Filipino Chicken Adobo

 My pal Dan was talking about his favorite foods from the Philippines and Chicken Adobo came up in the conversation! I said “I have never made Chicken Adobo!” His eyes lit up and he described the sweet, sour and rich tastes he remembered growing up. I said “I have to make that!”

So this one was made with love for Dan! and of course Big Pete!

This is slow simmered until it thickens and gets all dark and wonderful. It is sweet, sour and tangy. Served piping hot over fragrant Jasmine rice, I promise you will love it!

You will need:

  • 8-10 organic chicken thighs
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic -chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 tsp crushed peppercorns
  • 1 cup canned tomatoes (crushed or pieces)
  • 1 small onion
  • scallions or onion sprouts to serve
  • your favorite rice – I like Jasmine
  • 1 small pork tenderloin chopped in large slices(optional for a Pork & Chicken Adobo version – if you prefer!)

Step 1: I like to clean off some of the big pieces of fat on the thighs and then I cut them in half or quarters. Place in a large bowl.

Step 2: take an onion and lots of garlic and mince finely. This will just disappear in the sauce. Add to chicken.

Step 3: add your cider (or white) vinegar and soy to the bowl.

Step 4: add the palm sugar or brown sugar if you don’t have palm (you can find it in any good grocery store or health food store)

Step 5: you can add canned tomatoes but I had fresh seasonal so I just did a rough chop and threw them in the food processor. Add to the bowl. Add the cracked peppercorns – don’t worry you can add lots!

Step 6: marinate for a few hours or overnight.

Step 7: OPTIONAL* you can  also add some pork tenderloin but, I do not add until the last 1/2 hour of cooking. I have chopped into similar sized pieces as the chicken and you can add some of the sauce to it to marinate before adding to the pot.

Step 8: add to a large heavy pot – this is when I bring out the heavy enamelled cast iron Le Crueset.(they are worth every penny by the way!) Turn on medium heat, let come to a boil and then just lower to a steady blip for 3 hours or until the sauce is reduced and the chicken is tender. If you are adding the pork add it in the last 15- 30 minutes because the meat is so tender.

It gets all thick and dark caramelly brown!! My mouth is watering just looking at this picture.

Serve over Jasmine rice and a few onion sprouts or scallions to make it pretty!

The boy could hardly wait to eat a big bowl of it! Big Pete approved!!

I hope Dan liked it too!!

Cinnamon Kouign Aman

 The smell of warm pastries and cinnamon sugar is the way I woke up Big Pete this Sunday morning!

Get the coffee and be prepared to be dazzled!

Kouign Aman (pronounced Queen Aman) are a French lacquered pastry from Brittany. I have always wanted to try making them. They do require a bit of effort over 2 days but, they are well worth it. It is like making a typical croissant dough and then when you roll them out the last time you roll them in sugar instead of flour. Once they cool slightly, they are flaky and crunchy and definitely buttery. Kouign Aman literally translates to butter cake.

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 envelope of dry yeast
  • 4 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 4 sticks of unsalted best quality butter – let come to almost room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Step 1: In a bowl add warm water, honey and yeast. Let bloom for 5 minutes to make sure yeast is active.

Step 2: in a stand mixer with a dough hook add flour, salt and melted butter. Mix for a few seconds then add yeast mixture. Mix until well combined approximately 2 minutes. The dough should literally clean the bowl when it is done.

Step 3: Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Step 4: On a large sheet of parchment  spread the butter to form a square which is  8 inches x 8 inches. Fold up and place in fridge to get firm for 30 minutes.

Step 5: on a floured surface roll out dough to a 12 inch square.

My square was too large- if you make it 12- 13 inches it should wrap the butter with very little over lap.

Step 6: place the cold butter on top of the dough in a diamond fashion, then fold like an envelope to enclose butter.

