The very first person who looked at an eggplant must have scratched his head and said, “What is this?” It is rather odd-looking but offers amazing health benefits. There are many peculiar facts about it, and I find its peculiarities fascinating.
Are you wondering how the eggplant got its name? In eighteenth-century Europe, the shape and size resembled a goose egg. The hanging fruit was white or yellowish rather than the purple that we know today. Someone important named it eggplant, and that was it.
The origin of the eggplant can be traced to remote India and China 1500 years ago. In those days, the ancients considered it “The King of Vegetables” It looked nothing like it does today. Back then, it was bitter, orange, spiny, tiny, and pea-shaped.
The ancients oftentimes used it for medicinal purposes. However, the ancients suggested that this fruit caused pimples and epilepsy. We have a much-evolved eggplant these days.
I’ll bet you thought eggplant was a vegetable. I did. Amazingly, it comes from the berry family along with tomatoes, and potatoes. They are members of the nightshade family. So, eggplant is a fruit.
There are 770 varieties found mostly in tropical areas around the world. The plant has a spiny stem and is mostly cultivated for food. However, some species are grown to be decorative plants.
The white and purple flowers are star-shaped. Because the flowers contain both reproductive organs, they are self-pollinating.
3. Helps with Weight Loss
The beauty of this fruit is its high fiber content. Fiber helps you digest food slowly letting you feel full longer. This combined with its low-calorie property should place it on top of your “favorite healthy foods” list.
Each cup of eggplant contains 3 grams of fiber and 20 calories. Both of these qualities can help promote weight loss. For tips on how to choose an eggplant, read this.
A quick tip: One of my favorite lunches is grilled eggplant within a pocket of Syrian bread. It has very few calories and it tastes great.
4. High in Antioxidants
Free radicals are harmful substances in our bodies associated with human diseases like cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and several others. Antioxidants protect our bodies from any damage that free radicals try to cause in our systems. According to several recent studies, antioxidants can ward off diseases like cancer and heart disease. Eggplant offers antioxidants.
Studies proved that eggplant can reduce elevated triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Reducing these helps prevent heart disease.
One case study was based on rabbits with high cholesterol. These rabbits were fed .3 ounces of eggplant juice each day for two weeks.
After two weeks, these lucky rabbits had lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Current research involves only animals, but to me this is encouraging. Let’s face it; if you like eggplant, you should eat it. It is really good for you and apparently rabbits too.
5. Contains Nicotine
Eggplant has the highest nicotine content of any other vegetable. It’s true! A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that it contains a tiny bit of nicotine. If you ever decide to eat 20 to 40 pounds of eggplant you would reach the nicotine level of one cigarette. I think you are safe.
6. Has Poisonous Qualities
The poison deadly nightshade shares the same family as eggplant. Also known as belladonna, this poison was the one that made Juliet appear dead in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
However, you must not fret for, in ancient times, this berry was also used as a medicine, but never taken internally. Externally, it could relieve motion sickness in a skin patch and other such remedies.
7. Eggplant in Moderation
Do not overdo feasting on eggplant. Believe it or not, it can be harmful to people with certain conditions.
If you have eaten food rich in fiber and potassium, do not indulge in eggplant. Too much can cause nausea and disturb the digestion process.
They can cause problems for kidney stone patients.
They can interact poorly with antidepressants.
Note: The negative effects of eggplant present themselves if you eat TOO MUCH of it. Remember, everything is fine in moderation.
This recipe was created by Kimmy and me. Tell us how you like it. You will need:
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Peel eggplant Note: I like the eggplant peeled. It is a personal preference.
Cut eggplant vertically about ¼ inch thick. It ends up being about 6 or 7 slices.
Spray 2 cookie sheets with olive oil spray, and place the eggplant slices on the pans.
Put the eggplant slices in the oven for 10 minutes.
Mix the spinach, mozzarella, and Romano in a large bowl.
