I come from a long line of pepper lovers…and the hotter the better.
In our family, hot peppers were treated as a quasi-medicine. As a child, my grandfather schooled me on the benefits of hot peppers to the metabolism and, to clogged sinuses. But what my grandfather loved first and foremost was the taste and, of course, the kick. When you were wiping your eyes and guzzling water, you knew the pepper was good.
His brother-in-law, Woody, shared his passion. Woody was a prolific gardener, and every summer his tiny patch of green yielded up a bounty of red and green hots that were the envy of his South Jersey Italian neighborhood. After siphoning off a cooking supply for my grandmother and aunt, he and my grandfather would retreat to the second kitchen in the basement. They’d sequester themselves for days, pressure cooking and preparing their secret recipe “hot pepper butter,” which they meticulously canned and preserved. Chemists by trade, they had this annual production down to a science; every year we were treated to dozens of jars of bright orange fire ambrosia. It was not for the faint of heart or stomach; in fact, being invited to partake of it was a rite of passage in our family, a sign that we had reached a certain level of maturity. It breaks my heart to say that the recipe died with them.
What lives on, however, is my craving for hot spreads and sauces. The truth is, I can’t handle the actual peppers very well. But hook me up with any kind of hot sauce, and I’m in heaven. I’m an opportunistic hot sauce user. I’ll toss it on everything from scrambled eggs to chicken soup to plain brown rice in near indiscriminate amounts. Sometimes I even use it as a dip.
I love that hot sauce has gone mainstream. My local Mexican restaurant has at least four varieties right on the table, and my grocery store seems to expand their line every time I go in. My new favorite sauce is sriracha, an Asian blend some California friends introduced me to a few years back. Although it’s been around for nearly three decades, sriracha has recently gained a huge following, with lots of specialty stores and smaller manufacturers producing their own versions.
So yes, I’m in hot sauce heaven, with no shortage of sauce or ways to use it. This tasty recipe for Sriracha Lime Popcorn is easy to make, and a great way to turn up the heat on one of my favorite snacks.
Sriracha Lime Popcorn
Yield: About 12 cups
• 3 quarts popped popcorn
• 1/2 teaspoon minced lime zest
• 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
• 1 tablespoon hot chili sriracha sauce
• 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Place popcorn in a large bowl. Sprinkle popcorn with lime zest.
2. Mix butter, sriracha sauce and lime juice. Drizzle over popcorn and toss. Sprinkle with salt; toss again and serve immediately.