Step 7: pound the hard butter gently to start rolling without breaking through the dough. Roll out the.  dough to roughly 24 inches x 8 inches. Fold into thirds. Brush off excess flour and pinch ends. The goal is to roll out and fold to evenly distribute butter.

Step 8: wrap in plastic wrap and put in fridge for 20 minutes.

Step 9: roll out again and fold into three again.

this is your second fold – mark it so you remember. Wrap and pt back in fridge for another 20 minutes. Do this 4 times. After the 4th roll wrap dough and leave in fridge 6-8 hours or overnight.

Step 10: heat the oven to 425 degrees F and remove your dough for the final roll out. This time instead of flour you will roll out the dough in sugar or cinnamon sugar.

Step 11: roll out to a 16 inch x 16 inch square. Cut off edges to make even 4 inch squares (use a clean ruler)

I used 4 inch cheesecake pans as a mould -you could just place right on parchment paper or you could use a large muffin mould. I prefer the bigger ring as the muffin pan makes the pastry rise up instead of outward. The outward spread makes the pastry more flaky and crunchy.

Step 12: Pinch each point to the center of the square and then take each new point and fold to the center again. I also made a few with just one fold. I like the traditional double version better.

You can even roll into croissant shapes. Let rise one final time for approx 20 minutes.

Bake approx 20 minutes or until browned and crunchy.

Let cool slightly then dig in! They are very buttery and crunchy…then go do a workout!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This easy slab cake is delicious and moist and has zucchini and olive oil in it…don’t worry you would never know it was anything but chocolate cake!

You will need:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (1/2 cup) at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup mild extra virgin olive oil- I strongly encourage you to buy really good quality EVOO and use it lavishly!!
  • 1 tsp vanilla (or maybe 2 if you like!)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups finely grated zucchini
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips or 1 great 80 gram chocolate bar – chopped
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp good vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • 1 tsp gelatin (unflavoured)
  • 3 tbsp cold water
  • 4-5 tbsp vanilla sugar
  • fresh berries

I used a 3quart/2.8 Litre glass baking dish – its easy to cut on the glass and stores easily in the fridge because the toppping is whipped cream.

Heat oven to 325.

Butter and flour your glass baking dish. Set aside.

Step 1: add room temperature butter and sugars to a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer you can use a hand mixer. Mix until it resembles wet sand.

Step 2: add 3 eggs and mix on medium high for 3 minutes until pale in color.

Step 3: add vanilla ( I make my own) and olive oil and mix until incorporated.

Step 4: add buttermilk and mix well, scrape down bowl at least once.

Step 5: add finely grated zucchini and any liquid that it has into mixer.

Step 6: add dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix with a whisk. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Whisk to blend and make sure cocoa doesn’t have any clumps.

Step 6: add dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix with a whisk. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Whisk to blend and make sure cocoa doesn’t have any clumps.

Step 7: chop chocolate (or just use good quality chips)

Step 8: add dry ingredients to wet and  mix on low speed until just incorporated.

Step 9: I like to mix in the chopped chocolate by hand. This also allows me to scrape the bowl a few more times.

Step 10:  spread and level batter in pan.

Step 11: bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Step 12:  Sprinkle gelatin over water and let bloom for 3-4 minutes then microwave for 10 seconds. Whip whipping cream with vanilla and sugar and slowly drizzle the gelatin in to the cream. This will stabilize your topping so this can last a day or 2 without getting runny.

Step 13: spread cream over cooled cake and arrange berries as you like and then cut yourself a big slab!!

and don’t forget to share with friends!! feed it to kids you will get some vegetables and olive oil in them and they wont even know it!

Mexican Salsa Burgers

I love a good burger!! I would travel long distances for a great burger! I think if I could choose my last meal, it would be a burger…and  sweet potato fries of course! I love them in any variation, beef, chicken, turkey, vegetarian. Yep! I love em all, if they are made well and with good ingredients. This is my latest creation. I made the Salsa first and thought this would great in a burger and it was!

