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California (Red) Chile

In keeping with the theme from last week, which was about tacos and all the yummy spices that go into making tacos so unforgettably good, I decided to highlight one of the ingredients that creates heat in food. Im talking about flavor heat from chiles.

Chiles are available in many varieties, from an array of vibrant colors, sizes, to range of pungency heat. Colors vary from light green to dark green, red to dark-purplish brown, and yellow to bright orange, and grow as small as ╝ of an inch to as long as 12 inches. Chiles also come in a number offorms: fresh, pickled, smoked, dried, roasted, and ground.

One chile that I enjoy cooking with is the California variety, also known as Anaheim chiles, New Mexico chiles, Green Chiles or Chilacas. The California pod is milder in heat, and has a darker, deeper red than its cousin, the New Mexico chile, which is a brighter red. California chiles are sold fresh, dried, canned or roasted. They grow about 5 to 6 inches long and when ripen, turn from green to a yellowish-orange to red. When the pods are dry they turn a purplish-brown color and that is when these peppers are called California chile, and also referred to as chile colorado (red chile) with "heat" typically ranging from 500 to 2,500 on the Scoville scale.

The history of the California chile is quite interesting in that it was not until about 100 years ago, in New Mexico that Dr. Fabian Garcia wanted to grow a larger, meatier and milder pepper pod than what was already available in New Mexican varieties. Then along came a farmer named Emilio Ortega who bought these seeds and brought them when he moved from New Mexico to Anaheim, California and the rest is history. You can still see the Ortega label on canned chile products at many supermarkets and grocery stores.

The Anaheim chile starts out green with a slightly hotter heat and is mostly used for making rellenos, mainly because they are large enough to stuff. When the Anaheim ripens and is dried, it then turns a deep, purplish brown, and morphs into the California chile, which is great for making casseroles, soups, and sauces, especially sauces for enchiladas and tamales. The California chile compliments many egg dishes such as, breakfast burritos, adding that extra layer of pungency.

Not only does the chile pepper add zest to any dish, it also provides many health benefits. The pod itself contains a substance called capsaicin, which gives the pepper its notable heat when eaten. It is the capsaicin that is being studied as a preventive substance that may mitigate cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, and cholesterol to name a few.

If you are like me when it comes to the heat factor, and you want to enjoy a milder, sweeter chile then the California variety could be the one for you; and, they can be eaten in larger quantities without causing your tongue to burn. This amazing chile is very similar to paprika and can be used much in the same way when making a particular recipe. At our Petaluma warehouse, we always use freshly dried and seeded peppers when creating our unique blends and spice seasonings, so you are guaranteed quality freshness and flavor.

Remember, whenever you handle fresh or dried peppers, wear rubber gloves as most of the heat is contained in the seeds and the white membranes inside of the pod. Also, you want to avoid wiping or touching your eyes as any part of the pod can cause skin irritation.

I'd like to share this version of my own zesty California Chicken Colorado that I hope you will enjoy as much as I do.

California Chicken Colorado - click link