Tag Archives: Spicy

A Peck of (Really Hot) Pickled Peppers

Hello, friends! 

It feels so good to be able to cook and blog every day.  I will never, ever, ever take having power for granted ever again until probably this weekend when I get used to everything running smoothly without any effort on my part.

But I shouldn’t take it for granted, because it is so awesome to have power.

To finish up my fall prep by canning the rest of the goods from my parents’ garden, I decided to make pickled banana peppers.  We’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches (brown bag lunches at school, ya know), and I thought a sweet and spicy pickled pepper would be perfect to jazz them up through the winter when veggies are a little lackluster.

I also discovered that what I thought were harmless banana peppers were actually super HOT banana peppers, and now my poor innocent hands are burning like fire since I wasn’t wearing gloves when I cut them.  Word to the wise: wear gloves.  You could use this recipe with mild or spicy peppers–doesn’t matter one bit.

Pickled Banana Peppers

  • 25 banana peppers
  • 2 C water
  • 3 C white vinegar
  • 1/2 C apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C salt
  • 2 T whole peppercorns
  • 1 T caraway seeds
  • 1 T dill seeds
  • 2 t ground allspice

These are getting canned into four pint-sized jars, so get all that canning stuff ready–big stock pot of boiling water to sterilize the jars, smaller saucepan to simmer the lids in, big tongs, and dish cloths and potholders to protect your sensitive mitts.  Especially if you’ve already burned the crap outta ’em with hot pepper juice.

Start by slicing the peppers–I cut off the tops, removed the core and as many seeds as I easily could with a knife, and then sliced them into thin rings.  Soak all the peppers in a giant bowl of ice water with a T or so of salt in it for at least an hour.  I’m not sure exactly what this step is for, but since everyone else is doing it, I’ll do it too.

Once the peppers are ready, sterilize the jars by boiling them in water for at least ten minutes.  While the giant pot of water is coming to a boil, bring the remaining ingredients (water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices) to a boil as well. 

Once the jars are sterilized, pack them full of peppers and cover with the vinegar mixture.  Careful with all the hot stuff–no burns, please!

It might be helpful to strain the liquid through a strainer as you pour it in the jars, and then you can evenly divide the spices among the four jars.

Put the lids on the jars, screw the tops on (not too tight, just a gentle closure), and return them to the boiling water to process.  Boil the jars vigorously for 40 minutes, then remove from the liquid and set on a dish towel to cool.  If the lids pop and don’t spring back when pressed, the jars have sealed properly and you are good to go.

Don’t they look gorgeous?

I’d let them pickle in the vinegar for a few weeks before eating them.

I’d also be careful about eating them if you used the same kind of death-in-disguise super-hot banana peppers that I used.

Winter sandwiches have officially been jazzed.

I leave you with a few pictures from a trip downport that Fritz and I took the other day with our good friends Cait and Jeff:

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South African Sosaties

Spending over a week with a handful of South Africans means that you must be ready to eat a lot of meat.  A lot of meat, prepared on the grill.  A lot of grilled meat, accompanied with salads and fruits and grilled corn on the cob.

I am so okay with this.

So here’s an awesome recipe for yet another South African grilled classic, sosaties (in Afrikaans meaning “skewered meat with spicy sauce”, thanks to Wikipedia).

South African Sosaties Printable Recipe Card

for the sauce (sous):

  • 1 large onion, sliced into half-rounds
  • 4 C water
  • 2 T mild curry powder
  • 1/2 T ground turmeric
  • 4 T sugar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 C malt vinegar
  • 2 C apricot jam
  • 1/2 T lemon juice (optional)
  • salt and white pepper to taste

for the skewers

  • 3-4 lbs beef or lamb roast, cubed into 1″ cubes
  • 1 small package dried apricots
  • 1/2 package of bacon (1 strip for each skewer)
  • about a dozen skewers, if wood, soak in water before using

The meat must be prepared ahead of time and marinated for at least 24 hours in the sosatie sauce, so make sure you have time and room in the fridge!

To prepare the sauce, first slice the onion and bring it to a boil in the four cups of water.  Set aside.  Combine the dry ingredients (curry, turmeric, sugar, cornstarch, and some salt and pepper), then add in the wet ingredients (jam, vinegar, and lemon juice).  Pour this mixture into the pan with the onions, and bring to a boil for 3-4 minutes, until it starts to thicken.  Set aside and allow it to cool.

Once the sauce is cooled, you can prepare the meat for the marinade.  Layer apricots, bacon, and the cubed meat in a plastic or glass container.  Cover with the cooled sosatie sauce.  This container was really convenient because it can be flipped to allow for the easiest mixing ever–but otherwise, you may have to get your hands dirty. 

