On to the sweets of the pepper patch! Although there are more zesty plants in the garden and pots this year, the milder variants have a good portion of the space. A couple have just the slightest tingle, while the rest have no apparent heat at all.
It’s likely that the sweet Bell pepper is the most-cultivated Capsicum variant in the world, with nearly 30 million metric tons produced commercially each year. (For those of you who have trouble with such large numbers, this is approximately 20 bells for every man, woman and child. In the world.) Bell peppers are well represented at the grocery these days, in a complete riot of colors: Green, yellow, orange, red, purple, brown, white; even lavender and variegated. Recently, hybrids that exhibit a small bit of heat have become available to backyard farmers, like the Cajun Belle.
I saw some really nice specimens for sale recently, and soon the farmer and his cash were parted. I took a pair home and found them a sunny spot on the south side of the pepper patch. They didn’t seem to notice they were free; no swoon from transplanting like many peppers suffer. They stand up straight, though these bushes will likely be shorter than other bells in the garden. The slightly zesty fruit of the Cajun Belle are usually smaller than classic bells too, though there are claims that these plants are more productive over the whole season than their taller, milder cousins. I hope to make fajitas with a mix of red and green Cajuns, to surprise my friends with their piquancy.
These aren’t the only bells I planted. At the north edge of the pepper patch I’ve got a Yellow Bell, a Red Bell, and a Purple Bell. I use plenty of yellows and reds in pepper jelly, as well as making stuffed peppers and in Asian stir-fry dishes. As far as I know, I’ve never tasted a purple bell. What intrigued me about this last type is the claim that the color is only skin-deep! All the other bells I’ve caught and cooked, their color ran all the way through the fruit. Supposedly the purple bell retains a green flesh underneath its dark, satiny skin. All three of these plants look identical at this point in the season, tall and striking. Blooms are appearing on all three, so I could see finished fruit in just a few weeks.
One pepper with a bit of tingle in the taste is the Cubanelle. I had one of these in the garden last year, quite by accident; apparently the small label had been swapped with one for a cayenne. In any case, this plant was the darling of the plot. Very sturdy and productive, we fell in love with the large, light-green fruit; I bought four, on purpose this time. Plenty of sweet flavor, with just a hint of zing. Great for stuffing, as fans of classic Mexican food know. We let several fruit ripen to bright red, and those chiles were a bit hotter, still sweet and tasty. The ripe reds aren’t as sturdy as the immature greens, though, so I mostly used them in stir-fry and the like.
Another first for us this year is the Santa Fe Grande pepper. Also known as a Yellow Hot Pepper, it really isn’t very hot at around 500 Scoville. (For comparison, jalapeño peppers run from 2,500 for the milder giants, to over 8,000 for some editions.) This one’s also known as a Guero Chile. Whatever the name, this pepper has a reputation as a great snack or in pickles. Usually the fruit are picked when bright yellow, although they can be allowed to ripen to orange or even red. Ripe Santa Fe peppers are hotter, and don’t keep as well in the fridge. I have two in the experimental pots, so we’ll get to see how they do on the porch.
I planted two Sweet Banana plants to complement the two Hot Bananas. These sweets aren’t quite as tall as their spicier cousins, at least not yet. last year, our one sweet banana went to nearly four feet tall, and was an amazingly productive plant. Two of these should yield enough for giardiniera, snacks, salads, and to keep the rent paid on the T-post hammer. (Mike loves banana peppers; I’m not in any danger of repossession of this critical tool.)
Nowadays, when you cruise the produce aisles of your local grocery, you might well see clear plastic bags of snacking peppers. These peppers are usually about three to four inches long and tapered, in a variety of appealing colors. The orange ones could well be Tangerine Dream peppers. I started some of these from seed this year, and so far a couple of the plants have survived. (I seem to have gotten started a bit too early on these.) It’ll be another month before these bloom, I would guess, but after that I look forward to some tasty, orange snacking peppers of my own.
I have three Gypsy peppers, another new variety to me. Two are in one of the big pots, and the third is on the south end of the pepper plot. A container-friendly bell pepper variant, the Gypsy produces medium-sized fruit, with more taper than a typical bell. They’re ready to eat when bright yellow, and will ripen further through orange to red. Great for stuffing as well as all the other uses for bells, I think I’ll try this recipe when I have some Gypsy peppers ready.
So altogether, zesty and mild and sweet, in garden and planters, I have nearly 60 pepper plants this year. I think I’ll have almost enough to Feed the Need…
Enjoy the (Sweet to Eat) Heat!
