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Cooking with Chili Peppers

With their dynamic personalities, chili peppers deliver heat in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, tastes, aromas, and potency. Universally popular, they're enjoyed for their ability to perk up virtually any dish.

Chilies play an integral role in many recipes, especially certain ethnic dishes. In Mexican cooking, for example, chilies are pretty much a necessity. While known for their spicy heat, chilies can also add mild and subtle flavor to dishes, depending upon the variety chosen. With chilies, possibilities are only limited by your creativity.

If you’re not able to get fresh chilies or aren’t quite sure which ones to use, you can always reach for a chili powder blend. Blends combine the kick of chili pepper with other spices like cumin, oregano, coriander, garlic, allspice, and cloves.

When cooking, keep in mind that the smallest peppers are generally the hottest and that the seeds and stems (the hottest parts of the peppers) are usually removed during preparation. Always wear rubber gloves when handling chilies, as the capsaicin oils that give them their heat can actually burn your skin (or your eyes, when you touch them with your hands).

Poblano Chili Peppers

Most familiar as the variety of pepper used in the popular dish Chile relleno, the poblano originates in the state of Puebla, Mexico. When dried it's called an ancho chile. Even though poblanos are known for their mild flavor, every now and then a poblano can pack some punch.

Red or Green Chilies?

So which is hotter, the red or the green chilies? Well, it depends. Green is usually considered a bit hotter, while red is milder but more pungent. Green chilies are more likely than red to vary in their heat content.

One thing doesn’t vary, however. Green chilies have a higher level of vitamin C than red. A chili pepper can contain up to six times as much vitamin C as an orange, but the vitamin content decreases with cooking and in dried chili powder. Chilies are also high in levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and the B vitamins.

Back to red or green, and which you should choose. If you truly can’t make up your mind, and you’re out enjoying a meal in a Mexican restaurant, try using the term “Christmas” — this will let your server know you want both! 

Recipe: Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Ingredients
3 poblano chili peppers (or the pulp of ancho or pasilla chili peppers, no need to roast)
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock or low-sodium beef stock
12 ounces tomato paste
1 package Simply Organic Mild Chili Mix

Directions
Preheat broiler on low.
Place chili peppers on lightly greased cookie sheet and roast until tender, about 15 minutes, turning once midway through. Remove peppers and let cool.
Scrape pulp and place in blender or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and pureé until smooth. Pour on enchiladas or other appropriate dish, cook and serve.

Chef Suggestions
This recipe will cover 6 to 8 enchiladas or approximately a 2-quart casserole dish.
Serve with Mexican rice and beans. Great with beef, chicken, or cheese-filled dishes.

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