I decided on Monday, just for kicks, to take stock of my spice cupboard. I'm kind of a spice whore - I have a few dried herbs, for emergencies when I can't find fresh; I have a whole section of spices commonly used in Indian food; half a shelf is devoted to baking spices, whole and ground of many varieties; at last count, seven different kinds of salt; and then, there are the chillies.
Chiles, as I usually call them - it just looks and sounds right, especially after so many years in Los Angeles - are an important part of most of my meals. I like my stir fries fiery, my salsa eye-watering, and my curries cough-inducing. I don't really know how I came to love spicy food so much. My mom is generally happy with one jalapeño in a batch of salsa, and I think a pinch of paprika would take my dad out. My maternal grandparents, however, have always been lovers of spice - I remember making salsa with my grandma, and I was perfectly content to eat it with tortilla chips every summer morning for breakfast.
In the photo above, you see an assortment of my dried chiles: chipotle powder, Aleppo, crushed red pepper, Spanish pimentón, chili powder, half-sharp paprika, sweet paprika, smoked pimentón, cayenne, chiles piquín, and a bag of Thai (or maybe Vietnamese?) dried chiles.
This doesn't include the whole dried pasilla and guajillo peppers that I use for salsa and enchiladas.
Behold the hot sauces! I love chiles in liquid forms - I use them for everything from fried egg sandwiches to stir-fried cabbage and tofu. Here we have sweet chilli sauce, Afghan sweet jalapeño jelly, sambal oelek, green habañero sauce, Tabasco, salsa El Pato, Secret Aardvark Sauce, Tapatío, Tabasco Chipotle. This doesn't take into account the fact that I'm currently out of Sriracha, chilli garlic paste (although I usually alternate that with sambal oelek, for the sake of space), and chipotles in adobo.
I use all of these ... and yet I still want more. I can't stop myself when I see a new pepper or sauce - I want to try them all.
Next on my list: dried Cascabel peppers, which I've never tried but are said to have a deep, nutty flavor. I might add them to potato tacos or use them for a chile marinade for chicken or pork.