Keep in the fridge for at least 24 hours before grilling.

To make the kabobs, skewer the beef, apricots, and the bacon (we’d suggest not having apricot on the ends, because they’ll tend to fall off during grilling). 

Grill the sosaties over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until they are cooked through.  Baste periodically with leftover sosatie sauce.

Enjoy!  These are tender and juicy, and the perfect combination of sweet and spicy.

And if you have never had a grilled apricot, then you haven’t lived.  Trust me when I say you might want to go out and find a South African to marry, if you haven’t already, because they make really great food:

The men are also quite handsome:

The sosaties were even better the second day, warmed up for leftovers with a giant salad–but I can promise you that the leftovers won’t last long.

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Grilled Tandoori Chicken Skewers

Tests are over–and I floated about in the pool for an hour today, finishing up Mansfield Park and Range of Motion and I was, well, torn about how I felt about my latest Jane Austen read.  I’m interested to hear what you think.

I think reading Jane Austen perfectly exemplifies the dichotomy under which I live my daily life.  On one hand, I love reading a romance novel just as much, or perhaps more, than the next girl–especially if it’s well written.  I will gladly indulge in any period film involving a horse and carriage and Mother bustling around in multiple brown skirts and aprons marrying off all their gorgeous daughters to rich, sexy men to save their family’s fortune.  If it’s raining outside and I am drinking vast quantities of tea, wrapped in a blanket with my cat, all the better.  I just love that feeling.

It’s sad, I know.  I think it might be too late for me.

But at the same time, I despise the horrid and privileged men and especially the stringent, sexist, oppressive atmosphere these poor women are forced to live in.  Seriously, Mansfield Park?  Fanny Price is not able to participate in putting on a play in the privacy of her own home with her family because it is too morally corrupt?  And that she judges all the other people around her and rarely expresses any true emotion other than that which is acceptable by the society in which she was raised is supposed to make me like her?  Ugh.

And then the book ends with her marrying her one true love–perfect, except that it’s her cousin!  Her first cousin, that she was brought up alongside!  The genetics alone horrify me.

I know, I know, I have to respect the times in which it was written–and I’m not saying Jane Austen wasn’t a great writer.  I’m just…you know.  What do you think?

Anyway, on to our meal for tonight–grilled tandoori chicken kabobs.  This is one of my favorite chicken recipes I’ve had in a long time, but I do have to warn you: it’s hot!  So beware if you still actually have some of your taste buds remaining.  Feel free to get rid of the cayenne all together if you need to.

Grilled Tandoori Chicken Kabobs (adapted from Real Grilling by Jamie Purviance, serves 4) Grilled Tandoori Chicken Skewers Printable Card

  • 3 chicken breasts (about 6 oz each)
  • 1 C plain yogurt
  • 1 T each ground ginger, paprika, and vegetable oil
  • 2 t minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 t each salt and ground curry powder
  • 1 t ground turmeric
  • 1/2 t ground cayenne pepper

I halved the marinade recipe and used two small chicken breasts to make two servings.

Combine the yogurt, spices, and vegetable oil in a bowl.

Cube the chicken into roughly equal pieces, about a 1″ each.  Place the chicken in the marinade, and make sure it covers all the chicken.  Tightly wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Either soak wooden skewers for 10 minutes before using, or use metal ones.  Slide the chicken onto the skewers, placing them next to each other, but not too tightly.  Grill the skewers over direct medium heat on the grill for about 10 minutes, turning once.

We also grilled zucchini and green onions.  For the green onions, cut off the root tip and a few inches of the hollow tops on the opposite end.  Spray with olive oil or canola oil, and dust with salt and black pepper.  Grill over direct heat for about two minutes on each side–if you can finagle this, the white part should be cooked over higher heat than the green side.  If you can’t, it’s okay.  I’ll still like you.

I was a huge fan of the grilled green onion–I left most of the green tops, and they basically turned into onion chips at the skinny ends.  The whiter ends were soft and sweet.  Oh, yes.

The tandoori chicken?  Spicy, hot, tender, moist, charred–everything I love most about grilled food.  Even Fritz, who hates food that is too hot, loved it.

He actually said he wanted to eat this chicken every night for the rest of his life…but I’m not sure he really means it. 

Oh–I also got featured on a fellow blogger’s site (not a food blogger, though).  Visit Arianna Belle’s blog on Organized Interiors to check it out!

Last but not least, I’ve been playing with my new (old) lens from the garage sale–I’m in love with it and now I want to buy lots more lenses.  Uh oh.  Hello Henry!

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Hot and Spicy Nachos with a Cool Cilantro Sauce

As my test anxiety was building this week, I developed a very intense need for nachos.

