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March 22, 2007

Dried chile peppers (Recipe: mushrooms and peppers in puff pastry) {vegetarian}

Chiles

On our first trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, Ted and I fell in love.

Not with each other — that had happened years before — but with the daily markets in every city, town and village.

With Oaxaca as the hub of the wheel, Ted and I and my cousin Martin, our traveling companion, would set out every morning in our crusty-dusty rented VW Beetle, along one of the "spokes" to another market in another town: the shoe market, the livestock market, the markets known for produce, the ones famous for textiles and ceramics.

Everywhere, in every market, we found dried chile peppers. Sometimes they were piled several feet high, pyramids in shades of red, brown and black, on sun-bleached blankets spread on the ground. The air smelled spicy, if you can believe it, and I couldn't help but buy bags full to smuggle home (don't tell!) in my backpack full of laundry.

Fresh chile peppers are more and more common in our local grocery store; I used to have to go to the Latino markets to find poblanos and serranos. Harder to find are good-quality dried chiles, which have a completely different taste profile — so different that, when a fresh chile is dried, it often gets a new name (ancho is a dried poblano, chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeño, pasilla is a dried chilaca, and so on).

Native to Central and South America and the Caribbean, chiles (or chilies or chillies) are today the world's largest spice crop, with Mexico, China, Turkey, India, Spain and Nigeria among the largest commercial producers. Thanks to Columbus and Magellan, chiles traveled to every corner of the world. Though the Mexican dried chiles are most common in the supermarket (the peppers pictured above are guajillo), don't overlook fiery Thai and bird chiles, moderately hot mirasol from Peru, and the mild Spanish ñora.

High in vitamins A and C, and high in dietary fiber, chiles contain capsaicin, which has been recognized as an anti-inflammatory (in spite of the heat they generate in your mouth), a treatment for osteoarthritis, an aid in weight loss, and an immune system booster.

Choose dried chile peppers by color: the more vivid the color, the fresher the pepper. Though they will keep forever, they will lose potency over time. Store dried peppers in a tightly-capped jar, away from direct sunlight, or they will fade just like living room curtains.

Mushrooms and peppers in puff pastry

Adapted from Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain (2007), by Penelope Casas, this elegant dish would make a perfect party appetizer. Thank goodness for frozen puff pastry. Serves 6-8 (makes 18).

Ingredients

1 package purchased puff pastry dough, defrosted
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp minced piquillo pepper
1/4 lb cremini or button mushrooms, brushed clean, finely chopped
1/2 medium-hot dried red chile pepper, such as guajillo (in the photo above), seeded and crumbled
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp grated cheese, such as manchego or Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is wilted. Add the piquillo pepper and cook for a minute, then add the mushrooms, chile pepper, salt and pepper, and sauté until the mushrooms are softened. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese.

Roll the puff pastry to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 1-3/4- inch circles (you should get approximately 36 circles out of the dough), and place 1 tsp of filling on half of the circles. Moisten the edges with water (use your fingertip or a small pastry brush), cover with the remaining pastry circles, and press the edges with the tines of a fork to seal. [May be prepared ahead up to this point, and refrigerated. If you do this, let the pastries warm up at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking.]

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place the pastries on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a silicone mat (Silpat) or parchment paper. Bake on the upper rack of the oven for 7-10 minutes, or until golden.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Comments

A wonderful Post.You seem to be a master in this field.My best wishes.

I agree -- a very big thank goodness for frozen puff pastry. I just started working with it not that long ago, and it's so easy -- I can't believe I didn't try it before!

This recipe sounds amazing -- a perfect party appetizer, particularly since you can make the packets ahead and bake them later. Thanks for sharing the recipe, and the tale of the chilis!

Genie

yum...puff pastry. this picture is also fantastic.

i had no idea of the health benefits of chili's either. how interesting!

This sounds like a wonderful appetizer - perfect finger food. How much fat is in it? It might just be heart healthy.
Must try this one.

Yikes!! :D

I look at them and already feel my tongue going numb, Lydia. :D

Surjit, thanks for visiting The Perfect Pantry!

Genie, I can't believe I ever tried to make puff pastry from scratch. It's one of those things, like pita bread, that I did once, and having proved to myself that I could do it, I went right for the convenience version. This is a lovely appetizer, especially with nice dried chiles.

Stacy, thanks, and welcome to the pantry! Isn't it great when something delicious is also healthy?!

Tanna, I honestly don't know about the fat. Well, butter in the pastry, of course, and a tiny bit of cheese. Otherwise, maybe not so bad -- and awfully good tasting.

Patricia, these are really only moderately hot chiles, nothing like habanero. But this recipe will work with any dried chiles, so try it with ones that are more mild.

