Vol.1, No.9

Jalapeno hot chili pepper taste, cooking, recipes and preparation

Jalapeno peppers are popular, versatile, and very, very, tasty.

Jalapeno hot chilis
The jalapeno is America's favorite chile pepper. Surely you've encountered one somewhere - perhaps as a little green ring on your pile of nachos, or perhaps cheese-stuffed, battered, and fried as a popper. But have you ever tried the flavor of a raw jalapeno? This is a favorite way for them to be eaten in Mexico where most of these peppers are grown. The first thing you will feel is a rush of heat! This comes from the capsaicin, a flavorless, odorless chemical found in all chile peppers (And only in chile peppers). The capsaicin is located primarily in the pepper's seeds and in the membrane found in the top portion of the pepper right below the stem. These parts are often removed when jalapenos are being prepared for cooking, but if you like the heat, by all means leave them in your peppers.

What other ways are there to eat jalapenos besides in their natural (raw) state? Well, perhaps the most popular form of jalapeno, familiar to all, is the pickled pepper. These are jalapenos that have been soaked in a vinegar and salt brine, and are tangy as well as hot. These pickled peppers are often sold in slices (sometimes called "nacho slices" or "nacho rings") as well as whole.

Another way jalapenos are often preserved is to dry them - that way they can later be reconstituted in water or can be ground to make jalapeno chile powder. Dried jalapenos can be toasted, and fresh ones can be roasted in a similar fashion to that used with New Mexican green chiles. If you like a smoky flavor, though, you will surely want to try the chipotle, which is actually a smoked jalapeno. Chipotles, as well as non-smoked jalapenos, have been used to make a wide variety of tasty hot sauces available at a grocer or specialty store near you (unless you live way out in the boonies, in which case you may have to shop online to have access to some of the best ones).

Although you have probably experienced the jalapeno in some type of main dish or appetizer (the above-mentioned nachos or poppers, or perhaps in a bowl of chili, or garnishing a Vietnamese pho or a Thai dish - jalapenos aren't just for Mexican food), did you know that they also go very well with desserts? It's true - the pepper itself has a sweet flavor that adds an extra-special kick and tastes particularly good when combined with chocolate. I have been making chocolate-jalapeno desserts for years, and for the adventurous cook I'd like to share this recipe:

Jalapeno Brownies

4 oz. (4 squares) unsweetened baking chocolate

2/3 c. shortening

1 1/3 c. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

4 eggs

2 c. granulated sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

½ c. finely chopped fresh jalapenos

1 c. chopped toasted walnuts

Melt chocolate with shortening in a microwave or over a double boiler. Mix flour with baking powder and salt. Beat eggs well; then gradually beat in the sugar. Blend in the chocolate mixture and vanilla. Add flour mixture and blend well, stir in jalapenos and nuts. Spread in a greased 9"x13" pan. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 25-30 minutes.

If jalapeno desserts do not appeal, though, perhaps you'd prefer:

Cinco de Mayo Pasta Sauce

¼ c. minced Jalapenos

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/4 c. olive oil

2 c. diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 c. corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro

3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/2 c. sliced green onions

Sour cream or plain yogurt (optional)

Sautee garlic and jalapenos briefly in oil (until softened but not brown), add tomatoes, and simmer for 2 hours. Add corn kernels; simmer for 1/2hour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Before serving, add cilantro and lime juice. Serve sauce over pasta, sprinkle with chopped green onions. Garnish with sour cream or plain yogurt if desired.