A need for nachos.  Not just your average, “oh, I want nachos”, but a need for nachos.  You can’t ignore those kind of things.  When your body tells you that chips, beans, cheese, and chili powder must be in your belly in 15 minutes or you might die, you listen.

Just like when my body tells me I need to watch Christmas movies even though it’s the middle of June.  I listen and I listen well–and I’m currently watching The Family Stone.  (Please don’t judge me–times of high stress make me do weird things).

But back to the nachos.  I wanted to use up some more of my cilantro, so I decided to spice up my nachos and then cool it back down with a yogurt sauce.  Sound good?

And if you don’t like yogurt sauce, or if the smell/taste/look of cilantro makes you die a little bit inside (hi Fritz!), then you can just skip it.  Fritz enjoyed the nachos quite nicely without it.

Hot and Spicy Nachos with a Cool Cilantro Sauce

  • 8 small corn tortillas, sliced into quarters (or corn chips)
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1/4-1/2 C jalapeno slices (depending on how much you love your spice!)
  • 1/4-1/2 C Mexican cheese blend, shredded
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1/2 lemon (about 2 T lemon juice)
  • 1/4 C plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • small bunch cilantro (about 2-3 T chopped)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and arrange your corn chips.  Since I had tortillas in the freezer, I microwaved them for a few seconds, sliced ’em in quarters with a pizza roller, sprinkled with a little salt, and baked them until they were crispy, about 15 minutes.  Obviously you can skip this step if you have some chips handy.

These were vegetarian chips, so I used an entire can of refried beans, but you could easily use half or less and add some meat to make them more hearty.  Once the chips are crisp, add the beans on top.  (By the way, I’ve made refried beans from scratch before, and they didn’t quite taste as yummy as the good ol’ canned version.  Reason why?  Third ingredient on the canned kind is lard.  Yeah.  Maybe not so good.)

Sprinkle with jalapenos and cheese.  Be generous.  With both.

Sprinkle on the spices and pop in the oven for a few minutes until the beans are warmed and the cheese melted.

Meanwhile, process the yogurt, cilantro, and lemon juice (lime would probably be even better if you had it!) until smooth.  Drizzle over the top and enjoy!

We both love, love, loved this dinner treat of nachos.  I definitely would have eaten these with some spicy salsa on the side, but we didn’t have any and there was no way my tummy was allowing me to hold off on the nachos.

Experiment with the spices–if you are the hot and spicy type, some cayenne might be just the thing you need.  And if you haven’t already jumped on the smoked paprika bandwagon, now is the time.

Really.  That stuff is good.

In other good and exciting news, we got our fourth CSA box yesterday!  Check out the goods for this week:

I’ve had a lot of variety in my green monsters lately–using kale, chard, and beet greens instead of only plain ol’ spinach.  For those new readers, I am a first-time CSA user from Golden Earthworm Organic Farm on Long Island–read more about their CSA program here.

Plan for tomorrow–up early for the gym, then a doctor’s appointment and spending a large majority of the day reading (for pleasure!) and definitely baking!  I feel like I haven’t baked anything in ages and I absolutely miss having it around. 

Have a great night!

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Sweet Potato Curry

My youngest sister (the baby!) got her permit today!

She can drive–supervised–but my little baby J can drive!

Also, she got a 100 on the test.

I’m so proud of my Bleach-obsessed-black-lipstick-wearing-Smallville-watching-Asian-food-gourmet-chef-tiger-tee-shirt-artistic-hand-massage-fiending-driving-big-hearted-little-sister.

I can also tell you that Henry is proud.  That cat is obsessed with that girl.  But I digress! 

On a food blog related note, I made a sweet potato curry as a starchy side dish for dinner the other night.  I always make at least three times what we can eat in one sitting, so that we can pack warm, hearty food for our lunches the next day.  Something about a hot meal is so much more satisfying than a sandwich during a long day of classes–and this is coming from a girl who loves herself some PB&J.

 

This curry has a subtle underlying heat from the vindaloo paste that isn’t even noticeable at first, but incredibly appreciable once you detect it.

Sweet Potato Curry (adapted from 100 Best Health Foods)

  • 1 t canola oil
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3-4 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 C chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 C lentils
  • 1 T curry paste–maybe less if you are using vindaloo because it is HOT!  Use a mild curry paste if you want a little less heat!

Boil the white potatoes in a saucepan until tender.  Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the canola oil over medium heat until translucent.  Add the sweet potato and cook for about five minutes, when the sweet potatoes are beginning to soften.

