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Heat It Up with Chiles

Food Fitness to Nourish Your Body

Chiles, the fiery members of the pepper family, give a cutting edge to barbecue sauces and marinades. Here is a scorecard to help you know the players.

Hot chili peppers

Note of Caution

Wear rubber gloves when handling chiles because the oil can linger on your skin even after washing. The hottest parts of the chiles are the seeds and veins. Cut chiles in half, and scrape out the seeds and veins with a paring knife or grapefruit spoon. Leave in the seeds and veins only if you want the added heat.

A small (2-inches long) fiery, red chile native to the Gulf of Mexico and now widely grown throughout Africa, India and Asia. Cayenne is very hot, but its flavor is fairly one-dimensional. It is most often used in powdered form.

Chile de Arbol
A long (3 to 4-inches) slender, red chile from Mexico. It's dried and moderately fiery; it is used in the charred tomato salsas that accompany grilled beef in northern Mexico.

These smoked jalapeno chiles are from Mexico. They are available dried or canned. The canned are packed in a flavorful vinegar sauce called adobo.


This is Mexico's version of the Scotch bonnet chile. It is smooth, acorn-shaped and red, green or yellow in color. It takes ist name from the Spanish word for Havana.

This bullet-shaped green or red pepper with gentle heat and grassy flavor is widely available.

Scotch Bonnet
It is shaped like a Chinese lantern and 50 times hotter than a jalapeno, but behind the heat, there is a smoky, fruity flavor that may remind you of apricots. It is sold at West Indian markets, specialty produce stores and some supermarkets. You can substitute habaneros if you cannot find Scotch bonnets.

This is a thin, tapered, bright-green chile that is smaller and slightly hotter than a jalapeno. The two can be used interchangeably.

Two pepper are sold under the name Thai chile. The prik kee noo is a tiny, ridged, mercilessly hot version whose name in Thai means "mouse dropping". The prik kee far is a slender, horn-shaped, green chile that is very hot but milder than the prik kee noo. Look for Thai chiles at Asian and Indian markets, or substitute milder serrano or jalapeno chiles.

Did you know?

The spicy jalapeno can increase metabolism. In fact, many naturally spicy foods tout similar properties.

Habanero pepper food fact

Yemenite Chile Sauce

This is Israel's national barbecue sauce -- a diabolical blend of chiles, garlic and cumin with just enough tomato and olive oil to keep you from setting your tongue on fire. Serve this sauce with grilled fish, chicken or beef or lamb shish kabobs, and have plenty of drinks on hand to extinguish the fire.

2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 to 6 jalapeno chiles, seeded, coarsely chopped*
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 /2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 /3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor; blend to form smooth sauce.

Tip: *For hotter sauce, do not remove seeds. Recipe makes two cups.

Nutritional information per two-tablespoon serving:
Calories: 45
Total Fat: 4.5g
Saturated Fat: 0.5g
Protein: 0.5g
Carbohydrate: 1.5g
Cholesterol: 0
Sodium: 150mg
Fiber: 0.5g

Printable copy of this recipe!

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