The Elves here at the Chile Underground have ben espousing increased consumption of peppers of all types for years now. (They’ve also been espousing massive consumption of beer and meat-on-a-stick, but that’s for another article.) Now there’s scientific evidence that their push to get everyone to eat chiles is well-founded. Actually, it’s not their push that’s sound science, but you know what I mean.
Now there’s proof that peppers of all varieties, consumed in reasonable quantities, can help fight Parkinson’s disease. Or at least there’s an indication to that effect. Sort of.
The actual findings: People who eat plenty of peppers (up to five servings a week, or even more) have a decidedly lower incidence of Parkinson’s. Peppers are known to contain small quantities of nicotine. Since previous research indicated that smokers also have a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, the new research would seem to indicate that nicotine is the active agent in preventing Parkinson’s (or at least reducing the risk).
Here’s the soundbite:
In general, vegetable consumption had no effect on Parkinson’s risk. The more vegetables from the Solanaceae plant family that people ate, however, the lower their risk of Parkinson’s disease. This association was strongest for peppers, according to the study, which was published May 9 in the journal Annals of Neurology.
One thing to keep in mind: The actual results don’t prove cause-and-effect, only that a nice correlation exists. That is, it’s not proven that peppers actually cause the reduced risk of Parkinson’s. More research (meaning, more tax dollars spent) is anticipated.
Tomatoes, which are also found in the Solanaceae family, didn’t seem to provide the same protection. Tomatoes are low in nicotine; it takes about a quarter ton of fresh tomatoes to give the same amount of nicotine one would get from a single cigarette. (Hope you’re hungry.) Peppers seem to have about 100 times the nicotine content of tomatoes. Still far short of tobacco, but a surprising amount nonetheless.
So unless you want to spend all your waking hours in a smoky pool hall imbibing second-hand smoke (from the Elves, likely) or take up smoking cigarettes, then we heartily suggest you eat more peppers. Hot, mild, sweet; makes no difference. Or you could
go completely crazy and eat eggplant; but who wants to live like that…
The (Disease-Fighting) Heat is ON!
The only way the Elves here at the Underground can justify their use of the word “Chile” in their website’s name is to be sure to have plenty of peppers planted and thriving by this time of the year. Fortunately, they’re cultivating a grand spread of capsicum, hot and mild. (They grumbled quite a bit when I told them they had to put down their beer and use all their grubby little hands to do the planting. But they got’er done. Eventually.)
This will be a long report, so hang with me. Without further ado, let’s see what the hot pepper patch promises…
Beginning with the hottest first, there are four petite Caribbean Red (450,000 on the Scoville scale, more or less) plants in one corner of the pepper patch. I attempted to start some from seed, but they didn’t make the cut. I had given up on this interesting cultivar when I found four rather sad-looking little seedlings on a flat at the garden center. Yellowing leaves, droopy and despairing, I took them home and nursed them for a while, then carefully freed them from their small, square pots. Water, sun, warm breezes and plenty of fertilizer later they’re doing famously, if still a bit on the short side. It’ll be another month before they can even think about blooming, but once they get going I think they’ll produce nicely.
Last year the Habanero (275,000 Scoville) plants did splendidly well. I had nine of them, way too many in the opinion of some people
whose silly ideas somehow got lost in the shuffle. This year I’m going with three plants, and they’re growing quite nicely, blooming already. They’re quite short, but then, last year they didn’t top two feet; typical of most Capsicum chinensis varieties. Listed as an annual, these plants can actually last several years if they’re protected from frost and cold over the winter. Some chileheads claim the fruit from later years are hotter and sweeter. I may attempt to pot up one or two of these (and the Caribs) and see for myself; in the meantime, we have to get through the coming hot summer. As an aside, the Caribs are also C. chinensis, and many call them habaneros. It’s splitting hairs, in my opinion; they’re both wonderful chiles for pepper jelly, and that’s my primary concern.
I’ve always heard about the Thai Birdseye chiles (75,000 Scoville), how tasty and hot they are, but I’ve never seen plants available in my area. Until this year. Suddenly, every garden center had flats and pots of them! Although they’re classed as an ornamental by many, I think they’re a “must have” for Thai food, especially the hotter curries. These bushes are a nest of spindly limbs, with plentiful flowers and lots of pointy fruit. It doesn’t take these babies long to produce a handful of useful little chiles. I started with well-established bushes and transplanted them early. They suffered a bit with the cool weather, but they’re catching their stride now.
