Italian Seasonings

After yesterday’s harvesting and drying of herbs, this morning I found myself thinking about to what uses I wanted to put them. Most of them I will just store plain, but  I will probably make some seasoned salts and after breakfast I did make a batch of Italian Seasonings. (Recipe below.)  The golden oregano, thyme, rosemary and chenzo pepper were from my garden. Except for a few leaves here and there – not enough to merit drying – my basil is already gone for the season.

There are quite a few variations in recipes for Italian Seasonings. Some have majoram, parsley and/or savory. Many don’t have the hot pepper. Here is the recipe that I use.


4 T. dried basil

4 T. dried oregano

1 T.  granulated garlic

1 1/2 t. dehydrated minced onion

1 1/2 t. dried thyme

1 1/2 t. dried rosemary

1/2 t. dried hot red pepper

Pulse ingredients in a small food processor until desired consistency.

As you can imagine, after producing a batch of Italian Seasonings, I had to make something Italian with it! And luckily for me, I had some fresh vegetables in the house that I needed to use. So for lunch we had polenta with romano cheese and a thick, tasty tomato-pepper sauce. Now I need a nap! Ciao!

Piquant Pieper Sauce and Pieper Eggs

My husband always tells me that the one draw back to my recipes is that I am not sufficiently creative when it comes time to name them.  Despite the unimaginative name -when writing my first cookbook, I ran out of appellations and named this dish after myself – this is quite delicious. It can be served warm or cold to top eggs, tofu, pasta or pizza. It can also be served as a dip for French bread, pita bread or chips. Shown below, Pieper Eggs … what else?

Piquant Pieper Sauce

4 lg. ripe red bell peppers

1 1/2 c. tomato sauce (unseasoned)

1/2 c. chopped white onion

1 jalapeno pepper

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 T. granulated sugar

2 to 3 T. fresh lemon juice, divided

2 t. paprika

1 t. salt

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. fresh ground pepper

1 pinch ground thyme

1 clove garlic, crushed

(1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange peppers on parchment paper. Place baking sheet in the oven and  roast peppers, turning them occasionally with a pair of tongs, for about 20 minutes or until their skins are very blistery. Place peppers in a paper bag. Close the bag and let the peppers cool for 10 to 15 minutes or until they are cool enough to handle.

(2) Meanwhile, wearing plastic gloves, remove the stem and then chop the jalapeno. Place jalapeno in the bowl of a food processor.

(3) Working over the food processor bowl, peel the peppers, removing as much of the skin as  you can. Remove the stems and slice the peppers open. Remove and discard the seeds. Place peppers in the bowl of the food processor.

(4) Add remaining ingredients, starting with just 2 T. of the lemon juice. Process until almost smooth.

(5) Preheat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Pour the sauce into the skillet and cook for about 20 minutes or until the liquids have cooked off and the sauce is very thick. Stir frequently. If the sauce begins to spatter while it is cooking, reduce the heat.

(6) When the sauce is thickened, taste to see whether it needs more lemon juice, salt or pepper. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Use right away or store in the refrigerator in a covered glass jar. Yields about 1 quart.

Pieper Eggs

(per serving)

1 t. unsalted butter

2 lg. eggs

1 T. milk

3 to 4 T. warm Piquant Pieper Sauce, divided

2 slices French Bread, warm and buttered

1 c. baby spinach, optional

1 T. chopped fresh parsley

(1) Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Add butter and swirl it around the skillet. When butter just starts to sizzle, the skillet is ready.

(2) Meanwhile, beat together the eggs and milk. When the skillet is ready, pour in the eggs. Let eggs start to set on the bottom. Use a turner to pull them toward the sides of the skillet. Repeat, without stirring constantly, until the eggs are about half-cooked. Add 1 t. of sauce to eggs and continue to scramble until they are set.

(3) Place French bread on a warmed plate. Optionally, top with spinach. Then top with eggs. Garnish with remaining warm Piquant Pieper Sauce and then parsley. Serve immediately.

Variation: add 1/4 c. shredded mild cheddar cheese to eggs while they are cooking.

It’s Scorching Hot: Is it the Weather or the Peppers?

