Pepper Palooza!


Courtesy of: Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Western Reserve Herb Society


Red Pepper and Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese

This grilled cheese begins with me caramelizing the onions and ends with sandwiches of fresh sourdough bread and three different cheeses; Gruyere, Jarlsburg and to add the cumin flavor, a delicious Leyden which is a medium hard nutty cheese reminiscent of a Gouda and is studded with cumin. I added apples and mustard seed to the onions because I wanted the touch of sweetness. It’s really very good! You will need for each sandwich:

2 tablespoons of Caramelized onions. ( I start with a thinly sliced Spanish onion and a tart fall apple. I caramelized my onions in a cast iron pan with about two tablespoons of  butter and the thinly sliced apples until they are soft and golden brown. About ten minutes before they are done, I stir a tablespoon of spicy red pepper jam into the mixture!)

  • Two slices of fresh sourdough bread.
  • 2 or 3 hand sliced thin pieces EACH of Leyden, Jarlsburg and Gruyere.
  • 1 tablespoon of Pasture raised organic butter

The preparation is simple!

Lay the cheese in alternating layers on the Sourdough bread and top with the onions. Close the sandwiches and melt the butter in a cast iron pan. Lay the sandwiches in the pan and begin to grill them. Take a manual panini press or if not a cast iron pan lid and press the sandwiches. They are done when the cheese is melted and the bread is delightfully buttery and crisp. If you like a smoky taste, add a couple of slices of thinly shaved Black Forest ham.

Serve with a side of butternut squash soup or an arugula and walnut salad and a mug of chilled hard apple cider!


Chicken with Honey, Smokey Chipotle Pepper Rub, Curry, Lemon, Orange and Onions

This is the easiest recipe ever, and one that’s perfect for chilly because it uses smoky chipotle chili pepper! I love it, because in the dead of winter this dish will make you feel as if you’re lucky enough to be having a holiday in Mexico and in the summer it’s an absolutely warm, oozing honeyed bliss on the end of your fork.

This is an incredibly easy recipe. Buy one cut up organic roasting chicken. Thinly sliced a large Spanish onion and place 3/4’s of it on the bottom of a roasting pan. Lay the chicken on top of the onion and then sprinkle the rest of the onion among the chicken pieces. Salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with sweet curry and smoky chipotle chili (or any good chili rub, like ours from The Western Reserve Herb Society! In a bowl mix the juice of two lemons, 2 tablespoons of orange juice,  one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 1 minced garlic clove and 1 cup of orange blossom honey. Whisk it all together and pour it all over the chicken pieces. Marinate for about thirty minutes and then bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll know when it’s done because the chicken will be golden and the onions will be caramelized and decadent.

Serve this on a bed of some kale or spinach that you’ve lightly sautéed in butter and with some herb and olive oil roasted potatoes.

Then light the candles, sit back and take a bite. Never mind that it’s snowing outside. Let the honey, chili and lemon explode on your tongue and let the dreams of sunny Mexico on a warm summer’s eve just whisk you away.


Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Chili Pepper Soup

Every autumn, this is the soup that I make when I want to begin a meal with a rich harvest flavor. It can be served many different ways, but in my mind, it looks just wonderful in a Armetale or other pewter type bowl styles reminiscent of Colonial Williamsburg! I’ve also served this many times in a large hollowed out pumpkin that has been gilded with edible silver or gold leaf. It’s a very easy trick, and you can find the edible leaf along with the directions for its application in a good craft store where they have a baking section.

This recipe is actually very simple, and the ingredients are readily available, warning though, this one isn’t for anyone on a low cholesterol eating plan!

Take a chunk of excellent butter and melt it in a soup pot. Add several chopped Spanish onions and a shallot or two! Sauté the onions until they are translucent and add 6 cups of diced butternut squash, 2 large diced sweet potatoes and several quarts of really good chicken stock. Bring the whole of it to a simmer and let the flavors brew! The magical ingredient here is chunky almond butter! I whisk in a cup of it or even more depending upon the taste. After the soup has simmered for about 20 minutes, stir in a quart of organic half and half. I always use organic milk or cream if possible because I’ve discovered that the texture is much finer and the taste is just that much better. After all of the vegetables are cooked through and soft, blend for a minute with an immersion blender.

Add salt and pepper to taste and whisk in a teaspoonful of curry powder and a cup of Romesco sauce (  a Spanish  paste made of spicy red peppers and walnuts).   You can also add a 1/4 of a cup of Calvados (apple brandy) if you’d like. Let it simmer for a bit longer and serve.

Making this will take some extra time, but I promise you that it’s worth it. A lovely glass of wine and a bit of cheese while you’re waiting should make the task really bearable, let alone the aroma of the simmering soup.

This soup will stand alone as a meal with a tossed salad with some ripe pear, pecans and warm camembert cheese or as a starter for a wonderful roasted pork tenderloin. I’ve also served it with grilled gruyere cheese and apple sandwiches.  A Black and Tan (that delectable combination of Guinness Stout and Bass Pale Ale) or some sparkling apple cider would be very satisfying with this soup especially if you served it in a chilled pewter mug!


Mayan Chocolate Chaud

One of my favorite drinks when I’ve got the gray sky blues is a cup of spicy chocolate Chaud (thick hot chocolate!) made from half and half, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cocoa powder and brown sugar. For each serving you’ll need a cup and a half of the half and half and about 5 ounces of really good bittersweet chocolate that you’ve finely chopped. Heat the half and half in a saucepan and when it’s hot (not boiling) whisk in the chocolate. You’ll want to bring it to a simmer and keep whisking as it will thicken up a bit which is the desired result!

Whisk in some brown sugar to taste and then the cinnamon and cayenne to taste. It doesn’t need it, but if you want to top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream you’ll get no argument from me. Find your prettiest teacup and pour yourself a cup. Add some shortbread and find a comfortable chair, your favorite magazine and a soft blanket.

The magic will happen with the first few sips and very quickly you will find yourself so relaxed that you’ll probably be napping as soon as you’ve finished the first cup! Don’t worry about wasting it, you can always rewarm it later.