Last year I bought and planted four lovely Yellow Cayenne plants (40,000 Scoville). Unfortunately for me, they turned out to be common reds. This year I’m trying four more, and I talked with the Bonnie Plants rep in our area who assured me they were going to be yellows. Of course, he doesn’t know any more about this than I do, but I smiled and nodded. Time will tell. In any case, the red cayennes didn’t go to waste last year, and whatever color they are this time I’ll find employment for the produce. This particular cultivar is supposed to be more like a Cowhorn Cayenne, long and heavy.
Speaking of Cowhorns, they were conspicuously absent at the garden centers near me this year. I went with three of the more classical Long Red Cayenne (40,000) plants, and they’re going great guns. Naturally they’re not very tall yet, well less than 18 inches in height. They’re already producing strongly, though, and there are plenty more blooms opening. I think these little beauties might be the prize find of the peppers this season.
The Serrano chile (25,000) is one of my favorites. Good in salsas, pepper jellies, Asian food and more, and they’re so easy to grow. Last year I had eight nice plants, a couple of which grew to over seven foot tall at the end. This year I’ve scaled back to three plants, one of which has already suffered a serious attack from some bug. They’re going okay, but I hope this isn’t a harbinger of a bug-filled war this summer. I plan to make more use of green serranos in salsas and jellies this season, as well as experimenting with some zesty green curries. Given how many chiles just three plants can give, I won’t have any trouble with quantity! No blooms yet, but it won’t be long, I bet.
Chiles from the great state of New Mexico are prized all around the world for their varied flavors and uses. Interestingly, I’ve never tried to grow any of the famous New Mexico types available. This year I’ve corrected that oversight by trying a couple of Barker’s New Mexico Red (20,000 Scoville) plants. The plant structure isn’t unique in any way, but they’ve already started blooming and producing. This morning there are 5-6 nice chiles forming, nearly a dozen blooms, and two of the fruit are an inch long. Time to feed and water!
When I was buying seed in the winter I was intrigued by a variety knows as the Kung Pao chile. Not too hot at about 10,000 Scoville, these zesty darlings are long, thin-walled and somehow specially suited to Asian stir-fry dishes. I ordered some seed and got a few plants, then after I put those out in the sunlight I found some large plants at a local garden center. Which got me to thinking: Maybe I should try some in pots? Costco had some nice planter pots on sale, quite large and appealing. I took home a couple of Kung Pao plants, then hurried to Costco to get their homes.
By the time I finished filling and situating the planters, I had eight plants in them; four in each. The Kung Paos found a home with a pair of Fresnos (more on them in a bit). So far they’re looking good, with blooms and tiny chiles already in evidence. With five specimens in the patch and two in a pot, there’ll be plenty of Asian heat to enjoy.
Mike, our neighbor, has loaned me a T-post hammer for the duration. In return, I keep him stocked with peppers and tomatoes for his salads. He loves Hot Bananas (8,000), so I planted a couple specially for him. (Sweet Bananas too; I don’t discriminate. They’ll appear in the next update.) Also known as a Hot Hungarian Wax Pepper, the fruit make nice relishes (mixed with the milder ones), pickled pepper rings and more. You can even stuff the larger ones. I plan to experiment with some of these in zesty giardiniera as well.
The Fresno chile (5,500) has been in general cultivation for 60 years now. (Yes, it’s named in honor of Fresno, CA. Not sure why.) A Fresno chile looks something like a jalapeño, but with a pointed tip and larger, rounded shoulders. There’s less flesh on a Fresno, but what’s there is plenty tasty and warm, especially when ripe. They can be used like jalapeños, including stuffing, roasting, in salsas, or just for slicing and eating. For the first time in our area, seedlings were for sale at garden centers, so I took two and put them in a large planter to keep the Kung Paos company. They’re stubby and deeply green at this point, with their leaves held well out and up, unlike other cultivars that let their leaves droop. This may change as the plant matures. I’ve never had any green Fresnos to use, so I’m looking forward to that, and to the mellow heat and tender flesh of the ripe ones.
