Spicy Cocktails to Spiced Chocolate: #SpicyChat is Cooking a 3 Course Dinner with Chilies from @exceptionalfood

One thing I have seen through my culinary experience, regardless of the cuisine is, either people love chilis or are completely intimidated by it, and for various valid reasons such as where will I find these exotic spices, do I have to make a trip to a specialty food store, or is it too spicy?

These are few of the questions addressed by #Spicychat today. Also #SpicyChat has created an entire meal inspired from chilies by Gourmet Delights. Both of us will resolve your spicy concerns while offering creative dishes to appeal to any palate. So whether you are a seasoned spice lover or still a novice, these recipes aims to please all palates starting today’s spice journey with Chili from Peru and moving across the borders in search of the perfect balance of spice.

Food doesn’t need to be so spicy that your lips burn and your palate goes numb. Just enough spice to create incredibly satisfying and rich dishes, full of flavors, yet also taste light and healthy. Spices, if used moderately, can create endless possibilities of flavorful and delicious dishes.

Food should be light but intense, rich but refreshing, and above all, balanced. The precise balance between sweet and hot elements is key to any tasty meal.

This week’s #SpicyChat inspiration comes from Gourmet Delights. Gourmet Delight is an online specialty store which provides the highest quality products which have been tested by them first and only then offered to you after adding it to their own tables.

In their own words:

Our passion for food began back in the 1980s. Some of us are professional chefs. The rest of us are accomplished home cooks like yourself. We love great food and believe great meals begin with the best ingredients possible. All the products here are essentials in our kitchens, and we hope will become essentials in yours.


Home cooks need not fear: these ingredients are not only for professional chefs; high-quality seafood, Italian truffles, jellies and a variety of spices and extra virgin olive oils can be used by any cook to make an otherwise familiar dish for a family dinner or dinner party, something a bit more exotic. You do not need to change your recipes or cooking techniques, simply add these ingredients to your recipes and your guests will definitely taste the difference.


Exceptional foods at realistic prices.

From smoky paprika from Spain to spicy Aji from Peru, I have created an entire meal to showcase the versatility of chilies. Without further adieu, let’s start cooking!!


Michelada: Aji Limo Spiced Beer Cocktail

Michelada is basically a beer cocktail made with Mexican beer, lime, tomato juice, spices, and sauces. Sort of a spin off on a Bloody Mary which happens to be a good remedy for hangovers too. The reason I chose to make this cocktail was because there is no rigidity to it. You can connote it to suite your palate – spicy, mild, or medium. Experiment with the assortment of spices to see which one you like best.  Watch out for the Limo though, it is ‘spicy’  & will surely kick start your day or evening!!

Aji Limo Organic Paste is a chili grown and used mostly on the northern coast of Peru. Aji limo is spicy (a heat level of 8 on a scale of 10; 60,000 Scoville units) and is primarily used to prepare ceviche and rice dishes. Though in my humble opinion, it pairs fantastically with cocktails too.


  • 12 oz Mexican Amber Beer (substitute with an ale of your choice)
  • 1/4 tsp Aji Limo Paste
  • 1/2 tsp black salt (optional)
  • 1 Lime juiced
  • 2 – 3 oz tomato juice
  • Kosher salt to rim tall cocktail or beer glass
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Ice to serve


  1. Dip a cocktail glass with lime juice and kosher salt.
  2. Add lime juice, aji limo paste, black salt, and Worcestershire sauce to taste and stir.
  3. Fill the glass with as much ice as you prefer and pour the beer in. Give a little stir and enjoy!!

You can use all of the above listed ingredients or experiment with a few. That’s the beauty of this cocktail. Just pour, mix, and enjoy it with your family and friends.

Spicy & Aromatic Meatball Tagine

My family adores this fusion of Moroccan-Latin flavors. Beautifully seasoned spicy meatballs slowly simmered in a delicate melange of herbs and aromatic spices creating an intoxicating mix of flavors. Poach a few eggs in the divine sauce, and it is sublime! My kitchen smelled absolutely incredible while the sauce was simmering. Wish you could taste it!!

I used Aji amarillo (for heat) and smoked paprika(for flavor) to spice this dish.

Aji amarillo is the most common type of aji and is one of the most important ingredients in Peruvian cooking. It has a heat level of 7 on a scale of 10 (50,000 Scoville units). The unique flavor of the Aji Amarillo makes it worth seeking out and incorporating into your cooking. Even though it is a “chili pepper” it has a lot of fruitiness combined with its heat. It is a very versatile chile, suitable for everyday use as it will complement your dish without overwhelming it.

