Ari's Top 5
I am interested in art as a means of living a life; not as a means of making a living.

—Robert Henri

Life Lessons I Learned from Food and Cooking

How becoming a line cook changed my life

There is nothing I can think of in the early years of my existence back in suburban Chicago that would have led me, or anyone else for that matter, to believe that the story of my life would later be transformed by a deep connection to food and cooking. We ate supper together more often than not, but food was hardly at the center of my family’s story. Granted, my grandmother did come over on Friday nights to cook the weekly “Shabbos” meal (roast chicken, chopped liver, chicken soup), but it was really just a sidebar to a host of other “more important” subjects. Most of the food I grew up with, as many of you know, was the opposite of what we do here at Zingerman’s: products of industrialization and the move from farmer’s markets to the mass market. The Pop-Tarts®, Tang®, Cheetos®, Kraft® Mac & Cheese, Mrs. Paul’s® Fish Sticks, and a host of other items that all require registered trademarks to be used alongside their names, kept me fed and made me happy at the time, but they hardly inspired any big life plans.

Even at the time I started my studies at U of M, I really had no clue what I was going to do when I “grew up.” I was “supposed” to go somewhere like law school, medical school, or maybe get a yet-to-be-determined degree at graduate school. There was no version of my life story circulating back to when I was 17 that had anything at all to do with farmhouse cheddar, First Flush Darjeeling tea, or the fresh milling of organic grain. Where I came from—literally and conversationally—none of these were ever on the table. Happily, things often have a way of working out. As psychologist Carl Rogers once wrote, “Sometimes I am astonished at the changes that have occurred in my life and work.” 

Food writer Rozanne Gold, who is just a few years older than I am, shared:
When I was 19 years old, and a student at Tufts University, I got a phone call from my mother who told me about a fascinating man she’d heard on the radio that day. He was Hungarian (as was my mother), cultured and worldly, who knew much about food and dining, and had an interesting job. “He is a restaurant consultant!” she exclaimed, “Maybe that’s something for you to think about. He has his own company and creates restaurants all over the world. And he loves a good Dobos torte!”
In an exercise of creative imagination, I smile now thinking about what it might have been like had it been my mother calling to share a suggestion like that shortly after I’d started washing dishes at Maude’s. It’s a good fantasy. Committed as she was to my “success,” the most common message I remember hearing was one of concern for how I was wasting my only recently completed U of M education. The story makes me smile now, but she wasn’t doing anything of the sort back when I started working in restaurants. Little did either of us have any inkling that what seemed to be a short stint cooking the line would turn out to be life-altering work I would do for the rest of my life. I hope that what happened to me happens to many others as well. As Paul Goodman, another good Jewish boy—one who actually did go on to be a professor (and also philosopher, playwright, poet, and anarchist)—wrote, “Having a vocation is somewhat of a miracle, like falling in love and it works out.” Much to my own—and my mother’s—surprise, food and cooking have incontrovertibly changed my life.

Back around the time that I was starting to cook in restaurants, Carl Rogers, the founder of the “human potential” movement, wrote a book called A Way of Being. In it, he shared how his work had altered his worldview, helping him over the years to develop “a point of view, a philosophy, an approach to life, a way of being, which fits any situation in which growth ... is part of the goal.” This, it’s very clear as I write here in the last week of summer of 2021, is what happened to me with food and cooking. When I took the job washing dishes at Maude’s a few months after graduating with my history degree from U of M, my expectations were more than modest. I really just wanted to find a way to pay my rent, to have, I hoped, a reasonably good time while I was working. Finding my way into a whole new way of being in the world was hardly on my mind.
The gifts that the food world has given me are worlds beyond anything I could have even imagined. I am forever grateful. I can see it now that those gifts are well aligned with what scientist Stephen Harrod Buhner writes:
There are moments then of unique insight, moments when great things catch us up in their grasp and take us trembling to the shores of another land. Suddenly, for no reason … we break through and directly begin to perceive the underpinnings of the world.

