Tag Archives: asparagus salad

Commonality

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If Jeff Bezos can use the word “complexifier,” can I use the word “commonality?”  Can Andy in Andy’s Corner talk about the lack of commonality in our memories?

Harking back to my teaching days, I have a foodie test question for you:  What commonality do carrots, beets, asparagus, and chiles share?

Ahhhh, I just know you’d get it right – especially if you weren’t overthinking and looking for a real scientific-based explanation.  My answer?  They all can make your body react in a strange way.

Actually, the scientific explanations are worth a read.  It’s all about Capsaicins, CarotenoidsAsparagusic acid, and Betalains.  Don’t you love the “asparagusic acid” label?  Even I could have thought up that one.  You can find out even more from this L.A. Times article.

Since basically you don’t really need to worry about the impact carrots, beets, and asparagus have on your body (as long as you don’t ridiculously overdo carrot-eating or have a heart attack that moment in the bathroom when you forgot you just ate beets), I want to talk a little about chiles.  Or about the time we were visiting our son, Travis, who was living in the Pilsen district of Chicago – and we visited the fabulous Mexican/Black/Jewish farmers’ market, Maxwell Street.  And I rubbed my eyes after eating tacos served with some some fresh chiles.  And about the misery I experienced for the remainder of our Chicago trip.

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We were at Chicago’s Maxwell Street Market – but don’t know whether Rubi’s existed then.  Apparently their tacos are amazing.  Just watch out for chiles!

What’s an eater/cook to do to help herself when touched by the evil capsaicin? It’s all about milk.  Definitely not water.  Of course, washing your hands over and over with soap and water after handling chiles is a given.  But if you forgot and your eyes are stinging, a paper towel soaked in a little milk and gently rubbed around your eye might help.  If your mouth is on fire, try drinking a little milk.  Again, not water.  Leave it to the American Chemical Society to provide a fun little essay on the topic of capsaicin.

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When we helped our daughter, Sara, with the Tacolicious cookbook, we had lots of discussions about how to prepare chiles for recipes.  Do you remove the seeds?  Yes, most definitely, unless you like unbearably hot.  Do you remove the membrane too?  Ahhh, there’s the rub (but don’t rub your eyes! :).  According to various reports (here’s one), we have been misled when we believe all the spice is in the seeds.  In fact, much of the heat is in the membrane, which, consequently, should definitely also be removed.

And one last note.  The heat of fresh chiles is incredibly and disturbingly inconsistent.  Whenever you’re using them in a recipe start with a little, then taste, and then add more  – gradually.  Don’t ruin an entire dish by dumping in the recipe’s given amount, when the recipe may call for far too much, given the heat of that specific pepper.

We’ve previously posted some great recipes making good use of these four body-changing ingredients.   And we’ve got several more recipes to add to the mix.  Since spring has sprung and asparagus is just hitting the markets, we suggest you roast a bunch or two (we’ve posted the recipe – so easy and so delicious) and then use the leftovers in a simple salad – recipe provided below – from Madhur Jaffrey, who is 85-years-young and just got written up in the NYTimes because she did a rap on YouTube.  I want to be her.

And as for chiles, we’ve got another winner – this time from the Chef-of-the-Moment, Samin Nosrat.  The recipe follows these “favs:”

 

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Lovely little piece of art by Melinda Hall of Santa Fe.  Helps remind us that Anchos are simply dried Poblanos.

Nosrat maintains this is the most versatile recipe in her very popular cookbook SaltFatAcidHeat. Continue reading

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