Cooking with Kelsey (and jalepeño peppers)

I have a friend named Kelsey. Kelsey loves to cook. I mildly enjoy cooking, most of the time. When Kelsey is around, though, I start to love cooking, too… mostly because some of the most exciting things happen when she is around, and they get even better if you are in the kitchen.
Yesterday, on the way to church, Kelsey spoke up from the backseat:
“Lacey, are you coming over for dinner tonight?”
“If I’m invited…”
“Of course you’re invited!” (Kels keeps a strict open-door policy for all of us… which can sometimes result in awkward moments, actually)
“Well then, sure!”
“Good. Do you like spicy foods?”
I hesitated for a moment, unsure of the consequences if I said yes. Then again, what sort of fascinating thing could I be missing out on if I said no?
“Yes, I love spicy food!”
Kelsey’s face lit up. “Good! I have two jalepeño peppers. I’ve never cooked with jalepeños before… and I want to try!”

You should understand… when the words “I have never (insert task here)… and I want to try!” come out of Kelsey’s mouth, it means that something very entertaining is about to happen. Therefore, I got very excited for dinner.

That evening, I made my way to the apartment where Kelsey and Elisa are living for the summer. I walked in to find JP sitting on the couch, on the phone with Dell tech support (he gets endless amusement out of calling various tech supports and trying to stump them), Elisa in the kitchen covered in flour, rolling out tortillas, and Kelsey happily chopping away at a bell pepper. “What is happening??” I asked.
“We’re making tortillas!” Elisa told me, excitedly. Kelsey stepped over to check on Elisa’s progress, then gasped in dismay. Apparently, they were too thick. oh no! Dismayed voices spoke, the rolling pin flew around, some flour hit the floor, and soon Elisa was off to pursue greater things on her computer, leaving the tortillas to Kelsey.

Since I declared myself the official Vegetable Chopper Extraordinaire in their apartment last week, Kelsey handed me a knife, a tomato, an onion, some cilantro, and two jalepeño peppers. I chopped up the unintimidating vegetables, then stood with my hands on my hips, staring at the peppers, wondering what you do with such small but dangerous plants. So, I went to my great friend who I turn to during all of life’s hardships… Google. I googled, “How do you cook with jalepeños?” And two articles came up at the top: How to Cut a Jalepeño, and How to get Jalepeño Out of your Eye.
“I think we should read both of them!” Kelsey declared.

I began to cut the first pepper… very, very carefully, as the warnings on the website seemed to indicate instant death if my skin made contact with a seed. I chopped it into tiny pieces and dumped it into our pan of spanish rice (which Kelsey was totally making a recipe up for). She mixed it in, let it simmer, tasted it…. then, disappointedly, announced that it was, in fact, not at all spicy.

Confused, I settled at the computer to do more research. Upon reading another article, I found that to make food truly spicy, you should leave some of the jalepeño seeds, and apparently what is called the “placenta,” (the stringy white stuff) in it. Interesting. Kelsey, reading over my shoulder, decided we should go for it. Jumping out of my seat, I put one hand on my hip, stuck one finger in the air, and cried, “Here we come, placenta!” That got JP’s attention.

I began to cut up the second jalepeño (I had only used half of the first, but tossed all of the seeds and placenta). I used exactly 1/4 of the pepper this time, using the seeds and white stuff that was attached to the piece. Before putting them in the pan, Kelsey and I had one more discussion over how wise this could be. “Maybe the other one was just a bad pepper?” Kelsey wondered. There was obviously only one way to find out if the pepper itself was spicy.

I plucked a small piece from the cutting board, put it in my mouth… then found myself running from one side of the kitchen to the other, madly waving my hands around. “OH NO! OH NO!” Kelsey cried, scrambling for a glass and the milk. She poured it, thrust the milk in my hands, and I started to gulp. Then Kelsey decided to laugh, which made me laugh, which made the milk come out of my nose.

After recovering, I dumped the second round of pepper (plus seeds and placenta) into the rice, and let it cook for a while… resulting in a great pan of delicious, flavorful, spicy(!) spanish rice!

We enjoyed our meal of tortillas (cooked nice and thin), homemade guacamole (cutting up an avacado was one of the more fun things I did all weekend), black beans, rice, and a fun chicken thing that Kelsey invented.

Oh, I love cooking with Kelsey!


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