In that moment your sensory perceiving becomes your thinking. It is what you do instead of thinking with the linear mind.

You begin to find that there is much more to the world than we have been taught. You begin to notice that a complexity of perceptual feeling arises from touching the wilderness of the world and that the feelings you receive back possess dynamics that are more complex than those that come from focusing solely on the human world or any of its elements. There are reasons for this, among which is that what you are touching now has its own aliveness, its own awareness, its own capacity to communicate.
How did it happen? My experience of it was much more gradual than what Dr. Harrod Buhner has described, but still, slowly and surely, I arrived at much of that awareness and aliveness. Over the years, I’ve learned so much from so many great people. Paul Saginaw, Frank Carollo, and Louie Marr taught me the basics of cooking and running kitchens while I was at Maude’s. The writing of people like Paula Wolfert, Corby Kummer, Jessica Harris, Joyce Goldstein, Edna Lewis, Perla Meyers, John Thorne, Ed Behr, and others all had a big influence on my learning and understanding. Later I would meet folks like Molly Stevens, the Martelli family, Rolando Beramendi, Leah Chase, Daphne Zepos, Randolph Hodgson, and Alzina Toups. Each of them shared not only their cooking skills, but also their good and graceful ways of being in the world. Over the years, I got involved with the American Cheese Society, Oldways, the specialty food world, and Southern Foodways Alliance. Cooking and learning, studying and tasting, figuring out all along how we could get better, more traditional food to Ann Arbor, and then how to get people, most of whom knew little about artisan food back then, to want to buy it. Continually learning to taste, smell, appreciate, and then, through teaching and writing, to share all of what I was learning, became a way of life. All of which, I can see clearly now, gradually turned into the kind of vocation that Paul Goodman referenced.
The American food world has come an enormously long way in the course of the forty years since we opened the Deli. In an essay I haven’t yet published, I wrote about my realization that when Paul and I opened the Deli in March of 1982, we were a small part of a revolution in the American food world. That revolution has changed the way people all over the country think about, cook, and consume their food. At the same time, food and cooking came together to change my life. Just to get a sense of things, I decided to count the ways. There aree so many learnings on the list, that I’ll share more thoughts on the subject next week. To get started though, here are five: 

The little things make a big difference – Over and over again food and cooking have made clear to me that small, seemingly insignificant, things make a huge difference. Too little salt and a dish will be deemed “tasteless.” Slightly too much salt, and it will seem almost inedible. A tiny bit more caramelization on a bread’s crust can take it from good to great in a manner of minutes. Too much rain the week before the olive harvest diminishes the flavor of the finished oil. Cooking pasta two minutes too long can detract drastically from the entire dish. Over time, I started to understand that this same thing was true in all parts of my life. Forty years later, I almost never take the little things for granted. It would be fair to say now that I actually make my living from the little things.

Live every day with awe and wonder – The food world has taught me to appreciate the wonderment inherent in our daily existence. Kate Davies writes:

Wonder is about being in the presence of something truly amazing that transcends the mundane and the everyday. It humbles us, lifts us up, and expands our awareness. Wonder is the positive feeling we get when we perceive something that thrills or delights us to the very core of our being. Small children are often full of wonder. For them, every day reveals astonishing new delights. But by the time they reach adulthood, this way of experiencing the world fades and life becomes dull and routine—a burden to be endured or a series of problems to be solved.
Great food gives me the opportunity to go back to that childlike sense of awe and amazement every minute of every day; I feel incredibly fortunate that I spend most days within fifteen or twenty feet of world class food and drink. When I’m feeling down, stuck, or overly serious, I have only to find a small bit of what we cook, bake, brew, sell, and serve to remind myself that I am in the presence of greatness. Tasting an amazing olive oil, the spicing on the fried chicken at the Roadhouse, or the dark crust of the Country Miche from the Bakehouse, are small pieces of wonder that I get to be part of every day at work. The joy evoked when customers eat the French crullers at the Bakeshop, or the look on the face of a candy lover as she or he bites into a Zzang! Bar for the first time. Same holds true for me when I go home to cook every evening; a bowl of artisan pasta topped with great olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano, and freshly ground Tellicherry pepper can magically turn my day from difficult to delightful. A few wedges of Tammie’s heirloom tomatoes, sprinkled lightly with fleur de sel, make me smile and shake my head every time I try them.

