Posted November 2, 2004 by Nick Lindauer in Hot Sauce News

Spice of still life

Sunday, October 17, 2004
The Express-Times

Ann Elizabeth Schlegel refers to her top-floor Allentown apartment as her “treehouse,” where she can enjoy the music of migratory birds perched in a nearby cherry tree against the backdrop of the Blue Mountains. She also enjoys the company of her own musical duo, parakeets Lily and Sam.

The 43-year-old, award-winning artist surrounds herself in an environment inspired by her love for European art. There are rescued treasures of trash and antiques, as well as “other people’s art,” as she puts it. Her own style is a contrast, as she chooses to paint life as a series rich in the brilliancy of color and the vibrancy of presentation.

“I guess you could say my decor is a whole plethora of French and German influence. I am a fan of Europe,” she admits.

“Taste, feel, color — those are my guidelines — to go with the feel, that is my style,” she explains. The feel she refers to is the lifeblood of her recent culinary arts series which began just four years ago as an adult beverage series. Individual cocktail paintings sported the titles “Mr. Martini,” “Ms. Manhattan,” “Ms. Cabernet” and “Ms. Chardonnay.”

The project was followed by a wine series, “Cayuga White,” presenting a macro view of vineyard grapes, and a food series, “Bon Appetit,” a whimsical look at animals as chefs with a connection to food portrayed.

The “Bon Appetit” series has a French flair about it, no doubt from Schlegel’s studies at the Nationale Superiure Ecole Des Beaux Arts in Paris. Paintings include the “Truffle Collector” an apron-wearing pig collecting truffles in a basket; “Lapin,” a French adult rabbit seated before a plate of rabbit stew; and “Crab,” a crustacean crabbing in a boat.

Schlegel says she believes food portrayed in still-life emits a “universal appeal,” or a play on the senses further enhanced by the freshness of the open-air marketplace.

Calling herself “a hopeless romantic,” (born on Valentine’s Day), she vents her passion through “brilliant, juicy colors with red the most daring. It’s strong and passionate, and evokes emotions,” she describes in her salsa art/food experimentation noted in the October issue of Chile Pepper magazine. The article is titled, “The Fine Art of Salsa.”

Many of her food artworks also are on display at the Apollo Grill in Bethlehem.

As a fan of the European marketplace, Schlegel makes it a point to patronize the local farmers’ markets back home in Allentown and South Side Bethlehem (where her studio is located at the Banana Factory). She also grows a variety of peppers on her back porch.

“Anything is correct with salsa,” she says, allowing herself to go with the feel and experiment with the fine culinary offerings as a CD of bassanovamusic plays in the background while she works in her kitchen.

Peppers also happen to be her fancy, with “Peppers” the title of one of her works depicting a vast array of the bright vegetables cast across red-and-white checkered linen.

Inspired by the model palette of color available in peppers, Schlegel’s experimentation in the kitchen with such models has no limit. A basket of lemons, tomatoes, onions and hot peppers from the local marketplace is artfully arranged on the living room table, draped in yellow sunflower linen from Provence, France, soon to be transformed into edible art.

She holds true to her word and measures nothing but goes by taste, feel and color as guidelines. Salsa, or sauce, is “a combination of an appetizer, or pick food,” and through experimentation with various ingredients “transcends boundaries.”

She likes her salsa hot, hot, hot, and says it’s hard to gauge the intensity of jalapenos and habaneros except by taste. After finely chopping her models, she’s ready to throw all into a pot — a representation of a color wheel — and chill overnight so flavors can blend. More chili peppers can be added later on for desired heat, she says. For added color in presentation, she recommends blue corn chips. If the salsa is not too salty, she suggests lime tortilla chips.

Her philosophy on life and art exudes an appreciation for family and friends, and for the pleasures of life. She shares the following recipes for just that reason. Her featured recipe in Chile Pepper magazine is “medium to hot” in the zest factor. The dish boasts a full spectrum of tones and shades, with blue corn tortilla chips adding the sole primary color not found in the salsa.

To enhance eye appeal and texture, she suggests chopping the multi-hued peppers in a variety of sizes, from a small ( -inch dice to a chunky ( -inch dice.


6 plum tomatoes
1 large beefsteak-type tomato
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
( cup purple onion, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and sliced in thin rings
( to 1 whole habanero pepper, minced (optional)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of ( lemon
Juice of ( lime
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
( teaspoon fine sea salt
Blue corn tortilla chips

Mix all ingredients except tortilla chips in a large bowl. Refrigerate at least 2 hours to allow flavors to blend before serving with tortilla chips.


1 avocado
1 cup light sour cream
1 large red pepper, chopped medium-fine
1 large juicy tomato
habanero pepper (optional)
1 cup corn
( cup lemon juice
( medium red onion
Cilantro to taste
1 teaspoon sea salt crystals
2 medium plum tomatoes, chopped medium
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
Pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons lime juice
1 poblano pepper, chopped fine

Combine ingredients in a pot. Chill overnight so flavors blend. Serve with tortilla chips.


1 large ripe mango, peeled and chopped fine
1 cup pineapple
( habanero pepper, chopped very fine (optional)
1 large juicy tomato
( red onion
1 large green pepper, deveined, seeded and chopped medium

Combine ingredients. Chill overnight so flavors blend. Serve with blue corn chips, or scoop chips (or lime tortilla chips, if salsa is not too salty.)

Susan Kalan is assistant features editor for The Express-Times. She can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at skalan@express-times.com.

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog