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Do you love hot and spicy foods or do you avoid them for fear of what tomorrow might bring?

We adopted spicy many years ago. My husband’s favorite condiments (besides more salt on everything) are red pepper flakes and hot sauce. I often cook spicy food from Mexican to Chinese and Indian. The last is a relatively new — I have a Sri Lankan friend in Scotland who introduced me to some wonderful recipes. meals, and spices, which made me want to venture into that area. One of her best dishes is Chicken Buryani (I never got her recipe).

Now I have an assortment of different curry powders, strange and wonderful seeds and pods, which I experiment with at least once a week.  Sometimes I just smell the curry powders for inspiration because each one has a different scent and suggestion. (I might add that if you know of Penzey’s spices, or want to look them up online, they have exceptional spices and mixtures.) Curries are just stews, really, and can use whatever you have in the fridge, but essentials are onions, garlic, cardamom pods, turmeric, and ginger, and often coconut milk (the canned variety because it’s creamier). The spicy taste comes from the hot pepper flakes or actual hot peppers and generous amounts of ginger. I like adding unexpected items like raisins, cranberries, coconut, peanuts, cashews — I like texture in my food and there’s plenty of scope for that in Indian cuisine.

While best served over Basmati rice, I often use brown rice, because I try to use more healthful. brown, grainier ingredients. I also use natural sugar, but instead of that, often include honey, or molasses (especially good for a touch of sweetness in curries). I like them best when their heat is subtle, but hits you a moment after you’ve chewed it. I don’t like in-your-face hot, because I think it spoils some of the other subtler flavors.

Another favorite is dal –it can be as plain or as original as you like. I prefer the larger yellow or orange lentils, and they need a good deal of chicken broth as they cook. With its oniony, garlicy, and slightly spicy flavor, it is often served as a side dish, but sometimes I add lots of ingredients for a one dish meal. (Remember, this is my take on Indian cooking.)

While I still love fajitas with fresh ingredients, I’ve had to move away from things like chili and heavy tomato sauces, because I’ve found that as I get older, they don’t agree with me as much. On a recent chili night, though, I added chopped avocado, as well as sour cream and a sprinkle of cheese, and I think those things help to counteract the full force of the tomato sauce. Perhaps I should be looking for chili recipes that depend less on a tomato base; I think they exist. For my vegetarian son and his wife, I’ve used TVP (texturized vegetable protein) instead of meat and it works well in chili and spaghetti sauces. So do little orange lentils, if you don’t overcook them.

I haven’t yet experimented with chutneys, which I know are often served with curry. Any suggestions?