Take the eggplant slices out of the oven, and let them cool for about 7 minutes so you can handle them. (They have to be soft enough to roll.)
Place the mixture on each slice.
Roll each eggplant and place them in a baking pan. Sprinkle a little bit of Romano on top of each and put them under the broiler for 3 minutes. (Until slightly browned.)
Here is a video enlightening us about eggplants 2000 years ago.
Eggplant, also known as aubergine, is one of my favorite dishes. Almost every meal I cook for guests has eggplant in it. Today’s recipe will do well as a side dish. I would serve it with the meatball recipe.
Buon appetito!. Enjoy the recipe. Leave a comment to let me know how you liked the dish.
As the owner of this website I’ve tracked down some special deals for some of the products mentioned here. When you use the link on this page to make a purchase, I may get a small commission, and you may get a great bargain. It is a win-win all around. Full disclosure.
Did you know that peppers are technically a fruit? Most varieties are and the varieties are endless.
What did you bring for lunch when you went to school as a child? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fluffernutters, bologna sandwiches; ham sandwiches with cheese? Not this kid!
Picture a tiny version of Sandi taking fried peppers in Italian bread out of her lunch bag. Secretly, this was my favorite lunch, but other children did not understand.
“What’s that? I have never seen that before.” You know how children can be so kind to the kid that is a bit different. A pepper sandwich is one of the lunches that Dot drummed up from her Sicilian “send your kid to school” recipes. Anyway, they were yummy. If they were not so good, I would have been ticked off. I hated being teased by the other kids.
Scoville Heat Unit Scale
The Scoville Heat Unit Scale (SHU) is a way to measure the spiciness of a pepper. There should have a disclaimer on some of these mouth destroying peppers. The scale starts at zero and ends at 16 million units (pure capsaicin.)
Some Common Peppers
Here is a list of some common peppers to use in your kitchen. Hang on to your hats. Some of them are mighty HOT. This list is incomplete because there are so many different species.
Shishito _ These are often roasted and served with olive oil or a sauce as an appetizer. The SHU is 50 to 100 and is tolerable for those who like a little spice.
Banana pepper – Often found in sandwiches, antipastos, and pizza, this is a somewhat mild pepper. It scores 0 – 100 on the SHU.
Sweet Italian Peppers (pepperoncini) Used like a banana pepper but a bit more tangy. It scores 100 – 500 on the SHU.
Pimento pepper – You might know them as cherry peppers. You can use them in a stuffed pepper recipe. (100 – 500 SCU)
Cuban pepper – You can use these to fry. Cook them instead of bell peppers for a completely different flavor. (1000 SCU)
Poblano pepper – An ancho chili. Roasting is a method to cook them. This is the pepper to use in chili relleno. 1,000 to 1,500 Scoville Heat Units (SHU)
Jalepeno – These peppers bring on the HOT. You can find them in chili, soups, and salads. 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU)
There are many more varieties that move up in the SHU. If you are brave, give them a try. Read more.
Do not fret, my friends, we work with the bell pepper 0 on the Scoville Heat Unit Scale. I know there are others out there who love a good hot pepper. The bell pepper is safe, and we don’t have to worry about tears. There is something for everyone in the pepper family.
More varieties move up in the SHU. If you are brave, give them a try. Read more.
I love bell peppers. Frankly, I eat them raw; they are magnificently sweet. The red, green, yellow, and orange colors are colorful for presentation. You can sauté, roast, or stuff these peppers.
Fun fact: Check out the bottom of the pepper and count the lobes. The four lobbed pepper is a female which is sweeter than the male. The three lobed are male and are good for roasting and stuffing.
Pour the tomatoes and their juices into a large bowl and then break them into pieces using kitchen shears or your fingers.
Add the zucchini, mint, cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the orzo and cook for 4 minutes. The orzo will be only partially cooked.
Drain the orzo through a sieve, reserving the chicken broth.