Smoked paprika is a unique and versatile seasoning, one spice that captures the essential flavor of Spain. Different varieties of pimiento are slowly smoked over a low flame to produce a superb, intense flavor. It provides an inimitable especially in stews and rice dishes.



For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 2lb can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 2 tsp La Chinata smoked paprika powder
  • 1 tsp Aji Amarillo Powder
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tbs fresh mint leaves, sliced
  • 4 tbs fresh cilantro leaves, sliced
  • 1/4 cup good quality EVOO

For Meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground beef (substitute with your choice of protein)
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika powder
  • 1 tsp Aji Amarillo powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, minced
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin powder

4 large eggs (optional)
pita bread to serve


  1. Mix all the ingredients for the tomato sauce in a deep skillet over medium high heat. Bring to boil and simmer covered over low heat for 20 minutes.
  2. While the sauce is cooking, make the meatballs. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs and gently shape into 1 inch balls. Wipe your hands with some oil to keep your hands from sticking.
  3. Once the sauce has simmered for 20 minutes, add the meatballs and 1/2 cup of water. Simmer covered on low heat for 45 minutes.
  4. At this point you can serve it immediately or add eggs in the sauce. If you add the eggs, cover and simmer the tagine for additional 5 minutes to poach the eggs.
  5. Serve hot with pita bread or choice of crusty roll to sop up the delicious sauce.

And to wrap up our delicious evening inspired and traveled across exotic continents, we finish on a sweet and spicy note with spiced chocolate ganache empanadas.

Dark Chocolate-Panca Spiced Baked Empanadas

Since my trip to King Arthur Flour in Vermont, I have been obsessed with baking, creating both savory and sweet deliciousness. An Empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry traditionally fried or baked with stuffing ranging from meat, cheese, vegetables, and even fruits. Different countries create their own unique version of Empanada – Calzone in Italy, Samosa in India, Dumplings in SE Asia, pastelillos in Cuba. Here to showcase the versatility of chili, I am combining a pastry like dough with a aji panca spiked chocolate ganache. And since I am not a fan of frying and also to showcase the flakiness of the crust, I chose to bake these empanadas.

These spiked chocolate empanadas are surreal. They will wow your guests leaving their palates lingering with the hint of that ‘secret’ ingredient (spicy chocolate ganache).

Aji Panca is one of the most common types of aji (chili) in Peru. Distinct from the other ajis in its spiciness, aji panca is mild in heat intensity (a heat level of 2 on a scale of 10; 1,500 Scoville units) and provides a fruity, berry-like flavor that goes well in stews, sauces and fish dishes. Aji panca is so sweet, so berry-like, that it can be finely chopped or ground into a powder and tossed into foods to add a sweet, mild heat.


  • King Arthur Flour’s Empanada Recipe
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 11/2 tsp aji panca powder
  • 1 lb best quality dark chocolate
  • 1/4 lb best quality white chocolate
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract or orange flavored liqueur
  • Cinnamon-sugar to roll
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder


  1. Make the empanada dough and chill for at least 30 minutes to overnight.
  2. To make the chocolate ganache, gently heat the cream, aji panca, and cinnamon over medium heat. Once it starts boiling, remove from heat. Add the chocolates and vanilla essence. Whisk to blend the ganache. Once smooth, add the orange flavored liqueur and cool completely. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Lightly flour a rolling-pin and counter. Roll the chilled pastry dough into 1/8 of an inch dish or rectangle.
  5. Using a 4 inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out circles of dough. Re-roll the scraps and continue making circles until the dough is used, approximately 20-25.
  6. Spoon 1 tsp of filling on each circle. Apply egg wash on the edges of the border.
  7. Fold the dough over in half to enclose the filling and form a semi-circle. Tightly seal the edges by crimping with a fork.
  8. Place the empanadas on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush the tops with egg wash.
  9. Chill for 15 – 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
  10. Bake for 18-22 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
  11. Let rest before you bite into it the melting and gooey chocolate.


I hope you enjoyed reading this spicy post as much as I enjoyed creating these wonderfully spiced dishes. Thankfully, all the chilis listed above are literally available with a click of your mouse. Yes, Gourmet Delight products ships free of charge in the United States and also ships world wide. Check their online store for details.

For more delicious Chile inspirations, join us tonight for a #SpicyChat Extra Virgin Olive Oil Party at 8 PM EDT on Twitter with @exceptionalfood.

Join Us Every Thursday at 8 PM EDT for #SpicyChat Twitter Chat to bring some spice in your lives! We Love to share ALL recipes. Simply add the #Spicychat hashtag to your link, we will RT and also add your recipes to our Pinterest Board. For more spicy inspirations, join our #SpicyChat FB Page.


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