Add the potatoes, curry paste, lentils and broth to the sweet potato mixture.  Cover and cook until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I loved how the sweetness of the sweet potatoes really came through.  If I had some ginger at the time, I would have added that in there too–mmm.  Hearty and healthy.

Tomorrow is destined to be a great day because I have the morning and the evening off from my normal routines–so much free time!  And I deep cleaned the house today when one of my classes was canceled, and there are two bananas rapidly browning (I think we are well past the “freckled” stage) just begging to be baked into something delicious.  So yeah, that’ll be a good day.

I’ll leave you with a photo shoot Henry and I had today.  He was snuggled right up to those speakers and apparently in love with the motivational cleaning music that was playing.

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Sweet and Spicy Fish (Vietnamese)

Happy weekend!

Fritz and I were running around all morning (we went to the gym, the library, donated blood like good, caring citizens, and then headed to the mall for some returns) and we got completely and totally exhausted.  It was probably due to the missing pints of blood, but at 3:00 we got home and just collapsed onto the couch.  It was definitely a movie moment, so we watched Bourne Identity  until I had mustered up enough strength to make dinner and force Fritz into his study mode. 

It had been a while since I’ve been that tired.  How do all those 14 year olds stay at the mall all day long?  When did I turn 79?

The food definitely revived us, so on a second wind I decided to blog the second half of our Valentine’s Dinner.  This fish worried us a lot as it was cooking (let me tell you–Thai fish sauce does not smell good.  Like Henry’s morning breath), but as the sauce thickened and the flavors developed, we were won over by the perfect sweet and salty balance.

Vietnamese Sweet and Spicy Fish (adapted from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet)

  • 1/2 lb fish (we used tilapia–in traditional Vietnamese recipes ca bac is used)
  • 1/2 t white pepper
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1/4 C warm water
  • 2 T Thai fish sauce
  • 2 t vegetable oil
  • 1 T finely minced lemongrass
  • 2 scallions, minced

Dry the fish and sprinkle with the pepper, and set aside. 

While you’re at it, soak some rice noodles in warm water (they need about 20 minutes), so you can serve the fish over ’em.

  Place a heavy skillet over high heat.  When it’s hot, add the oil and coat the pan by swirling.  Toss in the lemongrass (we only managed to find a tube of pre-minced lemongrass paste, but it worked fine!), and immediately place the fish in the pan and sear for a few seconds, then flip and repeat on the other side.  Add the water, sugar, and fish sauce and bring to a rapid boil, then reduce the heat to medium and add the scallions.

This is the part where you might be nervous.  Some boring fish fillets floating in a watery yet incredibly stinky sauce.  But don’t give up now!  As the fish continues to cook and the sauce thickens, turn the heat down to prevent burning.  Soon the sauce will be a thick, brown, bubbly, fragrant syrup–exactly what you want! 

And if you dare–taste it.

So good!  You won’t believe what your taste buds are tellin’ you.

When the sauce is almost-but-not-quite fully cooked down, drain the rice noodles and toss them in a hot skillet with a touch of canola oil for a minute or two.  They cook fast, so be ready!  We also microwaved a steam-fresh pouch of frozen asian-inspired veggies to go along with this and the spring rolls.

Serve immediately over the hot noodles, and spoon some of the extra sauce over the top.

You may need to physically restrain your dinner guests as this point (and your cat should definitely be locked in another room).

Fritz and I were so relieved that this turned out well, since it was supposed to be a romantic dinner that we weren’t too sure about once we opened that fish sauce bottle.  It just goes to show that you can’t judge a food by its inital stench.

Actually, you probably can for the most part. 

This might just be the exception!

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Sassy and Spicy Hummus

I realized a few days ago that I have had tahini and a can of chickpeas in my cupboard for roughly two months and I have no idea what took me so long
to figure out that I can make hummus with those ingredients!  ‘Specially with another little friend I have hanging around just waiting to be incorporated in a recipe.
 

Remember these guys?

 

from a friend of my father's

Well, until a few days ago they looked like this:

 

But now they look like this:

So those bland chickpeas and tahini from the cupboard?–taken up about 30 notches into the sassiest and spiciest hummus you could desire.

Sassy and Spicy Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas (or dried, rehydrated and cooked)
  • 1/4 C tahini
  • 1/8 C water
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 t freshly ground cumin
  • 1 t hot red pepper flakes

 

This is quick and easy: put all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.  Then eat it!

 

I like to eat hummus with carrots and other veggies instead of pita or chips because I don’t get enough vegetables in the day and I definitely get enough processed carbs.  I can’t even keep chips in the house because I love them so much that I will eat an entire bag during a half-hour sitcom.  Yeah, so I stick with the baby carrots.

I made some treats today that I’ll post about tomorrow.  Until then!

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