Early in my wanderings, garden center to nursery, I came across a couple of plastic pots with some beautiful ornamental peppers in them at one store. I’d never seen anything like them before. The bushes were about fifteen inches tall, and heavy with clusters of red and yellow peppers that pointed up. I bought both pots and put them in the nursery in the house. Turns out these are Poinsettia Ornamentals (2,000), an odd name for a pepper I suppose, but they sure are pretty. The ones I had were terribly root-bound and threatening to turn toes-up unless I did something drastic, so
I drank a few beers and thought it over before procrastinating jumped into action. I found some unused terra cotta and ceramic pots around the house and carefully separated the pepper stalks, then replanted, fed and watered. I now have seven pots of various sizes, chockablock full of colored ornamentals. Some stand out front to greet visitors, and the rest have places of honor around the back porch, where Archie and I can sit and admire them. So far, I’ve collected the drying chiles and put them through the dehydrator, then made some powder and flakes. I’ll try a special salsa with the bright yellow chiles, one of these days. Later. Maybe.
PS There’s a lot of confusion about the heat of these chiles. Numbers as low as 1,300 Scoville can be found on the Web. Top values I’ve found are about 30,000. Your mileage may vary…
Finally, one lonely little Poblano (1,500) plant can be found sharing space with the red cayennes. It’s a freeze survivor, and at one point had only one scarred leaf. I wanted to take it up and replace it with something else, but PJ persisted in protecting it. So welcome to the patch, Zombie! To my everlasting surprise, this plant has pulled through, put on new leaves, and is now a gigantic four inches tall. Who knows, maybe it’ll actually make it. And at this rate, we’ll have poblano peppers for Chile Rellenos. In about 2016…
The (Zesty Chile Plants) Heat is ON!
The tomato plants are set in two areas of the garden. The main section has three rows, with a fourth row set across the patch from the rest. This is an experiment I’m running, involving root protection from heat. In any case, it means I’ve got tomatoes scattered pretty much all over the place.
Some of the determinate varieties can be found on the south end of the main patch. The isolated row is all determinates, except for one lonely Sungold. In all, there are 22 of these hardy determinate bushes in the garden, representing 9 distinct cultivars. This year I chose for heat resistance where I could; important, as we expect a long, hot summer here in central Texas.
Let’s start with some of those heat-resisters: Solar Fire, Summer Set, and Phoenix. These are all recent hybrid offerings, and I chose to include three of each. The Summer Set bushes can grow to near 6 feet tall, with the Solar Fire next at 4-5 feet. Phoenix bushes tend to be shorter and sturdier, not much over 3 feet in height. However, the Phoenix plants seem to want more space between each other, as they stay low and grow wide and well filled-in. Each of these types put on regular-sized, smooth, and deeply red fruit. All three varieties are also quite disease-resistant; a nice bonus these days.
All nine of these plants are blooming nicely, and a couple have set some fruit on. Go, plants, go!
The Amelia VR hybrid is a tomato that’s been optimized for the home gardener in the deep South. Plenty of disease resistance, and heat-sturdy too, Amelias grow to three foot tall, or a bit more, and don’t splay all over the garden. They don’t have the super-thick foliage and stem structure of some modern hybrids, but they’re plenty tough. Oddly, they’re a bit finicky to start from seed, and they don’t like cool mornings (below 50° F); if they get cold, they get tissue scarring and “catface.” They’ still grow fairly well, but not as fully as an unscarred bush. I have one that survived the frosts, and it’s a completely different animal (of the plant sort) than the one I bought later. They’re both blooming, though, so I think they’ll do just fine.
Right after the last freeze got my young tomatoes I
sat down and cried, then went to the garden center to begin the recovery effort. The first specimens I collected included two nice-looking Better Bush plants, in larger pots. These babies were only about eight inches tall (out of the dirt), and were desperately blooming, indicating they really wanted out of their restraints so they could get going. I turned them loose into the wild and planted their roots deep, then fed and watered. Good thing I stood back quickly! They’re growing fast, and have already set on several clusters of tomatoes. These globes are all about the size of a baseball, or even a bit larger. And more blooms are started just up the stalk. I think we’re in for an avalanche of Very Large Tomatoes, Real Soon Now.
In the previous Update I mentioned the Goliath tomato. I also have a couple of Bush Goliath, the semi-determinate dwarf cousin. This hybrid was developed for the patio gardener, and that effort led to plants that work well in small spaces. Tough, hardy and productive, the Bush Goliath’s tomatoes look just like those from the larger Goliath plant, up to four inches across and weighing a pound or more. Each. Perfect for slicing or canning. These plants are easy to grow and maintain, and it’s clear they’re going to be well-behaved citizens of the garden patch.
