Bringing the Heat

Frodo trying to stay cool
They say the best way to stay cool is to eat spicy food. Eating spicy food makes you sweat, and sweating makes you cool down faster. Think about some of the warmest parts of the planet and the types of food eaten there. Places like India, Mexico, Jamaica, and Thailand - they are cooking with fragrant spices and chili peppers, sweating it out in the hottest parts of the world. It seems counterintuitive but clearly they are onto something and we should follow suit during the hot summer months.

Below I have some recipes that will make your tongue tingle and your sweat glands work overtime. Best of all, these recipes are easy to modify. If you like it REALLY spicy add some more chiles, if you want to take it down a notch, take out the seeds in your chilis or use less spices. You can add more heat or take some away, whatever your preference. I've also got some super refreshing wine suggestions to cool your lips down and my rules for pairing wine with spicy cuisine. Enjoy!

Grilled Chipotle Lime Cauliflower Steaks
Serves 4 to 6

2 large heads cauliflower
1/4 cup olive oil
2 limes, zested and juiced
2 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon chipotle powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves

1. Remove the leaves on each cauliflower head and trim the stem. Use a large, sharp knife to cut the cauliflower into "steaks." *I always inevitably have more cauliflower florets than steaks but as long as they are in big enough chunks to not fall through the grates on your grill, you’re good. Also, feel free to lay down some tin foil to keep the smaller pieces from running off on you.

2. Whisk the olive oil, lime juice, the grated garlic, honey, lime zest, paprika, chipotle, cayenne, and salt in a small bowl.

3. Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium (I prefer charcoal for this as it lends an extra smokiness to the cauliflower). Brush one side of each cauliflower steak with the spice mixture and place seasoned side down on the hot grill. Baste with the remaining mixture.

4. Cover the grill and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the lid and carefully flip the cauliflower. Cook covered for an additional 3-5 minutes or until done to your desired texture. I like mine more al dente so it’s not too mushy.

5. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve immediately.

Green Curry Mussels and Squid
Serves 3-4

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1-1/2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
1 teaspoon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 (15 ounce) can coconut milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar or raw sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 pounds mussels, cleaned (do not use mussels that won't close when pinched, or that are cracked or damaged)
1 pound cleaned squid, tubes sliced about 1/2 inch thick, tentacles left whole
1 small Thai or Serrano chili, thinly sliced
3 scallions, sliced on a diagonal
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges for serving

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

2. Add shallots, garlic, and carrots and sauté quickly, stirring often to prevent scorching the sugars in the garlic, about 2 minutes. Add the curry paste and stir just about 1 minute to 'toast' it. Add the lime zest, soy sauce, coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce and stir until incorporated and bubbling.

3. Turn up heat to medium-high. Add mussels to the pan and cover, letting the mussels steam open, about 5 minutes (discard any mussels that do not open). Take off the lid and add the squid. Stir everything together and let simmer about 4 minutes until the squid just turn opaque.

4. Remove from the heat and stir in chopped cilantro leaves, fresh chili, scallion, and lime juice. Serve immediately, with additional limes at the table.

Salsa Verde
Serves 8

1 lb tomatillos, husked and rinsed and patted dry with a clean kitchen towel
1 medium white onion, quartered
3 serrano chiles
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
12 sprigs of cilantro
1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as vegetable oil

1. Add all of the ingredients except the cilantro and salt into a large pot and just cover with water.

2. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Blend the cooked ingredients with the cooking water and the cilantro in a food processor or blender until smooth. Season with salt.

4. Heat oil in the empty pot. Add the blended salsa back into the pot with the hot cooking oil to ‘fry’ the salsa. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add more salt if necessary.

Wine Pairing with Spicy Foods:
There are a few rules to follow when pairing wine with spicy food - some do's and don'ts. If you follow these rules you will have a wonderful dining experience where everything is delicious and one flavor or sensation does not clobber another.

The Don'ts
Rule #1: Tannins hate spice. 
I know, you like big, bold reds. You really, really like Cabernet Sauvignon. Well, now is simply not the time for that wine. The big tannins in your dry red wine are going to meet that spice and ruin your whole day. Bitter tannins will be all the more bitter and everything will taste gross. Branch out of your comfort zone and save yourself the hell of eating spicy foods with tannic wine.

Rule #2: Spice and Alcohol are not friends.
Put the high-alcohol wine down and step away from the table. Wines high in alcohol tend to accentuate the spice making your mouth feel like a boozy inferno. Not pleasant, not delicious.

The Do's
Rule #3: Heat loves sweet.
Honestly, I don't want to hear that you 'don't drink riesling because you don't like sweet wines'. News flash! Most rieslings are not the sickly sweet ones you bought at the gas station when you were 21. You don't need a syrupy dessert wine to get the desired effect, an off-dry or dry riesling, that has a touch of residual sugar in it, will do the trick when pairing with spicy cuisine. The flavors balance each other out and you end up with a lovely pairing. 

Rule #4: Think crisp and fresh when pairing with bold and spicy
This is the 'opposites attract' rule. Like putting a cool salve on a burn, wines that are crisp and fresh, low in alcohol and with have a bit of a spritz, provide relief from the heat of spicy food. 

Wines to Try
Cantine Elvio Tintero Rosato 2016 - bright, crisp, and fruity - rosé is a total thirst-quencher and will help to refresh the palate.

Domaine Achard-Vincent Clairette De Die Brut NV - tingly and low in alcohol - this affordable bubbly is bracing and bright.

Stein Blue Slate Riesling 2015 - just a kiss of residual sugar, just enough to taper the heat of a spicy dish without being too sweet or cloying.

Lapierre Raisins Gaulois 2015 - if you must drink red, try a fruity and fresh gamay - this one is easy drinking and lively.


Popular Posts