Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Green Jalapeno Sambal

I nabbed a copy of Simply Ming by Ming Tsai from the library, and I'm loving just reading through it. It's organized differently than most cookbooks I've seen. Instead of a chapter of appetizers, a chapter of soups, etc, Ming gives 32 master recipes for different sauces, rubs, salsas, and oils, and then gives about 3 recipes using each master recipe as an ingredient. For example, there's a master recipe for Roasted Pepper-Lemongrass Sambal, and then that sambal is used in a Grilled Portobello Sandwich, Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, and Orzo with Sausage. I love the way it's organized, since you can pick out recipes based on flavors. If you want something fiery hot, you can pick one of the Traditional Spicy Sambal recipes; for something with lots of herb flavor, there are recipes using a Five-Herb Vinaigrette. The master recipes are great ways to make weeknight meals, because they are all designed to be storable. You can easily keep a master sauce or spice rub on hand and add it to a quick meal at the last minute.

I was inspired to give the Traditional Spicy Sambal a whirl, since the given recipe has a pretty lethal amount of jalapeño peppers and Thai chiles. I'm not a chilehead, but reasonably spicy food makes me happy. I planned to use the sambal in Ming's Crazy Chicken-Rice Noodle Stir-Fry. However, my local supermarket didn't have any red jalapeños, and also didn't have Thai chiles. Recipe adaptation time! They did have green jalapeños, so I grabbed a half-pound of those. I decided to just leave out the Thai chiles (since, quite honestly, it's plenty hot as is).

I have dealt with jalapeño peppers before, and have never needed to wear gloves. Of course, that was with one pepper, maybe two. Apparently, chopping up a half-pound of the things is not quite the same. As I started peeling the garlic, I noticed a slight tingling in the fingertips on my pepper-holding hand. Within a couple of minutes, this had progressed to unbelievable burning pain. This kicked off a desperate search to find something to neutralize the capsaicin and pepper oils... taking a double dose of both allergy medicine and Aleve and soaking my fingers in cold milk has just about gotten rid of the pain. So, even if you don't have a reaction when cutting up one or two jalapeños, WEAR RUBBER GLOVES if you're going to be working with a large volume of them. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, and trust me, you don't want to learn this one the hard way.

If there's an easy way to peel an entire head of garlic, I don't know what it is. I smashed the cloves with the flat side of a knife, removed the peels, and then used my food processor to mince the cloves.

Green sambal

Green Jalapeño Sambal
makes about 1/2 cup

1/2 pound green jalapeño peppers, stems removed, and roughly chopped
1 head garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan over low heat, cook the jalapeños and garlic in the vegetable oil, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 15 minutes. Add the rice wine vinegar and continue cooking until the liquid has reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and salt. Allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse to desired consistency. The sambal will keep in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for 1 month.


With the sambal finished, I could go ahead and use it in a dish -- namely, Ming's chicken and rice noodle stir-fry. The dish consists of ground chicken, sliced shallots, scallions, basil, and rice noodles tossed in a sauce made of sambal, lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. I'm allergic to seafood and I don't know if fish sauce would cause me problems, so I left it out and just had a lime juice/sugar/sambal sauce. I also used ground turkey instead of chicken, because the supermarket didn't have any ground chicken.

Turkey and rice noodle stir-fry

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