Last year we had great success with the Husky Cherry hybrid. We had four plants, and they even made it through the terrible August heat, after a fashion. I grabbed two plants early this season. This variety makes a very sturdy, dark-green central stalk, with lots of side-limbs that stick straight out. The leaves are crinkly and stiff. Indeed, the whole plant is the most turgid of any in the garden. At first I thought the limbs and runners would be easy to break off, given their stiffness; they’re not. By the time they reach solid production they’ll be very solid plants which will need a cage just to keep them from tipping over. Four plants turned out to be too many, even with the great taste of these tomatoes. Given the other cherry varieties we have, we’ll be well-set again this year. The plants are already to the third ring of their crates and looking very dashing.
Two heirlooms are represented this season. I’m trying Marglobes for the first time, though this hybrid has been around since forever; 1917, to be exact. Released to general use by the USDA in 1925, this tomato was an immediate hit, with its resistance to diseases (including blossom end rot) and consistent productivity. That’s true still today. My three Marglobes are not going crazy like some of the other tomatoes, but are quietly building a base for later. I may have enough of these for canning.
The other heirloom we’ve planted is the classic Homestead. Officially classed as semi-determinate, these plants can be as tall as six feet when mature; large for a determinate! Homesteads are also mildly resistant to heat, setting fruit even after other plants have given up. I look forward to tasting these medium-sized fruit from my two plants in about two months’ time.
Next up: Hot peppers…
Enjoy the (Bushy Tomatoes) Heat!
The garden’s doing famously now, with spring finally deigning to make an appearance. Most folks (including me) had to replant most or all of their gardens this season, some unlucky souls (like my brother) doing so twice. So we’ll be late with the produce, though it appears that there will still be plenty to go around.
Because I’ve installed a large variety of vegetables, in spite of only having 450 square feet to work in, I’ll break this Update into sections: Indeterminate Tomatoes, Determinate Tomatoes, Hot Peppers, Sweet Peppers, and Other Veggies.
This year I have fifteen indeterminate tomato plants in the patch. Last year I had some indeterminate towers over nine feet tall! These cultivars usually shoot up early, and this year is no different. The fastest to reach the top of the tomato cages this season are the Sungold Cherry ones. (Also spelled Sun Gold, for some reason; go figure.) Due to an unexpected senior moment (I’m claiming the sun was in my eyes), I wound up with four of these hardy plants. Two more than planned. And originally I didn’t have any place to put them, but I squeezed one into an unused corner where the wood fences join, and another in an open hole at the northeast end of the cucumber trellis. Both are a little hard to reach, but not completely isolated. This is my first try with Sungolds, and given the vibrant health of these bushes I expect to overwhelmed with extra-sweet, orange fruit soon. At present all four plants have quite a few blooms, and tomatoes already set.
PJ and I tried to start some tomatoes from seed this year. The only ones that survived are three Sweet 100 Cherry plants. (I need a better hothouse arrangement; but that’s for a different rant.) These seedlings were way behind the others early on, but they’ve been stretching upwards at an alarming rate. They’re now well up the cages, and in another ten days or so they could actually pop out the top of the 54” crates I’m using! They’re a pleasant, deep green color, with plenty of short limbs, each holding many smaller, crinkly leaves. Rather like the leaves on a Husky Cherry, though the Sweet 100 isn’t as sturdy a plant as the Husky There are no blooms yet, as this trio seems to be concentrating on structure over productivity at the moment. There are plenty of fruit stalks starting, though; it won’t be long until we’ll be eating handfuls of sweet, red globes in addition to the orange Sungolds.
I put in two Goliath plants, fairly late in the planting scheme, and I began with a couple of already-large specimens. These plants take quite a while to get ready for fruit, as they need to produce strong stems and structure to hold the gigantic fruit the plants set on. Once the Goliath gets going, it produces prodigious quantities of very large, round tomatoes, ideal for canning or sauce-making. Fruit averaging two pounds each, with a single plant yielding 40 or more in a good season, make these lovelies potentially the best workers in the garden. My only concern is that these bushes aren’t terribly heat-resistant; if we get extreme heat early this summer, they might not yield much. We’ll see. At present they’re most of the way up the cages, and trying hard to bush out wide.
One Better Boy survived the freezes that replaced our normal spring weather this year. He was frost-bitten, of course, but somehow he’s sprung back nicely and is threatening to catch up with the Sungolds that surround him. No tomatoes set yet, and only a couple of blooms; but I expect Big Things (get it? Big? I’m a riot, I am.) from him later.