Make history come alive – As you know from what I wrote a few weeks ago, I’m a history major. Working, as we’ve chosen to do, with traditional food has given me a great way to both study history for a living, and then, in turn, to share that history with folks who want to learn it. Most of the world has never heard of them, but when someone eats the sweet potato fries at the Roadhouse, and I tell them the story of how they come from Gullah traditions of the Sea Islands, their interest is piqued.
Honor and understand my connection with the natural world – My friend Shawn Askinosie says that our vocation almost always turns out to be the inverse of our childhood wound. That which hurt us when we were young, can become the kind of vocation that Paul Goodman wrote about. Growing up as I did at the height of the industrial era, in a big city in a family that spent much more time and energy engaged in intellectual debate than they did walking in the woods, I was pretty well cut off from the wonders of nature. Seasons for me meant mostly shifts from sun to snow, baseball to basketball, summer vacation to the start of the new semester at school. As a kid, I had no clue that you only really get strawberries for three weeks in the spring, that fresh milk was once seasonal, or when olive oil was pressed each year. 

At some subconscious level, I suppose, I probably craved that connection. Later, I can see, I successfully traded concrete for cooking, and intellectual debate for culinary insight. Working with food taught me to really taste, touch, smell, and savor. It helped me learn how to listen better to my body, to watch the way birds land on branches, to take in the grace of the bees as they buzz around colorful blossoms. Working with food in this way opened a whole new world for me. As Stephen Harrod Buhner says, “If you pay close attention, you will notice there is a difference. There is a livingness to it, which the pen or cup or desk did not have (or perhaps did not have as much). And that livingness has a particular feeling to it.” If you stick with it, Buhner says, “you begin to encounter the living reality.”

Stay humble - Baruch Spinoza said, “Everything great is just as difficult to realize as it is rare to find.” Working with artisan food is, as it ought to be, incredibly humbling. No matter what we do, problems will happen, flavors will change, imperfections will abound, seasons will still shift. I learned a long time ago that to get dinner for six out to a table successfully requires an amazing amount of things to go as they should, and dozens of people (including me) to do our jobs well. To have the salt right on every dish when it’s cooked to order, to time all six main courses, appetizers, drinks, and desserts—all of which are coming from different stations; for the host to greet with the right energy, the bartender to get the garnish just right in every cocktail, and the food runner to carry the plates. That doesn’t even count the work of the baker, the brewer, the farmer, and the fisherperson. The food world taught me how small a presence each of us are in the world, how the world revolves—but never around us. As Michael Gelb writes, "True humility emerges from a sense of wonder and awe. It’s an appreciation that our time on earth is limited but that there’s something timeless at the core of every being. Embracing humility liberates us from the egotism that drives both perfectionism and self-sabotage, opening us to a deeper experience of self-worth."

This list is only part of what I have learned over the years. I will share more next week, and, since I plan to continue learning from food and cooking, I’ll share long into the future as well. I hope that in the coming years I can contribute back close to as much as the food world has given me. As Tarthang Tulku says,
We have a responsibility to work, to exercise our talents and abilities, to contribute our energy to life. Our nature is creative, and by expressing it we constantly generate more enthusiasm and creativity, stimulating an ongoing process of enjoyment in the world around us. Working willingly, with our full energy and enthusiasm, is our way of contributing to life.
What I have learned from food and cooking, and from the thousands of great people who make it and work with it over the last forty years, is a more wonderful gift than I could ever have imagined. Michelle Obama once said, “We learned about gratitude and humility—that so many people had a hand in our success.” Whatever I know, I know that I have learned because others were generous enough of spirit to share what they knew with me. And that whatever we have managed to make happen here at Zingerman’s, it is only through the gracious support of so many who were willing to purchase our products, eat our food, sip our coffee, let us host their most important events, read what we write, or learn from what we teach. Thank you all; through your generosity I, still sort of just a line cook in the story I have started in my mind, have learned—and continue to learn—how to live a meaningful and fulfilling life for which I will be forever grateful.
Check Out Our Job Openings!
It’s not why I decided to write this piece, but we are, in fact, hiring. If you’re interested in learning how to be a line cook (or a baker, coffee drink maker, cheese seller, etc.), check out our job openings. I’m happy to answer any questions directly as well—email at will. If you’d like a copy of our 2032 Vision to see what you or yours would potentially be a part of, drop me a line and I’ll send it your way!

