Category Archives: Honey


There is no Christmas Season without Struffoli. That’s that. At least in my home anyway. Struffoli are a holiday treat made during the Christmas season throughout Southern Italy. They go by various names depending on the region, people from in and around Naples called the STRUFFOLI. Further south in Calabria they are Turdilli. In Sicily they go by the term PIGNOLATA. The recipes vary as well. It’s a sort of pastry dough, rolled and cut into small pieces and fried. After that they are given a bath in warm honey mixed with citrus juices, or something alcoholic or toasted nuts, confetti, etc. This dish came right over with the Great Wave of Southern Italianimmigrants in the years from 1890-1940 and has become almost an Icon of the ItalianAmerican Christmas celebration. In Naples there’s a specific traditional recipe but in Italian America there are many versions, styles, types of dough that are used. My mom had 2 recipes she used, the first one is same recipe as the Anginetti (Ciambelline) cookie that i’ve previously blogged. The second one is a close recipe to that and it produces a semi-soft Struffolo. I’m going to blog that one now. The joy of Christmas and the Holiday season is due in large part to the memories created either watching or helping my mom make her annual Italian dishes for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Especially since my parents and grandparents have passed away my siblings and our families keep the recipes alive, get together and recreate most or all of them and have something that no matter what tells us who we are and where we came from. We’ve passed this on to our own children who jump in and look forward to recreating this family recipes. The Struffoli is one of them. Oh don’t ask for an EASY or quick version. It’s time consuming and that’s why you pay up when you buy them at a Bakery. With some Italian Christmas Music on, and a few espresso under your belt you’ll enjoy yourself while you make these. Takes a few hours, how many? I’ve never counted. Do you really need to count when you’re connecting to your past and your present? I don’t think so. Mom never rushed through hers either. Enjoy the process. Merry Christmas!!!


















Cream the butter and sugar in a Mixing bowl till light and fluffy. Now add the beaten eggs in a stream as you have the mixer on. When This is all well blended add the vanilla and the zest. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt 1/2 cup by 1/2 cup as the mixer is on medium. When it’s well blended and pulls away from the bowl knead it till smooth. Have a well floured surface prepared. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Then make ropes out of the pieces cutting them into small pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Continue until all the dough is used up. I place them on parchment paper covered baking sheets.

In a deep fryer or a heavy pot filled with the oil, heat it until it’s at 375 degrees F or when you add a struffolo it does the tarantella in the pot…(ie: i sizzles and turns around and around). Add a few struffoli at a time, like 10-15 and gently move them around with a spider or frying spoon with holes in it. When they are golden brown all around remove and drain on brown paper or paper towels. When you are done, start the honey by simply Heating it on a low flame with the juices and the 1/4 cup sugar. Stir until all the sugar has been disolved. Add the struffoli about 20 at a times and give them a “bath” in the honey. Using a slotted spoon keep basting the struffoli in the honey for about minutes. Pile them up onto a serving tray or bowl. Continue until all the struffoli are piled. Pour the honey over the top and let it rest for about 5 minutes. Then sprinkle with the confetti (and toasted Almonds if using). You can even make small rings out of the batch. Again, up to you. Mine go into a big tin and we pick out of it thru the holidays.



thaishrimp 003Looking for a simple Shrimp Dish?  Fantastic.  You’ve found the right blogpost.  Let me help you out here.  GRILLED Shrimp with a Sweet Thai Chili Sauce is a great way to start.  A few ingredients and some good Shrimp and we are on our way to a spicy and refreshing meal.  One of the first things I looked for when I went to Thailand was “Sweet Chili or Chilli Sauce” since so much of our USA Thai inspired food includes that.  Sweet Chili Sauce was everywhere.  Some very thin. Some quite thick.  Every thing we had seemed to come with a few dipping sauces which revolved around hot chiles, something sweet or sour or both, fish sauce, some soy, garlic or shallots.  Clean tasting and simple.  In the Patong Beach Night Market on Phuket Island we enjoyed their Thai Fried chicken which came with the Sweet Chili sauce.  Later that night we had grilled local seafoods which came with a vingary pungent chili sauce and another version of a sweet chili sauce.  A name for the Sweet Chili Sauce is NAM CHIM KAI.    Let’s start with the sauce because it will be much tastier if it sits overnight.

