I grew up in a German household and spicy food was never on the menu. My mom’s cooking was wonderful but would be considered a little on the bland side by today’s standards. If my parents were feeling a little wild and crazy they might order kung pao chicken from the local Chinese restaurant but my mother would never have considered cooking it herself. She may have had a little tin of cayenne pepper in the cupboard, but that was as far as she went.
During my ten plus years as a vendor at the Beaverton Farmers’ Market I have developed a tolerance and appreciation for spicy foods I never tried as a child. I worked my way up the heat scale with roasted peppers that I use in my favorite Mexican recipes and incorporate into casseroles and vegetables dishes of all kinds. I’ve sampled all the local varieties except the super hot ones and when I saw a large display of the famous Hatch chilies at the local market I jumped at the chance to try them. They looked innocent enough and certainly within my heat range. Big mistake.
I roasted the chilies on my grill, then peeled and seeded them. They are delicate and wouldn’t stand up to stuffing and frying, but are perfect to slice, mince, puree or use whole in Mexican dishes. I like roasted chilies on pizza and thought that this would be a great way to use what I had prepared. The heat level was high for me, but manageable (so I thought), so I was generous with the amount I used. I rolled out my favorite prepared dough, ladled on a generous amount of sauce, added the roasted chilies, sweet Italian sausage, sliced red onions, lots of mozzarella cheese and topped it all with sliced tomatoes.
W-E-L-L, let me tell you, that baby was hot! It isn’t very often that I eat something that makes me perspire and makes my eye’s run. I thought the Hatch chili was a medium heat pepper but have read that it can range from mildly spicy to over the top hot. No question about which ones made their way into our local market. Hatch chilies are wildly popular and each year Hatch, New Mexico pays tribute to them with a festival that draws fans from all over the U.S. They say their growing conditions are perfect and the chilies get their superior flavor from hot summer weather and ideal soil.
If you would like to read about Hatch chilies and the Labor Day Weekend Festival in Hatch, New Mexico you can find the info here.