Monday, October 10, 2011

Garlicky Red Pepper Pasta

Have you ever ordered a pizza and it came with these little packets of red pepper flakes? Did you wonder, what the heck is this? I did. Then my kids started sprinkling it on their pizza. Okay, they like hot stuff. They eat jalapenos, too. When they were little they called jalapeno slices *hot okra*. This provided hours of amusement when their brains registered what they just ate and they ran for the water. Didn't faze them - they still like hot and spicy foods even now. My daughter would shovel salsa and chips as a toddler. Even I couldn't eat the spicy foods like she could, and does.

Then while doing some research I discovered how absolutely wonderful and beneficial red pepper really is. I remember hearing Hillary Clinton laud the stuff when she was campaigning and catching a glimpse of her purse contents and spotted a container of red pepper flakes.

I consume red pepper regularly now. In fact, daily.

Garlicky Red Pepper Pasta

Saute a minced whole head of garlic in olive oil, with 1 t. of red pepper flakes and 1 t. salt. Cook your pasta of choice. Gently mixed the sauteed garlic with the cooked pasta, sprinkle on some more olive oil and a little bit of fresh or dried parsley. Enjoy!

Red pepper flakes add another dimension of flavor to a dish without making every mouthful hot and spicy. They seem to elevate the taste of other ingredients and make a simple recipe complex and interesting. Take this dish of pasta with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper - it is a classic combination of three basic ingredients, but the end result is more than a sum of its parts — and the red pepper is what makes it sing.

The chemical compound capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is the active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum. It is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue it comes in contact with. Because of the burning sensation caused by capsaicin when it comes in contact with human flesh, it is commonly used in food products to give them added spice or "heat" (piquancy). Typically the capsaicin is obtained from chili peppers. Hot sauce is an example of a product customarily containing large amounts of capsaicin and may contain chili peppers or pure capsaicin.

Capsaicin and several related compounds are called capsaicinoids and are produced as a secondary metabolite by chili peppers, probably as deterrents against herbivores. Pure capsaicin is a hydrophobic, colorless, odorless, crystalline to waxy compound.

Extracts of capsaicin from red chili peppers are used as a fresh ingredient in foods, as medicinal herbs to treat pain and inflammation and in concentrated sprays as non-lethal weapons (really!)

New understanding of the way capsaicin functions inside the body to reduce inflammatory responses and improve nerve cell signalling is rapidly expanding the use of this herb to treat a wide variety of medical conditions, including diabetes and has been shown to prevent the replication of prostate cancer cells. Small daily doses of capsaicin have even been shown to prevent chronic nasal congestion.

It may also be used as a cream for the temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscles and joints associated with arthritis, simple backache, strains and sprains. I can attest to this. I use a capsaicin cream for shoulder pain I have that results from my Klippel Feil. It does heat up the skin, turning it pink almost like a sunburn, but it feels good and helps me a great deal.

Oddly enough, the pain treatment properties can also be applied internally to treat digestive disorders. According to the University of Pittsburg Medical Center, oral consumption of capsaicin reduces the pain associated with indigestion. The compound depletes substance P in the stomach, and temporarily relieves the burning sensation that characterizes dyspepsia. Capsaicin may also prevent stomach ulcers caused by drugs used to treat inflammation, such as aspirin.

If you are worried about the heat, don't. Chilis are ranked according to their pungency (heat) on a scale called the Scoville Scale.

Some examples of heat scores are:
  • Red bell peppers 0-600
  • Jalapeno peppers 2500 – 10 000
  • Serrano peppers 10 000 – 25 000
  • Habanero peppers 80 000 - 150 000
They are pretty mild by comparison.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...