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The rustic cuisines of New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas are transformed from simple to sublime by red and green chiles. Brought from Mexico by Spanish settlers in the sixteenth century, the peppers have flourished ever since in the harsh desert climate.

The terms chile, chile pepper, and hot pepper are all synonymous, and refer to fruits of plants in the same genus, Capsicum. Culinarily speaking, sweet, mild peppers – bell peppers and pimientos, for instance – are usually called “peppers,” while hot ones such as habanero or jalapeno are usually referred to as “chiles.” The latter’s heat comes from a substance called capsaicin, and the amount of capsaicin a chile contains is measured in Scoville heat units. A bell pepper, for example, has a Scoville rating of almost zero, while a Scotch Bonnet can clock in at a blistering 300,000. But even within one variety, a chile’s heat can swing from mild to medium or from hot to very hot, as determined by the weather, soil, and other growing conditions.

Depending on the variety of chile used, and whether it is fresh or dried, its heat will be balanced by and alluring back note of flavor – sweetness, for instance, or smokiness. Fresh green jalapenos give the hominy stew called posole and uncomplicated spiciness, but when paired with dried ancho and guajillo chiles in a bowl of “Texas red,” the end result is more mellow and fruity. You will discover that both types of heat are equally habit-forming 🙂

Hot Cheesy Corn Dip… Corn has never tasted better because it’s baked with two kinds of cheese. This easy dip literally takes five minutes to stir together. It’s a great for parties, football, and tailgating. People can’t resist this creamy, cheesy dip with great texture from the juicy corn kernels. The chiles add an incredibly mild heat, but it’s flavor rather than heat since it’s faint. Spice it up with a shake of chili powder or cayenne if you want to truly put the hot in hot corn dip. Gooey cheese on crunchy chips with a refreshing drink to wash it all down with is perfect comfort food.

“The country of Mexico has just gotten its first Taco Bell. You’re welcome. Finally, Mexicans will have access to… Mexican food. Bon appetit. I can’t imagine how confused they will be when they get a taco.”
~ Jon Stewart

Maple Bundt Cake Photo