Category Archives: Condiments



Generally known as Cubanelles, some people refer to them Italian green peppers and my mother called them “frying peppers.” They’re easy to prepare and are good as a side dish, with fried eggs, and cold or room temperature in an antipasto or in a sandwich.

Cut the stem end off the peppers and remove the core and seeds. Slice them in half or quarters lengthwise.
Heat the oil and add the two crushed garlic cloves. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until the garlic starts to brown.
Discard the garlic and place the sliced peppers in the pan. Weigh them down to flatten them. You can use a dish and tomato can (or whatever weight you like) and fry for a few minutes on each side.
When they’re done, place them in a container layered with the sliced garlic clove. Add a little extra oil if it’s to dry.  It’s good to let them marinate in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

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Grilled Eggplant

Grilled Eggplant

I know people who said they didn’t like eggplant until they tried it done like this. Grilled eggplant can be served room temperature or chilled as a part of an antipasto, side dish or on a sandwich.

Grilled Eggplant

  • 2 medium to large eggplants
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt, black, and red pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
Trim the stem ends off the eggplants and slice lengthwise, about ¼-inch thick. Grilled EggplantLay the eggplant slices on paper towels and sprinkle salt on both sides. Wait 15 minutes and blot up moisture.

Prepare the marinade:

Grilled Eggplant

Grilled Eggplant
Heat the oil in a small pan, add salt, black and red pepper and lightly sauté the chopped garlic. Add the herbs, lemon zest/juice, and the garlic/oil mixture to a blender, food processor or if you need the exercise use a mortar and pestle.
Grilled Eggplant

While you heat your grill (charcoal, gas, or a grill pan), use a brush to lightly coat each eggplant slice with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place the eggplant slices on the grill oil side down and add oil, salt, and pepper to the top side of the eggplant. After you get nice grill marks on one side, turn and grill the other side. They cook fast so watch them.Grilled Eggplant

Prepare a large serving platter with some of the marinade on the bottom. Layer the eggplant slices as they are done and spoon some of the marinade on each layer. Leave them for an hour at room temperature to marinate, then cover and refrigerate.

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Everyone knows about the basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. There’s one you might not be familiar with – umami (oo ma me). In Japanese, that means ‘deliciousness.’ Even though it doesn’t necessarily contain meat, it’s savory and deepens the flavor of whatever you’re cooking by adding a meatiness to it. It comes in various forms and can be added to recipes in various ways. Umami occurs naturally in many different foods, including meat, fish, and vegetables.

Fish SauceUmami

Fish sauce, made from salted, fermented fish, comes in varied forms. There’s Vietnamese nước mắm pha and Italian coloratura di alici, which is based on the ancient Roman garum. It can be very intense but used judiciously, it adds complexity to many dishes.


Anchovies aren’t everyone’s favorite. Eating then straight can be too intense for some. But adding one or two to browning onions for beef stew or to the garlic and olive oil base for pasta sauce adds layers of flavor and no fishy taste.

Parmigiana CheeseUmami

Almost all cheeses are rich in umami, but Parmigiana is at the top of the list. You can grate it on a salad or various pasta and vegetable dishes, and some people even put the rind to soups, sauces, or stews to add complexity.

Beef StockUmami

Beef stock has a powerful umami flavor, and it gets that flavor from bones. It’s intense and is sometimes diluted. In a milder form, beef broth is good when served cold and mixed with vodka in a Bull Shot.

Soy SauceUmami

Soy sauce is standard umami for Asian cooking. It’s made from fermented and aged soybeans and grain. Keep in mind that it’s not just for Asian recipes.

Worcestershire SauceUmami

Lea and Perrins is the only brand of Worcestershire, and it’s been around since the 1800s. It’s made from malt vinegar, molasses, and some other secret ingredients. Worcestershire works perfectly with lots of seafood dishes, and you can’t make a Bloody Mary without it.


Olives have a meaty texture and flavor that work great in adding umami to meatless dishes like Puttanesca.

Tomato PasteUmami

Tomatoes, in general, add savoriness to foods, so imagine what super concentrated tomato paste can do. Of course, it’s excellent in tomato sauce but try adding a tablespoon or two the next time you sauté onions.



All mushrooms contain umami, but dried mushrooms deliver a bigger punch because they’re concentrated. They can make a plain tomato sauce taste as hearty as meat sauce.


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Birds Eye Chilis

Bird’s Eye Chilis

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I like spicy dishes. I’ve posted a few simple recipes for hot pepper infusions and sauces and here’s another one. This calls for Bird’s Eye Chilis. You can usually get them in Chinese markets. There’re about an inch long and look like little red fire crackers. They’re small but have big heat, somewhere between Jalapenos and Habenaros.

Bird's Eye ChilisThere’re not always available but last winter I came across some in a Manhattan Chinatown sidewalk stand. I asked if they were “Hot,” and the merchant said I should taste one. I did and although it was 22 degrees my face started sweating. They were hot.