Add the orzo to the large bowl with the vegetables. Stir to combine.
Transfer the warm chicken broth to a 3-quart baking dish. Slice the tops off the peppers and remove the interiors.
If needed, slice a very thin slice from the bottom of the peppers so it they can stand up.
Spoon the orzo mixture into the peppers.
Place the peppers in the baking dish with the warm chicken broth. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
Remove the foil and sprinkle each pepper with Romano cheese and continue baking until the cheese is golden, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the stuffed peppers to serving plate. Garnish with basil.
Old Fanny Farmer Stuffed Pepper Recipe from 1896
The following recipe is taken word for word from Fanny’s original recipe. In many variations, stuffed peppers have been around for a long time.
[1896: Boston] “Stuffed Peppers I
6 green peppers
3/4 cup hot steamed rice
1/2 cup cold cooked meat cut in small dice
1/3 cup tomatoes stewed and strained
1 tablespoon melted butter
Few drips onion juice
Salt and pepper.
Cut off pieces from stem ends of peppers. Remove seeds and partitions; parboil eight minutes. Fill with rice, meat, tomatoes, and butter, well mixed, and seasoned with onion juice, salt, and pepper. Place in a pan, add one and one-half cups water or stock, and bake forty-five minutes in a moderate oven.
Again, I have taken my inspiration from Giada. There is so much you can do with this recipe. To make them totally vegetarian, substitute the chicken broth for vegetable broth.
To make it gluten free use cauliflower rice or brown rice in the place of orzo.
I love that we can change recipes around to satisfy different tastes and lifestyles. Please try the peppers and let me know what you think in the comments section.
Throughout my life, I am sure I ate more gluten than is healthy. The words “gluten-free” were not in my vocabulary. I remember those peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches every day of my college years. Some Marshmallow Fluff is probably still sticking to my ribs.
I had never heard of celiac disease and could never imagine going through life without pasta, bread, and other foods containing wheat, not to mention a lemon filled donut every now and then.
Now we are in another century where eating gluten-free has become a lifestyle or a necessity. There is no treatment for celiac disease other than a specific diet. Those who are choosing it as a lifestyle have some healthy guidelines to observe. Folks who follow the diet claim weight loss, extra energy, and overall well-being.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is found in grains specifically wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (somewhere between wheat and rye).
By the Way: Pure chocolate is gluten-free. Read the label for any chocolate product less than pure. Recall our previous post on chocolate. Read now.
Diseases Associated with Gluten
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder. Gluten is the villain because its presence in the body triggers a reaction from the immune system that irritates the lining of the small intestine. After a while, the system becomes unable to absorb nutrients.
Gluten sensitivity causes uncomfortable symptoms (abdominal pain, headache, bloating, diarrhea, foggy brain, rash) but does not damage the tissues of the small intestines.
Gluten ataxia is an autoimmune disorder that causes problems with muscle control.
Wheat allergy prompts the immune system to react to gluten as if it were a disease-causing factor, for example, bacteria or a virus.
How To Tell If a Product Is Gluten Free
Look at the label. The FDA commands labeling products, so if you see the FDA label, it is gluten-free.
Important: If a product has a “Wheat Free” label, that does not mean it is gluten-free.
Check for ingredients like:
Oats (unless specifically labeled gluten-free)
These ingredients means the product is NOT gluten-free
Note: Those on a gluten-free diet can have alcohol. Remember to carefully read the labels. These safe alcohol products must carry the gluten-free label. The alcohol products include:
Wines fermented from grapes or other fruit
Distilled spirits distilled from materials other than gluten
The following recipes are completely gluten-free and, I might add, very delicious.
In this versatile recipe, cook the chicken on a grill or sear it in a pan.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian, Mediterranean
Keyword chicken, main dish, zoodles
Prep Time 15minutes
Cook Time 15minutes
4boneless chicken breastspound them down.