4 Thai, Fresno, or Red Chiles plus 1 tsp dried hot chile flakes (optional)

5 whole cloves of garlic

1 TBS. Rice Wine Vinegar

1/8 cup Honey

Salt to taste

1 tbs. Ketchup

1/2 tsp. Fish Sauce

Add the Chiles and garlic and pulse in a food processor until they have coarsely broken down.  Now add all the other ingredients and pulse until they are blended.  Pour into a container and cover.  Let this sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Bring to Room Temperature before using on Day 2.

for 4 people.

24 16-20 size Wild Shrimp, Peeled and deveined

juice of 1/2 lime


1 minced Thai Basil (or regular Sweet) leaf

2 Tbs. Sesame Oil

Kosher Salt

White Pepper


Vegetable Oil

Chopped Romaine Lettuce, about 2 heads.

2 chopped green onions

Marinade the Shrimp for 30 minutes in a mixture of the fish Sauce, Basil, 1 tbs. Sesame Oil, salt, pepper to taste.  Drain.    Toss them with the remaining sesame oil and grill over a medium flame only for about 2 minutes on each side.  Or, you can pan “grill” them in a hot cast iron pan or grilling pan just be sure to oil the surface before you heat it up.   Add the Lime juice to the sauce.  Pour the sauce into a stainless steel mixing bowl large enough to add the hot fried shrimp. Make sure each one of the shrimp is nicely coated with the sauce.   Serve on top of beds of Chopped Romaine.  Top with green onions.  Done.  Serve with sticky rice.  HAPPY COOKING!!






Growing up there was always an excuse to throw a party, make a special meal…o it wasn’t always a party, life growing had some rough patches too.  However the overall picture always brings to mind large groups of family and friends, special decorations, music, and foods to mark the occasion.  By now you know what my ethnic background is but on the 17th of March each year my Mom would transform the dining room into a wee bit o’Blarney for St. Patrick’s Day.  Living in NYC, with St.Patrick’s Cathedral and the

St.Patrick’s Day parade as cultural landmarks, one could not escape the Erin Go Bragh pins, the Kiss Me I’m Irish shirts, the bar crawls, the scents of Corned Beef and Cabbage wafting from people’s homes.  Staten Island did and still does have a huge celebration in honor of the patron saint of Ireland along Forest Avenue, chockablock with Bars and restaurants, many owned by people of Irish decent.  Tradition was (is) to follow the parade route keeping in step with the bagpipers and going from one bar to another.

At home Mom decorated in the typical bright green colors associated with St. Patty’s Day.  Tablecloths, crepe paper streamers, napkins, plates..everything screamed it’s St. Patty’s Day.  The center of the table would have a vase filled with carnations dyed green.

It was a real festive day and after I started going out with my girlfriend, Debi Cooney

(yes, she’s Irish) my mom would always invite her widowed dad, John Myles Cooney over for her corned beef and cabbage, boiled parsley potatoes, homemade Irish Soda Bread, slices of rye bread, brown mustard, beer, whiskey, shamrock cupcakes, Irish coffee and Irish crème.  Mom always invited him (he became my father-in-law) over for this special day, he got a huge kick out of it he would tell me…”she’s more Irish than what my own family does”, and laugh.  We looked forward to the St.Patty’s Day greeting card Mom and Dad would send us every year after we got married.  I wish more people would follow my Mom’s example and learn and share in other ethnic groups holidays.  Since our children were born in China I am very open to celebrating and learning about all the world’s celebrations and the traditions and foods that are part of them.  Isn’t that more fun than just waiting for your “own” holidays every year?  I think so…stpats 008(One of the many St.Patrick’s Day greeting cards my Mom sent to my wife and I every year.)

