as drought.

Nabhan points out that with water capacity near its limit for cities and rural agricultural areas, “food security in the Southwest depends upon the security of water supplies being delivered to irrigable land. That capacity, we can now see, has been severely impaired by urban growth in the Sunbelt since World War II, and is likely to be further impacted by the vagaries of weather shifts.”

The burden of addressing such trends, says Nabhan, falls on both the consumer and farmer, and while individual responses may not be enough to reverse the trends. Sustainable agriculture and good farming practices may be the best way to counter the growing threat of food security in the region.

In Chasing Chiles, Nabhan, along with co-authors Kurt Michael Friese and Kraig Kraft, set out to discover the history and potential of America’s heirloom chile varieties. Their journey reveals the chile pepper’s dynamic role in understanding climate change and the future of food production.

So how can food producers and eaters in the Southwest improve their “foodprints?”

“Eat and farm as if the earth matters, as we should have been doing all along,” says Nabhan in Chasing Chiles. “Regardless of how quickly we can implement the specific fixes proposed to mitigate climate change, we all need to reduce our carbon [footprint] and adapt to change in ways that keep the earth’s bounty as diverse, as delicious, and as resilient as possible.”

As an orchard keeper and chile grower, Nabhan has committed to do his share to curve the growing trend of climate change by conserving water between rainfalls, growing regional-appropriate crops, such as drought and heat-tolerant heirlooms, and soil-building.

For the rest of us, Nabhan, Friese, and Kraft have these suggestions in Chasing Chiles:

  1. Explore, celebrate, and consume what diversity can be found locally.
  2. Farmers’ knowledge and problem-solving skills are assets for coping with and adapting to climate change.
  3. Eaters (chefs and consumers) need to vote with their forks, wallets, and ballots in support of more diverse and regionally self-sufficient food systems.
  4. Climate change is best dealt with as one of many compounding factors, not as an environmental impact apart from all others.
  5. Empower local food communities to be “co-designers” of local solutions to global change, and then to creatively transmit their solutions to other communities.

If nothing else, says Nabhan, “I get down on my knees and put my hands into the earth.”

Read more about the history of chiles in America, and their tenuous relationship with biodiversity and climate change in Chasing Chiles, available at Amazon. Click here to read the full article from The Atlantic.


Sources:

“Farming in the Time of Climate Catastrophe,” by Gary Paul Nabhan, www.TheAtlantic.com

Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, by Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft & Gary Paul Nabhan, © 2011 Chelsea Green Publishing


From The Southwest Table 1

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: recipe , history , grilling , fiery foods

Cover of The Southwest TableEveryone is invited to our Cinco de Mayo Book Launch Demo and Signing.  I'll be cooking some spicy dishes on a Disc-It for sampling, and the restaurant will provide snacks, or you can order drinks and lunch.  Bookworks will be selling the books, and I'll personally dedicate them for you.  Assisting me will be my niece and food editor, Emily DeWitt-Cisneros. 5/5, 12 noon on the main patio at El Pinto Restaurant, 10500 4th Street, Albuquerque, NM 87114.  But if you can't make it, you can always buy the book here.

New Mexico's First Livestock


The top seller of live chile bedding plants in the country, Cross Country Nurseries, dba ChilePlants.com, has listed their top five best selling varieties, and it's no surprise that superhots dominate the list.

 

Bhut JolokiaThis position figures because of all the superhots, Bhuts have garnered the most publicity over the past few years, and it doesn't seem to matter that it's been dethroned as the hottest pepper in the world.

 

Trinidad ScorpionComing on strong is this variety, now generally thought to be the hottest, at the upper levels measuring 1.2 to 1.4 million Scoville Heat Units.  It has a better name and a more interesting pod shape.

 

7-PotThe third Trinidad variety in a row places in the top 3, showing the remarkable trend of superhots originating in the country of Trinidad & Tobago.

 

Habanero Red SavinaThis plant-patented variety is generally thought to be a variation on the 'Red Caribbean' varieties that are spread around the islands.  It never tested as hot as 577,000 SHU in any other laboratory tests except the one that got it the Guinness record.

 

Bhut Jolokia YellowA bit of a surprise in the number 5 position is this yellow variation of the 'Bhut Jolokia', which is becoming a favorite of chile gardeners.

 

Hats and caps off to Janie and Fernando of Chileplants.com for helping us all out by providing 500 chile varieties.  And what am I growing out of all these superhots?  Scorpion, of course!


