Chile peppers create a marvelous reaction in the mouth and body. They make the tongue dance and the pulse quicken. Sometimes the response is pleasing, giving a little rise out of the person eating it, or adversely, causing a painful reaction. To avoid a fervent burn while cooking with chilies, use rubber gloves and watch what you touch. Otherwise, you might start to burn in unpleasant places (the eyes are the worst).
These seedy, or shall we say fertile, fruits contain concentrated quantities of the chemical capsaicin. When this chemical is consumed it increases heart rate, induces sweating, and increases the sensitivity of nerve endings, thus mimicking the body’s reaction to physical love. Furthermore, it stimulates the release of endorphin neurotransmitters, which provide a natural high as if experiencing a happy event or intimacy.
Historically, chilies were considered aphrodisiacs due to possessing a bounty of seeds, which represent fertilization. The relic ruler Montezuma instructed his cooks to prepare a chocolate drink laced with peppers every night, in which he consumed hastily in preparation for his daily visits to his illustrious lady attendants.
There are several varieties of chili peppers, all with their own level of flavor and heat. For example, the firecracker heat of the diminutive red-orange piquÍn that bursts with firey sultriness at its first touch to the tongue must be consumed with caution. On the other hand, the smoky chipotle adds a distinct earthiness and heat to any dish, but would not be considered a scorcher. In the following recipe, I add jalapeno and a broiled Serrano pepper to kick pasta salad up a notch. Add heat to this recipe by adding seeds from the jalapeno to the pasta or use less of the seeds and veins for a milder dish.
Southwest Pasta Salad
- 4-cups of Fusilli Bucati pasta, boiled until al dente
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1-cup black beans
- 1-cup of corn, frozen or fresh
- 1-cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tbsp. jalapeno, chopped and de-seeded
- 1 avocado, flesh cut into equal size squares
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced
- 1 Serrano pepper, broiled, skinned, and diced
- 1/3-cup lime juice, preferably fresh
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup Oaxaca cheese
Add the pasta through the salt and pepper to a large mixing bowl.
Toss the ingredients in the bowl for one minute.
Serve in individual bowls and top with Oaxaca cheese.