The remaining indeterminates in the garden are heirlooms: two Pink Brandywines, two Hawaiian Pineapples, and one Old German. I’ve not grown any of these varieties before. Brandywines come in several apparent types, although they are all basically the same cultivar: red, pink, orange. The plants look more like a potato plant in the beginning, with large, spatulate leaves. The two plants I have are looking happy, but not showing any signs of blooms or cluster stems yet. Fruit of a pound are more each often have ridges, and can be a bit variegated in color when cut through. They’re beefy and sweet, great on burgers and sandwiches. I look forward to having some of these once the summer heat becomes unbearable.
Pineapple tomatoes are a new species to me. They’re an heirloom beefsteak that produces a yellow-orange fruit big enough that a single slice will cover a third-pound burger patty nicely. I found these at my neighborhood specialty garden store, and was immediately taken with “the tomato with the funny name.” Rumor is that these do have a very sweet, almost pineapple taste; I’m ready to be surprised. Two potential issues: These tomatoes have trouble setting on fruit (as many heirlooms do), and they’re not necessarily heat-resistant. I’ve got the roots put in very deep, and with water and care I hope to keep these bushes healthy through their main productive spell. They’re currently most of the way up the cages and looking strong, with several clusters of blooms opening.
The Old German cultivar is said to have been developed by Mennonites in the Shenandoah Valley, beginning more than a century ago. I found a couple of frost-bitten specimens at a local nursery, clearly in need of love from someone. After dickering with the shopkeeper I took the pair for half-price, and planted them together in one hole. So far, one of them has done quite well, recovering from its freezing scrape with doom and beginning to catch its stride in the last few days. The plant is nicely up in its cage, with a few blooms already showing. No fruit set yet, though. These tomatoes are Yet Another Beefsteak type, though slightly smaller than others in the garden. The fruit takes a while to ripen, but in another six weeks I expect to be enjoying these odd-shaped, bicolor tomatoes in salads and other dishes.
Next up: a summary of the determinate tomato section of the garden…
The (Tall Tomato) Heat is ON!
This entry is part of a series, Austin Scene»
My daughter continues to surprise me with her food interests. Recently (meaning, since she’s gone away to school) she’s learned to enjoy Pad Thai. She came home one weekend and said she wanted to find a Thai place nearby that could feed her need; did I know of one already?
Well, I knew of Chang Thai, but I’d never been in the store. We hurried to repair my deficiency.
Chang Thai is a small place, a classic strip-mall eatery in an area full of such diners near a super Wal-Mart. We were greeted by a young lady who seated us in a booth and handed around simple, laminated menus. Yep, this was clearly my kind of place, a family-run hole-in-the-wall with mouth-watering aromas.
Only PJ had any trouble deciding what to choose. She’s not (yet) fond of Thai, and really doesn’t like spicy much. (Even if I fix it. Sigh.) Jessi quickly chose the Pad Thai, although there are several other interesting choices in the stir-fried noodle dishes section of the menu. I chose a Thai curry, their Pha Naeng (which I know as Panang). PJ finally settled on the Basil Fried Rice, prepared mild.
While our food was prepared I took a good look around. There’s a tiny salad & soup bar in one corner, which I made good use of while I looked things over. The place could hold maybe 40 diners when full, with a mix of booths and tables available. The décor is simple, Thai-themed and unobtrusive. There’s plenty of light, and the space is clean and appealing. I got some Chicken Tom Yum soup from the bar, with a few fresh veggies as an appetizer.
Our meals came out quite quickly, and they were appealing in appearance, with plenty of fresh vegetables. Paula’s plate had plenty of color and a good dose of aromatic basil. Jessi’s noodles and chicken was just what she expected, she said. Mine was a classic Thai curry that contains coconut milk, peas, chili peppers, carrots and more. A side of white rice completed a filling meal.
We enjoyed our lunch very much.
We’ve now been back a couple of times since, for lunch and for dinner, and have always had a refreshing meal and pleasant, stress-free dining experience. One small event will always bring us back to Chang Thai, I think. Jessi had her wallet fall out of her jacket, without her knowledge. It made it to the floor, and we left without it. She was on her way to purchase her first new car, and being without her identification certainly cramped her style. I called the restaurant, and they looked all around a found the missing wallet. I hurried over, got the wallet, faxed the ID to the dealer, and everything came off well. Their quick, positive response at a time of a small crisis for us certainly makes us smile when we think of Chang Thai’s family. And then there’s the good food…
Chang Thai, 13000 N Interstate 35, Austin, TX 78753. Phone 512.491.8859. Tasty, traditional Thai food (the simple family type) in an unpretentious setting, open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Vegetarian and vegan friendly. Kid and family friendly. Free Wi-Fi. If you’re a fan of small, family-owned eateries, give Chang Thai a try.