¼cupextra virgin Olive Oil
Zest of 1 lemon
112-ounce package gluten-free spaghetti
3medium-size zucchini or 1 package zoodles (produce department)
1tablespoonExtra Virgin Olive Oil
2tbsp. sun- dried tomatoes, drained
1cupPitted Calamata oliveshalved
Chopped fresh basil
Place chicken in sealable bag. Make a marinade by combining ¼ cup olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, 1 tsp. prepared mustard, a dollop of honey, juice of 2 lemons in a mixing bowl. Whisk to combine and pour marinade over chicken. Squish it around in the bag every now and then. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil in the water. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving some of the pasta water and set aside.
Meanwhile, remove chicken from the marinade. If you are grilling, heat grill on high. Place chicken on grill and cook for 7-8 minutes. Flip chicken and cook for another 7-8 minutes, or until completely cooked through. OR (I do not own a grill.)Cook the chicken breasts in a frying pan (about 6 minutes). It is better if you pound the chicken before you marinate it.
Trim the ends of the zucchini and use a spiralizer to create noodles. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a vegetable peeler to create long ribbons or buy premade zoodles.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a high-rimmed skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini noodles and sauté while stirring for 2-3 minutes.
Add drained pasta to the skillet and combine. Then add sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and pesto, and stir to combine.
Slice chicken into strips and add to the noodles and zoodles mixture. Toss to combine and serve. Garnish with basil leaves.
As the owner of this website I’ve tracked down some special deals for some of the products mentioned here. When you use the link on this page to make a purchase, I may get a small commission, and you may get a great bargain. It is a win-win all around. Full disclosure.This dish pairs nicely with Sauvignon Blanc. Best choice - Napa Valley Fume Blanc.
1tsppure almond extract; Omit and use extract of choice or 2 tsp of vanilla
1tsppure vanilla extract
1tspzest of lemon or orange
Bring eggs to room temperature
Toast nuts & cool. Bake in a single layer on a baking sheet at 325 F 10-15 minutes.
Roughly chop nuts to desired size.
Zest a lemon
Move oven rack to center
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
Place unbleached parchment on baking sheet and grease/spray lightly.
Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium size bowl.
Whisk in nuts and dried cranberries . Set aside.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, extracts and zest.
Add flour mixture to wet mixture and thoroughly combine with a heavy spoon.
Scoop out the dough into two even logs on a parchment lined baking sheet. Shape dough with wet hands into two smooth logs. Leave about 4 inches between each log, and keep the height of each log at about 1.5″.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool the entire pan on a cooling rack for 30 min to 1 hour.
Move logs, one at a time, to a cutting board. Cut cookies at an angle or straight, 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Note: Take care to use a side to side rocking motion with the knife to make the job easier with less crumbling.
Remove from oven and cool on the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack until fully cooled. Cookies stay delicious when stored for several days on the counter or frozen for up to a month.
I did live gluten-free for a while. It is a commitment because you must stock your pantry with gluten-free ingredients.
If it is a necessity due to health concerns, gluten-free is a great eating plan. The food is tasty and the sacrifices are minimal. Here is a list of naturally gluten-free foods. Read now.
Escarole meals were frequent in Dot’s kitchen. Mom took advantage of its versatility to create a variety of recipes.
Personally, I love escarole. I cannot understand the often-utilized description of this green vegetable as “bitter”. I remember eating it many times in childhood dinners and thought it tasted sweet. We’ll refer to its flavor as “pleasant bitterness” and leave it at that.
What Is Escarole?
The vegetable in question is a member of the chicory family and can be identified by its wide green leaf with slightly jagged edges. Look for it in the produce department along with the kale and lettuce. Pick it up, throw it in your cart, and give it a try.
As you probably have guessed by now, the Sicilians have multiple methods of cooking it. Let’s explore this nutritious vegetable and discover what makes it so popular.
