Late summer is a colorful transitional time of the year, not exactly autumn just yet, summoning a taste for something that says, "Okay, summer's almost over. Last call!" Although jalapeños are a natural choice for Texas comfort foods, let's turn up the heat a tad by cooking with the serrano.
Easy enough to use for a speedy chop job - think salsas and pico de gallo - serranos are also wonderful roasted, lending their signature bite to Mexican and Southwestern American cuisines. Be advised: Serrano peppers pack a considerable amount of heat (about 10,000 to 20,000 Scoville heat units), making it fall approximately between the jalapeño and the cayenne in intensity.
As with any hot chile pepper, it's a good idea to wear latex gloves or coat your fingers with oil before working with serranos due to the potential for skin irritation. The pith and seeds contain the most capsaicin, the source of the pepper's "fire," which can be minimized by removing the inner fireballs. However, you may want to keep the flame alive: Those spicy little numbers offer vitamin C and metabolism-boosting properties.
Regarding the duration of the mouth burn, would you like to enjoy the peppers' punch, but get your pucker back to room temperature in a second or two after eating? Contrary to popular belief, water can make the heat worse temporarily by spreading the pepper's oils, sort of like creating your own personal grease fire. Instead, try having a starch (bread, tortillas, etc.) or a dairy item to carry the pepper off your tongue.
Savor summer's final flavor blast with the serrano. We'll save you a bite!