Melissa’s launches Hatch chili cookbookLOS ANGELES — Melissa’s World Variety Produce Inc. has released its hottest cookbook yet — “Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook.”

Written by Ida Rodriguez, Melissa’s corporate chef, and Sharon Hernandez, company co-owner, the book is packed with more than 150 unique and classic Hatch chili recipes, said Robert Schueller, director of public relations.

The book tells how to create amped-up stews, casseroles, bloody marys and even chocolate chip cookies.

The authors chose to write about the Hatch peppers because consumers were asking what a Hatch chili is and how it’s different from other chilies, Hernandez said.

“The flavor is very distinct,” she said during a July 9 kickoff at the company’s corporate office, “and it intensifies when the chili is roasted.”

Heat levels range from mild to extra-hot.

Fresh Hatch chilies only are available during August and September, and people tend to buy them by the 35-pound case, then roast and freeze them so they can enjoy them year-round, Rodriguez said.

“That’s a lot of chilies to buy at one time,” she said, but the book offers lots of ways to put them to good use.

The seed as well as the climate, the weather and the water in Hatch, N.M. where the chilies are grown, combine to make the area the ideal growing place for the chilies, she said.

“Because Hatch is in a valley, it gets super hot during the day,” Hernandez said, “but then it cools off at night.”

“The chili takes a little bit longer to grow that way, but it also gets thicker and meatier,” she said. “You have a chili that has much more body.”

The hardcover book with full-color photos now is available, Schueller said. He encourages retailers to sell the book in the produce department alongside fresh Hatch chilies.

“Sales will soar,” he said.

The company’s other cookbooks are “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce” and “Melissa’s 50 Best Plants on the Planet.”