You will need:

  • 1 lb. of best quality beef (80/20 is best – you do need some fat!)
  • 1 lb of best quality hot Italian sausages – casings removed
  • 1/2 cup your favorite Salsa – here is my recipe from the last post
  • 1 tbsp Mexican Seasoning mix
  • salt and pepper (I only add this while grilling the burgers)
  • great squishy buns
  • slices of avocado
  • more of your favorite Salsa to top
  • onions, hot sauce ….make this the burger you love!

Step 1: start with the best quality meat you have access to. I have organic beef and some great quality hot Italian sausage from my local market they make it in house. If you can’t find it without the casings like this just buy actual sausages and remove the casings.

Step 2: gently and with love loosen the meat so it is not compacted and becomes a tough burger. The very best burgers are ground fresh which makes a nice loose burger. I did not have my own ground but I always try to chop it or separate the meat so it is not as dense and compact. Add your Salsa.

Be gentle in mixing ingredients to avoid compacting burgers too tightly. Add your Mexican seasoning mix. I wait to add salt and pepper and just sprinkle on top while grilling.

Step 3: slice up and arrange all your condiments…..Mmmm avocado and a squeeze of lime!

Step 4: divide the meat into equal parts. A simple method is just to divide mass in half and then keep dividing each piece into half until you have 6-8 equal sized burgers. Gently form into patties.

Step 5: I place each burger onto wax paper and normally we cook 3. Big Pete has 2 and I am good with 1! The rest I wrap up and place into Ziploc bags and toss in the freezer for a day when I don’t feel like cooking and can dip into my freezer pantry for something yummy that I know exactly what the ingredients are!! That is the magic of a well stocked kitchen and for me the freezer is just an extension of my pantry.


Fire Roasted Salsa

You can make this salsa anytime! It is a simple salsa made with canned fire roasted tomatoes and a few other ingredients. Get out the food processor and in a few minutes you are done!

You will need:

  • 1/2 -1 fresh jalapeno pepper (ha- la payn-yo! pepper)
  • 1/4 -1/2 white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • a handful of fresh cilantro/coriander
  • 1/2 tsp canned chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 1 fresh lime juiced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste – it needs more salt than you think- so taste!
  • 1 8 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • tortilla chips

Step 1: I add the jalapenos, onion, garlic and cilantro to the food processor first. I do chop most things at least a bit before adding it to the machine. Chop.

Step 2: add the salt and chipotles (you can buy them in a can or a jar typically) they are very hot so start with less and add more if you like.

Step 3: add the lime juice, olive oil, and finally the tomatoes.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as necessary. I also like mine with lots of lime.

Serve in a pretty bowl and get the Tequila baby!!

Chicken Pasta Primavera

The other day “The Boy” also called “Big Pete” says “You are not bringing your best game to the kitchen”. He says “You need to create some different dishes, like you used to”. Now, my first reaction is to give him a karate chop to the neck but, with great restraint, I held back. I did remind him that the average family in Dallas eats out 5 days a week. I was about to give him my “do you know how good you’ve got it man speech when I realized he was right. So, I made something different today! This is a medley of vegetables and a bit of chicken if you like. This is my version of Pasta Primavera.

Of course, you can quite easily substitute any of your favorite veggies. I like to cook everything separate and then toss it all back at the last minute.  Make this with or without meat.

You will need:

  • 3 slices bacon -chopped into small pieces
  • 4 slices of good quality Italian salami -sliced
  • 1 chicken breast – sliced into strips
  • salt/pepper (at every stage)
  • 1/2 small onion diced fine
  • 1 1/2 cups or so of broccoli florets
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes slice in half
  • 1 large handful of spinach – sliced into strips
  • 4-5 basil leaves – sliced into ribbons
  • 3-4 green onions – sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic- minced finely
  • 1 tsp dry Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chili flake
  • more great quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil – mine was a medium from the Riva Garda region of Italy for drizzling
  • 1 tbsp or so of great quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 -1 lb box of dry penne pasta
  • more salt and pepper to finish with some fresh grated Parmensano Reggiano cheese.