Miss Kim Chef Ji Hye Kim Earns a Much-Deserved Award

One of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs!

Last week Ji Hye was named one of the “Best New Chefs” by Food & Wine magazine! While Food & Wine’s writeup says “new,” this bit of well-deserved national recognition is actually the result of many years of effort. Looking at the list of Natural Laws, #11 reminds me regularly that it takes way longer to make great things happen than most people would think. While I always want what I want to happen soon, I’m reminded—often with frustration—that in nature, good things on a large scale simply take much more time to come to fruition than most of us want to imagine. 

Ji Hye’s diligence in study and her attention to detail, her care for her craft, the quality and complexity of her cooking, the uniqueness of what she’s doing, her devotion to using local ingredients in the context of centuries-old regional recipes from Korean history—all of these and then some told me early on that what she was doing was worthy of attention. Happily, many of you and plenty of people here in the ZCoB have sung her praises regularly. Like everyone who does meaningful, quality-focused, work in any field, Ji Hye has put in countless hours at mastering her craft. As Paul taught me forty years ago, “professionalism is sticking with something long after the initial glamour wears off.” From the day I met her, Ji Hye has modeled what Dr. Angela Duckworth has come to call “grit.” 

I love to see Food & Wine write her up, but of course, running a restaurant is only slightly about recognition. I also see the times Ji Hye washed dishes because someone called in sick; or when she worked sixteen days in a row; or how she’s learned to handle customer complaints (some of which, to be honest, can be delivered with an incredible lack of compassion or humanity and an exceptional harshness) with grace; how hard she’s worked at learning to manage herself and her energy. How she’s traveled and taken time to study and learn in such great depth. I think back to how she changed careers well into her adult life, taking far less money to learn about food and cooking. How she spends so many hours thinking about how to do what she’s doing to make it better still; how she tastes and tweaks and works to improve every single dish over and over again. Ji Hye hasn’t just lived Natural Law #11—she’s integrated all twelve of them (and the new ones I’ve been learning and writing about) into her work over the years. She’s determined to make her vision happen, she’s created compellingly delicious food, she’s done many hundreds of small extra things to try to keep getting better ... you get the idea. You can, in a sense, see the results of her work in the Food & Wine article. Even more importantly to me, you can taste the quality and commitment in what she cooks. 

Having Ji Hye and Miss Kim as part of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses over the last six years has been a wonderful blessing for our organization, and I believe too, for our town. I feel incredibly honored to work with Ji Hye. Not because of the award. But because of all the hard work, study, attention to detail, and commitment to quality and pushing forward in positive directions that have made Miss Kim what it is.

When I reflect on it, Miss Kim is incredibly aligned with what Paul and I imagined forty years ago when we started the Deli; a place that’s small but really special; traditional food done right where quality takes top consideration over cost. Where people from all over would come and remember it well, and experience something they wouldn’t find anywhere else. Miss Kim, in its quiet little corner of Kerrytown, is that kind of place. What Ji Hye has done at Miss Kim is also fully aligned with what we wrote about in our 2009 Vision—by having managing partners who would own part of the business to help them make their dreams come true … we could widen ownership, expand and enhance the diversity of our organization, expand and enhance the health of our community and the ZCoB. Stephen Satterfield, the nationally-recognized writer and founder of the incredible Whetstone Magazine, and now the compelling co-host of the Netflix documentary High on the Hog was, as he so often is, early to recognize something special when he visited Miss Kim. Three years ago, Stephen said that, “to dine at Miss Kim is to taste [Ji Hye’s] taste memory, her learned and earnest love of recrafting the food from which she is constituted, adapted for the place in which she stands.” And in the spirit of what I wrote above, he goes on to say, Ji Hye’s cooking is “hyper-local, very seasonal, and as much an approach to life as it is a bowl of food.”

