From Latin to Thai, Italian to Creole, chiles and spices are found in almost every cuisine in the world, and with good reason: They add flavor and of course, heat and spiciness, but they also add depth and character like no other ingredients can.
We are big fans of fragrant, spicy foods. And while the spiciness and heat level of any given dish is highly subjective, most can agree that spices, chiles, and all their heat-toting brethren, like wasabi and mustard, are a great way to add nuance to nearly any dish.
So it was with great anticipation that we dove in to the new Make It Spicy cookbook by author Amy Machnak. Chapters are divided into Mild, Hot, and Fiery, and include appetizers and salads, curries and gumbos, tacos and ribs, kebabs and noodles, and all sorts of side dishes. There are more than 50 recipes that “pack a punch” and plenty of expert tips and ways to customize the heat level to suit your palate.
Nearly every recipe is photographed in full, glorious color, and they look so enticing that you’ll have a hard time deciding which one you want to try first. But we can help with that–here are some of our favorite recipes from the book, to get you started.
Summer Salad with Chile Vinaigrette
In this recipe, peak-of-the- season tomatoes are dressed in a mild poblano chile vinaigrette. Occasionally a hot chile turns up, so taste your batch before all of them go into this vinaigrette.
3 large poblano chiles
2 small garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Pinch of sugar
3⁄4–1 cup (6–8 fl oz/180–250 ml) olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 lb (1.5 kg) tomatoes, in a mixture of shapes, sizes, and colors, cored and sliced
2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and sliced lengthwise
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
12 large fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
Roast, peel, and seed the chiles as directed on page 15. Set aside.
In a small, dry frying pan, toast the garlic cloves over medium heat, turning them often, until they soften and their skins blacken, 8–10 minutes. Let the cloves cool, then peel.
In a blender, whirl the chiles, garlic, vinegar, and sugar until smooth, adding a little water (about 1 tbsp at a time) if needed to blend. With the motor running, slowly add as much of the oil as needed to create a vinaigrette with the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick, add a little water. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the tomatoes and avocado slices on individual salad plates and drizzle each serving with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the chives and basil and serve.
Texas Baby Back Ribs
Texas cooks like the sauce on their pork ribs to be both complex and spicy hot. And they like to moderate the fire with a big batch of coleslaw.
3⁄4 cup (6 fl oz/180 ml) each white wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar
1⁄3 cup (3 fl oz/80 ml) Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp ground New Mexico chile
1 tbsp dried Mexican oregano
2 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp each garlic salt, garlic powder, onion salt, and onion powder
1 tsp each coriander and cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp dry mustard
1⁄2 tsp ground allspice 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp puréed chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1⁄2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) chili sauce
1⁄2 cup (31⁄2 oz/105 g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1⁄4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) tamarind paste 1⁄4 cup (3 oz/90 g) honey
3 slabs baby back ribs, about 5 lb (2.5 kg) total, trimmed
In a bowl, combine the vinegars, Worcestershire, New Mexico chile, oregano, paprika, garlic salt and powder, onion salt and powder, coriander, cumin, mustard, allspice, cinnamon, chipotle purée, chili sauce, brown sugar, tamarind paste, and honey. Mix well, then pour half of the sauce into a large baking dish. Add the ribs and turn the slabs to coat well. Pour over the remaining sauce, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a large wire rack on the lined pan. Remove the ribs from the sauce, reserving the sauce. Place the ribs, meaty side up, on the rack. Bake, basting with 1⁄4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) sauce once every 30 minutes, until the ribs are tender, about 11⁄4 hours.
Pour the remaining sauce into a saucepan, bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until thickened, 25–30 minutes. Keep warm.
Let the rib slabs rest for 10 minutes, then cut them into individual ribs, pile the ribs on a platter, and serve with the heated sauce on the side.
Sesame Noodles with Peanuts & Thai Chiles
This homey noodle dish, known as dandan mian, packs a punch, thanks to the use of chile oil and fresh chiles. The creamy texture comes from the flour in the fresh noodles and the sesame paste.
1⁄2 cup (4 fl oz/120 ml) canola oil
1⁄3 cup (2 oz/60 g) raw peanuts Kosher salt
7 oz (220 g) fresh Chinese flat wheat noodles
1⁄4 cup (21⁄2 oz/75 g) Chinese sesame paste
2 tbsp chile oil
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1⁄2 cup (11⁄2 oz/45 g) chopped green onions
1 Thai chile, chopped
Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Pour in 1⁄4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) of the canola oil and heat until nearly smoking. Add the peanuts and fry, stirring continually, until golden, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peanuts to a cutting board and let cool. Set aside.
Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.Add the noodles and cook until barely tender, 31⁄2–4 minutes. Drain in a colander, then rinse under hot running water. Leave in the sink to drain while you make the sauce.
In a bowl, combine the sesame paste, chile oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, 1 tsp salt, the remaining 1⁄4 cup canola oil, and 1⁄2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) hot water. Stir until well mixed, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Transfer the noodles to a bowl, add the sauce, and stir and toss to mix well.
Divide the noodles evenly among individual bowls. Top each serving with the fried peanuts, green onions, and chopped chile and serve.