deconstructing a pepper mobile: Indian style chili pickle and sundried hot peppers with a warning for good health

by Heguiberto on July 23, 2010

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chili pepper mobile

Steven’s parents have just returned from an Alaskan cruise. They didn’t see Sarah Palin or the Cullen vampire clan, but loved it nonetheless. Their pictures made it look really exciting though quite cold, even in summer.

I want to visit Alaska sometime in the future, but I don’t think I can do it by sea. I just get terribly sick on boats. Last year we went with them on a Caribbean cruise. I can tell you that despite great company and the beauty of the Caribbean, I suffered the entire time on that eight day trip. Everything seemed in motion constantly. I couldn’t take it.

The Alaskan-bound cruise ship left from Seattle. They spent a day or so there on the way back. They always bring us back cute souvenirs from their trips. This time, they got us matching Alaska hats and T-shirts as well as some smoked salmon and this lovely chile pepper mobile.

That was really thoughtful: thank you, Lynda and Stan!

On the way back home, they detoured to San Francisco so we got to spend the afternoon with them. We took them sightseeing to the new Cartoon Museum and to Sausalito where we had a delightful lunch at Scoma’s.

But back to the chile pepper souvenir… the whole thing was made with several types of peppers in different ripening stages with a head of garlic at the base to hold it down. There were Thai bird’s eye, chili de arbol, jalapeño and Serrano chiles, all beautifully arranged and suspend by a fishing line. It was very creative. The mobile toy lasted for a few days in the kitchen but then it started to wilt. Since I don’t like waste, I disassembled the mobile and I’m using all the ingredients in my cooking.

sundried chili peppers

I simply rinsed then cut the stems off the small peppers and left them in the California sun for about a week to dry. They’re excellent in recipes that called for dried hot chiles like Roman style pasta or in Asian style dipping sauces.

I made the large peppers into this Indian inspired pickle:

Indian style chili pickle with mustard oil

Indian style chili pickle

1lb mixed chili peppers (different stages of ripeness is fine)
½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp whole black mustard seeds, roughly ground in a mortar
Juice of 4 limes
1 tbsp wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp cumin seeds partially ground
¼ tsp coriander seeds partially ground
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp kosher salt (or other non-iodized salt. Sea salt works, but use less because it’s saltier)
~2 tbsp mustard oil
1 clove of garlic minced

Wash peppers. Slice in halves then discard seeds and ribs and stems. Lay them on a paper towel and let dry in the sun for a couple of hours.

Mix ginger, turmeric, mustard seeds, lime juice, vinegar, cumin and coriander seeds, sugar, and garlic. Add chili peppers and toss to coat. Pack chilies tightly in glass jar. Top with mustard oil. Leave it at room temperature for four days. Taste it. It should have a mellow flavor with a bit of a kick but none of the rawness of garlic, ginger or pepper. If the flavor is harsh, leave it out for another day or so. Transfer to the fridge and serve as a side for rice and beans or for any other Indian, Middle Eastern, or Morrocan dishes.

It’s the mustard oil that really makes this preserved pepper dish taste “Indian.” You can find mustard oil in Indian grocery stores. It is labeled for external use only as it is not approved by the USDA for consumption because a compound present in the oil, erucid acid, which supposedly may cause cardiac lesions based on tests made with animals. But Indian people eat it all the time and seem very healthy as a people, so I don’t know. But you are warned.

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another Alaskan glacier

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