Twelve months of hot stuff


In Edible East Bay Summer 2017, readers were treated to a recipe from Helen Krayenhoff’s illustrated calendar/cookbook, 12 Simple Fruit Recipe Ideas. When we heard she was creating a similar book on chiles, we asked if we could share a recipe this season.

Helen says her inspiration for creating the chile book came during a visit with John Beaver and Erica Perez, co-owners of Oaktown Spice Shop on Oakland’s Grand Avenue. “John knows so much and shares it freely and eloquently,” Helen says. “Another plus of visiting the shop is that my clothes are deliciously fragrant with the smell of other lands for the rest of the day.”

Standing in front of jars full of dried chiles, Helen found her thoughts swimming with images of pepper farmers walking steep paths in the mountains near Oaxaca; acres of peppers growing in Basque country co-ops; vendors in a Moroccan souk … “I thought about how much I would like to paint all the different dried chiles.”

One shortcoming for Helen is that she had little experience cooking with dried chiles, even though she and partner Peggy Kass grow and sell pepper seedlings through Kassenhoff Growers. “I’ve threaded garlands of hot peppers and hung them on the fireplace mantel but never did much with them once they were dry. I thought enchilada sauce was made with tomatoes.”

Through months of soliciting recipes and consulting with John and Erica at Oaktown Spice Shop, Helen learned many lovely ways that dried chiles could enhance her daily food palette. “Now I have harissa on my morning eggs, mint cilantro serrano chutney on my cheese sandwich at lunch, and spiced nuts for emergency snacks in the car. I’m sure my circulation is better for all the capsaicin I’m consuming!”

12 Simple Pepper + Chile Recipe Ideas is available as either a 2018 calendar or with just the recipes. Find both at Oaktown Spice Shop, Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, or Pollinate Farm and Garden in Oakland. To see more of Helen’s art and publications, visit All the dried chiles mentioned in the book are available at Oaktown Spice Shop:

Spicy Coconut Hot Chocolate

Combine 1 can coconut milk and 1 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and whisk in 1 to 1 ½ ounces of an 80{94d79dd6af1e87a94e700e4c297236468333f22e27ed5757b44711974a9a4b91} chocolate bar until dissolved. Add 1 teaspoon ground guajillo chile and whisk until completely combined. Sweeten to taste with maple syrup, and add a pinch of cayenne if you want more heat.