  Step 1: put on some Andrea Boccelli and pour yourself a glass of wine and just slice, dice and chop everything  before cooking. Once this is done you can start cooking things in batches. If you prefer the tomatoes uncooked just toss everything as you cook it into a giant bowl. Put a big pot of water on the stove to boil.

Step 2: on a medium low heat cook the bacon until approximately half cooked, then add the salami and once both are crispy remove from pan.

Step 3: in the same pan add the onion  plus salt and pepper and cook until slightly browned approx 5-7 minutes

Step 4: cook chicken with 1-2 tbsp olive oil and some salt and pepper, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning and chili flakes, remove from pan once browned.

Step 5: with more olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper (it really is important to season at each stage) cook zucchini until nicely browned and remove from pan.

Step 6: add a bot more oil and the broccoli cooking for 2-3 minutes with more salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute more. The water in the tomatoes cooks the small broccoli pieces perfectly al dente.

Add chicken and all the other cooked components back in to toss for 1 final minute.

 Add the spinach and green onions and garlic and anything else you may have chopped up!

Pour into a giant bowl add another drizzle of raw olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and some Parmesan cheese. Taste it! if it needs more seasoning add it.

Eat it !

Shaved Street Meat on the Rotisserie – Kebab

Flavours of Greece!…lemon, oregano, garlic, mint, basil.


Spicy Middle Eastern Flavours of garlic, chilies, cumin, coriander, horseradish.

You can make this big kebab with Greek flavours or Middle Eastern flavours and spices or Italian etc…The goal is to take meats pound them thin, spice and season them generously, place some vegetables in between and slowly roast them to perfection. Shave the meats, add some fresh vegetables, pickles or spreads and roll it up in a pita or wrap for the perfect fun dinner that can feed a big crowd!

You will need:

(this recipe is great for 4 people but you can easily double it)

Spicy Middle Eastern Flavours

  • you need a grill that has a rotisserie or a spit to roast the meats
  • 2 chicken breasts (or 8 chicken thighs if you prefer the dark meat or both!)
  • 2 pork loin chops or 1 pork tenderloin
  • 2 green onions-minced fine
  • 3 cloves garlic-minced fine
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme – leaves removed
  • 3-4 fresh sage leaves-minced fine
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro (or basil if you prefer)
  • 2 tsp grated fresh horseradish
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground celery seed
  • 1 tbsp oregano (I prefer dry but, fresh is fine too)
  • 1 tbsp Greek mixed spices or Mediterranean spice blend
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh chili (or you can roast it in pieces on the kebab you are making)
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 lemon – sliced in half (this is to go in between slices of meat)
  • 1 onion – sliced in half (this is to go in between slices of meats)
  • 1 red pepper (this is to go in between slices of meats)
  • 1 hot chili pepper (this is to go in between slices -any left over can be a topping)
  • 1 green pepper (this is to go in between slices or as a topping)
  • 3 tbsp rum and 3 tbsp olive oil for brushing while roasting the meat.
  • pita breads(thin are best) or wraps
  • your favourite sauces or schmears!! like hummus, tzatziki or baba ganouche
  • some fresh lettuces or tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers or pickles

Greek Flavours

  • add same meat amounts
  • 3-4 cloves garlic – minced fine
  • 2 lemons – 1 zested finely , then sliced into 3 portions
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 green onions – chopped finely (or you can place all these aromatics into a food processor)
  • 1 small white one – minced finely
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 5-6 basil leaves – minced fine
  • 20 fresh mint leaves – minced fine
  • a handful of fresh parsley – minced finely
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 onion – chopped in half (for roasting in between meats)
  • 1 green pepper (for roasting in between meats)
  • take 1/2 of one of the lemons and squeeze over meat while turning
  • pita breads – warmed to make soft and pliable -I put them in a small dry pan and flip a few times
  • tzatziki or baba ganouche (you can use good quality store bought)
  • tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, hot pickles or hot chilies for an assortment of toppings