Cooking "Stone Soup"

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: tasty travel , recipe , fiery foods

Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Gourds Being Fashioned Into GuajesDown here at the tip of the Baja California peninsula, I have stumbled across an pre-Hispanic chile pepper soup that uses river stones as the heat for cooking.  The Chinoteco tribe of Pueblo San Felipe Usila was a fishing based culture, and their fishermen used pear-shaped guajes, or gourd pots, told hold their fresh water while ocean fishing.  But after the catch, they used guajes cut in half to make bowls for cooking their fish chowder because the gourds of course, could not be placed over an open flame. They heated up smooth stones in a fire to accomplish this according to the recipe below. Totally ingenious, and you can replicate it today!

Stone Soup, Chinoteco-Style

The "river stones" used to cook the soup are smooth stones, usually polished over centuries by moving water, that are about four inches wide and two inches thick.  Similar stones are sold by nurseries as garden decorations. Use your barbecue grill to heat the stones as hot as you can get them and use long tongs with wooden handles to transfer them to the cooking bowl.

6 river stones, heated as hot as you can get them on the grill

6 large dried gourds cut like bowls or other large bowls

2 pounds snapper or other white fish, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 sprigs cilantro

2 springs epazote

2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

4 serrano chiles, finely chopped

Water or fish or clam broth as needed

Mix all of the soup ingredients except the water or broth in a large bowl, and then divide it evenly among the 6 bowls. Add the water or broth until each bowl is 3/4 full. Add a stone to each bowl and let the soup boil for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the stones and serve the soup carefully.

Yield: 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium


From the Burn! Magazine Blog...

Andalusian Paella

March 27th is national Paella day, and if you’ve never had a chance to try this famous Spanish dish, it’s the perfect time. Paella is perhaps one of Spain’s best-known dishes, originating in the Valencia region, and is one of the national dishes of Spain.

In its most traditional form—called paella Valenciana, it is made up of rice, green vegetables, some kind of meat, snails, beans, and spices—including saffron and garlic. Other varieties include seafood paella, in which seafood is substituted for the meat and snails of the Valencia recipe, or mixed paella, which contains both meat and seafood.

True paella Valenciana is a treat for any fan of Spain’s gamey, earthy dishes, but if the thought of snails in your paella sounds a little too traditional, we suggest this mixed paella recipe from One Tribe Gourmet.com.

Andalusian Mixed Paella

1 ripe tomato
1/2 cup white wine
1 red onion, chopped
12 black mussels, beards removed & scrubbed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, extra, finely chopped
2 pieces Italian sausage, cook ahead & sliced
2 wood roasted paquillo peppers, chopped
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup sivaris bomba paella rice
1/2 teaspoon Spansih saffron threads
2 cups organic chicken stock, heated
1/2 cup frozen peas
12 extra large shrimp, unpeeled
12 little neck clams
1 handful parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon Spanish pimenton smoked paprika

Heat the wine and onions in a saucepan over high heat. Add the mussels, cover for five minutes. Remove from the heat, discard any unopened mussels, and drain, reserving the liquid to use later in the recipe. Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed paella pan, add the extra onion, Italian sausage (sliced) cook for five minutes, or until softened. Add the chopped tomatoes, paquillo peppers, pimenton smoky paprika, & cayenne pepper. Season with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the reserved (wine/mussels) liquid, then add the rice and stir again. Blend the saffron with the stock and stir into the rice mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes without stirring. Put the peas, shrimp, clams on top of the rice. Push them into the rice, cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, turning over halfway through, until the rice is cooked. Add the mussels & lemon juice for the last 5 minutes to heat through. If the rice is not cooked, add extra stock and cook for a few more minutes. Leave to rest for 5 minutes, then add the parsley.

Serves 4
Heat level: Medium

Find more great recipes and articles on the Burn! Magazine blog at www.burn-magazine.com!


At Last, a Chipotle Vodka!

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: spicy drinks , smoking , chile peppers , alcohol

 

Hangar One VodkaThe fine folks at Hangar One Vodka sent me a bottle of their new vodka, so I had to give it a try.  I pulled it out of the freezer (see ice crystals, left), poured a little into a shot glass, and sipped it.  Big flavor!  Then the heat, which was medium hot.  Very nice.  Then the smokiness hit, and it really worked.  Then the crucial test, a Bloody Mary.  Tomato juice, Hangar One, a little lime juice, a touch of Worcestershire sauce over ice, stirred, not shaken.  Delicious—even my non-Bloody-Mary-drinking wife Mary Jane liked it—but because of the dilution of the vodka, not quite hot enough.  A few dashes of hot sauce solved that and I wondered: how is this made?  The back label provided the answer by Master Distiller Lance Winters: "We're blending infusions and distillations of beautifully roasted chipotle peppers, green jalapeños, red bells, and Scoville-scorching habaneros.  Each pepper was smoked by my friends at T-Rex Barbecue in Berkeley, California."  In my humble opinion, this is a wonderful, spiced up vodka, and again proves my long held belief: vodka is the only alcoholic beverage that works with chile peppers.  Chiles do not improve mediocre wines or beers, and ruin fine ones.

