What a hottie – The Pisilla Baijo
Everyone has a hot pepper story, and today I want to hear yours.
Here’s mine. We’re in Mexico, 2003. It’s fajita day at the buffet. The fresh flour tortilla shells are handed to each person by a smiling Mexican in a white chef’s outfit. I’m faced with a long bar full of chicken, fillings, and condiments. I’m a kid in a candy store. I like variety and experimenting with local foods and I’m ready to load myself up.
I go big with pico de gallo, guacamole and chicken. I’ve stuffed my tortilla so full that there’s almost no room for anything else, but I know it needs a little something extra. I see one last mini bin of toppings, right at the end. Yes, it has a sign on it that says, “hot,” in italics, but I like a little spice in my life and I’m unintimidated. They know we’re lightweight gringo tourists, so they would never let us hurt ourselves, right? I can take a whole pickled hot pepper at the Olive Garden, and I’m sure I can take this.
I spoon myself one little dehydrated pepper from its oil. One is enough for today. I just want a mini-kick, I don’t need to take away from the enjoyment of my fat fajita with too much spice. I gingerly lay it on the top of all the fillings and sit with my husband and friends.
Giggle giggle, “Oh, that looks nice, I didn’t see that when I blah blah blah.” Polite sit-down chatter. We cheers, “to a good vacation.” Sip for good luck and convention. I take a bite of my fajita. One bite. Molars meet only once, releasing the oils in the pepper to the inside of my cheek and across my tongue. If I was on CSI they would zoom in, and see… hellfire spreading immediately throughout the inside of my mouth.
My eyes go red and I start to cry. At first my friends think it’s funny, but when I stand and nearly choke they get concerned. There’s no going back. The hottest food I’ve ever tasted is in my mouth and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t breathe, and I can’t talk. I drink water and it does nothing to relieve the fire. My friends begin to understand the urgency and start to strategize. “Bread, I’ve heard bread is good.” I try it and it does nothing. “Ice cream, can I get you ice cream?” They run back to the buffet and return with what seem like logical solutions, but nothing helps. I just suck it up in agony, eyes crying, nose running, heart beating, telling myself that no one has ever died from eating a hot pepper, but wondering if that’s true. The heat eventually subsided, but the memory of what a real hot pepper tastes like never did. And my friends’ jokes about me eating weird foods haven’t subsided either. At least now that experimentation has turned into a world famous blog that is showering me in treasure and riches. Ahem.
Since that day in Mexico, I’ve been a lot more cautious about eating hot peppers, so when I picked up some long dark green pisilla baijo peppers at the market the other day, I was sure to ask where they sat on the hot meter. The farmer said they were “medium,” and when we ate them, thankfully, we agreed.
I found this recipe for roasted peppers over lemon ricotta which looked delicious to me, but afterward I found out the the pisilla baijo is used in Mexico to make “mole,” sauce, which I’ve never had, but which includes nuts and chocolate. I was jealous of the recipe I didn’t make, but I’ll try that again next time. This one worked out well too:
Roasted Hot Peppers and Lemony Ricotta (Makes about 12 appetizers)
- 5 fresh pisilla baijo peppers (or other hot peppers), cut into ring-chunks, seeds included
- 5 garlic cloves, whole
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt & pepper
- 1 baguette, sliced
- 200g ricotta cheese
- Zest of 1 lemon
Directions: Preheat oven to 400. Toss pepper chunks and garlic with generous amounts of olive oil and kosher salt and pepper. Roast peppers and garlic on baking sheet in oven 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and roast for a further 40 minutes. Combine ricotta and lemon zest and spread over baguette slices. Smash garlic and spread over breads, topping with peppers.
Results: Delicious. These had a medium kick, but the spice didn’t overpower the gorgeous flavour of the pepper. This was a simple appetizer to prepare that would be a hit for anyone who likes spicy foods. If I see pisilla baijos again I’ll grab them for sure. Rating: 3 Yums
Share: Please comment and tell me your hot pepper story! Your uncle never saw one he didn’t like? You live in a town where people can take hot and you scared the pants off of someone who couldn’t? Let us know!