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Put a Little Spice in Your Life!

Put a Little Spice in Your Life!

Poblano, Jalapeno, Chipotle, Serrano, Habanero. What comes to mind when you see those words? Most likely, spice, particularly Mexican spice. These wonderful varieties of chili peppers are key ingredients in the unforgettable Mexican foods we love. They are also just a few of the chili peppers available to tempt (and awaken) your taste buds. There are dozens of types of chili peppers with varying degrees of heat and many delicious uses.

Chili peppers originated in South America and were grown and consumed as far back as 5000 BC. When Christopher Columbus tasted them for the first time, he mistakenly called them “peppers” (pimientos in Spanish) because he thought they reminded him of what he was really looking for on his journey, black pepper (pimienta). The name stuck, even though in Mexico they are always called chiles, and not peppers. In English, we have managed to combine both words (with a slight spelling adjustment) and call them chili peppers.

When the Spanish conquered Mexico, they took careful note of nearly every aspect of indigenous culture. Among the food customs, they noticed that Aztec and Mayan culture used chiles to flavor their food, as well as to cure illness and fumigate their houses. They saw that the chili pepper could be eaten fresh or dried and ground up into powder, and they were in awe of its transformational effects on food.

With the help of the Portuguese explorers during the Age of Discovery, chili peppers made their way to Africa and Asia and eventually to the rest of the world, with each country putting their own spin on this versatile fruit. Yes, that’s right. Chili peppers are considered fruit because they are seed-bearing structures that develop from the ovary of a flowering plant.

In addition to making dishes taste great, chili peppers have also been found to have health benefits. They can act as an appetite suppressant that helps with food cravings. They can lower blood pressure and even stop liver damage, among other things. If your palate can take the heat, it seems that there is really no downside to consuming chili peppers. A classic Mexican dish with the chili pepper as its star is Chiles Rellenos. The recipe below can help start your journey into the wonderful world of chili peppers. It’s never too late to start putting a little spice in your life!


4 pasilla chiles

1 lb queso fresco

3 eggs

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

1 cup oil


4 medium Roma tomatoes, halved

1 cup water

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon chicken broth powder

1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves

Heat grill to medium.

Grill and char the chiles on both sides. Once blackened put in a plastic bag for 10 minutes to sweat out any moisture. Remove from the bag, slit them down the middle and remove the seeds. Stuff the peppers with the queso fresco and use toothpicks to hold them together.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Add the egg whites to a large bowl. Reserve the egg yolks. Beat the egg whites with an electric beater until the whites fluff up. Add in the flour and the egg yolks and mix until completely incorporated.

Add the oil to a frying pan over medium heat. Dip the stuffed peppers into the batter and fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove from the oil to a serving platter.

Add the tomatoes and water to a small pot over medium heat. Simmer the tomatoes until soft and stir in the garlic and chicken broth powder.

Add the 1/4 cup of oil to a frying pan, over low heat, and stir in the flour to make a roux mixture. Cook the flour until browned, then add the tomato sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes and then add the oregano.

Pour the tomato sauce over the cooked chiles rellenos on the serving platter and serve.

If desired, serve with rice and beans.