I met Mike Isabella before he became super famous! He was still a chef at Zaytinya in DC at the time. I felt an instant fondness for the sweet and talented chef. It really warms my heart to say that Isabella did not change after his marriage with fame and fortune. I met him several years later at a cooking show and he was as sweet and kind as ever. There are several folks I know who at the very whiff of fame forget my name! It was refreshing to see that he was not one of them.

His restaurants are blossoming and now he has a new feather in his cap: a lovely and fun cookbook – Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian: Big Flavors, Small Plates. (Da Capo Press).

I have to admit that while I enjoying browsing through cookbooks written by chefs, I will hesitate to post about them since they are, well, written by chefs! Why? Because many of them tend to be too complex for the home cook and are really fussy. As I leafed through Isabella’s book, I found myself marking things that I wanted to make. There were things that were very complex for me and I think more adventurous cooks may enjoy those, I was happy to see the book is loaded with many dishes that are delightful and not complicated! (The information that came along with the book mentions that several of the dishes are served at his restaurant but I have never eaten there).

The book is well laid out and the recipe instructions are simple. I really like that he stays true to his fun nature and includes little bitty recipes that are super fun – pickled champagne grapes, deviled bacon, egg and cheese, spicy popcorn etc. Of course, there are “meatier” dishes as well — Grandma’s potato gnocchi, ricotta with charred scallion and harissa.. and so many more. If you read this blog with any regularity, you will know how much I love Nutella and yes, there is a recipe for Nutella Cookie Sandwiches!

One of the recipes that caught my eye was Mike’s Spiced Pistachios.. Mmmmmmm.. here you go and I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did!

Spiced Pistachios

By Mike Isabella

Photo and recipe reprinted from Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian ( Da Capo LifeLong Books, 2012)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Garlic Oil (recipe below)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper
  • (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound roasted, salted pistachios in the shell

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Blend the Garlic Oil, oregano, and rosemary in a blender on high speed for 2–3 minutes, until the herbs are fully incorporated.
  3. Toast the fennel, coriander, and caraway seeds in a sauté pan over medium heat for 4–5 minutes, shaking the pan often to prevent burning.
  4. Transfer the seeds to a spice grinder or a mini food processor, add the chili flakes, and grind to a fine powder.
  5. In a mixing bowl, combine the ground seed mixture, sugar, Aleppo pepper, paprika, and salt.
  6. Place the pistachios in a roasting pan. Combine the pistachios with the blended oil mixture, add the spice blend, and stir until evenly coated. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Makes approximately 2 cups. Can be stored at room temperature for three days.

Garlic Oil

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring to make sure the garlic cloves are coated in oil. Lower the heat to keep warm for an additional 35–40 minutes, moving the garlic around the pan every so often to prevent burning.
  2. Let the oil and garlic cool to room temperature. Store, covered, in the refrigerator up to 30 days. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
  3. Do not discard the garlic cloves. They are just like roasted garlic and can be used in recipes or spread on toast.

(Photo credit for Pistachios – Greg Powers)

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