The (Great Thai Food) Heat is ON!
Entries in this series:
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- Cool River Café and Southwestern Poblano Soup
- Restaurant Review: Gumbo's Louisiana Style Café
- Restaurant Review: Chola Indian Restaurant
- Restaurant Review: Fujian Grand China Buffet, Austin
- Restaurant Review: Casa Garcia's Tex-Mex Restaurant
- Review: Mesa Rosa Mexican Restaurant
- Restaurant Review: Truluck's Seafood, Steak and Crab House
- Restaurant Review Update: Fujian Grand China Buffet Restaurant
- Restaurant Review: Pho Viet Restaurant
- Sunday Brunch Anniversary Celebration: Moonshine Restaurant Patio Bar and Grill
- Late-Lunch Steaks at the Blue Oak Grill
- Mama Roux: So Good There's A Song About It, Sort Of...
- Phil's Ice House, an Austin-Weird Place for Great Burgers
- Easter Sunday Dinner: A Poor Experience at a Usually Reliable Locale
- A Sedate Spring Lunch at Zed’s
- Looking for a Taste of Germany? Well, We Tried…
- Fresh and Tasty Tex-Mex, Prepared by a Grandma
- The HomeField (Grill) Advantage
- Dinner for One: Sometimes the Good Stuff is Right Under Your Nose
- Smoky Heaven in Round Rock: Johnny T’s BBQ
- Tex-Mex, Better’n Sex (Says So on the Menu)
- The Quest Begins Anew (Just Pho Me): Mai Lien Bistro
- A Little Bit of the French Quarter, Here in Central Texas
- Quick Bites: El Caribe Tex-Mex
- It’s Good, It’s Italian, and You Don’t Have to Go to Europe to Get It
- Casa G’s for Lunch (Hint: It’s Awesome)
- Chola Indian Restaurant: A Good Indian Eatery Gets Better
- Tacos are Brain Food, and Brainiacs Eat at El Taquito…
- Get Your Indian Food Fix the Easy Way: Tärkă Indian Kitchen
- Late Lunch at Mandola’s Italian Market; Worth the Wait…
- I Didn’t Know Sichuan, China Included Round Rock
- Sunday Brunch at Pecan Street Station; Good Choice…
- Does Kung Fu Buffet Lives Up to Its Name? My Sample Says…
- The Underground Visits Ethiopia for Dinner (and Has a Wonderful Time)
- Pho Lee Vietnamese, It’s Total-Lee Pho (and Very Good)
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- The Great Pho Quest Continues: Pho Thaison in Allandale
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- Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Round Rock: Great Meat; As For the Rest…
- LongHorn Steakhouse Round Rock: A New Family Favorite
- Salt Lick BBQ in Round Rock: More Than Finger-Licking Good
- Drinks and Snacks on the Deck at McCormick & Schmick’s
- Going Back Pho More at a Local Favorite
- Swagat Indian: A Disappointment With a Few Bright Spots
- Branch BBQ in Wells Branch: A Local Secret?
- Karrrazy, Man: Kublai Khan Crazy Mongolian Stir Fry
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- Chang Thai, Our Family’s New Favorite
This entry is part of a series, Pepper Jelly Chronicles»
I recently wrote about using mangos in a fruit-pepper jelly. Well, I had a brainstorm shortly after that session in the kitchen. The inspiration came from a bit of candy I was sucking on while I mulled over exactly how to prepare my next batch of jelly.
offending enlightening sweet? A butterscotch.
One of my favorite hard candies, I admit. The buttery smoothness, the nearly-caramelized brown sugar richness; a great treat, in my opinion. I was working that candy
like a bulldog chews a neckbone around in my mouth when it came to me in a flash: Why not put butterscotch flavor in the jelly?
I had already cut three mangos open. I quickly cleaned up the fruit and stuck them into the fridge. Checking the pantry, I found no butterscotch bits or anything. Off to the market! I couldn’t find any butterscotch flavoring drops or syrup, but I did find butterscotch chips, naturally. So I snagged a bag of those, collected the few other items I needed, and hurried back to the kitchen.
I used about 6-8 ounces of chips in the pot with the processed fruit and other ingredients. I actually made almost exactly the same jelly I’d made in the last mango batch, with pineapple and fresh ginger. A few deseeded habanero chiles. Lemon and pineapple juices. Sugar, Stevia, spices.
Man, this jelly came out wonderful! I think I may be well on my way to world domination after this coup…
The (Buttery Mango Scotch) Heat is ON!
