Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mexican Manzano Chilies (or chilis?)... found in Westchester!

A few days ago I was in White Plains to visit my mother. I routinely walk from the White Plains train station to her apartment, which takes me through an area of White Plains not far from White Plailns Hospital where there are a number of Mexican and South American markets and bakeries. I often stop at La Paisa, a Colombian bakery, for baby corn arepas - I bring some to my mother - and other times I go into a Mexican market (I can't remember the name right now) to look around. On Sunday I took a second look at a cluster of chilis that I'd noticed previously and this time I decided to buy a couple. They're thick-skinned like bell peppers but smaller, and their color is mostly yellow with some green. It turns out they're called Manzano chilis,
This is the whole manzano chili. The word "manzano" means apple tree and at first glance this pepper looks more like an apple than a pepper. And the fact that it's quite heavy made wonder if it even might be a relative of the tree tomato or some other type of tomato used in Mexican cuisine. The woman at the counter told me it was hot. I'm used to hot chilis having very thin skins or being long, like serrano chilies, which I love, or jalapenos. Anyway, I got two of them - one all yellow, one with some green. At my mother's apartment, I cut open the chili and saw big black seeds. I wondered if this meant that the chilis - which were smooth-skinned - might be old, but the black seeds are yet another feature of this unusual chile - unusual for me, that is, probably very common to Mexicans! The heat comes slowly. I sliced it up and put the small slices on matzoh with yogurt cream cheese - a great fusion of flavors and textures. This turned out to be a good thing, since the chili initially did not seem hot at all, and then the heat came gradually. The book "The Science of Food" has a chart comparing chilis by Scoville units, and the Manzano is hotter than a serrano but less hot than a Scotch bonnet or habanero. It was a nice find! Below is the sliced Manzano.

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