Monthly Archives: December 2008

Chicken Riggies

Up close & personal

Up close & personal

This is a simplified version of one of my all-time favorite dishes. Chicken Riggies are native to the Utica-Rome area of Central New York, a dish developed to use leftovers from area events like pot-luck dinners and church or school banquets.

The original version, which was shared by Marc Jacksina, once King of Riggies at Joey’s Restaurant in Utica, (perhaps the finest practitioner of this dish) and now chef/co-owner of Lulu Restaurant in Charlotte, NC, uses a homemade tomato sauce. Here, I use Lucini Roman Tomato Cream Soup as the base, which not only eliminates the time-consuming step of preparing the tomato sauce, but also adds a tasty twist to the original. And while most versions call for pecorino romano, I substitute Lucini Organic Pamigiano Reggiano, which has a deep creamy and nutty flavor that pairs incredibly well with the many flavors in the dish. While it may not be “authentic”, this version assumes the loose spirit of the original – I have eaten versions with mushrooms, sausage, and even alfredo sauce (which i would not recommend).

1. Oven Roasted Green Peppers
2. Rigatoni
3. Chicken and Riggie Sauce

1. Oven Roasted Green Peppers

3           Large Green Bell Peppers
2 TB    Lucini Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Black Pepper
¼ tsp Garlic Powder

Preheat oven to 425.
Coat whole peppers evenly with the olive oil and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Wrap the peppers in foil and roast for 20-25 minutes, until the peppers are soft and cooked completely. Allow to rest until cool enough to handle and then remove skin.

2. Rigatoni

1 Lb Rigatoni
Well Salted Water

Start this step early enough so that the water is boiling 5 minutes after starting step 3. Boil the Rigatoni until just al dente.

3. Chicken and Riggie Sauce

3 TB   Sweet Onion minced
3 TB  Shallots minced
2 TB  Garlic
2 TB  Lucini Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Lb  Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast (if possible, use Free Range Organic)
1 Bottle Lucini Roman Tomato Cream Soup (or your own red sauce)
3-5    Hot Cherry Peppers seeded and chopped (optional, but highly recommended; use red for color contrast)
3        Roasted Green Peppers
½ C   Lucini Organic Parmigiano Reggiano grated
1 Tb  Butter (optional)

Heat olive olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onion, shallots and garlic and heat until the vegetables are translucent. Slice the chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and add to pan, stirring occasionally and turning the chicken pieces until white on all sides. Add the soup and cook for 10 minutes. Cut the green peppers (step 1) into long, thin slices. Add the pepper slices, parmigiano and butter; cook for 5 more minutes.

To Serve:

Combine the Rigatoni (2) and sauce (3) in a large bowl. Transfer to individual plates or bowls and top with more parmigiano.


Antioxidants in Extra Virgin Olive Oil

First off, my gift-giving recommendation for December 2008 – Herve This’ wonderful collection of 101 short essays, Molecular moleculargGastronomy.  Mr. This considers the chemistry behind common culinary questions (e.g., how to save a broken sauce?), providing real answers to some age-old issues.  The book is simultaneously more to the point, and in-depth, than similarly themed television shows I have seen in the past.  And more importantly, it is an enjoyable read.

How does this relate to olive oil?  Well, today I was reading the chapter “Antioxidant Agents” and discovered (late to the game, I guess) that extra virgin olive oil is a great source of antioxidants.  In particular, extra virgin olive oil that has not been refined to lower the acidity rate to “extra virgin” levels, as the refining process often removes the vast majority of the antioxidants.   Extra virgin olive oil is so rich in antioxidants, that studies have shown it to dramatically reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, helping inhibit heart disease.[1]

I was also fascinated to find out that the antioxidants we are looking for in our diet are the very same compounds that keep olive oil from turning rancid!  After some further poking around the interweb, I learned that olive oil losses 100% of its tocopherols (a key antioxidant) in less than 12 months.[2]  The oxidation of olive oil eventually removes all of its health benefits, as well as its beautiful green hue and bold flavors.

[1] – “Olive Oil Fights Heart Disease, Breast Cancer, Studies Say”, Stefan Lovgren, National Georgaphic News, March 21, 2005.

[2] – “Changes in commercial virgin olive oil during storage, with special emphasis on the phenolic fraction”, José-Ramón Morelló, María-José Motilva, María-Jesús Tovar and María-Paz Romero, Food Chemistry, Volume 85, Issue 3, May 2004, Pages 357-364.

Gift Giving Advice from Foodies

As a foil to my earlier post here is a great site by food writer Bonnie Tandy Leblang and her sons: Bite of the Best

USA Today’s bad gift-giving advice…

This morning good old US Today had a particularly disturbing piece on “foodie” gifts.  Really misinformed. They actually recommend a bottle of olive oil dated  “2005”.  This should never be served, let alone gifted to anyone whose culinary skills you respect. Extra virgin olive oil is a fresh food product and not a wine that improves with age! An extra virgin olive oil that old is basically dead, with none of its legendary health benefits left. It will taste buttery and not provide the full “green” body any self-respecting Tuscan looks for. And, not to mention the over inflated price…$39.99. You know where I am headed on this…buy the freshest bottle on the self that has the lowest acidity and is farmed from the oldest trees (Lucini Italia Organics is my strong recommend).

