The gorgeous courtyard of the Rancho La Puerta cooking school

This week I have had the good fortune to teach cooking classes at Rancho La Puerta, a gorgeous getaway located just over the California border in Tecate in Mexico.  This health resort is focused on helping guests develop a lifetime of healthy habits while vacationing in a beautiful part of the world with picture-perfect weather.  It has been voted the “World’s Best Destination Spa” for two years in a row by the readers of Travel & Leisure magazine.

Below I’ve included one of the recipes we are making in our classes here.  With all of the ripe melons and figs at this time of year, it is an easy and nutritious recipe for everyone to try in their own kitchen.

A note on chili heat:  There is a way to measure the heat level in chilies.  It’s called the Scoville Scale and was developed back at the turn of the last century by W.L. Scoville.  His method involved extraction of the heat elements in Chiles known as capsaicinoids, which were then diluted to a point where they were barely detectable.  For example, if a gram of Chile extract had to be diluted in 40,000ml of water and alcohol to be barely perceptible then that chili was rated at 40,000 Scoville heat units.  Although this is not a precise test, since each of us has some differences in sensitivity to Chiles, it does give a good basic estimate.

Here are some Scoville heat ratings for various Chiles:

Students learn to cook flavorful, healthy meals using the spa’s organic produce grown right on the property

  • Bell Peppers  0
  • Anaheims  800-1200
  • Poblanos 800-1200
  • Jalapenos 8000-10,000
  • Serranos 10,000-18,000
  • Japanese (Hontaka) 25,000-40,000
  • Thai types 40,000-60,000
  • Pure Capsaicin* 1million

* Capsaicin is one of the compounds in the capsaicinoid family and is thought to be the most potent of the heat elements in Chiles.


Serves 8

This is a perfect summertime dish to start a lunch or dinner.  The heat of the serrano Chiles contrasts with the cool, refreshing melon and the mint and lime to add interesting counterpoints.

1/3 cup sugar or honey

1/4 cup white wine or water

1 teaspoon seeded and minced serrano Chiles or to taste

1 tablespoon each finely diced red and yellow bell peppers

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint

2 large honeydew, cantaloupe, crane or other ripe melon

8 fresh ripe figs, fanned

Garnish:  Edible flower petals such as nasturtium, borage and or day lily, if desired

Students learn to cook flavorful, healthy meals using the spa’s organic produce grown right on the property

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and wine and over moderate heat stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the Chiles and peppers and cool.  Stir in the lime juice and mint.  Syrup can be stored covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

To serve:  Cut melons in half and remove seeds.  Cut into decorative shapes and arrange attractively on chilled plates.  Spoon Chile syrup over melon and arrange figs attractively around.  Sprinkle with edible flower petals.