Much Nutrition, Few Calories
Every two cups of raw escarole have only 15 calories and 0 fat, and it is pretty filling. Its important nutrients are:
Fiber – helps the digestive system.
Folate – supports metabolism and red and white blood cells.
Copper – supports bones, connective tissue, and red blood cell formation.
Vitamin A – reduces the risk of cancer and osteoporosis.
Vitamin K – helps in blood clotting,
Important: People taking blood thinners should limit the amount of escarole they consume because Vitamin K does not interact well with blood thinners.
Choose the vegetable on the basis of its green leaves and crisp-looking exterior. No blemishes or yellow spots should be visible on the bunch. Leaves must be firm.
If you are not using it immediately, wash it and wrap it in damp paper towels. It will last for about 4 days in the fridge.
To begin its preparation, cut off the bottom, and get rid of the outside leaves. Most importantly, wash it thoroughly. I actually take it apart leaf by leaf to wash it. Some chefs find it easier to cut it up before immersing in water. Take your pick.
Put it in a large pot of water to soak. Examine the water carefully to check for grit. Actually, I soak it twice and recommend doing that. Many sources tell us to keep the outside leaves, but frankly, I find them really bitter so I toss them.
There are so many appetizing ideas for escarole.
You can chop it and use it with salad ingredients. It holds up well with any kind of dressing be it warm or cold.
Use a leaf or two as a bed for some meat for presentation. Sometimes it is a good idea to substitute a leaf of escarole for bread for a wrap. it has a great crunch factor.
For a salad, pair with bacon, apples, toasted pecans, dates, and avocado cream-based dressings.
For soups or stews, combine sausage and white beans with the escarole.
Here are other ways you can prepare it: sauté, braise, stir-fry, and add to stew or soup. Spread blue, feta, or pecorino cheeses over a sauté.
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Anything sautéed means olive oil. Shop now. Remember to use a good quality one. Recall our previous post about olive oil. Read now.
Appetizers, antipasti in Italian, are appetizingly fun!! According to Webster’s Dictionary, an appetizer is a small portion of food or drink to stimulate the appetite before a meal. This chef oftentimes serves for her guests only drinks and lots of tidbits to satisfy the appetite and soak up the alcohol.
As you probably already know, my choices come from both Sicily and the US because it wouldn’t be a Sandi party without a little bit of each. There is no standing tradition for the Sicilian antipasto because early Sicilians were poor and were lucky to get food on the table let alone, little finger foods to whet the appetite.
Centuries ago, the rich barons’ and noblemen’s chefs did not plan food to be served before the meal. However, if the meal was late, the chef would quickly prepare a table with toasted bread, olive oil, olives and anchovies so as not to anger the nobles.
Antipasti vs. Appetizers
Modern day Sicilians have a purpose for everything. Traditionally, they have selected their antipasti for color, flavor, and texture. If there is a meal to come after, the antipasti must complement the upcoming feast.
Presentation is everything — the colors, the plating, the attention to detail in the preparation alerts guests that it is a time for enjoyment and gratification.
In America, we serve appetizers on game days and sneak them for midnight snacks. People gather to watch sports, catch up with friends and eat.
When folks come to dinner, do you serve an appetizer? I generally serve something little like cheese and crackers. I am not sure that its role in the meal is as special as our Italian party goers.
1. Shrimp Cocktail
Shrimp cocktail is cooked shrimp served in a martini glass with cocktail sauce. You will especially like this appetizer because it is so easy, elegant, and tasty.
Origins: Las Vegas, Nevada USA
From the Food Network
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. horseradish
Worcestershire sauce to taste
tabasco sauce to taste
Note: You can purchase shrimp that is already peeled and deveined. If you want to save some money, do it yourself. This video shows you how.
Peel and devein shrimp:
Directions for Cocktail Sauce
1. In a small bowl, combine ketchup, horseradish, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a squirt of lemon and a dash of tabasco sauce.
