Archive for the ‘Condiments’ Category

Guac the way I make it (more or less)

Guac the way I make it (more or less)

We’ve been making a ton of guacamole lately. Which is kinda weird for us – not something we usually eat. Thought I’d post the recipe here.

Do you really need a recipe for guacamole? Probably not. It’s kinda like salsa – add a little of this, a little of that and voila. But anyhoo, here it is just for fun:



1 Haas Avocado (ok, those ones usually in the store) – a little squishy to the touch

1 medium sized tomato seeded and chopped

1 T red onion or so

1 clove of garlic minced (pressed, whatever)

1 jalepeno seeded (wuss) and chopped

1/2 lime

1 T or so (give or take) cilantro chopped

salt. Do.Not.Forget.To.Salt.Your.Food


Combine. Eat it. The end.

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Fig and Olive Tapenade - great for parties!

Fig and Olive Tapenade - great for parties!

Need a chichi appetizer to bring to your next soiree? Fig and Olive Tapenade is it. For very sophisticated, adult palates only please.

I first came across this recipe years ago in a wickedly funny entertaining book by Erika Lenkert,The Last-Minute Party Girl : Fashionable, Fearless, and Foolishly Simple Entertaining. She, in turn, got the recipe from Carrie Brown of Jimtown store in Sonoma County. So now I’m passing it on to you.

And you must check it out. Briny olives, sweet figs, a dash of mustard and a squeeze of lemon to liven it up. It’s just about the most perfect spread you’ve ever eaten. Smear it on french bread, add it to your grilled cheese or sandwich, pair it with Proscuitto or salami and some good cheese or serve it with chicken or fish. Oh, sooo fabulous!

Note: this recipe is extremely paired down from the version in Lenkert’s book. Her recipe makes enough for a big party (4 cups). I think 1 cup is a little more reasonable.

Fig and Black Olive Tapenade

About 1 cup
1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) stemmed & quartered, dried Black Mission figs
3/4 cups water
1 cup black olives; Nicoise, Lyon, or Greek, rinsed and pitted
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1/2 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
black pepper and salt, if necessary

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, simmer the figs in the water for about 30 minutes, until very tender. Drain, reserving a few tablespoons of the liquid.

2. If using a food processor, pulse the pitted olives, drained figs, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, capers, and fresh rosemary to create a thick paste. Pulse in the olive oil until you’ve achieved a chunky-smooth paste. Season with black pepper and salt, if necessary. (The spread can be thinned with a bit of the reserved fig poaching liquid.)

3. Allowing it to sit for at least a few hours (if not overnight) helps the flavors meld.

4. Serve. Serving suggestions: smear on French bread toasted with a little olive oil, or with meats like Prosciutto or salami and mild creamy cheese, or on a sandwich/grilled cheese, or with your favorite grilled meats.

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Trust me, this dish is fabulous. I just have really shoddy camera skills. 

Trust me, this dish is fabulous. I just have really shoddy camera skills.

I love reading cookbooks written by chefs. Interesting ingredients and techniques enthrall me. More often than not though, these books aren’t translated for the home cook. Take the Alinea cookbook – I know there is probably just ONE recipe in the entire book I could make at home without expending major effort.  And trust me, it’s not that lavender smoke pillow thingy.

Restaurant recipes dumbed down (well…sorta)

So what’s a home cook to do? I’ve come across a couple of books which help translate restaurant recipes for the home – Chef Interrupted by Melissa Clark and Restaurant Favorites at Home by the Editors at Cook’s Illustrated (aka America’s Test Kitchen, aka ATK). Trust me though, the recipes in each of these books are still quite time consuming – but always worth it. 

Oh yeah, did I ever mention Nuevo Latino cuisine is my absolute favorite? Do we use that term anymore? Latin fusion? Was that totally random and seemingly off-topic? Whatever. Maybe you’ve forgotten the title of this post. I’m just saying I love food with Latin and Caribbean flavors more than just about anything else. Give me a fried plantain any day of the week and I will be one happy girl (I feel a craving coming on!).

