Breaking Out of the Food Rut

"Round of Hungary with a Padron backdrop" (River Farm's FB page)

A few years ago, a friend of mine hosted a high school exchange student from Mexico, and things have never been the same. Not only because the gal was older than my friend's daughters and provided a (sometimes alarming) preview of the teen years, but because she introduced them to jalapenos, and apparently once you've been with jalapenos, baby, you never go back.

Nowadays, if you open my friend's refrigerator, there's always a jar of sliced jalapenos, to be thrown in quesadillas, scrambled into eggs, tossed on a bland pizza. If that doesn't jazz it up enough, they add their student's favorite hot sauce.

I have to tell you--my own family's tolerance for spicy foods is pretty low. My husband's eyes water; my son complains like there's a blazing inferno if a red pepper flake crosses his tongue. So whenever we eat jalapenos (mostly in last week's pico de gallo), there are no seeds involved. And we gravitate toward the larger, milder peppers. Poblanos for chile relleno? Check. Anaheims or Guernicas for a salsa verde? Sure. And, of course, bell peppers for salads and shish kebabs and roasted for all purposes.

Another great pic from River Farm

Expand your food horizons and check out the selection at River Farms or Alvarez. I found this pepper primer with pictures to help you distinguish all those capiscum family members from each other. This Thursday we even hope to host chef and author Greta Hardin, who would be glad to answer pepper (and other) questions because she's actually written a cookbook called Cooking Your Local Produce (Ward Street Press).

Hardin hails from Seattle, so when she says "local," she means local to us! She'll have cookbooks for purchase and signing as well, if you want to take her knowledge and recipes home with you.

'Tis also the season for that other Mexican-cooking standby, the tomatillo.

Spotted at Alm Hill

As a compulsive reader, I found myself reading the sides of my tortilla chip bag one lunchtime, and they included a recipe for a salsa verde for which I think you can find everything at the Market:

Que Pasa's Salsa Verde

15 fresh tomatillos
2-3 fresh jalapeno or serrano chillies
1/2 small white onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup water
6-8 sprigs cilantro
1/2 tsp salt

Remove husks and wash tomatillos.
De-stem and was chillies. Slice onion into julienne strips and set aside with tomatillos and chillies. On a dry skillet, toast tomatillos, chillies, onions, and garlic until slightly brown. Occasional spraying of water on the skillet will prevent sticking. Tomatillos should feel soft and slightly blistered.
Add ingredients and 1/3 cup water into a food processor or blender and puree.
Add fresh cilantro and salt and blend once more until ingredients are well mixed.

Mmm! Then serve it with chips or whip up some enchiladas verdes, and you're in business.

These would be dessert

So lose your if-it's-Saturday-it-must-be-spaghetti mindset and try some of our height-of-the season peppers this week! You might find your life will never be the same.