Here & Now listeners may have noticed: host Jeremy Hobson is a big fan of spicy food. Resident chef Kathy Gunst brought in a couple of dishes for Jeremy to try: her take on sesame noodles and a grilled eggplant with harissa and yogurt sauce. She also shared some tips and facts on chile peppers.
As Kathy told Jeremy, though we often think of spicy foods to warm up chilly days, they can also make us feel cooler on hot days: "They stimulate circulation, they raise our body temperature, but then then what happens is it leaves you with this feeling of being cooler. So in fact, it's a great summer food."
Cold Noodles with Spicy Sesame-Peanut Butter Paste
Kathy’s Note: You can make this peanut butter-tahini sauce as spicy as you like with the addition of Sriracha (or your favorite hot pepper sauce) and chile paste. The noodles may appear to be very saucy at first but as they sit and chill they drink up the sauce. The noodles and sauce can be made several hours ahead of time but are best tossed about an hour before serving. The noodles can be served cold or room temperature.
Serves 4 to 6.
The Noodles and Garnish:
8 1/2 ounces soba (thin Japanese buckwheat noodles) or somen noodles (thin Japanese wheat noodles), or thin linguine
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro mixed with 2 tablespoons chopped scallions
The Peanut Butter-Miso Chile Sauce:
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon miso paste
About 1/2 to 1 tablespoon Chinese chile paste, or hot pepper sauce
Several dashes of Sriracha or your favorite hot pepper sauce
1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/3 cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
About 1/2 cup boiling water from the noodle pot
Bring a large pot boiling lightly salted water to boil over high heat for the noodles.
Boil the noodles for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the brand. Reserve about 1/2 cup starchy noodle water for the sauce. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Drain thoroughly.
Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the sauce. Add the boiling water from the noodle pot. Taste for seasoning, making the sauce spicier if you like.
If making ahead of time, toss the drained noodles with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. About an hour or less before serving, toss the noodles with the spicy peanut sauce. Sprinkle the top with the garnish.
Grilled Eggplant with Harissa-Spiked Yogurt Sauce
Kathy’s Note: You can also serve this with thin strips of grilled chile peppers or sweet peppers.
1 large eggplant
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
About 1 tablespoon harissa paste or chile paste or hot pepper sauce
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lemon cut into small wedges for garnish
Light a charcoal or gas grill until quite hot, about 450 degrees. Place the whole eggplant on the heat, cover the grill and cook about 8 minutes. Gently toss the eggplant over and grill another 8 minutes. The eggplant is ready when it has “deflated” a bit and is blackened and soft when gently prodded in the middle with your fingers. Remove from the grill and cool.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix the yogurt, about 3/4 of the harissa or hot sauce, salt and oil until smooth. Taste for seasoning; the yogurt should have a spicy bite. Add more as needed.
When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, cut in lengthwise into 8 pieces.
Chile Pepper Facts & Tips
Just How Hot Is That Chile, Mr. Scoville?
In 1912, Wilbur Lincoln Scoville, a pharmacist, developed a rating system to determine just how hot various chile peppers are. Sweet green or red peppers are rated at zero on the Scoville Scale and jalapeños range from 2,500 to 8,000 on the scale. Watch out for Scotch Bonnet peppers: they come in at at around 350,000!
A Few Facts About Chile Peppers
- Capsicum peppers, both sweet and hot, contain a good amount of vitamin C — more than the average orange. They also contain vitamin A, potassium, iron and protein.
- Chile peppers are low in fat and only have about 22 calories for a 3 1/2 ounce pepper.
- Peppers stimulate your taste buds and are a great addition to food for those on low-sodium diets.
- When preparing peppers it’s best to wear rubber gloves or place the peppers in plastic wrap. You want to be super careful not to get chile pepper seeds anywhere near your eyes.
- If you eat too much chile pepper you should not drink water or liquids as they tend to spread the chiles to other parts of your mouth and can make the situation worse. Ideally, eat bread, rice or potato to soak up the spice.
For those who just can’t get enough heat (and like to layer the fiery sensation of chiles and spices on their food) check out the Fire Box, a collection of spicy oils made by Boyajian. Small one-ounce bottles of fiery Habanero, Jalapeño, Chipotle, and Wasabi Oils ($8.75) are delicious sprinkled on grilled meat, seafood, noodle dishes, curries, or on top of salads and sandwiches for the true hard core.
This segment aired on July 14, 2015.