Well here’s my gripe with lots of ways Corned Beef and Cabbage is prepared.  It’s one of the fattiest and toughest cuts of beef, the brisket.  Whether you are a bubbe in a Yiddish family, or a Romanian, or an Irish American, if the brisket it not cooked long and slow you will have a tough, fatty and greasy piece of meat.  To often I’ve had corned beef out, especially at some bar restaurants (think Blarney Stone, Pig & Whistle) where it’s just not braised long enough.  You have a mouthful of salty chewy grizzle and meat that doesn’t break up no matter how long you chew it.  What’s the problem and what’s the secret?  It’s all the cook’s fault.  Boiling Brisket should be a capital offense.  It’s the quickest way to toughen up those meat fibers and they only will again relax after a long long simmer in water that is not allowed to boil.  Long cooking gets all the heat and moisture deep into the brisket and begins that process where every piece of connective tissue is broken down into melt in your mouth goodness.  This principal is paramount in making Pot Roasts too.  And like a good soup or stock your braising liquid should be well seasoned full of bright and spicy flavors, sweet, sour.  The other death to your St. Patrick’s Day corned beef is when it’s improperly served, meaning, you didn’t take the time to trim it of all the fat that NOBODY will or wants to eat.  Surest way to keep you from eating corned beef ever again is to put a big floppy piece of corned beef fat in your mouth when you’re not expecting it.   This will put you off from eating this traditional meal FOREVER.  St. Patrick does not want to see that.  He wants you to enjoy this meal that honors his memory. stpats 018How could I write a St.Patrick’s Day blog without one of the most IRISH pictures I took when Deb and I visited the country of Ireland in August of 1982.  This was taken outside of the Derragarra Inn in County Cavan on the way from Northern Ireland to Dublin.

Lastly, for those who are sticklers for authenticity (I count myself in this OCD like group) Corned Beef is not even remotely Irish as in from Ireland.  It’s an Eastern European meat processed  like pastrami, from those parts of Europe that what miserable winters and needed ways to preserve the meat from the fall.  NYC being the initial entry point for most of those waves of immigrants invariably would have various ethnic groups living side by side with each other.  The Eastern Europeans pastrami and corned beefs were commonplace in those early immigrant years.  The Irish that came in those early days were pretty much dirt poor and the meat that they simmered with cabbage was a big piece of bacon, not an American bacon, but Irish bacon, more like a cured pork loin.stpats 002

Corned beef, braised with cabbage and potatoes has since become almost as American as apple Pie (although the origins of that may be in merry olde England or France) and certainly a cornerstone of Irish-American cuisine.




Corned Beef, about a 4 -5 lb. piece, (flat cut is the nicest for an even cut)..this will feed about 4-5 people…this is one piece of meat that really shrinks as it cooks…and MUST be cut thin to really enjoy it..i hate big fatty chunks of it…Place the corned beef in a large pot and cover it with water plus 1 cup of beer, 1/4 cup of Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, or Jamesons’, must be real Irish whiskey.  Add 1/2 cup of honey, 2 bay leaves, 2 chopped onions, 6 of the large outer cabbage leaves, torn, peppercorns, 4 whole cloves, 3 smashed cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. salt, 3 tbs. brown sugar, 3 tbs. mustard. 3 chopped celery stalks, 3 chopped carrots.  Add 1 head of cabbage, cored and quartered to the pot.,handful of fresh dill. Blend, bring to a boil, then simmer for 60 minutes per lb, covered.stpats 004

Now you have plenty of time to cook the rest of the meal.  Cube 6 medium sized redskin potatoes. Boil them in plenty of salted water to which you have added 1/2 onion, and 3 smashed garlic cloves.  Cook till done, this takes about 15 minutes

or when a fork or knife will easily slide through a cube.  Gently drain them.  Add 1/4 stick unsalted butter (or get somestpats 024Kerrygold Irish butter if your store sells it…)to the pot.  Dice together 1/2 a red onion and 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley together.