Bird's Eye ChilisI found some in Italy that were the same as the ones I get in Chinatown. I was surprised to see them there since they were typically Asian but they were the same. Different food cultures sometimes come together.

Bird's Eye Chilis
The infusion is simple. Get a handful of peppers, about 20-25. Cut off the stems and tips so the interior of the pepper is accessible to the olive oil. Put them in a liter bottle and fill it with oil.  It doesn’t have to be EVOO.

Bird's Eye Chilis Give it about a week for the oil to pick up the flavor and get a reddish tint. You can use the oil for frying and it’s also very good for drizzling on a sandwich, or pasta or any dish you’d like to give a little kick.
The best part is when the bottle of oil and peppers is just about empty, shake out the remaining peppers and oil into a frying pan and scramble some eggs with it – excellent!

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A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

In the Alburni Mountains

Lucia in her kitchen

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

Un’infusione di olio di peperoncino rosso

After our visit to Terranova, we went to Sicignano degli Alburni to find someplace for lunch. A local guy recommended a trattoria in nearby Scorzo called Si Ma Quant Sit? Every meal we had in Italy was excellent but that two hour lunch at Si Ma Quant Sit? was the best. And we just found it by a lucky accident.

Dopo la nostra visita a Terranova, siamo andati a Sicignano degli Alburni per trovare un posto per il pranzo. Un ragazzo del luogo ha consigliato una trattoria nel vicino Scorzo chiamato Si Ma Quant Sit? Ogni pasto che abbiamo fatto in Italia è stato eccellente, ma quel pranzo di due ore al Si Ma Quant Sit? era il migliore. E l’abbiamo appena trovato per un fortunato incidente.

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion
The menu was on a board on the table listing antipasti, pasta, and prima piatto. We started with the antipasto – some local cheese, prosciutto, capicola, and soprasade. We thought that would be it, but the owner, Raffale kept coming to our table adding things to our dishes – frittata, eggplant parmigiana, eggplant in vinegar, and on and on.

Il menu era su una tavola sul tavolo che elenca antipasti, pasta e prima piatto. Abbiamo iniziato con l’antipasto – alcuni formaggi e prosciutto locale, capicola e soprasade. Pensavamo che sarebbe stato il proprietario, ma Raffale ha continuato a venire al nostro tavolo aggiungendo cose ai nostri piatti – frittata, parmigiana di melanzane, melanzane in aceto e così via.

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to eat the pasta course but we did.

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

We said we were too full for dessert but Lucia gave us some strawberries in wine anyway.

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

From Lucia’s garden

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

Raffale’s dogs wanted Bridget’s doggie bag.

Raffele and Simone

a Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

Raffale asked if I wanted some pepper for my pasta. He put a little jar of olive oil infused with dried chili on the table. It wasn’t just spicy, it had a distinct pepper taste. I asked how it was made. He gave me some to take home and got Lucia from the kitchen and she explained.

Raffale mi ha chiesto se volevo del pepe per la mia pasta. Mise sul tavolo un vasetto di olio d’oliva infuso con peperoncino secco. Non era solo piccante, aveva un sapore di pepe distinto. Ho chiesto come è stato fatto. Mi ha dato un po ‘da portare a casa e ha preso Lucia dalla cucina e lei ha spiegato.

a chili-olive infusionRemove the stems and coarsely chop dried red chilis

A Chili-Olive Oil InfusionHeat them in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until you can smell them.

A Chili-Olive Oil Infusion

Add some oil and sauté on low until the pepper softens. Put it all in a jar, add some more oil and in a few days, it’s ready.

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Annabel’s Orange Cake

Annabel’s Orange Cake


I mentioned Annabel Langbein in a previous post – Annabel’s Apple Cake. She’s come up with another easy to-do cake.  Her show, The Free Range Cook, from New Zealand, is still on PBS. Check it out. Here’s another of her recipes. She calls it Orange Lightning Cake because its so quick to make. Like her Apple Cake, it’s simple and perfect for dessert or breakfast.

Annabel Langbein

ingredients for orange cake

Orange cake_Page_1

( grams and centigrade converted to US equivalents)


  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Grease an 9-inch-diameter cake pan and line the base with baking paper.
  2. Cut the orange into quarters, remove the seeds and whizz in a food processor until finely chopped. Dissolve baking soda in ½ cup water and add to the food processor with butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Whizz to combine. Add golden raisins and walnuts and stir with a spoon to just combine (don’t whizz them or they will break up).
  3. Pour into prepared cake tin and bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean (about 1 hour).sliced orange

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Breaking News … Sugar on Grits ?

Breaking News… Sugar on Grits ?

“IT’S TIME TO COME TO GRIPS WITH THE SUGAR-ON-GRITS DEBATE,” 4/11/16 (click here for the full story) Mississippi Sun Herald

This is important – SUGAR ON GRITS ???

