How to cook with chile peppers — with gloves on

In our refrigerators and pantries, we let languish mustards and vinegars, salsa and pickles. Carrots grow beards; celery gets limp.

But, in my view, the greatest disservice that we do to a foodstuff is how we treat the chile pepper.

Not a fresh one that we might buy, not usually. By and large, it is quickly dispatched (though  rarely properly), intended for a specific purpose, for a given day and dinner.

No, we buy the chile pepper in the forms of hot sauce or chile powder — diverse and useful, yes, but frankly not its best showings — that, in short order, we then we let languish alongside the now-forlorn pickles and mustards.

But what worlds of flavor and titillation fresh chile peppers can bring us, nearly always and for everything. If only we better honored them, knew their many and diverse secrets, understood how best to reveal those — and ate them every day.

I cannot tell you here about the chile pepper in its measureless entirety, about the long or short ones, the fat and thin ones, those in red, yellow, green, purple, even brown, all which colors may revise when dried.

And how to describe to you (or warn?) of their levels of heat? Because even, say, a short stout green one advertised to be “moderately hot” may, from one plant to the other — from one stem on the same plant to the other! — contain in itself a wickedly dangerous fire.