Step 1: take lots of aromatics, chop fine or throw them all in a food processor and create a paste. In the above recipes these are all ingredients in the top portion of the recipes (the bottom portion is for topping details)

Step 2: take your choice of meat and gently pound thin to make the meat uniform. The chicken is very tender you don’t need to pound hard but the pork chops can take a bit more since they tend to be a more tough meat. I have only used 2 chicken breasts and 2 pork chops and you can see how small you can make the pieces. My pieces were about 3-4 inches when flattened.

Step 3: add all your aromatics and spies to the meat and coat well. Cover and leave in fridge at least 1 hour to marinate. Chop the veggies you want to add in between every few slices of meat to add more layers of flavour.

Step 4: here is the messy part! Add a lemon or onion on the end, then a few slices of meat, add a pepper, more slices of meat, a ring of lemon, more, meat etc…. end with another end of lemon and squish it together to get it nice and compacted.

Step 5: grill on medium low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check it often and squeeze on some lemon juice or baste with a bit of rum and olive oil on the spicy version.

Step 6: gather all your toppings, slide meat off rotisserie or slice it down if you are brave enough! At this point you can serve it as is or if you want the meat crispier. Take your slices and quickly fry in a pan!

pile on the toppings and devour!!

Chocolate Babka and Jalapeno Garlic Cheese Babka

Chocolate Babka

Jalapeno Garlic Cheese Babka – its like the best spicy garlic cheese bread!

This is a tale of two Babkas, one sweet and one savoury. You can  easily swap out filling to make it your own version. Add chopped nuts and cinnamon sugar, pesto and Parmesan or what about adding olive tapenade to create your delicious speciality. With this one receipt you can divide the dough in half to create 2 small babkas or one large.

You will need:


  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pkg yeast (instant or regular)
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 stick butter room temperature =soft
  • 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

Chocolate filling

  • 2 tbsp best extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 oz semi sweet chocolate chips or milk if you prefer
  • 4 oz of best quality dark chocolate chopped finely
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature =soft

If you want to make a savoury version

leave out the vanilla and sugar in the dough

Jalapeno Garlic Cheese Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
  • 1 finely chopped fresh jalapenos
  • 1/2 can sliced canned jalapenos
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 green onions

Step 1: in the bowl of a stand mixer add warm milk, 1 tbsp of the sugar (I heat in the microwave for 20 seconds)and vanilla paste. (this is an exceptional product and worth the effort to find in any gourmet speciality shop) Sprinkle the yeast on top and mix for 5 seconds. Let yeast bloom to make sure it’s active -wait 5 minutes.

Step 2: add the rest of the sugar, flour, eggs, butter, olive oil and lastly the salt. Mix with the dough hook attachment for 5 minutes until the dough pulls away from the bowl and is a smooth dough. If you find it is too wet you can always a 1/4 cup more flour at a time. Humidity can affect how much flour is necessary so you may need a bit more. The perfect dough should be smooth and not sticky to the touch once it has absorbed as much flour as necessary.

Step 3: remove the paddle and I for some reason always knead the dough a few turns on the counter to feel it in my hands and know that it has enough flour or not. Place the ball back into the bowl and cover to let rise at least 2 hours or overnight in the fridge if you prefer.

Step 4: once the dough has risen, remove from bowl and on a lightly floured surface roll out a large rectangle roughly 10 inches wide facing you (this doesn’t have to be exact)

Step 5: the butter should be very soft and I just spread it evenly over the dough leaving a half inch border around the edges. Sprinkle a few tsps of cinnamon over the butter, then add the brown sugar and two types of chocolate.

Step 6: then roll up the dough into a long log.

Step 7: with a sharp knife slice the dough lengthwise. Join the two ends together and create a criss cross pattern with the exposed layers on top.