One of the most stellar recipes of all-time

The one recipe that I make over and over again that is based on Latin flavors is the Grilled Lime Chicken out of the Restaurant Favorites book. There are a bunch of accompaniments listed in the book, but I never bother with them any more. It’s the cilantro lime sauce that I covet. It’s a perfect blend of spicy, sweet and tangy. The chicken is bathed in this superb sauce post cooking so it retains all its fresh flavors. It is, without a doubt, the best chicken grilling sauce there is. And it’s the freaking easiest thing you’ll ever make.  Oh yeah, and it makes a fantastic salad dressing too.

So don’t delay. Make this today. Unless…you don’t like cilantro. And if that is the case, I feel for you. I really and truly do.

Still not enticing you? Yeah... I can understand that. Just make the dish already!

Still not enticing you? Yeah... I can understand that. Quit picking apart my crappy photos and just make the dish already!

I mean, this is what I had to work with people. Do they even TRAIN butchers anymore?

I mean, this is what I had to work with people. Do they even TRAIN butchers anymore?

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Rewritten from Restaurant Favorites at Home
Makes about a cup of sauce

1/4 cup sugar
4 chiles de arbol (or 1.5 t red pepper flakes)
3 medium garlic cloves
1 small shallot roughly chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
1 bunch fresh cilantro – leaves and some stems – roughly chopped (about 1.5 cups)
3/4 cup vegetable (or other mild flavored) oil

Whatever the heck you want to grill. The book recommends 6 8-10 oz bone in, skin on chicken breasts.

1. This couldn’t be easier – take all the ingredients (minus the thing you are grilling) and stick in mini food processor, blender, whatever. Pulse till combined. OR, if you insist on doing things the hard way, chop them up. Put in a large bowl and set aside. That’s it!

2. Grill your meat (or veg! I suppose you could do that too). If you were going to do bone in skin on chicken, my method in the Pomegranate Chicken recipe works well – basicallly, 10 minutes skin down, 15 minutes skin up. Set aside to rest.

3. Dip your grilled whatever into the big bowl of sauce – make sure it is well coated. Remove and…

4. Serve!


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Hot stuff! Shrimp Piri Piri served with diced mango over jasmine rice.

Hot stuff! Shrimp Piri Piri served with diced mango over jasmine rice.

Note to all: No matter how pretty and inviting habaneros look, eating them raw may not be in your best interest. Unless you have a pint of whole milk standing by. AND EVEN THEN. Think twice.

I’m just saying…

I couldn’t help myself. Really, it was calling my name. Teasing me. Whispering “Don’t be such a wuss! Just a little bite! It won’t hurt! I swear I’m not hotter than a jalapeno”. So I popped a hunk into my mouth. Immediately on contact bad, bad things happened. Blisters formed. I swear to god (ok, I’m exaggerating a little). I paced up and down the kitchen repeating the same words over and over “bad. pepper. hot. oh god. bad”. My husband merely laughed at my misfortune. I recall something like “serves you right!” escaping his lips but the memory of the pepper might be playing tricks with my brain.  I finally gave in and took a swig of milk. It cooled the fire in my mouth, but my lips were still ablaze. A good 20 minutes later, the heat finally died down. 

All for the cause my friends, all for the cause.

So yeah. Shrimp Piri Piri is hot stuff.  We are talking numerous habaneros, jalapenos, hot paprika, cayenne all mixed togther and slathered over shrimp. The dish is African and Portuguese in nature, apparently came about during the time of the colonialization of Mozambique.