Here is the link to what not to buy: USAToday Gift Guide

Pistachio Cake with Olive Oil Sorbet and Lemon Curd

As a huge fan of extra virgin olive oil (and, yes, Lucini in particular), I am always on the lookout for new presentations of this wonderful food.  Over the past year or so I noticed olive oil sorbet and gelato on a few menus (I am also a huge fan of window shopping menus) and have been waiting for the motivation (excuse?) to track down a recipe and give it a shot.  This blog turned out to be just the impetus I needed to get started.

The olive oil sorbet recipe makes use of the full profile of flavors found in a great extra virgin olive oil.  I prefer Lucini Extra Virgin Olive Oil here, because it complements and stands up to the other exciting tastes in the dish, particularly the fruit and lemon curd.  The three components are based on recipes by Gale Gand, Sam Mason and Thomas Keller.

The finished product.

The finished product.


1. Olive Oil Sorbet
2. Pistachio Cake
3. Lemon Curd
4. Strawberries (or Cherries, Blackberries, Blueberries, etc.)
5. Fresh Mint

1. Olive Oil Sorbet:
1 C      Water
3 TB   Granulated Sugar
4 TB   Honey
¼ tsp Salt
2 tsp   Lemon Zest
2 TB    Lemon Juice
1 ½ C  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1           Egg White

In a saucepan, combine Water, Sugar, Honey and Salt.  Bring to boil while whisking constantly.   Remove from heat, stirring in Lemon Zest and Juice. Add Olive Oil and emulsify with an immersion blender.  Add the egg white and stir.  Process in an ice cream maker according to instructions.  If you do not have an ice cream maker, freeze mixture in an airtight container, then remove and allow Sorbet to soften.



2. Pistachio Cake:

½ C      Unsalted, Shelled Pistachios (If you can only find salted pistachios, lightly rinse and dry thoroughly)
½ C       Flour
1 tsp      Baking Powder
½ tsp   Five Spice Powder (or Cinnamon, etc.)
1/8 tsp Salt
¼ C       Heavy Cream
¼ C       Unsalted Butter
½ C       Granulated Sugar
1             Egg
1             Egg White
1 TB       Orange Zest

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two ramekins with olive oil.

Pulse Pistachios in a food processor until finely ground, being careful not to make a paste. Add Flour, Baking Powder, Five Spice Powder and Salt. Pulse twice to mix.

Cream Butter and Sugar in mixer until pale. Add Egg and mix until incorporated. Add Egg White and mix until incorporated. Add one third of Pistachio mixture and mix. Add one half Cream and mix. Repeat until all of Pistachio mixture and Cream is added and just incorporated. Stir in Orange Zest.

Distribute mixture equally to the two ramekins. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife on outside of Cake to loosen from ramekin and remove.
Makes two cakes of two servings each.

3. Lemon Curd: (A great prepared Lemon Curd works well, too.)

¼ C   Unsalted Butter
2 TB   Creme Fraiche
1         Eggs
2         Egg Yolks
6 TB   Lemon Juice
6 TB  Granulated Sugar
1 tsp  Lemon Zest

Melt the Butter and the Creme Fraiche over a double boiler, stirring constantly. (If you don’t have a double boiler, simmer water in a saucepan and place a stainless steel bowl over the saucepan, making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the simmering water.) Remove top pan from heat and set aside.

In a bowl over a double boiler, whisk the Egg and the Egg Yolks just long enough to warm them.  Remove from heat and add the Butter mixture, stir to combine, then add the Lemon Juice and stir again.  Strain the mixture through a sieve into a new bowl and place over the simmering water.  Add the Sugar and Lemon Zest and whisk until warm to touch, about 4 minutes.

Place Cake (2) in the middle of the plate.  Add Curd (3) to the top of the cake and drizzle over the plate (about 2 TB total). Place a large quenelle of Sorbet (1) on one side of the cake and sliced Strawberries (4) on the other.  Garnish with Mint leaves (5).

You will have Curd and Sorbet left over for further use.

Hello world!

Hello World and Welcome!

Our experiment is just getting started. Can we create an online forum for all the folks who love food, love to cook and are fans of Lucini Italia products? Let’s see…


What does “extra virgin” mean?

Well, as per September 2008 California now has a legal definition. Basically it means that it must have an acidity (oleic acid) level that is not more than 0.8%. How does this effect you? Well, it begins to raise the bar on quality and prevent low quality oils (treated with solvents and other food chemistry techniques) from posing as extra virgin olive oil. My suggestion…look for any bottle of olive oil that writes the acidity on the label and buy the most recent harvest. Lucini’s Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil® has an acidity level which is less than half this legal standard…showing off the quality of its olive harvest and the production process.

1) “Extra virgin olive oil” means virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams, has a peroxide value of not more than 20 milliequivalent peroxide oxygen per kilogram oil and would meet the sensory standards of extra virgin olive oil as determined by a taste panel certified by the International Olive Council, or, if the International Olive Council ceases to certify taste panels, would meet the sensory standards of a taste panel that is operated by the University of California or California State University according to guidelines adopted by the International Olive Council as of 2007.