Step 8: carefully place into a parchment lined loaf pan. If you are making 2 loaves you can slice the long log in half. If you are making one loaf I suggest baking on a cookie to ensure the bread cooks properly in the middle.

Step 9: let bread rise for a further 30 minutes in the pan as the oven heats up to 350 degrees

Bake approximately 35- 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Let cool….that’s the hard part!

Savoury Cheese Babka filling: I take all ingredients (except cheese) and mince finely in a food processor, add cheese and mix all ingredients together then spread onto dough the same as above roll up the dough the same way.

Slice lenghtwise

Criss Cross

Let rise


Nice, France, Imperia, Italy and Olive Oil School Part 3

This is my 3rd year in a row (lucky me!) attending Olive Oil Taster’s school at ONAOO in Imperia, Italy. This is my second year of a 3 year Professional Olive Oil Tasters Course.

Imperia, Italy is located in the northern part of Italy about an hour and a half south of Nice, France. A group of us have been attending together since the first year and have become friends and a support team on this surprisingly difficult journey. I have flown in to Florence, Milan and this year Nice to get to Imperia. I had never been to Nice and was looking forward to enjoying our short stop on the way home.

First stop is London Heathrow where I meet friends from Toronto and Hong Kong…of course there is time for a glass of Champagne at Prunier it doesn’t matter that it is 7:25 am! this is how we roll baby!!

There are some great shops and restaurants and I really love to stop by Fortnum and Mason because you can enjoy a perfect cuppa and you can browse their pretty shop. I want to buy everything but, settle for a box of Princess Grey

We land in Nice to meet our last travel buddy from Vilnus, Lituania. The pastries in the airport are stunning. Oh wait! a stop before we get on the train for…you guessed it Champagne. Even on the train we celebrate the glory of being here!!

While everyone else gets settled in their rooms I must say hello to this pretty little town!

“Buonasera Imperia!”

The old olive tree by the port

Ok, now that we have arrived we either need a nap from the “red eye” flight or wait…coffee and something dolce!! Yes, but remember if you are in Italy you can have a macchiato which is a coffee with just a spoon of crema but, don’t order a cappucino after breakfast. They will give it to you but, they will be shaking their heads the whole time. Italians only drink cappucino at breakfast.

This is such a cute little seaside town. You arrive in Porto Maurizio which is glorious town on the water but, we take a taxi to it’s sister city on the other side of the river called Imperia Oneglia.

After we check in to the Hotel Rossini which is a great little hotel that has comfortable accommodations and a nice breakfast bar. Everyone who goes to to ONAOO stays here because you can walk to school everyday.

An apperitivo at Gusto and of course when you have a drink they bring you something to nibble on.

Time for dinner I chose not to have a nap and hold out as long as possible and now I am hungry as a bear (un orso! in Italian) we are disappointed because our favorite little pizzeria is closed for renovations. It is the middle of Feb and a good time since there are not many tourists but, we are bummed none the less. We head over to a great little pizzeria and pasta place. I recommend the pasta over the pizza but, all of it is good and cheap. The pasta is made and brought to your table in giant fry pans! The wine is good and we meet more friends.

The first day of The Professional Olive Oil Tasters course and there are people from Norway, France, China, Lituania, Canada, US, Taiwan, Switzerland and Italy. We start with a few tastings. I am constantly amazed at how complicated and difficult this is for me. I never come to the table thinking I am good, I have nailed this. Why? well because you are smelling for defects and fruitiness of the oil to begin with. If you smell something you need to taste it to assess the oil. You swish it all over your mouth and smile wide and suck air to the back of your throat. You sometimes need to do this a few times and make sure the sample gets right to the back of your tongue where you taste bitterness (a positive attribute of good oils) and also to get the sensation of pungency or the peppery kick that can make you cough (this is also a positive attribute and when it makes you cough this is a good thing!)

