Hot Peppers

Rice & Veggie Bowls with Thai Coconut Lime Dressing

Here's something I don't take pictures of: cooked food.

I take many, many photos of our raw produce (haha, funny joke, everyone knows I only take baby and flowers photos now), but I don't ever photograph prepared meals. I feel that without professional lighting and staging it is basically impossible to make cooked food look appetizing in photographs, and ain't nobody got time for that in high summer. But, if I were ever going to photograph cooked food, it might have been this rice bowl. I guess you'll have to trust me that it was gorgeous and instead enjoy this photo of our carrots, which were featured prominently in said bowl.

This recipe meets one of my main criteria for summer eating in that in can be described by the following three steps. Step one: make some kind of spicy sauce and some kind of rice. Step two: cut up whatever veggies were harvested that day. Step three: mix together in an obscenely large bowl and eat. 

Adapted from this recipe on Food 52 for two people, but you should probably double it - it makes great leftovers! 

For the Thai coconut-lime dressing:
Juice of 1 lime (about 1/4 cup)
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Zest of 1 lime (about 1 to 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
1/2 serrano pepper, seeded and minced (I used a japapeno!)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

For the salad bowl and toppings:
1 1/2 cups cooked black or red rice
10 ounces poached chicken breast, shredded, if you want. Or tofu. Or nothing.
2 cucumbers
4 large radishes, thinly sliced
1 - 2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
4 hakurei turnips, thinly sliced
1 cup onion scapes or scallions, cut thinly on the bias
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint

Hot Peppers

The hotter the pepper the slower it ripens, but all summer we've been watching the hottest of the hots quietly simmering and thinking about turning color. Capsaicin bombs have been barreling towards us for months as the plants slowly grew and flowered in full force.

Now, in this first week of September, when the evenings have already turned cool and crisp, they have arrived. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Southeast Asian Chili-Garlic Relish

I will be telling you to do many things with many hot peppers over the next few weeks (as it becomes full-on hot HOT pepper season) because I'm a bit of a freak about them. I've done countless experiments - some of which resulted in recipes that are still staples today, and some of which were potions that ended up too hot to even be in the same room with let alone eat. But still, trust me. I love hot peppers.

If you only do one thing with hot peppers all summer, I would have to say it should be this two-part recipe. Part one (tuong ot toi) is a simple relish that goes great on basically anything and can be made with any pepper, depending on how hot you like it. I most often make this with Hungarian Hot Wax peppers because they're on the milder side - and therefore this relish can eaten more like salsa. Just scoop it by the spoonful. But I've also made it with hotter peppers and it makes a great addition to any meal that needs a little kick.

Part two uses some of what you make in part one, and is a sweet dipping sauce that just begs for a homemade summer roll or grilled chicken.  


Makes one quart
As with many of my pickle and relish recipes, this one is adapted from Linda Ziedrich.

1 1/2 pounds ripe hot peppers
1 C cider vinegar
1 tbsp pickling salt
1 small garlic head, cloves separated and peeled

  1. Blend all ingredients together in a blender or food processor, being careful to not blend too much.
  2. Store in the fridge, where the relish will be spicy and fresh for up to a year.  


1 C distilled vinegar
1 C water
2 C sugar
2 tsp pickling salt
1/4 C minced garlic
1/4 C tuong ot toi (from above)

  1. Bring the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and garlic to a boil stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Reduce the heat and boil gently until the mixture thickens, about 30 minutes.
  2. Stir in the chili-garlic relish. Increase the heat and bring the sauce to a rolling boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool, then store in the fridge for at least a year.

Hot Peppers

Care & Storage

For Eating Fresh: Store unwashed in your fridge for a week or two (if left outside of the fridge at room temperature, peppers will continue to ripen, but also tend to shrivel). 

To Dry: String peppers together with a needle and thread, then hang in a window or put in your oven at 100°F for 24 hours.


August - October

Varieties of Note

Oh, the hot pepper. We love the color, shape, and flavor variety found in the pepper family so much. Here are this year’s varieties, listed in approximate order from least to most hot:

Ancho / Poblano – Called Poblano when green and Ancho when dried, these are relatively mild and used for roasting or stuffing. (1,500 Scoville units)
Hungarian Hot Wax – These large meaty peppers are mild enough that they can be thrown into a dish in large slices without overwhelming it.
Matchbox – Smaller and somewhat hotter then the Hungarian Hot Wax, but still relatively mild. Delicious chopped up in spicy omlets.
Jalapeño (5,000 Scoville units) - Make some delicious salsa.
Czech Black – A striking deep purple color, similar in flavor and spice to a jalapeño.
Bulgarian Carrot Chili
Serrano (20,000 Scoville units)
Cayenne (40,000 Scoville units)

(from here on down we recommend - from experience - wearing gloves while handling)

Red Thai & Yellow Thai - Very hot (75,000 Scoville units)
Red Mushroom - Very hot.
Habanero – Extremely hot (250,000 Scoville units).
Chocolate Habanero – Extremely hot.
Scotch Bonnet – Extremely hot (250,000 Scoville units)
Bhut Jolokia – One of the hottest peppers on record, also known as the Ghost Pepper. 1,000,000 Scoville units! Beware and please don't hurt yourself eating them - as a point of comparison, pepper spray (the weapon) measures approximately 2,000,000 on the Scoville scale.


Honeyed Jalapeño Ring Pickles
Adapted from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich
Makes 8 half-pint jars 

2¼ lbs jalapeño peppers, cut into 3/16 inch rings and, if you like, seeded
24 whole black peppercorns
8 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp mixed pickling spices
1 quart cider vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp pickling salt
4 tbsp olive oil

Divide the peppercorns and garlic evenly among 8 half-pint jars. Tie the spices in a spice bag or a scrap of cheesecloth and put it into a saucepan with the vinegar, honey, and salt. Bring the contents to a boil. Add the pepper rings and bring the contents back to a simmer.

Divide the peppers among the jars, and pour the hot liquid over them, leaving a little more than ½ inch headspace. Discard the spice bag. Pour about 1½ tsp olive oil into each jar and close the jars with two-piece caps. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath.