If you like the feeling of a volcano erupting in your mouth, cook with the habanero, by all means! Yet if you’re looking for something a little less explosive, consider experimenting with the lesser known chile ancho, which has a sweet earthy flavor and mild heat. Whatever your heat meter, we recommend visiting La Internacional (318 Somerville Ave.), which carries fresh chiles and a wide variety of dried chiles, including chile mulato, chile ancho, chile pasilla (in photo above) and the fiery chile de arbol. To get a sense of the heat and flavor of various dried chiles, visit the Cook’s Thesaurus Dried Chile Guide.

We are smitten with the smoky flavor of the dark chile pasilla. Check out Nibble’s Sopa Azteca recipe, which is flavored with chile pasilla. Or, quickly transform a store-bought salsa into something special by adding chile pasilla. Toast a dried pasilla chile in a  heavy skillet (don’t let it burn). Next, cut it up in a few pieces  (if you like it hot, leave in veins and seeds, if not, take them out). Let it soak in a little bowling water for a few minutes; then puree in a blender and add to salsa.  Que rico!

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