Hell Hath No Fury Like a Red Hot Pepper

by Maile on August 11, 2010

The tomato influx from our garden is starting to subside now. I’m a little sad about it, to be honest. When the zucchini plants dried up, I have to admit that I did say a quiet prayer of thanksgiving; I can only eat so much zucchini in all its various forms before I start to tire of it. Not so with tomatoes. There are just so many options: spaghetti sauce, hot sauce, tomato soup, blt’s (if I’m not feeling too guilty about pork on that particular day), tomato and herb cream cheese sandwiches… I think I could go on indefinitely.

But my favorite thing to do with tomatoes this summer is to cook up a nice big batch of salsa. My intentions have been good. Every time I make a batch, I imagine that I will set back at least ½ of the amount to freeze for the winter. I’ve made about 5 batches by this point, and I’ve only set back a single one-cup container in my freezer so far; we’ve become serious salsa addicts around here (I’m starting to think we have very addictive personalities, my husband and I).

This salsa can be as hot or as mild as you choose. We love hot food in our family so I tend to throw in at least 4 or 5 thai chilies just to amp it up a bit. If you decide to go that route, please, please, please be careful as you are chopping and handling the hot peppers. I am currently typing with severely burned fingertips because I chose to ignore my good sense when chopping up some peppers for a curry I was making tonight. For your enjoyment, I’ve typed out the inner dialogue that took place about this topic (G.S.= Good Sense):

G.S – “With all this handling of hot peppers, you should probably put some gloves on”.
Me – “That is so stupid. It’s not like I’m an amateur here.”
G.S. – “I’m not saying you’re an amateur, I’m just saying that there are always those warnings when recipes call for hot peppers and I don’t think they put them there for no reason.”
Me – “When you show me a picture of Jamie Oliver sporting big rubber yellow gloves to chop up a few chilies, then I’ll think about wearing them. But until that time, shut it.”

Well, Jamie Oliver must have hands of iron or keep pictures of his gloved hands under lock and key, because, wow, it really hurts. Granted, I’ve chopped plenty of small peppers in my day without donning plastic mittens, but the ones I was cutting today were some big boys and I think they had a debt to settle with me. Ouch.

Mai Stovetop Salsa

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
5 (or more) red thai chilies, chopped (Leave this ingredient out if you don’t want the heat. Or if you’re really feeling brave, add a habenero in there. That’ll really light you up.)
3 banana or Hungarian wax peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
10 ripe medium-sized tomatoes, seeded and cut in 8ths
1 ½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
¾ tsp. sea salt (You can use regular salt, too. Sea salt just makes me feel sophisticated.)
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 lime

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add onions, garlic, and both kinds of peppers. Saute for 2 or 3 minutes, just to soften them up. Add the tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Cook over medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes or until all the veggies and tomatoes are really soft and mushy. Let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes or so before putting in the food processor and pureeing to your desired consistency. Add juice from 1 lime and cilantro, and serve.

Now I must go coddle my poor little throbbing, aching fingers. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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