I am tasting for perhaps a subtle defect or even multiple defects which I need to define as a number to give it a strength value. I need to determine which defect it prevalent and then which others are present. If the oil has no defects I am tasting to see if I can determine if the olives are ripe or were they green (usually this part is detected in the smell )  what do I think the oil tastes like? cut grass, tomato leaf, artichokes, green almonds etc… this is not easy I have to define the level of fruitiness on a scale, I have to define the bitterness and pungency on the scale and if there are defects they also need to be defined. There are over 2000 cultivars of olives and they taste different. In Italy what makes them so special is not that they make the best oils in the world BUT they are the only country that has over 500 cultivars within it and this diversity can make some remarkable oils.

Professor Servili spoke with passion and excitement about the chemistry of olive oil and why is is just simply unique in the world of oils – there is no other oil in the world that has sensory analysis, none! and it is truly remarkable in its powers . I cannot believe how interesting I find even the chemistry and milling aspects of this glorious product.

Yay! Lunch at Gusto a few minutes from school. We always enjoy the local specialties like Trophie “tro-fee ay” which is a typical pasta served in Liguria made with pesto (this is where Pesto is from!) green beans and potatoes, or lasagna bolognese or lasagna with pesto.

Day 2 – we tasted 37 different oils some with defects, some great and let me tell you if you are always looking for and describing defects at the point of identifying good oils you really will struggle to find the good characteristics that define spectacular balanced oils. Then we have a mini test with 6 oils to identify which are the pairs. Once again not as easy as it seems you start basically by smell and only taste after you think you have it correct.

Once again I am sad it is over so soon!

We have another year of 4 Skype tasting classes and then next year is the scary part. We are tested to see if we pass and it is a low proportion of people that pass. I am freaking out already because I really want to pass.

We always have a beautiful dinner at the nicest restaurant in Imperia Oneglia at Salvo Cacciatore.

The Procuitto is sliced so thin it dissolves on your tongue like salty candy floss!

A salt cod and potato croquette

Truly one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had! Anchovies, pepperoncino, olive oil, breadcrumbs lemon juice and zest!

Fresh ravioli with herbs and a drizzle of their own olive oil. A lovely mild Taggiasca typical varietal of this area.

You must stop into Crema di Gelato at least once if only to look at how spectacular their desserts are!

who am I kidding! I can’t just look.

We check in to the West End Hotel at night and start walking to find a restaurant for dinner. We are lucky and find a wonderful one.

For now back to Nice for dinner and tomorrow a full day of exploring and eating. Valentines Day!

A cute little restaurant we just stumble upon!

Hot brie cheese with honey.

The most beautiful tiny baguette, they really do understand great bread in France!

Arugula, chicken breast and potato puree with TRUFFLES!!!

Steak and frites!

Steak tartare and a fresh salad. It is an enormous portion!

On the way home we stumble across  the Nice Carnival parade at 11 pm at night!! crazy but wonderful!


Our last day and it is a glorious morning! the hotel is located on the Promenade des Anglaise and wow what a view of the Cote d’azur (you will see later why they call it the blue coast!)

We are taking a walking food tour and I am excited and hungry.

The tour begins in the old flower market.

Look at the amazing variety of glace fruit in this beautiful shop window.

Bottles of olive oil….it is lovely to see the beautiful oils however, clear bottles and light are the enemy of olive oil.

Citrus fruit trees!

Olive trees

glace fruit- they are super sweet, too sweet for me (except I love the chestnuts)

These were some pretty chestnuts from in Imperia!! YUM

candied flowers – perfect on a cupcake!

giant artichokes!

saucisson with cognac and wine!

Hazelnuts and clementines …reminds me of childhood Christmas table.



Gorgeous cakes and perfect macaron!

Cheese and truffles! heaven.

so many salts to choose from!

we shop at the market and stop for breakfast. An orange beignet (donuts!)

orange fougasette bread. I loved it.

une noisette cafe! a typical coffee – with just a splash of milk.

