There’s something about high heat that brings out the screamer in all of us.
Last week, while I was quietly eating my lunch in Courthouse Square, I noticed some folks yelling across Mendocino Avenue, trying to carry on a conversation over the din of passing cars and trucks. Then, when the light didn’t change quickly enough, one of the screamers started yelling at the traffic light. Meanwhile, a man with a backpack walked by, repeating “9/11 – Get rid of the cops!” at the top of his voice, over and over again. It felt like I had walked into the middle of an absurdist play.
When it’s hot outside, anger seems to bubble to the surface more quickly. To counter this effect, we need to eat foods that allow us to cool down, both physically and emotionally. In tropical countries, people eat lots of picy food made with chiles rich with capsaicin. The capsaicin not only helps circulation but creates an endorphin high similar to that experienced after a long run or yoga class.
So the next time you’re feeling short-tempered, try going for a walk and then making a cooling, soothing dish out of chiles. The gardens are bursting with all kinds of peppers and chiles right now, so they are easy to find and priced right.
In his new cookbook, “Bottega,” Napa Valley chef Michael Chiarello shares a recipes for an “Angry” Ahi Tuna Crudo that he serves on a slab of Himalayan salt, to season it and keep it cold.
“Angry” Ahi Tuna Crudo
For “Angry” sauce:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tablespoon finely sliced seeded Serrano chile
1 ½ cups fresh basil leaves
Sea salt, preferably gray salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon julienned orange zest
1 pound sashimi-grade bigeye or sushi-grade tuna, cut into 2-inch bricks
6 salt slabs for serving, or fleur de sel for sprinkling
For the sauce: In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat and add the garlic. As soon as it begins to color, add the chile and sauté for 10 seconds, then get ready to add the basil leaves. Basil leaves hold water, so they’ll pop when you toss them into the hot pan. Stand back! Saute until crispy, 1 to 2 minutes, either flipping or stirring the contents of the pan with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and stir in the orange zest.
Cut the tuna into 1/8-inch-thick slices and fan the slices on each salt slab or chilled plate. If not using salt slabs, season lightly with the best salt you have. Top with a little of the “angry” sauce.