Thai basil and hot, HOT peppers!
In amongst all of the productiveness is our Thai basil plant. We started this from a transplant that was about 4 inches tall. It's now about 2 feet tall and at least as wide. I like its purple flowers and decided awhile ago to stop deadheading them.
So the Thai basil has been growing like crazy and all along I've been wondering what to make with it. The obvious answer is Thai food, but I don't have much experience with Asian cooking and I often feel intimidated by recipes that call for unfamiliar things like fish sauce, red curry paste, hot chili peppers and so on. While I do enjoy Thai food quite a bit, I've always felt it was best to leave it to the pros at the restaurants. And Washington, D.C. certainly has a decent selection of Thai restaurants. But even so, I thought, why grow this enormous Thai basil bush and then not cook with it? So I had to give it a whirl.
I found this recipe for Spicy Chicken and Basil Stir-Fry on Williams-Sonoma's Web site and thought it wouldn't be too complicated. The only new-to-me ingredient was the fish sauce, and it called for 3/4 cup of Thai basil. Perfect.
The recipe also called for three other ingredients that I was able to use from our garden: scallions, garlic, and jalapeño peppers. My husband loves jalapeño peppers and will eat them in all forms -- fresh, cooked, pickled -- you name it; the heat doesn't bother him one bit. As for me? Well... let's just say... I am a little more sensitive to hot peppers than he is. Read on.
The recipe calls for one or two jalapeños. I decided to play it safe and just use one. While I was cutting the pepper, I remembered the time when I had my first dreadful encounter with a jalapeño. It was in a bowlful of salsa made by two of my former roommates who were Mexican-American. And let's just say... they liked their salsa extra, extra picante! I found out the hard way and they seemed quite amused when I had to put my tastebuds on ice afterwards. Painful. Very painful.
So cutting the pepper, I wondered if the ones we grew in our own garden were even all that hot, and... can you see where this is going? As I was scraping away the inner membrane of the pepper (which is said to be the hottest part, by the way), I decided to take a little taste. I did no more than touch a tiny piece of it to my tongue and... YYYEEEEOOOOOOUUUWWWWW!! It's hot! It's hot! Get some milk! Drink milk! Oh, the milk trick isn't working for me! (Let me guess, it doesn't work with skim?!) Get ice! Get ice! My mouth is burrrrning!!
Fifteen minutes later, I am still standing in the middle of the kitchen -- lips are bright, burning red and I am sucking on an ice cube. Michael comes home and sees me in this state of severe pain. "What's wrong?," he asked. And all I had to do was point to the cutting board where the offending pepper remained in its partially cut-up state, and he knew. "Did you eat some bread? Try some bread; it will remove the jalapeño oil from your lips." So I tried that and, thank goodness it worked.
And this was supposed to be all about the Thai basil, right?
Well, after that traumatic run-in with the jalapeño, I only used a tiny bit -- maybe one quarter of it -- in this recipe. It turned out great, although... would you believe?... After all that, we thought it could have used a little more kick. It needed more spiciness to make it taste like real Thai. But I was a little apprehensive after that taste-test incident, you know?
This goes down with the distinction of being The Most Painful Dish I made with our garden ingredients all summer. It is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted by Piperita in Italy at The Kitchen Pantry. Visit her site on Monday for a roundup of hopefully-less-painful-to-make recipes.