Joe and Sharon Hernandez founded Melissa’s Produce using their experience in the produce industry. It started small – a small, rented produce warehouse lunchroom with three telephones and four chairs. In a few short years, the company would grow to occupy a newly renovated and expanded 280,000 square foot office, warehouse complex, and state-of-the-art CCOF/QAI Certified Organic Packing Facility. In Melissa's/World Variety Produce, Inc. warehouse, one is sure to find the freshest fruits and vegetables - quality products with exceptional value and first-class service. Melissa's/World Variety Produce, Inc. is currently the largest distributor of specialty produce in the United States.
Melissa’s Produce is also all-knowing about “the pepper”. And what better way to celebrate this sometimes “hot little number” than with a cookbook! The Great Pepper Cookbook acts as a primer of all varieties of peppers, both fresh and dried. There are beautiful color images of all varieties peppers, recipes and includes the “dreaded” Scoville chart heat rating. 150 delicious recipes will take you from appetizer to dessert (I’m serious, chile peppers in dessert!) Put down those jalapenos and take a walk on the wild side!
In the Appetizers, Snacks, and Drinks section, Crab-Stuffed Cucumber Cups are a party pleaser. Here are some added tips to help you during prep:
- First, roast an ear of corn in the oven, 350 degrees for 30 minutes so it will be ready for the crab filling.
- For the cucumber cups, after removing the middle of each cucumber and salting them, put the cucumber cups opening side down on paper towels. The salt will start to leach the water out from the cucumbers. It will save you from excess dabbing later in the process when adding the crab filling.
- I could not find Manzano (or manzana) peppers in my local area so I substituted habanero peppers. I didn’t want to shock my guests with the spiciness of the pepper so I diced up two habaneros and it was perfect. The roasting process actually makes the pepper a little sweeter. The cream cheese and sour cream act as a cooling agent if you happen to get a large piece of habanero in your serving.
- I substituted crab claw meat instead of the lump meat. Smart & Final sells the perfect size can for the recipe in the refrigerated section. It is much cheaper than the lump crab meat and it tastes great too.
Also in the Appetizer, Snacks, and Drinks section, Mango and Chile-Glazed Party Wings are an interesting combination. Here are some added tips to help you during prep:
- I would add an extra teaspoon of salt to the seasoned flour mixture.
- If you have an electric flyer at home, this would be the perfect time to break it out for use. You can easily fry up to 10 wings at a time. Even with a 4-pound bag, it went pretty quick.
- Instead of pouring the mango mixture over the wings and baking, just toss the wings in the sauce like they do in restaurants with Buffalo wings. If you put them in the oven, there is way too much sauce which causes the crispy breading on the chicken wings to get soggy. Or you can serve the sauce on the side so your guests can dip to their hearts’ content.
In the Desserts section, Margarita Chile-Cheesecake Bars were everyone’s favorite of the night. I paired it with a Partida Margarita and it was the perfect ending to the evening. I could not find dried Cascabel peppers in my area so I substituted Guajillo chiles. It gave it just the right amount of heat but did not over take the beautiful creamy lime flavor of the dessert. Here’s the recipe:
Margarita Chile-Cheesecake Bars (courtesy of Melissa’s Produce)
For a fun finish, garnish these yummy bars with whipped cream, lime zest curls, and extra ground chile pepper.
Prep Time: 18 min. / Total Time: 1 hr. / Serves: 16 (1 bar)
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons salted butter, chopped (¼ cup)
6 dried Cascabel chile peppers, stems and seeds removed, ground (about ⅓ cup)
¾ cup non-alcoholic margarita cocktail mix
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2½ tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons lime zest
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Place graham cracker crumbs, butter, and chile in a food processor; pulse until coarse and crumbly, about 2 minutes. Transfer graham-cracker mixture to a 13x9x2-inch baking dish; press to evenly cover bottom of dish. Bake at 350°F until golden, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool.
- In a bowl, combine margarita mix and next 4 ingredients (through cream cheese). Whisk in eggs until completely incorporated. Pour over crust; bake until top browns slightly, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Cut into 16 bars. Serve.
The Great Pepper Cookbook will be your “ultimate guide” to delicious dishes at your next party!
On the search for an ingredient that you can’t find in the store, check out Melissa’s Produce’s website or call 800.588.0151.