2. Chill for at least 1/2 hour and serve.
2. Cantaloupe and Mozzarella with Prosciutto and Basil
This is a great summer antipasto. Guests will appreciate the combination of flavors. The colors look so appetizing on a plate, pink, white, and orange.
From Martha Stewart
1 cantaloupe, halved and seeded
3/4 lb. small mozzarella balls
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/3 pound thinly sliced prosciutto
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
With a large melon baller scoop melon flesh into a large bowl (or cut into bite-size pieces).
Add mozzarella, oil, and red-pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Arrange prosciutto along edges of a large serving platter.
Stir basil into the melon mixture, transfer to the center of a platter, and serve.
3. Deviled Eggs
This appetizer is extremely popular in the US. It consists of hard-boiled eggs that have been shelled and halved and their boiled yokes removed and mixed with condiments.
From Genius Kitchen
3 large eggs hard-boiled
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. prepared mustard
1 dash pepper
Boil eggs for about 6 – 8 minutes.
Let eggs cool and then peel.
Using a sharp knife, cut eggs lengthwise in half.
Remove egg yolks and place them into a mixing bowl.
Using a fork, mash egg yolks together. Add mayo, mustard and pepper to the mashed egg yolks.
4. Artichoke Bruschetta
If you like artichoke, you’ll fall for this dish. It is a taste of Sicily in each bite. You can actually mix it up and add different ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes. It is delicious.
Taste of Home
1 jar (6-1/2 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1 plum tomato, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, minced
1 loaf French baguette (101/2 oz.)
In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Cut baguette into 30 slices; top with artichoke mixture.
Place on ungreased baking sheets.
Broil 3-4 in. from the heat for 3-4 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
5. Oysters Rockefeller
This dish consists of oysters served in a half-shell with various ingredients mixed in.
Origin: New Orleans, LA
2 slices bacon
24 unopened, fresh, live medium oysters
1 ½ cups cooked spinach
⅓ cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon salt
1 dash hot pepper sauce
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon anise flavored liqueur
4 cups kosher salt (to place in pan under oysters to bake or broil)
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C).
2. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.
3. Clean oysters and place in a large stockpot. Pour in enough water to cover oysters; bring the water and oysters to a boil.
4. Remove from heat and drain and cool oysters. When cooled break the top shell off of each oyster.
5.Using a food processor, chop the bacon, spinach, bread crumbs, green onions, and parsley.
6. Add the salt, hot sauce, olive oil and anise-flavored liqueur and process until finely chopped but not pureed, about 10 seconds.
7. Arrange the oysters in their half shells on a pan with kosher salt.
8. Spoon some of the spinach mixture on each oyster.
9. Bake 10 minutes until cooked through, then change the oven’s setting to broil and broil until browned on top. Serve hot.
6. Broiled Green Figs with Pancetta
This appetizer is extremely Italian. It is very yummy. The figs pair nicely with the pancetta flavor.
Origin: Venice, Italy
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
6 green figs, halved lengthwise
6 thin slices pancetta, halved
Preheat broiler. Sprinkle fennel seeds onto cut sides of each fig. Wrap figs with pancetta, overlapping ends.
Place figs, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Broil until sizzling and pancetta is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Flip, and broil 2 minutes more. Serve warm.
7. Truly Crispy Oven Baked Wings
These wings get their crispiness from a unique cooking method not from frying. To enhance the flavor, serve it with your favorite buffalo sauce. You can find a good recipe for a sauce to complement the appetizer in this article. Read more.
Origin: Buffalo, NY
Pat wings dry with paper towels;
Toss wings in baking powder and salt;
Bake at 250F/120C for 30 minutes, then at 425F/220C for 40 – 50 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
These recipes are tried and true. I love how sometimes the method you use to cook something makes all the difference in the world as to how it comes out.
Now I want to have people over for antipasti. Try the recipes and tell me how you liked them.