You know the saying, "If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen."
In my kitchen, truer words were never spoken.
My husband Ted and I love the heat. Not the atmospheric kind that comes from the confluence of low ceilings, a large stove, and lots of track light, but the kind that comes from the inside out, the slow burn, the mouth scorching, the scalp-tingling kind that comes from hot sauce, hot peppers, and hot pepper flakes.
One whole shelf on my spice rack and one entire compartment in the refrigerator door are dedicated to heat.
This from a girl who used to be terrified of hot and spicy food. Who, honestly, had owned the same two-ounce bottle of Tabasco® for at least ten years and wasn't even close to using it up.
Not all heat is created equal; hot sauce adds the component of vinegar, and sometimes you don't want that.
When you do -- in salsas and stews, in long-cooked sauces and in cocktails -- you can choose hot sauces that are fairly mild, like the green Tabasco in the recipe here, or sauces so hot they have names to match. Avoid the words insanity, fear, death and extreme, and names that refer to below-the-waist body parts. These are seriously hot, not for beginners.
That's just a bit of advice from a girl who can take the heat.
What is hot sauce?
A strained, thin liquid made from chile peppers fermented with salt, with vinegar added. The hotness of the sauce depends entirely on the variety of peppers used.
How/where to store:
In the cupboard, away from light and heat, for up to two years. Vinegar is a natural preservative, so if you keep your sauce longer, it will still be good, but it will lose potency.
More facts about hot sauce, and ingredient photos, in The Perfect Pantry:
Hot sauce (Recipe: lentils and brown rice)
This no-cook soup, which first appeared on Soup Chick, has surprised and delighted many tasters, including my husband, who's not a watermelon lover, and his co-workers, who gave it many thumbs up. The watermelon adds sweetness, but not the pronounced taste of fruit. Fresh, light, and healthy, the recipe is adapted from Eating Well magazine. Use your food processor to chop the bell pepper, herbs and shallot, if you don't want to dice by hand. Exact proportions aren't terribly important here. Serves 6 generously; can be made 1-2 days ahead.
8 cups diced seedless watermelon (from a 6-lb piece of watermelon with the rind)
1 medium seedless (English) cucumber, finely diced
1/2 red or orange bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 Tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar
2 Tbsp minced shallot
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
Juice of 1 lime
2 tsp green Tabasco sauce, or more to taste (I use more, of course)
Fresh black pepper
Place all ingredients in a very large bowl. With a spoon, crush some of the watermelon to release the liquid; it will help get the blending started. Puree with an immersion blender, or in a stand blender or food processor in batches if necessary, to the desired smoothness (I like mine a bit chunky). Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt, Tabasco and black pepper.
Refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Other recipes that use hot sauce:
Hot crab dip, from Simply Recipes
Tabasco and asparagus quinoa, from 101 Cookbooks
Cajun Tabasco wings, from Chile Cheese Fries
Salmon burgers, from Ezra Pound Cake
Spicy shredded carrot salad with mint, cilantro, green onion, lime, and jalapeno, from Kalyn's Kitchen
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