It is supposed to be served with lemon and butter, but I got the bright idea of serving it with a mango dipping sauce.   Alright, I admit I was scared that the shrimp was going to be so spicy I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Hence why I tried to tame it with the mango. In reality, after grilling, the shrimp wasn’t as hot as I thought it was going to be. Next time, I’ll serve it the traditional way cause I feel like the sweet of the dipping sauce competed with the heat of the shrimp. I might even boil up the marinade and serve that over top too. Just in case I need more heat!

Grilled Shrimp with Piri Piri Sauce

From Some Like It Hot
Serves 4

2 habanero chiles
7 red jalapenos (I could only find green) or 4 red cherry or cascabel chiles
2 T cayenne pepper
1 T Hot paprika
4 garlic cloves
3/4 cup peanut oil
3 T fresh lemon juice
2 t salt
2 lb shrimp – peeled and deveined (I used medium sized shrimp cause I find them easier to cook – but use at least medium size shrimp since you are grilling them)

To finish the dish, mix together (but don’t do this till you are ready to serve):
6 T unsalted butter, melted
3 T fresh lemon juice

You’ll also need skewers for the shrimp


1. Place habaneros, jalapenos, paprika, garlic, peanut oil, lemon juice and salt in blender or small food processor. Process till smooth. 

2. Transfer to a bowl, add in the shrimp and marinate for 4-6 hours.

3. Prepare your grill. Skewer shrimp leaving space between each. Grill shrimp a few minutes on each side to your desired doneness (I err on the undercooked side myself – it will keep cooking after you take it off the grill).

4. Remove from the grill and serve drizzled with the 6 T of unsalted butter and 3 T of lemon juice.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Transports you right to France - although I've bastardized it by adding Feta and Mascarpone

Transports you right to the south of France - although I've bastardized the effect by serving it with Feta and Mascarpone


AKA – Food only chicks like

My husband has an aversion to olives. Most men seem to share this trait and I simply do not comprehend it. I do try to help cure him of this ailment, but to no avail. Unbeknownst to me, he also has an aversion to capers. And sundried tomatoes. And basil. After 10 years together, I JUST found this out. And sadly, these are a few of my favorite things.

As I was reading The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, I came across a delicious sounding dish that had all of the above in it. A Provencal Tomato Spread. Paired with bread slathered with mascarpone and feta cheese shot under the broiler and a nice salad, what could be better? This is my kind of eating. Too bad my husband doesn’t agree. 

What else could you do with this?

Toss with pasta. Serve over chicken. Wish fish. It’s highly versatile. I’m quite certain it will end up with pasta by week’s end – that is, if I don’t tire of loading it on top of fresh bread first.

Provencal Tomato Spread

From Kathleen Finn. Read her book for more great recipes (and a lot of fun too).


4 tablespoons olive oil
1 red medium bell pepper, peeled, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped (1 ½ cups) 
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (1 cup) 
6 to 8 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (¾ cup)
12 Nicoise olives, chopped
3/4 tablespoon capers
2 cups chopped fresh basil


  • In a small sauté pan, warm the oil over medium heat.
  • Add bell pepper, onions, and garlic and cook until soft.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and capers and cook gently.
  • Remove from heat. 
  • When cool, add the basil.
  • Add coarse salt and pepper to taste.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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A smidge salty for my tastes

From time to time I come home from the store with an ingredient I know nothing about and have no idea what to do with. Harissa is my most recent acquire. Upon reading the label, it was supposed to contain peppers, lemon and um, salt. How could it be bad? Sadly, it did not live up to my expectations (of which there were few). I mean, it has potential, but it’s just so overwhelmingly salty. I do hate it when I break my rule of not buying that which I can prepare myself (prepared pesto, anyone?). After I finish this jar (and I vow to), I will make Suzanne Goin’s version to see if the homemade trumps the bottled. Really, does Ms. Goin ever steer me wrong?


So, uh, yeah, got any ideas on how to use up a jar of harissa? Or at least, how I can make it not so salty? For the record – spreading it on baguettes is no good nor is as a pizza sauce (even mixed with tomato sauce). 

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