featured ingredients

Peppers

I’m pretty new to the pepper. I mean, I’ve used them in many dishes without really knowing the mystery that is the pepper. Like, what makes a pepper hot. Well, it’s the Capsaicin. An oil housed within the pepper, which dictates how hot a pepper is. Capsaicinoids are found primarily in the pepper’s placenta—the white “ribs” that run down the middle and along the sides of a pepper. Since the seeds are in such close contact with the ribs, they are also often hot. In the rest of the pepper, capsaicinoids are unevenly distributed throughout the flesh, so it is likely that one part of the same pepper may be hotter or milder than another. Removing the ribs and seeds can cut down on the intensity.



Capsaicinoid content is measured in parts per million as Scoville, the industry standard for measuring a pepper’s heat intensity. One part per million is equivalent to 15 Scoville units. Bell peppers have a value of zero Scoville units, whereas habaneros register 200,000 to 300,000. Pure capsaicin has a Scoville heat unit score of 16 million.



Peppers do supply heat. but they also supply great flavor. I like my food hot. But, at the same time, I don’t want something hot just for the sake of being hot. I’ve had hot sauces that’ll burn your face off, which is a nice challenge. But, if there’s no flavor to it, then I want no part of it. Bell peppers are a key component in the Holy trinity, a Cajun and Creole tradition of mixing bell peppers, onions and celery as a base to several dishes.



According to recent studies, there is very little evidence to support that peppers attribute to ulcers. In areas where peppers are used extensively in the local cuisine, like Brazil and Thailand, there are no higher incidences of stomach ulcers among their population.
So, there’s no need to really worry about your health when eating a pepper. In fact, Capsaicin has been found to work as an anticoagulant, thus possibly helping prevent heart attacks or strokes caused by blood clot. They’re high in vitamin C. And, by weight, green bell peppers have twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruit. Some hot peppers can contain 357 percent more than an orange.



To counter a peppers bite, the falsely intuitive remedy is ice water. Unfortunately, capsaicin is an oil and water only aids in intensifying a pepper’s bite by distributing it to more parts of the mouth. More useful solutions include drinking milk, which has an enzyme that binds with the capsaicin and helps wash it away, or eating rice or bread, which absorb the capsaicin.

Dill

Dill is one of those herbs that in effect has two different seasons. In early spring it is used for its leaves and then later in fall for its seeds. Each part of the plant has its own characteristics and properties. With its crisp grassy taste, dill leaves, or “dill weed” as it is called, is a natural to be paired with fish, mild cheeses, egg dishes, vegetable dishes, cream sauces, and it is especially good on potatoes. Cucumbers are another food that partners well with dill, either in salads, chilled soups or on tea sandwiches. Dill has a simple, clean taste. When using dill leaves, it is best to use it fresh rather than dried to get the most flavor. If using dill in a hot dish such as a stew or a sauce, be sure to add it just before serving, as it loses its flavor in the heat.

I've been a fan of cooking for as long as I can remember. However, it wasn't until a little more than a year ago that I realized just how much. I started just whipping things up in the kitchen and discovered that I was actually pretty good at it. Since then, I've been finding recipes and modifying them with my own added flair. I like to mix flavors that wouldn't seem to go together, with sometimes suprising results.

Penzey's: A Chef's Best Friend

There's nothing like using high quality ingredients when cooking. But, no matter the quality, without herbs and spices, your food is bound to come out a little bland. Even just a simple addition of salt and pepper can help to enhance your dish. Well, there's a place that will help to add ammunition to your flavor arsenal. This place is called Penzey's. With a little over 40 locations, I'm lucky enough to have one here in Richmond.

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recipes

Swiller Lite Fish Tacos with Lime Cucumber Slaw and Dill Mozzarella Tomato Salsa

Unfortunately, the picture doesn’t do this justice. But, if friggin awesome was a taste, this would be it. Beer-battered fish taco’s with a fresh lime cucumber cilantro slaw with a tomato dill mozerella salsa… and onion rings. I finally found a use for Swiller Lite. Definitely going to do this again. To date, it was probably the most complex meal I’ve created… without bacon. Might have to Photoshop the color back into this though.

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