Living Islam Today
A Magazine for Muslim Americans
Vol. 1 Issue 1             Spring 1420/ 2000

Cooking

IFNA

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate Source of All Mercy

The Pepper: 
Friend or Foe?

          Have you ever sat in front of someone who was served a dish of peppers?  There they sat, in their multi-hued glory. Red, golden, orange, and green. Shiny and smelling delicious.  You were almost lured into taking some onto your plate. "No!" Screamed a voice in your head as you recalled the last time you ate a pepper. Eyes tearing, nose flaring, mouth on fire. "No, thank you," you said aloud and fancied the peppers from afar.
    
     Ahh... The memory of peppers is quite strong, but fear not. Read on, and you will discover that pepper can be our friend.  Peppers are part of the Capsicum family. They come in many varieties. There are hot peppers, sweet peppers, mild peppers and really, really hot peppers. The key is knowing which is which and how to utilize them. 

by Samina Baig


"Hi, there!  Get ta know us."

          Regarding hot peppers, the tear and "mouth-on-fire" factor is
something which stirs people away from them. There is a solution, however. It's quite simple. Hot peppers, like sweet peppers, can be roasted. What's that you ask? Well, there are two methods of roasting a pepper. 
          One is on the stovetop. Thoroughly wash the outside of the pepper. Take the whole pepper and put it onto a stove which has a small flame burning. Keep watch over the pepper and turn it with tongs once the side which is facing the flame is charred black. Keep turning until the entire pepper is charred. Take out a large glass bowl. Place the pepper inside and cover the mouth of the bowl with a plastic wrap.    
   
          Keep the wrap away from the pepper. Come back and simply peel the charred skin off the pepper. Try not to use water while doing this because the water will rinse out some of the vitamins, not to mention a majority of the taste of the pepper. 

The "hot" variety is made up of the Habanero, Poblano, Chile de Arbol, Anaheim, Serrano, Cayenne, Maxi-Bell, and the Jalapeno, just to name a few.  


Anaheim pepper


Serrano peppers


Jalapeno peppers


Banana pepper

          Bell peppers can be eaten sliced, diced or halves of peppers can be placed on sandwiches at this point. You can also add them to sandwiches, to salads, or simply leave them as side dishes to you meals.  Hot peppers can be mashed into a paste or cut very thin to be used in a variety of recipes such as potato salad, as dressings on sandwiches, soups, stews, etc. The key is little at a time. You will find that if you add a small amount of the hot variety to anything, it will make the taste a bit more palatable.
          The second way to roast peppers is to wash the pepper, place it on top of a large sheet of tin foil. At this point you can add just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Wrap the tin foil around the pepper, remember to leave a little bit of room for the steam to rise. Cook in the oven at about 400 degrees for half an hour. Open the tin foil slowly as there will be steam within. You can now add the peppers to your recipes.
          There is also one more manner to cook peppers. It's not as popular as the two methods mentioned above, but by all means try it. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Slice an "x" at the bottom of the pepper. Place the pepper into the boiling water to balance the vegetable. Do not leave the pepper in the water for more than three minutes. Carefully remove the pepper with a slotted spoon and place it into a bowl of ice cold water. You can use the pepper (this works with bell and hot peppers) immediately. Or you can wait for the pepper to cool and peel it, then use it.
          

 The "sweet" variety is made up of the bell variety, pimento, banana and cubanelle peppers.


Cubanelle pepper


Bell peppers

                  The first great secret of peppers!  

     You may need to sit down for this one.  Green bell peppers have twice the amount of vitamin C as a citrus fruit!  Hot peppers have even more vitamin C than bell peppers. Essentially, you can eat one sweet green pepper, and it will be roughly equivalent to eating two oranges.
     
     Red peppers generally have more nutrients than green peppers, and peppers are essentially fat free.  Hot peppers have even more vitamin C, about 357% more than an orange.   Many varieties are also stocked with beta carotene and other vitamins.          

People like the heat because...

"it's a constrained risk," says psychologist Paul Rozin.*  In other words, we can enjoy the anxiety and fear of blistering heat without any real danger.  Moreover, endorphins (which make us feel good) are released in response to the discomfort one may feel while eating the pepper, giving one a "runner's high."
* info. based on: The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition. dist. by Random House
Before I go, I must leave you with more recipes. Don't run, they're simple and if you've never tried them, give them a go. Tell me what you think. Email me.
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