With 25 minutes to go until the sitter arrived, I decided to tackle the peppers that were overtaking my fridge. Every week I’ve gotten more in my CSA delivery, and we just haven’t made it through them. So there they were — green, red and yellow bells, plus anaheims and poblanos and a few other dark and light green skinny ones whose names escape me — in bags on every shelf.
Why I decided to chop and freeze them when I should’ve been getting ready for dinner with friends at Fruition (Alex Seidel’s acclaimed restaurant), I don’t quite know. Perhaps if I hadn’t been so rushed, I wouldn’t have made such a big mistake.
My plan was to do what I always do with extra peppers. That is, wash, seed and chop them, then put them in Ziploc bags and freeze them for use later this winter. Although I can find organic peppers in the store year-round, they’re obviously not local, and when I go ahead and buy them anyway for the occasional recipe, I find them to be pricey and squishy, not a good combination. Non-organic peppers are cheap and deceptively fresh-looking, but bell peppers rank third (as in third most contaminated) on the Dirty Dozen list, so I always buy organic.
So there I am, seeding and chopping peppers as fast as my chef’s knife will move. With a few minutes to spare, I bagged the veggies, cleaned up the kitchen, and got ready for the sitter. That’s when I noticed something was wrong. My hands were burning.
I felt like I’d been making snowballs bare-handed, then running my hands under hot water. I washed them again with soap (singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice like I’ve taught my kiddos), kissed my kids good-night and jumped in the car. Still burning. We arrived at the restaurant and my hands were hurting so badly I scoped out the neighborhood for a pharmacy. None to be found.
So we put the restaurant to the test. Known for its excellent service, I explained what I’d done and asked if the chef had any ideas. Within minutes, the waiter brought out a cup of milk for me to pour over my fingers. No relief. So he brought out baking soda, which I was instructed to make into a paste and apply to my fingers. Still no relief.
Lucky for me, one of the friends we were having dinner with is a doctor, so she reassured me that the reaction was only local and wouldn’t lead to anything more serious. I relaxed and settled into the night, and by the time we were finishing our French press, I noticed that the burning had finally stopped.
Moral of the story: Don’t assume peppers are sweet! I’ve been trained in a kitchen and I know you’re supposed to wear gloves when chopping hot peppers, but I mistakenly assumed all of my peppers were sweet. (The poblanos and anaheims I’d set aside in the glass bowl pictured above.) Since I was in such a rush, I’d neglected to sample them. I’m just thankful that I chopped the yellow bell for my kiddos’s dinner before starting on the others.
P.S. In our house, we talk about “turning lemons into lemonade” So in this case the bright side is that I won’t have to add any crushed red pepper to my chili this winter…