How Melissa’s Produce Got Chile Peppers Into My Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I recently received an email from Melissa’s Produce, proclaiming that Hatch Chile Season is upon us! I had no idea what a hatch chile was, but already I was excited to find out. Within a few days, I had a box full of hatch chiles and a cookbook sitting on my desk, along with some information about this short-lived seasonal pepper. Because I had so much fun learning about and experimenting with these versatile peppers, I want to share my hatch chile experience with you.*

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Hatch chiles are grown in New Mexico and harvested for just a few weeks each year, in late August and early September. They range from mild to hot, and they taste best roasted, with their thick skins peeled off. I learned all of this while flipping through the cookbook in my office, when my coworkers asked me why I had a box of peppers sitting on my desk. I had the samples shipped to work, and consequently I left the office that day with just half the peppers in my possession. The other half went on to other experiments in five of my coworkers’ homes. I can only imagine that by now they have been grilled, roasted, stuffed, and chopped into a variety of dishes.

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A few local Kroger grocery stores partnered with Melissa’s Produce to host hatch chile roastings over the last two weeks, and I visited one last weekend to see the pepper roasting in action. There were samples of three heat levels to help shoppers decide which peppers to buy: mild, hot, and extra hot. The hot ones were my favorite, but a lot of people preferred the extra hots. While there, I saw several people buy whole cases of peppers and then have them roasted on-site for free. I opted to roast mine myself, in two batches. The first batch of mild peppers that were delivered for free, I roasted under the broiler in my oven. The second batch of hot peppers that I purchased at Kroger (for $1.40 per pound!), I roasted on a charcoal grill.

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After roasting, it is best to peel the peppers (with gloves!) to remove the skin and seeds, slice them, and freeze them for use over the next few months. Another way to experience hatch chiles in the off-season is to stock up on the hatch chile powder now, and then toss it in soups, stews, chili, and enchiladas into the fall and winter months. I froze six peppers after roasting and peeling, and I cooked with the rest, using the Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook.

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I could not believe how many great recipes were in this book, all using hatch chiles, and I was very glad to see that most of the recipes were vegetarian. The book covers all types of dishes, including breakfast, snacks, soups, stews, sides, entrees, desserts, and even beverages! I am looking forward to trying that hatch chile margarita!

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So far I have used the hatch chiles in black bean tacos and in chocolate chip cookies. I used the mild peppers in the cookies and couldn’t even taste them. The cookie recipe is seriously good – great flavor and consistency, not too soft, not too crunchy. However, next time I think I will use the hot chiles to balance the sweetness of the cookie because I was a little bummed that the cookies did not taste as weird as they sounded. The cookbook really opened my eyes to how versatile these peppers are, and I am glad that I stocked up when I did because I am looking forward to continuing to test recipes from the book and create more of my own.

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* I did receive a free box of hatch chiles and a cookbook when I expressed interest in learning more about the chiles and testing the recipes for my blog. As always, my opinions are all my own, and I never recommend a product without testing it first.

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Farmers’ Market 5.14 and Spring Supper

Okay so I didn’t actually visit the 5.14 farmers’ market. I have been out of town every weekend for the last month, so I haven’t made it to the Saturday South of the James market yet this season. I have been visiting the Byrd House Market on Tuesday evenings on my way home from work on the Market Mobile.

This week’s finds were actually picked up on 5/10. Check out my loot!

  • Herb fettuccine (Bombolini Pasta)
  • Salad mix (CSA)
  • Red Russian kale (CSA)
  • Easter egg radishes (CSA)
  • Broccoli (CSA)
  • Carrots (CSA)
  • Tomatoes (local greenhouse/farm)

Has your local farmers’ market opened yet? I am so excited when fresh local produce starts flooding the markets and I really enjoy learning about all the ingredients I have never used before. One thing that has helped me embrace seasonal cooking and figure out what to do with all those odd fruits and vegetables is the book Simply in Season. I use this cookbook more than any of the 32 other cookbooks that I currently own.

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Last week I picked up some beautiful produce at the Byrd House Market and made a delicious spring supper to celebrate the beginning of the market season. We had an arugula salad with fresh strawberries and goat cheese, and asparagus soup from Simply in Season.

I don’t want to post the recipe from the copyrighted book here, but I found that if you Google “simply in season asparagus soup” you can find plenty of others who have. The only substitutions I made were subbing leeks for the onion and a few splashes of half-and-half for the dry milk powder. Isn’t this a beautiful shade of green for the spring?

The salad recipe is all mine, so here’s what I put in the mix:

  • fresh arugula from Victory Farms CSA
  • fresh sliced strawberries from the farmers’ market
  • crumbled goat cheese from Bucherondin De Chevre (I highly recommend that you try this kind if you can find it)

  • Pine nuts
  • Giada de Laurentiis for Target Raspberry Vinaigrette

Combine all the ingredients, toss and serve.

I suggest that you dine al fresco and pair with a bubbly bottled pilsner or a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc.