Monday, January 7, 2013

I Cayenne Do It!

No, this hasn't turned into a cooking blog, although I'm happy to report that twelve and a half years after becoming an adult (graduating from college, where I had a meal plan and getting married and moving out of my parents' house, where there were three squares a day), I'm finally getting so I like to cook!

For a long time, my go-to meal was spaghetti.  I'd switch things up a lot, sometimes having a jar of meat sauce with it, sometimes tomato-basil, other times mushrooms would join the mix.  One time, I got really fancy and found a jar of spaghetti sauce with spicy sausage in it!  Woooo!  It was fancy living in the Blake house that dinnertime! 

Shane always maintained a good sense of humor about all spaghetti, all the time, only melting down once or twice over the solid stream of noodles-n-sauce.  (For Shane, a meltdown means he scowls and says "Can't we have something else for dinner for once?")  He even gave me a clever nickname: Spaghetti Lynetti. 

One thing that hasn't been so funny is my indiscriminate use of cayenne pepper.  I bought a bottle of cayenne pepper from the Acme in the Andorra Plaza in Philadelphia.  That bottle has moved with us from our first apartment, it moved with us back home, and its lasted in our house since we moved here in 2007.  I still have about a quarter-teaspoon left, which is quite remarkable, considering I've ruined more than two handfuls of dinners with that cursed bottle of cayenne.  I'd shake it on food until the food had a nice, rosy, peppery glow.  I've ruined tuna casseroles, chicken, tilapia, and haddock.  Repeatedly.  I don't know how that bottle of cayenne has held on this long, when I count up all the meals I've over-done the spicy-spicy using it.  And I think it's really remarkable how that cayenne pepper has held on to its heat all these years, considering the way other spices start tasting like pencil shavings after a few months of being opened.

Last night, I needed to use cayenne pepper to make "No-Butter Chicken" from the Eat Clean Diet Solution cookbook.  It's a cleaned-up version of the Indian dish Butter Chicken.  The recipe called for a list of spices as long as my arm (and I had 'em all!), including an eighth-teaspoon of cayenne.

To say I was nervous about adding that much cayenne pepper is an understatement.  I considered my bottle of cayenne pepper, shook around the red powder in the bottom, and then I carefully measured out an eighth of a teaspoon and mixed it in with the rest of the spices and was nervous the whole time I stirred the No-Butter Chicken. 

Where I went wrong before, with the cayenne pepper. I used to rely on sight and not measuring spoons to know when there's been enough put in a recipe.  My No-Butter Chicken had some sass to it tonight, but I could taste the other flavors.  It was quite delicious.  It was a hit, in fact!

So I guess I can do it.  I can cook with the hot stuff without turning dinner into a nuclear testing site.  Soon, it's going to be time to buy a new bottle of cayenne pepper.  I'd like to think I've gained some wisdom since I bought my first bottle, back in The Year Two-Thousand!

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