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Vintage California Cuisine: 300 Recipes from the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden State


The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia: Everything You'll Ever Need To Know About Hot Peppers, With More Than 100 Recipes
Dave DeWitt

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Edible Pepper Garden
By Rosalind Creasy

The Pepper Pantry: Habaneros
By Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach

Texas Peppers: The Jalapeno Cookbook
By Peggy Struble

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About Peppers

The Great Chile Book
By Mark Miller

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Three Fiery Chile Sauces

Island Seasoning
Essential Habanero Hot Sauce
Hot Salad Dressing

The habanero is one of the hottest peppers on earth. It is apparently one of the trendiest as well. In The Pepper Pantry: Habaneros, their little book on the pepper, Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach, assert that "the previously obscure habanero has become the designer chile of choice in the United States" in the past decade.

Many times hotter than a jalapeno, the habanero is legendary for its fiery character. But it is the pepper’s unique taste and reputedly apricot-like aroma that makes it so highly prized in sophisticated kitchens and has led to an "explosion" of processed products and recipes making use of the tiny peppers.

The good news for those wanting to find out what this buzz is all about without wiping out their taste buds is that the pepper’s heat "can easily be tempered by other ingredients."

The book contains a detailed history of the pepper, a description of the many different varieties of habaneros and other habanero lore from the Caribbean, where the pepper florished after it was introduced to the islands thousands of years ago from its point of origin in the Amazon basin.

The following recipes are for two Caribbean habanero sauces, the first rated medium hot, the second extremely hot.

Island Seasoning
(makes 1 pint)

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips
4 branches fresh thyme
3 whole habanero chiles
2 tbs chopped chives
6 whole black peppercorns
1 pint white vinegar

1. Place all the ingredients, except for the vinegar, in a sterilized jar. Pour the vinegar over the mixture and allow to steep for 1 week before using.

Essential Habanero Hot Sauce

1 cups chopped carrots
1 onion, chopped
1 cup lime juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped habanero chiles, about 12 chiles

1. Combine all the ingredients, except for the habaneros, in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes or until the carrots are soft. (Adjust the heat by adding fewer habaneros – not by increasing the carrots, as this can alter the flavor.)

2. Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Strain for a smoother sauce.

3. Pour in sterilized jars and refrigerate.

Recipes reprinted with permission from
The Pepper Pantry: Habaneros, by Dave DeWitt
and Nancy Gerlach.


Nancy Gerlach is a California refugee who settled in the Southwest and embarked upon a love affair with chile peppers. She is former food editor of Chile Pepper magazine and author of five books on chiles: Fiery Cuisines, Fiery Appetizers, Just North of the Border,  The Whole Chile Pepper Book and The Habanero Cookbook.

"I grew up in Southern California and loved Mexican food, but when I moved to New Mexico, I got into chiles in a big way," she said in a recent interview. "In Southwestern and tropical cooking, you use the chiles as an ingredient, rather than as a seasoning. It’s a way of life."

Nancy Gerlach’s main sales pitch for chiles is that they are good for you. "Chiles are very healthy because they replace salt and fat in a meal, but are still very high in flavor," she says.

Here, for example, is salad dressing with minimal oil but no shortage of taste.

Hot Salad Dressing

1 tsp ground cayenne
2 green New Mexican chiles, roasted, peeled, stems and seeds removed, chopped
1/2 cup catsup
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor or blender, puree the fruit and garlic. Add the remaining ingredients, seasoning with salt, pepper and herbs.

Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef