Tag Archives: CHILES



CHILLI MUSSELS…a find on the last vacation we went on. We spent a few days in Western Australia’s city of PERTH where because of a recommendation from Australian travelers we met in Bali we learned of these Mussels in a Tomato, Hot Pepper, and Wine Sauce. Sounds like Mussels Fra Diavolo? Sounds like a typical ItalianAmerican seafood dish? Since I’ve come back from vacation I’ve been trying to see where this dish originated. I’ve found out a few things. You can find them all over Australia, yet on line research always points to Perth and Western Australia. Australia’s proximity to Asia had me thinking these were possibly an Indonesian or Thai or Chinese style of mussels. No. They are decidedly Mediterranean in their style and flavor. Are they different from ItalianAmerican mussels in hot pepper spiked tomato sauce? When That bowl was placed infront of us in Western Australia’s seaside town of CERVANTES my head said..oh, it’s our Fra Diavolo with an Australian name. Sitting in the CERVANTES BAR AND BISTRO after a full day of driving up the coast I can tell you I was in for a great culinary surprise. These had a bit of sweetness to them. I detected maybe sugar in the mix. There were fresh sliced chile peppers in the mix. Aha. That’s it. Quite possibly with Australia’s large Italian Immigrant population this was a creation made by them with some changes as often happens in immigrant communities. There’s a style of cooking called AustralianItalian, just like we have ItalianAmerican in the States. Now you’ll say, what’s the difference??? Why would the dried chile pepper flakes (peperoncino) taste different than the fresh. Well…taste both for yourself. There’s a difference. And this is not a one is better than the other conversation, this is me telling you my foodcentric friends that there’s new dishes to be had when you change an ingredient. Fresh Chiles is possibly more Asian in it’s flavor profile. It’s a bit fruity. There’s a texture the ItalianAmerican mussels don’t have. It was amazing. Travel Food surprises are always welcome. Simply switch out fresh chiles for the peperoncino, add a pinch of sugar, or brown sugar and you’ll get the chilli mussel experience. Most important, use mid sized fresh mussels. Those enormous Green ones don’t work here. For a recipe, since I’ve not made my own version of them yet, here’s a link from Australia’s great Travel magazine, GOURMET TRAVELLER. I fell in love with this magazine after my daughter bought me one for the beach while we were there.



IMG_7725 (1)While on vacation in August 2018 we covered over 22,000 airmiles through South Asia.  Visited some places we had previously seen and visiting some new countries.  Being on vacation with family is my most favorite thing to do and I include on our trips lots of new TRAVEL FOOD to taste.  To write about.  To recreate in my home kitchen.  Makes a trip continue to go on long after you’ve unpacked and paid the credit card bills you racked up.  This post is going to take you to Nepal, that remote country between India and China and the home to the Himalayas.  I’m no trekker, hiker, or Mt.Everest climber.  Sorry. My adventure sometimes borders “on the edge” but generally I stay within my comfort zone.  Smarter.  This way I can safely get back home again and blog for you!! LOL.  So, Nepal.  So remote.  So rough.  So beautiful.  We stayed in 2 places, first in NAGARKOT which is up on a ridge, about 7200 ft. and commands views of the Kathmandu Valley which rise up to the majestic Himalayas.  Our time of year is not optimal as it’s the rainy season but with kids in school we have to “vacation” in the Summer months when school is out.  August is rainy, it’s Monsoon season. And who knew even though the travel sites and literature told us, that it would be so oppressively hot and humid???  Reasons why you travel.  To find out things for yourself.  We stayed at the CLUB HIMALAYA because they command an amazing view of the Himalayas when it’s clear.  August?  Not so clear.  The clouds hang low, the fog is thick.  But on day 2 the clouds briefly lifted the moisture curtain and blue skies broke through.  The low clouds moved up just enough for us to get a pretty clear view of the entire range including Mt. Everest.  SUCCESS.  The waiters at the hotel informed us it was the first decent view in almost a month.  A rare occurance.  Within 1/2 hour the cloud and fog again shielded the range from our view.  But we saw it.  We really saw it.  And will never forget it.  That same day we were served these delicious potatoes.  A little about my limited knowledge of Nepalese food.  We found that there are dishes that are from Nepal but there seem to be more that are borrowed from India, especially Northern India’s cuisines.  Exciting!!! This dish is a potato and CUMIN SEED dish.  I love whole cumin seed.  I toast it and grind it or use it whole in various treats from my kitchen  But here my eyes were opened to how delicious they are with plain ol’potatoes.  It is said that the unskilled bachelor in the kitchen  finds this a common and easy dish to make.  So there’s some legend and lore here too.  Nice. Food with color and flavor.  Travel helps to open one’s mind in so many ways and bringing new dishes home keeps that vacation feeling alive.  Let’s go to Nepal now and make some ALOO JEERA, ok, maybe we don’t have to travel that far.  Let’s go into our kitchens and make this tasty dish!!









SALT (now here’s a great dish to use some ground Pink Himalayan salt in !!)


To start, heat the oil in a heavy wide pan.  Add the cumin seeds and when they start to give off a wonderful aroma (oh it’s fantastic) then add the green chiles and the ginger, and 1/2 the cilantro.   Fry this together for about 1 minutes then add the potatoes, season with the turmeric, red chile powder, and salt.  Mix well.  Place on high heat and get a nice color on the potatoes and cover.  Reduce to low and cook this for 5 minutes.  Stir a few times while this is cooking.  Your Aloo Jeera should be done now.  Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and garnish with the rest of the Cilantro.  The dish can be served with Roti, or Paratha, types of Indian breads.  A grilled flat Greek Pita or Flour tortilla can sub for the Indian breads if needed.  In India and Nepal this is a Vegetarian dish.  I’m not vegetarian and enjoy it with a few fried eggs and the breads.  Easy and delicious.  Thinking of the smiling faces of Nepal and the rough and beautiful landscape.  Cooking globally gives you these experiences in your own home.  HAPPY COOKING!! Namaste!




PASTA ALL’ARRABBIATA…translated it means ANGRY MACARONI.  A descriptive term referring to the spicy heat in the dish from the PEPERONCINO, or dried crushed red chiles that are used all over the world including many regions of Italy.  The dish is said to have originated in Rome and often it’s catalogued in La Cucina Romana (Roman cuisine) but Southern Italy has so many instances of chile-infused oil , or lard based , or tomato based sauces for pasta that it’s really a tough call.  What is generally thought of as the right pasta to serve with Arrabbiata sauce is PENNE, or PENNETTA.  Perfect when some of the tomato and chile flecks get caught inside of the penne.  I also love it with spaghetti…as illustrated in this ridiculous poor quality grainy Selfie..IMG_9327  Don’t be bullied.  Penne is the most popular pasta used  for a reason, it’s just a great match. But Spaghetti and any other pasta you like works too.  Shh..just don’t say that in Italy.  LOL.   In the town of Marigliano outside of Naples in Campania the beginning of July is given over to a Sagra, or a Celebration in honor of PENNETTA ALL’ARRABBIATA.  Imagine?  A feast celebrating a dish of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, hot peppers and penne? 02-Locandina-01-701x1024This year’s announcement for the Sagra.  Music, Drink and Pennetta All’Arabbiata.  I think I like the sound of this.  The sauce for Arrabbiata, like SO many of Italy’s pasta sauces is a simple affair.  Olive Oil, Chiles, either Fresh or dried, garlic (some use onion), Italian Tomatoes, basil or not..Salt, and Penne. Really. That’s it.  From what my amateur research has gathered, recipes calling themselves “true” Roman recipes all use fresh chopped chiles.  Southern Italian recipes and Italianamerican recipes use Peperoncino, the same pepper,  but dried.  While they may be the same vegetable they do have different tastes.  One imparts a fragrant fresh taste with it’s heat and the other gives a deep earthy flavor and heat.  One day I will try this dish with fresh chiles, for now I use the dried.  While it’s a very quick dish to make the best way to get maximum chile flavor and heat is to slowly “fry” it in the Olive Oil rather than add it to the simmering sauce or only when ready to eat.  For dinner for 4-5 here’s how I do it.

TIME: 1 hour or less                                 SERVES: 4-5

1/2 cup good quality Olive Oil or Extra Virgin, preferably Italian

1 TBS. PEPERONCINO (crushed dried red hot pepper flakes), plus more for serving

2 sliced cloves of Garlic, or 1 small onion finely diced

Kosher Salt

2 28 oz cans SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES (or Italian Plums) crushed with your hands

1 pound Penne (I use imported ITalian Pasta )

4 Basil leaves

In a large pan or heavy pot heat the olive oil to medium.  Add the peperoncino and let this sizzle and pop on medium heat for a good 4 minutes.  This releases the oils in the dried peppers and helps to carry all of it’s flavor through the sauce.  Add 1/2 tsp of Kosher Salt.  Add the garlic and  (tricky here) saute’ until you just bring the slices to where they begin to get golden color than add the Tomatoes. Blend well and bring to a boil, then  back down to a simmer.  Allow the sauce to thicken, this will take some time, maybe 1/2 hour.  Then taste for seasoning.  If the sauce is thick enough (not watery) add the basil leaves and stir.  If it needs more time, keep it on low simmer until you get a thicker sauce.  Arrabbiata’s beauty is that it’s not “supposed” to be scorching…unless you want it to be.  At this point you can add more peperoncino to taste.  I find when feeding the family, less is more.  I’ll add more on my dish when I sit down anyway to get it to my heat threshold.  While the sauce is cooking , during the last 10 minutes, make a pound of Penne or Spaghettti till just al dente. Drain and add to the sauce and let it cook in the sauce for only 3 minutes.  Tear in the Basil leaves…mix, taste for seasoning, then serve.

IMG_9328IMG_9329IMG_9332 Dress the pasta with some Grated Pecorino Romano, a drizzle of Olive Oil, and more Peperoncino.  GET ANGRY!!! ARRABBIATA!!!!!  A grating of Pecorino or Parmigiano if you like!  I like.

Here’s a variation…PASTA ALL’ARRABIATA con SPINACI SALTATI.  Saute’ some fresh spinach with garlic and olive oil. Serve on top of the Sauced Pasta.  Then mix it all in after you’ve taken a nice pic for Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook…ok Twitter and Pinterest too. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a tip regarding Italian tomato sauces from South to North…only a handful are more complex requiring a sizable list of ingredients.  The vast majority are but a handful of ingredients.  What makes people NOT angry with this Arrabbiata is that you control your anger..an anger management of sorts  LOL.  The amount of peperoncino heat is up to you but it needs to be more than just a pinch since it’s not just Sugo di Pomodoro or Marinara, but a wake up call for the taste buds..feel the burn!!!  Happy Cooking!!


003The Fall Season seems to turn even our foods in to rust, red, orange and muted green colored fantasies.  Seasons also affect my recipe development as was the case on a blustery autumn day when there was Italian Sweet Fennel Sausage, Calabrian N’duja(a chile spike Calabrian spreadable salami), fresh sage sitting in my fridge.  Grey and chilly outside meant something warm and fall-ish needed to be cooked in the kitchen and I came up with making sausage patties with the ingredients plus some pantry items like a bag of Dried Cranberries.  The pairing of savory minced meats with sweet dried fruits is a gift from the Arab countries and was brought to the Western Mediterranean during their conquests of those areas.  Raisins, currants, pignoli, almonds and so forth show up in ground meat and fish dishes quite often in places like Italy and Spain.  I pooled those resources to develop this VERY tasty SAGE AND CRANBERRY SAUSAGE PATTY.  There’s flavors from Southern and Central Italy here but I’m modifying the recipe for the blog since N’djua is a ridiculously tough food to find for most people.  Instead I’m going to use Spanish Pimenton (Smoked Paprika) and Peperoncino (Italian dried hot pepper) to replicate the flavors in the Calabrian N’duja.  A little finishing of the cooked patties with Marsala or Sherry nicely rounds it all out.I’m such a fan of the sweet /savory foods.  This is one of them.  Serve with bread, or a vegetable or even rice.

TIME: 35 MINUTES                                     SERVES: 2-3

2 lbs. the BEST ITALIAN PORK SAUSAGE MEAT YOU CAN GET (simply slit the casings and remove the meat)  you can use ITALIAN TURKEY SAUSAGE as an alternative.