Add them to the butter, it will be melting from the heat of the pot, now add the potatoes, some salt and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.  Keep stirring this and the potatoes begin to “smash”, you will be left with a pot of smashed well seasoned potatoes…don’t over work them, the’ll just turn into mashed potatoes with skins.  Cover and just reheat gently when ready to serve.

The corned beef  needs to sit in its braising liquid for a good 5 hours (even better if you do it the day before and reheat it, then slice it) before you slice it.  If you can push your finger through the meat, it’s done.  Firm Corned beef has no place on your plate.  This is brisket, the same rules apply.stpats 020

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Serve the cabbage quarters on the side, add a little butter if you like, but they are seasoned and savory enough from all that stewing in the meat braising liquid. Cabbage is a tough hardy will stay together for this long cooking.  You want fork tender cabbage, this isn’t Cole Slaw.

And here is Cook O’A Food Obsession with his St.Patrick’s Day Spread…stpats 029

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!   Gaelic for…St. Patrick’s Day Blessing On You!!


004  While  the dregs of the Winter are in full force please do not think this is a recipe that is limited to any particular season. It’s great for any season but ESPECIALLY when the cold has hung around for months now and Spring is just around the corner.   Florida’s citrus crop is in season and what better way to celebrate than to have those flavors enhance your meals??  There’s a hint of sweet, some spice, some aromatics..the whole thing works in this vinaigrette..btw…the word for a salad dressing in French is VINAIGRETTE…not VINEGARETTE or VINEGRETTE.  A VINAIGRETTE may or may not contain Dijon Mustard, but it will always contain an OIL and VINEGAR.  Good OliveOil is a wonderful flavor in a Vinaigrette, I know, I know..there’s that tasteless neutral oil known as Salad Oil.  Not going to preach, but those oils just aren’t the best due to how they are processed.  I like flavor.  I like the flavor of an Olive Oil and for this dressing I used a Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Above all use a good quality oil,you want that taste and the vinegar should also be of good quality. Put down the Balsamic, it’s a horrible choice for this salad.  I went with a Rice Wine Vinegar. Oils and Vinegars of different types should occupy space in your pantry. Nut based oils are wonderful too but they just turn rancid before you would probably finish using the bottle.  This post is really about the dressing and not the salad however it was a mix of chopped Romaine,torn Baby Spinach, Clementine Segments and ripe Strawberries. They are currently in my local markets, seasonal fruits from Florida, how could I not use them this week??  This recipe will make you a cup of the Vinaigrette.

MAKES:  1 CUP                             TIME: 10 minutes plus 1 hour sitting time

note: Make a vinaigrette AT LEAST one hour before serving and do not refrigerate.  Room temperature and sitting time create the flavors.

  • 2 TABLESPOONS finely minced RED ONION
  • 1TSP COARSE DIJON MUSTARD or REGULAR DIJON if Coarse is unavailable
  • 1/2 TSP FINELY MINCED FRESH ROSEMARY (if all you have is dried, FORGET THE ROSEMARY, and use Fresh Thyme)
  • 3/4 CUP SPANISH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (i happen to love the flavor of the Spanish for this, feel free to use any other ExtraVirgin OliveOil
  • 1 dash of TABASCO SAUCE

Blend everything except the Olive Oil..When all blended in a steady stream whisk in the Olive Oil till the mixture is creamy.  Let sit for at least one hour, preferably 3 hours…rewhisk, then use on the salad of your choice.  Certainly, if you are not using it the same day you’ve made it, tightly cover it and refrigerate. This will keep fresh for up to 5 days in the fridge.


To make this “vegan-Friendly” omit the Honey and use Agave Nectar,I like the dark Agave better, more flavor.