 


Maya Natural Sea Salt Harvest

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: tasty travel , science , manufacturing , history

 

Maya Natural Sea Salt HarvestRick Grice of Maya Natural Sea Salt just sent me a link to pics of his salt harvest, which apparently has been going on long before he was born!  Rick writes: "White Gold or Mayan Sea Salt has been the subject of numerous books and scholarly papers written about the trade routes of the ancient Mayans.  Some have estimated that 3 to 6 tons of sea salt per day had to be transported by canoe and on human backs into the interior to supply the Mayan people whose population then is estimated to have been greater than the population of the same region today. This sea salt was produced on both sides of Central America in what is now Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, and even into Honduras and El Salvador. Recently discovered archeology sites (many now underwater) attest to the vastness of this ancient enterprise. Our FDA-registered operation is within walking distance of one of the Mayan sites."
View the rest of his harvest shots here. Mouse-over the pics to see the captions.


Xinjiang Lamb and Chile Barbecue

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Xinjiang Lamb KebabsIn 1987, Robert Spiegel, Nancy Gerlach and I launched Chile Pepper magazine and began my lengthy quest to assemble the world's hot and spicy recipes.  In our third issue, we published an article that Nancy and I wrote, "Asia Heats Up."  The recipe is from Xinjiang Uygur Automomous Region, which is, after Sichuan and Hunan, the spiciest region in China. There, the ubiquitous kebabs are called 烤肉 (kăo ròu).


Lamb is rarely eaten in other parts of China, and in fact, the Mongolian tribes were the ones who introduced lamb to the rest of China. This simple barbecue goes well with a flat bread or sesame seed biscuits and a tossed salad. This recipe is adapted from one by Lynn Joiner, a PBS journalist who published it in Wok Talk, a newsletter for Asian food enthusiasts that was published in the 1980s. Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.

1/4 cup hot chile oil
10 cherry tomatoes
1 small onion, cut in half and sectioned
6 large jalapeño chiles, seeds and stems removed, cut into large chunks
2 pounds lamb, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch sugar

 Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and marinate the lamb overnight in the refrigerator or for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature.

Thread the lamb on skewers, alternating with the jalapenos, tomatoes, and onions and grill them over gas or charcoall, basting frequently with the reserved marinade until done.

Serve the lamb and chiles over rice, garnished with carved chile pepper flowers

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Hot, if you eat all the jalapeños


Greek Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: recipe , chile peppers

Greek Peppers Stuffed with Feta

Piperies Gemistes me Feta may be Greek to you and me, but to a Greek, it means “Greek Peppers Stuffed with Feta.” A photo of these peppers was part of the Burn! digital monthly magazine display at last weekend’s Fiery Foods Show, and several people said they wanted to learn how to make that dish. So here’s the recipe…you can find this and many other recipes for stuffed peppers from around the world in the April issue of Burn!

Because they’re broiled, not battered and fried, these stuffed peppers are somewhat healthier than traditional chiles rellenos.

6 fresh New Mexican red chiles, unpeeled, cut open along one side to remove the seeds
9 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
1⁄2 teaspoon lemon zest
1⁄4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 egg yolks
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Arrange a rack 6 inches from the broiler element and set your oven to broil. Put the peppers on a baking sheet and broil, turning once, until just soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer peppers to a rack and let cool.

In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to whip the feta, oil, yogurt, parsley, zest, oregano, and egg yolks; season with salt and pepper. Make a lengthwise cut from the stem to the tip of each pepper and stuff each pepper with some of the feta filling; transfer to an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.  Sprinkle the peppers with grated Parmesan cheese and broil them until cheese is golden brown and bubbly, about 6 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a platter and serve hot.

Yield:  6 servings
Heat Scale: Medium


 

 

Our 23rd annual show was jammed with people and happy exhibitors.  We will release attendance figures as soon as we get the final count from Ticketmaster, but all initial indicators predict another record crowd.  Additionally, there were a few other accomplishments:

  • The launch of Burn! digital monthly magazine, here.
  • The popularity of El Pinto's new Scorpion Salsa, here.
  • The live broadcast of the show from Eat More Heat, with more than 40,000 viewers, here.

From the producers of the show, we thank everyone responsible for making the show a huge success: exhibitors, attendees, the general public, and the media.


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