A local speciality is a sweet cake make from swiss chard, pine nuts and raisins called Tourte aux Blettes. Very good!

A few moments on a Sunday morning to stop in this  pretty little church. I say a blessing and send good thoughts for a friend who has recently lost her Mother not far from here.

Our last stop is a cute little shop created by the owner of L’Occitane. There are many local olive oils and other food products.

We set up a small table at the back of the shop and enjoy the best goat cheese I have ever had, some tapenade, pizzelles, glasses of perfect rose and fig syrup and water. It has been a perfect tour and our guide Dorothy has been wonderful!

This is their selection of medium oils (which we all think is MILD…we are hard core!)


chocolate covered olives….I don’t know!

Of course Lavender!! we are in the south of France.

A pretty olive tree in the middle of the city!

Climbing many steps to get to the view  of the city.

We hike up to the remaining part of the castle and are rewarded with a phenomenal view!! I absolutely have fallen in love with Nice!

An aperitif on the beach after a spectacular day.

A fancy Valentine’s dinner at Jan.

Love potion!

Warm bread can you smell it?

A perfect mouthful of crab and mozzarella foam.


One perfect ravioli

A perfect fillet mignon.

candied cucumber and pomegranate ice

cheese, nuts, grapes and dried meat

a gorgeous panna cotta  with chocolate and fruit to dip in shaved chocolate sand.

Dinner at Jan a Michelin star restaurant for a special Valentine’s meal. I am sorry my sweetheart is not here with me however, I am grateful my olive oil dream team and I are enjoying a wonderful evening.

Life is filled with wonder and excitement. How lucky am I to learn new things meet new people and experience the joy of discovery and travel!

I count my blessings as I fall asleep… very very full!

Socca or Farinata -Chickpea pancakes

In the Ligurian region of Italy Farinata is a typical snack and Socca is a street food snack found near the Italian border in Nice. There are slight variations all over and you can make these plain with the basic ingredients or I like them with the addition of lots of pepper, some garlic and even a sprinkle of fresh Parmesano Reggiano on top. They are often made in a wood fired oven and in order to add a bit of smokiness to these homemade versions I have added a bit of cumin.

Perfect with a glass of sparking Prosecco or Rose as they do in France. They are typically served in paper cones to soak up any excess oil.

You will need:

  • 1 cup Chickpea flour (also called garbanzo bean flour)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp good sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp best quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used Viragi from Italy. (lots more to fry with)
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 small clove garlic -minced very finely

To finish

  • more salt and pepper
  • a bit of finely zested lemon
  • a few gratings of freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano

Step 1: In a large measuring cup (which makes it easy to pour) add chickpea flour, water, lemon juice, salt, cumin, olive oil, pepper and garlic. Whisk and leave at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

Step 2: Heat oven to broil and make sure rack is close to the top element. I make these in a small regular fry pan (not a non-stick pan or any pan that cannot safely go into the oven) Many people use a large pan or even a round pizza pan. I use the small pan because I want to easily flip the pancake over to get it browned on both sides and the small pan is just easier to control. Heat your pan in the oven or on the stove to get it very hot. Once the pan is very hot I pour 1-2 tbsp best EVOO in the pan and swirl. Pour in an even layer of batter and swirl as if you are making a crepe. The batter should immediately start to sizzle around the edges like when you make Yorkshire Puddings or Popovers.

Step 3: cook under the broiler until the pancake starts to get brown spots – you need to watch these or they will easily burn.

Step 4: Carefully remove your pan from the oven and flip the pancake. Return to the oven and cook until it is as browned as you like. Remove to a cutting board and sprinkle with more salt and pepper, lemon zest and some grated Parm! Cut into pieces and eat while hot!

Step 5: continue making the rest of the batter in the same way.

PS I have also made them in a hot non-stick pan on the stove and although they do taste better in the oven they are much easier to make on the stove. It is like cooking crepes. Always remember to add lots of oil and make sure the pan is very hot before you start to add the oil and batter.