3 FRESH SAGE LEAVES, FINELY CHOPPED, plus some whole leaves for garnish




(if you want less “heat” from the chiles, go with 1/2 Tsp and replace with 1 tsp of sweet paprika..but use the Pimenton as well.  Paprika is simply an Eastern European word for red peppers)


Mix everything except the olive oil and only use 1 tbs of Marsala or Sherry in a bowl.  Combine till well blended. Let sit for 10 minutes. 401674_3107550370100_1304531591_32244544_484452443_nNow form into 4-6 patties. In a pan, add 2 tbs of olive oil and place on medium heat, and cook the patties until crusty and golden brown on each side, about 6 minutes per side.  Remove the finished patties to a platter and lightly cover with aluminum foil.  Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan and deglaze it with the remaining Marsala or Sherry. Add  a little more olive oil and then return the patties to the pan and simply heat them up in the pan sauce, about 2 minutes.  Done.  Garnish with dried cranberries and, although I didn’t when I made them in the picture, I’ve toasted almond pieces and garnished with them too. Sweet, savory, hot, porky, Mediterranean, herby, and with the almonds, crunchy.  This is when food talks back to you and you response, GRAZIE or Thank you.  Happy Cooking!!



note:  no salt added, why? Sausage is well salted.  Adding salt to these patties would make them way too salty.




This is a great idea for hanging around on the weekends watching games, or casual get togethers, even works for a weeknight  meal.  America LOVES Chiles, after all it’s one of our indigenous plants.  We go crazy for hot sauce, for whole chiles, for all foods made with them in their fresh, cooked, or dried states.  America is a CHILE CRAZED nation.  From the Americas the rest of the world learned how delicious they are…with a seemingly addictive nature they have regardless of where in the world they are being consumed.   Let’s explore Italy (shocker) for a moment, in particular Southern Italy.  Chiles are a mainstay in all hot climates and the southern regions of Italy are hotbeds (pun intended) for growing these peppers.  Depending on the region they are referred to as PEPERONCINO or DIAVOLiCCHIO .DIAVULLILU, and many others.  Just an aside, don’t confuse PEPERONCINO with the Italian-American pickled Vinegar pepper known as PEPPERONCINI as they are 2 very different foods including their spelling.

Basilicata where my paternal Grandpa comes from LOVES the chile pepper in it’s cuisine.  Shows up in so many of the regional dishes.  We grew up with that tradition which was further cemented by my Dad who grew tons of redhot chiles and dried them every year strung up all over the basement rafters. Dad’s been gone since 2003 but I have the last jar he gave me. It’s my most prized “food” possesion. A pinch of peperoncino is a usual cooking method in COUNTLESS Southern ITalian dishes but sometimes it becomes the dominant flavor as in ARRABBIATA style, or FRA DIAVOLO(more ITalian-American) meaning ANGRY.  A colorful way to describe a dish..it’s a popular tomato sauce for pasta.  Here I take that southern Italian seafood and chile tradition and elaborate on it.  I rarely say this, but certainly adjust the amount of peperoncino that you are using to your taste but if anything spicy is not in your wheelhouse this isn’t the recipe for you.  My suggestion for how to serve this is as you would serve a pot of steamers…just the clams…and some good bread.

TIME: 1/2 HOUR                               SERVES:  4




4 DOZ LITTLE NECK CLAMS, or COCKLES, or MANILA CLAMS, well scrubbed and rinsed




In a heavy bottomed pot heat the olive oil, then add the garlic and the 1 tsp. of the Peperoncino. Let this cook on medium for 2 minutes being careful not to let the garlic brown, then add the wine.  Bring to a boil then to a simmer. Add the clams.  With a heavy spoon get all the clams coated with the wine and garlic liquid.  THEN, cover tightly and keep on simmer and STEAM the clams until they have opened, takes about  8  minutes.   Shake the pot midway thru GENTLY.  Carefully remove the cover  and give the clams a good but gentle stir.  Remove any that did not open.  Add the lemon juice and the balance of the peperoncino and gently stir again. SERVE! with some good bread.  That’s it!! Now,are you wondering why I have salt in the ingredient list?  Taste that liquid.  I will venture a guess that it’s totatlly seasoned.  Why?  The liquor from the clams is salt water.  That will season the juices. Adding salt will put it over the top, unless you feel you need to, SO,before you serve, taste..then season if you need to, and drizzle with good Olive oil, then serve.  COOKING RULE…you can always add, you can NEVER subtract salt from a dish. There’s also a lack of greenery here..it’s no needed. Those clams look beautful without the green addition.  If you feel you need it…a little chopped flatleaf Italian parsley I guess (can you see my displeasure?? lol)..but one should always eat to one’s taste and pleasure.