It is scorching hot in Manhattan, Kansas today. It was 97 degrees by noon and 107 in our yard at 5 pm (According to the weather service our official high was 101). So who could ask for a better day to write about hot peppers? In the little container garden on my “back porch”, I grow  Chenzo and Burning Bush Habañero peppers.  Chenzos have a rating of 45,000 scoville heat units (which is quite hot) while Habañeros are even hotter at 100,000 – 350,000 s.h.u. To put this in perspective, jalapeños rate  2,500 – 8,000 s.h.u.

Chenzo Peppers Ripening

Chenzo Peppers Ready to Pick

Burning Bush Habañero Peppers

When I picked my first bunch of Chenzos a few weeks ago, I tied them into a small ristra and hung them off the back porch to dry. It took about two and a half weeks for them to be ready to bring in. Of course, we were having cooler nights then. With our current temperatures, they would probably dry more quickly. I will use the dried peppers in chilis and rubs for grilling.

Chenzo Pepper Ristra

I decided to do  something different with the peppers that I picked today, so I made several bottles of Garlic Chili Lemon Oil. This can be used as a dipping oil with bread or tortillas, can be added to chilis, soups, pasta dishes, and salad dressing. If you decide to make your own flavored oils, be sure to sterilize fresh ingredients such as garlic either by heating them or acidifying them as the oil seals out oxygen and can easily lead to botulism growth. We want everyone to be able to eat safely!

What are your favorite ways to use hot chili peppers? It would be great to hear from you!

Ahh … Risotto

Risotto is one of those dishes for which I think one really shouldn’t follow a recipe.  Just practice a few times until you learn how to make it the way that you like it. Then you know how to make risotto right. If you try to follow a recipe, you’ll have too much or too little liquid, your rice will be overcooked or undercooked, and it will be too dry or too rich.  So if you don’t already know how to make risotto, here’s what I recommend …

Start with:

Some olive oil

Some arborio rice

A little minced garlic and/or finely chopped white or yellow onion

A lot of vegetable or chicken stock, kept at a simmer

A little dry white wine

Some chopped veggies

Some chopped meat or fish, optional

Some fresh grated parmesan or parmiggiano reggiano cheese

Salt, preferably sea salt

Some fresh ground pepper

(1) Pour some olive oil into a large skillet … enough to almost cover the bottom in a thin layer. Preheat skillet over medium-high heat.

(2) Add some rice, enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Lightly cook the rice in the oil until it turns a pale golden color and almost translucent, shaking the pan occasionally.

(3) Add a little garlic and/or onion. Stir and quickly saute, then add a little of the vegetable or chicken stock … enough to cover the rice in a thin layer. Have a sip of wine.

(4) Simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Once it is absorbed, add a little more stock … again enough to cover the rice in a thin layer. Have another sip of wine … and so forth.

(4) Simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Add enough wine to cover the rice in a thin layer.

(5) Simmer until the wine is absorbed. Add a little more stock … again enough to cover the rice in a thin layer.

(6) Keep adding stock in small amounts, allowing it to completely absorb before the next addition, until the rice is almost cooked to desired consistency. The process up until this point takes about 30 or thirty-five minutes.

(7) Stir in veggies and/or meat or fish. (If the veggies/fish/meat is raw, add a little earlier than if it is already cooked.) Add a little more liquid. Simmer until absorbed.

(8) Continue until the rice has reached the desired consistency – soft, but not mushy – stir in a little butter and then parmesan cheese. The more butter and cheese, the creamier but less healthful the risotto. Salt and pepper to taste.  How much to add is a matter of personal taste.

(9) Garnish as desired. Serve with tossed green salad and Italian bread.

For the risotto that I made tonight, I used garlic, white bulb onions, and yellow bell peppers. Just before it was finished, I divided it into two pans. To the half that was to become my husband’s dinner, I added sliced chicken-pineapple-bacon sausage that I had cooked up while the rice was simmering. To my half, I added left over Scottish salmon from dinner last night. Once you know the basic technique of making risotto, anything is an option! Be creative and enjoy! Let me know if you have any questions … I’ll do my best to answer them.