Bless Kalyn's Kitchen for letting me read your comment there and allowing me to follow you over here. I lovelovelove dried chili peppers, with ancho and chipotle chiles being my favorite ones. There are lots of other good food stuffs that I miss (or affordable Pecans), but for the large variety of chile peppers available in the DC area I long most.
Your recipe reads very tempting, I shall try it one day. Thank you!

mmmm, mushrooms in pastry. I use guajillos in every pot of beans and almost every stew - they have such a nice even flavor without overwhelming the dish. We actually got fresh guajillos (wonder if that's what they are really called) at our farmers' market last season, but they were nowhere near as tasty as the dried ones.

Those chile peppers are so pretty, they look ancient and special somehow.

The puff pastry dish sounds lovely too.

I always have dried chili but the Thai red chili type. In Australia, the Mexican type is not very easy to find, but I'd love to stock some. :)

A lovely, lyrical post. It makes me wonder if Pablo Neruda has an ode to the dried chile pepper!
My favorites: chipotles and anchos.

Merisi, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I'll bet there are readers who would happily trade chile peppers for Viennese pastries -- but I'm not one of them. I do love my chiles!

Scott, guajillos are one of those chiles that has the same name fresh or dried. I don't think I've ever had fresh ones -- I've certainly never cooked with them. But they are one of my favorite types of chile.

Kelly-Jane, the peppers are so sculptural, aren't they? I had fun taking their picture!

Anh, your Thai chiles are so much hotter than the Mexican ones.

Marcia, thanks. I'm going to hit the poetry books now....

That's such a lovely picture. I admire the way you arranged the peppers. A pantry isn't well stocked without some dried peppers! Great recipe too.

I so need to travel to Oaxaca--it's my kind of place. And this recipe? Yum, yum, yum! Thank goodness for frozen puff pastry indeed! Even my CIA-trained chef friend swears by it! Have you ever tried drying chiles before?

Such an interesting story -- you've really helped sort out my chili confusion. Hadn't thought about the unique flavor profile of each before, or the health benefits.

What a luscious dish!

hi lydia, those flavoras are so awesome, i have a special weakness for manchego too YUM!

i made the yogurt w/ my new machine, it's extra fantastic!!! thx do much for the inspiration :) http://passionatenonchalance.com/?p=379

It's too bad you won't be posting a picture of these puffs, they sound cute! Totally agree that dried chillis lose their potency with time, but I love the smell!

Sher, thank you. I had fun playing with the peppers and they were very cooperative.

Lisa, I have tried drying chiles a couple of times (sometimes by accident, as I let them sit around too long), but mostly what happens is that they shrivel, and then get moldy and I have to throw them out. I keep meaning to use my herb-drying screen, which would allow air to circulate around the chiles. Do you have a method that works? I'd love to know.

TW, I'm just beginning to learn why the use of chiles is an art form in certain cuisines (Mexico, with its complex moles, is the most interesting to me). I have a high tolerance for spicy food, and always keep several kinds of dried chiles in my pantry.

Lucy, thanks, and welcome to the pantry!

Aria, I love love love manchego. And your yogurt? Lovely!!! Thank you for posting the link. Readers, check this out, please. The most beautiful yogurt imaginable.

Shilpa, some day I might start posting photos of the dishes to accompany pantry items....

I dream of visiting Oaxaxa one day (now that I've learnt how to pronounce it) but for now I have a drawer full of all sorts of dried chillies, each with different flavours, heats and properties. A little taste of Mexico!

The tapas dish with mushrooms and chilli sounds interesting...I love tapas.. small portions and vivid variety and delicious too..

Thanxs for sharing the recipe

-Sushma

Freya, Oaxaca is a food-lovers' paradise. The cuisine is rich and complex, and served with pride. There are seven basic mole sauces that originate from that region. And the markets -- oh, the markets!

Sushma, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I love tapas, too. In fact, two of my cooking groups are making tapas menus in April.

Thanks for clarifying fresh vs. dried chilis - I bought some dried ones in Spain that look exactly like your picture. They've just sat for six months, and I didn't really know what to do with them, or whether they were very different from the usual.

Now if only there were some place around here where I could buy Mexican or Spanish chocolate... I think I'd have to go down to London, unfortunately.

Paul, your comment (and Katie's, from an earlier post) are giving me an idea about some sort of pantry exchange.... stay tuned!

We visited Oaxaca years ago, and it lingers in my mind as one of the best food cities anywhere.

The Mercado de Abastos just blew me away...

Karen, I agree -- Oaxaca is food paradise. The Abastos market is wonderful, and there's also a smaller daily market -- I won't remember the name unless I look it up -- that's right in the city center near the Zocalo. It has wonderful food stalls where you can sit at the counter and watch the women cooking.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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