April 30, 2011
Kurt & Kraig went out to LA and made dinner for Kai Ryssdal and the crew of Marketplace from American Public Media. It aired on their show on Friday, April 29, 2011:
There are more than 10,000 varieties of chili peppers, and they are big business. But climate uncertainty is affecting the cultivation of some peppers.
Kai Ryssdal: Take a moment now to consider the chili pepper. There are more than 10,000 varieties. We eat ‘em. We season our food with them. They go into arthritis creams and shampoos, pesticides and, yes, pepper sprays. In 2007 — the last year we have the data for — American farmers grew more than 800,000 tons of chili peppers. Twenty-six million tons worldwide, half of that in China.
So, needless to say, they’re big business. Beyond the commercial, though, chili peppers are important in cuisines and cultures all over the world. Which helps explain why I found myself shopping for chilies in a Mexican market the other day with a chef…
Kurt Friese: I’m Kurt Friese. I’m the chef.
And an agroecologist.
Kraig Kraft: Hi, I’m Kraig Kraft. I’m the agroecologist.
A what? Let me just say he knows more about chilies than you and I would ever want to know.
Read the whole transcript or listen to the radio story @ Marketplace From American Public Media.
April 1, 2011
“Chasing Chiles” brings the problem of climate change to our plates by exploring one of North America’s most diverse food plants: chile peppers.
Kurt Michael Friese and two other chile lovers went on a year-long adventure to experience some of America’s most interesting pepper varieties – from datil peppers only found in St. Augustine, Florida to the wild chiltepin peppers of Sorona, Mexico. They tasted local cuisine and experienced various pepper cultures firsthand.But Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail gives the reader insight into more than just tasting and cooking these fiery foods. Friese and his colleagues spoke with farmers who are struggling to stay afloat sometimes literally as climate change wreaks havoc on weather patterns and, therefore, their yields.Earth Eats spoke with Friese from his home in Iowa. Along with co-authoring Chasing Chiles, he is the owner and Chef Emeritus of Devotay in Iowa City and the publisher of Edible Iowa River Valley magazine.
Read the whole interview at Earth Eats – Indiana Public Media.
February 25, 2011
Photo by Gary Paul Nabhan
Excerpted from chapter 3 of Chasing Chiles:
One of the most delightful food discoveries for us in Mérida was xnipek (pronounced SHNEE-peck). The name comes from the Mayan language and means “dog’s nose.” Unappetizing as that might sound at first, rest assured there is no dog in the recipe. It’s simply a reference to this salsa’s heat level. Hot chiles can cause the nose to run, thus the metaphor.
There’s more to xnipek than just heat, though. It not only uses the Yucatecan powerhouse chile—the habanero—but also includes the native fruit known as naranja agria, or bitter orange, which is also the secret to great Yucatecan escabeche. It’s hard to find fresh in the States, so there’s a brief recipe for a reasonable facsimile following our rendition of this fiery relish.
We found many versions of xnipek in our travels around the Yucatán. All had the habanero and bitter orange, but beyond that they varied widely. This is why we prefer the term genuine to authentic—it allows for many interpretations while still remaining true to tradition.
Xnipek is one of the salsas collectively referred to as Pico de Gallo, or “beak of the chicken,” a reference either to the size of the chopped ingredients or to chicken feed. It’s made of many ingredients chopped together to form more of a relish than a sauce (or salsa). Our favorite renditions include the unique addition of fresh cabbage, which adds another layer of flavor and crunch.