When I was drafted, at my first breakfast in an Army mess hall I saw what I thought were people eating mashed potatoes with their eggs. I was wrong. I asked what that white stuff was and was told it was grits. I had some and thought they were great. I even wrote my mother to tell her “they serve polenta for breakfast in the Army.” I’m a New Yorker with a warn spot in my heart for grits but as a ‘’northerner” I don’t feel right about weighing in on this sensitive issue. What do you think? Sugar or no sugar. Let me and the Mississippi Sun Herald know how you feel.

Nashville Hot Fried Chicken

Nashville Hot Fried Chicken


This is more about the sauce than the chicken so if you have your own Southern fried chicken recipe, feel free to use it. If not, try this:

Start with a 3 ½ to 4 lb. chicken. You can simply quarter it or cut it into the standard 8 pieces (wings, thighs, legs and breasts) then cut each breast in 2 or 3 smaller pieces and cut the left over back into 2 pieces.

Chichen Pieces

If you want to brine it, add ½ cup of salt and  ½ cup of sugar to 2 quarts of water. Add chicken and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Blot the chicken dry and then dredge it in flour mixed with some salt and pepper. Fry it in about ¾ inch of peanut oil, turning as necessary until golden brown – about 20 – 25 minutes or until internal temperature reached 160o. Keep the cooked chicken in a low oven until you’re ready to serve it.Frying Chicken

Now for the sauce –

Nashville Hot Sauce

Sauce IngredientsJust mix this all together and serve it with a pastry brush instead of a spoon. Nashville Hot Fried Chicken is traditionally served on a slice of white bread with pickle slices.20160306_162127nashville name

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Annabel’s Apple Cake


Annabel’s Apple Cake

I don’t bake much and don’t make too many desserts either but this is an exception. I happened to catch a cooking show on PBS and was very impressed by the chef. Her name is Annabel Langbein and the show is The Free Range Cook. It’s recorded at her home and on location in New Zeeland.

Here’s a recipe for an Annabel’s apple cake (she calls it One Pot Spiced Apple Cake). There are no fussy measurements, techniques and temperature controls to deal with. You don’t need a food processor or blender or any other special equipment. It’s simple and the result is good for dessert or breakfast.

(I converted grams and centigrade to US equivalents)

Granny_smith_and_cross_section zzz

ingredients apple cake

Pre-heat oven to 325o. Grease and flour the base and sides of spring cake pan.

Melt butter in large sauce pan on medium heat. Turn off heat and mix n apples and sugar, then eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and raisins. Stir to blend.

Pour it into the pan and bake for 1 hour 25 minutes, until risen and browned and top springs back when lightly pressed.

Cool in pan for 15 minutes and remove from pan. Let cool on a wire rack.


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Pepperoncini don’t have the intensity of jalapenos but still provide a good sparkle to many dishes. Wash, dry and place fresh (not pickled) green pepperoncini in an open work basket or string them together and hang them (out of direct sunlight). They’ll eventually turn dark red and become dry and brittle.

green peppers 2
Fresh Green Pepperoncini


dried pep 2
Dried Pepperoncini


– Dried Pepperoncini Paste #1 -Heat about 1/4 cup olive oil; add 3 cloves of garlic and 10 crumbled dry peppers (remove stem, core and some seeds). Keep the heat low and don’t burn it. When the peppers and garlic darken a little put everything, including the oil in a food processor with a teaspoon of salt and grind until it’s a paste. Add more oil if needed. Put it back in the pan and heat until it dries. This works as a condiment on various dishes where you’d normally sprinkle red pepper flakes.

– Dried Pepperoncini Paste #2 -Start with dried pepperincini. Take off the stems and soak in water overnight – include seeds and ribs. Drain well and put in food processor with oil. Chop and add oil until it’s a paste. One suggested use: Add paste and some pasta water to pan when making Pasta Aglio e Olio (pasta w/ garlic & oil). Finish cooking pasta in the sauce and serve with toasted breadcrumbs.

– They’re great crumbled and fried with eggs,

– They can be eaten plain too. Remove the stem and the core of seeds. Give them a quick fry in hot olive oil. Their color will change from red to light brown. Let them cool and eat them like potato chips.

– Powdered pepperoncini– grind red pepper flakes in a blender until powered, Basilicata style. Be careful not to inhale when you uncover the blender or you’ll cough like a cat with a hairball. If you don’t dry your own peppers, you can used store-bought red pepper flakes for this one.

rigatoni marinara
Powdered pepperoncini


– One last suggestion – take one or two fresh green peperoncini and remove the stem and seeds. Cut it into pieces small enough to fit into a bottle and then fill with virgin olive oil.  Allow it a week or so to infuse and use this oil to drizzle on soups, meat or seafood dishes.