There are people who should really be called chile abusers--ask anybody who's ever been to a chili cook-off or watched a chile-eating contest. But people who actually like to taste their food usually like chiles too, and in countries where peppers are an integral part of the cuisine, they're nearly always in the majority.
These traditional cuisines show the many ways chiles can be used to create exciting dishes that are not mere endurance contests. It's all a matter of imagination and balance. These are some of our favorite hot dishes.
This simple sauce can be used in any recipe calling for red salsa. I prefer using a dozen or so chiles in the recipe, but for a mild version, reduce that number to about half.
LAURA VERA'S SALSA
1 teaspoon oil
13 dried chiles de arbol
1 1/2 large tomatoes, peeled
1/4 onion, diced
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat oil in small skillet and saute chiles few minutes. Place in blender with tomatoes, onion, garlic and salt. Puree. Makes 2 cups.
Note: May be made with as few as 6 chiles de arbol, depending on hotness desired.