Entries in this series:
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- Red Pepper Jelly Sunday
- Pepper Jelly Update: Anybody Got a Gas Mask I Can Borrow?
- Tag-Team Teaching in the Kitchen
- Lemon Ginger Marmalade, an Easy Spread to Make
- Yellow Inferno for Breakfast: Caribé-Habañero Pepper Jelly
- Lemony-Hot Jam, a Hybrid Spread With a Slow Burn
- Hatch Chiles and Lime, a Great Combo for Jam
- Jessica, Your Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly is Ready
- Hunting the Wild Prickly Pear in South Texas
- Prickly Pear Jelly Redux: Juice, Juice Everywhere…
- Charred Pineapple, Habañeros and Bourbon, a Great Jam Combo
- How to Push Prickly Pear Jelly Over the Top With Serrano Chiles
- Not Your Momma’s Marmalade
- A Jam That’s Just Plum Good…
- Peaches O’ Eight Jam, the Perfect Pirate Toast Topping
- Saint Basil’s Green; It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore
- Pepper Jelly Redux: Apricot Jam, Extra-Zesty Habañero and Serrano Jellies
- Pepper Jelly Sweetened with Stevia: It’s a Hit!
- Gardens, Gators, and Green Pepper Jelly
- Do Hairless Peaches Make Great Jam? You Betcha…
- Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Onion Jam
- Cinnamon Plus Heat Equals Magic
- March Madness, With Mangos…
- StingJam, a New Variety of Pepper Jelly
- Butter and Scotch? Not Quite; But a Great Jelly Nonetheless…
Here’s the conundrum: I needed to make a filling, tasty, protein-lade dish that minimized carbs and calories. Something where even eating seconds wouldn’t blow out the calorie count for my wife’s weight-loss efforts. (Me, I’m the perfect size, of course. But I’m going along, just to support wifey.)
I didn’t want to spend a lot of time or money in the grocery store. Nor did I want to burn a lot of time in the kitchen. Here’s my solution…
I took two large boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut them into bite-sized chunks. I put the meat with a quarter-cup of lemon juice, some dried herbs de Provence, white pepper and minced garlic. I chopped up a bit of cilantro. This all went into a zippered plastic bag; I squeezed out the air, sealed the bag and mixed the contents, then refrigerated for an hour or so.
When it came time to put the dish together I started the oven at 350 degrees F. I had a couple of small potatoes on the counter, so I scrubbed and sliced them into 1/8-inch thick rounds. I left the skin on for extra nutrition. I put a couple teaspoons of olive oil in the bottom of a glass baking dish, then I spread that around to coat the whole dish. I opened a can of petite-diced tomatoes from the pantry, then I combined the tomatoes with the marinated chicken which I fished out of the marinade with a slotted spoon. I discarded the marinade; it had done its work. Then I stirred some finely diced red onion in with the chicken. Finally I chopped up about half a bunch of cilantro and stirred that into the chicken mix as well.
I made a layer of potato rounds on the bottom of the baking dish, and seasoned those with a pinch of salt and some white pepper. I scattered some of the chicken mixture over the potatoes, then repeated the layers. Finally I sprinkled about a quarter cup of lemon juice over the whole shebang, covered the dish with foil, and baked for 40 minutes; just until the potatoes were tender to a fork.
While the chicken was cooking I made a simple salsa cruda, from tomatoes we bought at the farmers market, a couple jalapeño peppers, red onion, cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, salt and white pepper. I covered the mixing bowl and popped it into the fridge to chill while we waited.
When the baking was over I removed the foil and scattered a couple ounces of grated Parmesan cheese over the top of the dish. Back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so, to settle the cheese. Then I let the dish rest a few minutes before serving.
This was a great-tasting dish! I really liked a big helping of the salsa on top, with the cool contrasting with the hot chicken and potatoes. The chile heat was pleasant too. PJ ate hers “unadorned” and pronounced it outstanding. Normally I don’t think of chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, cilantro and lemon juice as a medley of flavors to combine. Sure worked this time! Okay, the flavor profile is somewhat Italian, with maybe a Spanish overlay. Whatever you want to call it, we enjoyed it immensely.
What about the nutrition? Assuming I had six servings, each one would be about 200 calories (or 220 with a nice dollop of salsa), with fat of 3 g, fiber about 3 g, cholesterol of 35 mg, carbs about 20 g, and protein at 21 g. Right where I wanted it…
Enjoy the (Tasty Lo-Cal Casserole) Heat!