Cooking with Peppers

4 pepper recipes sure to spice up an ordinary meal.

Malaysian Sambal Chicken

  • 4 dried Thai (bird) chilies 
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1 slice of peeled fresh ginger 
  • 1 ½ inch piece of lemongrass, white part only 
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 4 chicken breasts, halved crosswise 
  • 1 medium onion, diced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 3 plum tomatoes, diced 
  • ½ tsp. turmeric 
  • 1 cup coconut milk 
  • ½ tsp. cardamom 
  • 13 cup fresh cilantro, minced 
  • Salt to taste 

Remove stems from the peppers. Place in a small bowl with water to cover; soak for a half hour. Drain the chilies, reserving one teaspoon of the soaking water. Place reserved water, chilies, salt, ginger and lemongrass in a food processor. Pulse to grind. In a heavy, well-seasoned (or nonstick) skillet, heat two tablespoons of oil over high heat. Working in batches, sear the chicken pieces on each side and remove to a platter. 

Add remaining oil and the chili mixture. Sauté, stirring constantly, for one to two minutes. Add onion, garlic and tomatoes to the skillet. Continue cooking and stirring for three minutes. 

Reduce the heat to medium. Add turmeric and coconut milk. Stir well. Return chicken to the skillet. Add cardamom and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Add cilantro and salt to taste. Serve over steamed rice. 

Makes 4 servings

Minorcan Clam Chowder

  • 3 oz. slab bacon, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
  • 1 rib of celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 datil peppers, minced
  • 1 28-oz. can of crushed plum tomatoes
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 5 cups clam juice
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme 
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ cups minced clams
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy soup pot, fry the diced bacon over a medium-high heat. When the bacon bits have browned, remove them from the pot and reserve. Add the onions, green peppers, celery, garlic and datil peppers to the bacon fat. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, clam juice and bay leaves. 

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes. Add more clam juice or water if needed. Add thyme, cayenne pepper, potatoes and clams. Simmer for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and let stand a few minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Southern Pimento Cheese

  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. chopped green onion
  • 18 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 8 oz. extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar cheese, finely grated
  • 8 oz. sharp yellow cheddar cheese, finely grated 
  • 4-oz. jar pimentos, drained and finely diced 
  • Hot sauce to taste 

Place cream cheese, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, green onion and cayenne in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Add extra-sharp and sharp cheese and pulse a few times, just until the shredded cheese and mayonnaise mixture is well blended. The mixture should not be completely smooth. 

Scrape the cheese mixture into a bowl and stir in the diced pimentos. Add hot sauce to taste, cover and chill for a few hours to allow flavors to blend. 

Makes about 3 cups

Poppin' Piperade

  • 3 TBSP olive oil 
  • 13 cup diced Bayonne ham, prosciutto or country ham 
  • 1 large sweet onion, trimmed and cut into strips 
  • 6 plum tomatoes, peeled 
  • 1 sprig of thyme 
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cored and cut into strips 
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, cored and cut into strips 
  • 2 fresh jalapeño or serrano peppers, chopped 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika 
  • 1 tsp. sugar 
  • Salt to taste

Place one tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the ham pieces to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until ham is browned, about five minutes. Remove ham to a plate and reserve. 

Add remaining oil to the skillet along with onion strips and garlic. Sauté for three minutes, or until onion begins to become translucent. Add all peppers to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. While the peppers cook, cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and spoon out the seeds. Cut tomato halves into strips. Add tomato strips, thyme, paprika and sugar to the skillet. Stir well and reduce the heat to medium. Return the ham to the skillet. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. 

Remove cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens, about five minutes. Remove thyme sprig. Add salt to taste.

Serve as a sauce for omelets, or as a bed for roasted pork tenderloin, grilled meats and poultry, or seared fish. 

Makes about 4 cups. 

Note: Classic piperade would omit the hot peppers and the sweet paprika. In their place would be 1 to 2 teaspoons of Piment d’Espelette, a ground pepper made from a small, semi-hot chili grown in the Basque region of France. Like French wines, Piment d’Espelette is an appellation-controlled product. Buy it online or at specialty shops, or substitute hot paprika or a mix of paprika and cayenne pepper.


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Categories: Food & Entertaining