Historian Robin Kelley, who writes insightfully about African-American history, says:

Taped inside the top drawer of my desk is a small scrap of paper with three words scrawled across it: “Love, Study, Struggle.” It serves as a daily reminder of what I am supposed to be doing.
If you add “Cook” to Dr. Kelley’s statement, it might well sum up what, to my outsider’s perception, Ji Hye’s work has been about. “Love” for the nuanced (if little known in the U.S.) history and tradition of her homeland; love for the food and its flavors; love for the people she works with; love of learning. “Study” of the history of the food and the cultures from which it came; Ji Hye’s commitment to reading cookbooks—many hundreds of years old—is inspiring. "Struggle" because little long-term good in life comes without it and that is true about ten times over in the food business. Struggle because she believes deeply in equity and in working to rebalance our social ecosystems. Struggle because it is much harder to work with a constant (if ever imperfect) commitment to putting care and quality into all we do. There are a thousand points at which Ji Hye could have given up. We all—me as well—consider quitting or calling it a day or going home to cry alone in a quiet corner, and I can’t imagine Ji Hye is much different. And yet, she has persevered and pushed forward. You can taste the intensity, the commitment, and the quality of her work in every dish at Miss Kim.
Come by Miss Kim this week!

Esterházy Torta from the Bakehouse

Tricky to pronounce, easy to eat, traditional Hungarian pastry

Nearly all of the food we work with here at Zingerman’s is, in its roots, poor peoples’ food. Even some of our most expensive items—Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, artisan bread and pastry from the Bakehouse, prosciutto di Parma, pastrami, pulled pork bbq … though relatively costly by modern day industrial standards, all got their start as staples in country kitchens that couldn’t afford fancier food. The exceptions? Balsamic vinegar, which was made and consumed only by noble families. Fine chocolate, which could only be made where producers had the capital to pay for fancy equipment. And this now famous, late-19th century Esterházytorte, or as we know it in English, Esterházy Torta

I’ve got Esterházy on my mind this week because Kristi Brablec, managing partner of Zingerman’s Food Tours, has been texting and posting from Hungary—she’s leading our first food tour in nearly twenty months! Kudos to Kristi for persevering through the pandemic, and thanks to our partner in Hungarian taste-travel, Gabor Banfalvi. I can’t say for sure that Kristi has eaten a slice of this terrific torta in the last ten days, but it’s a pretty safe bet that she sat near someone who was. Cafés and pastry have long been at the center of life in Budapest. As Gabor said, “Back in the turn of the [20th] century, which we consider the height of Hungarian coffeehouse culture, Budapest was home to around 600 coffeehouses. These were not simply places that people visited, these were places where people lived their lives.” Not unlike our own era, writers and poets often took up residence in a particular spot. Gabor shares, “these coffeehouses would provide paper and ink. In many cases they would also provide [creatives] a line of credit, and patiently wait with the bill until the sometimes poor writers would get their money for their pieces. Waiters would take messages for them and also collect mail for their writer clientele, providing extra services for writers who otherwise were on their own as freelancers.”

While the writers in the cafés were often poor, the man for whom the Torta was named was anything but. It was developed in honor of Prince Esterházy, Paul III Anton, who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Stephens Cabot Abbott, who authored books about Napoleon Bonaparte, the American Civil War, and Daniel Boone, wrote in the middle of the 19th century that,
Prince Esterházy, a Hungarian baron, is probably the richest man, who is not seated on a throne, in the world. He lives in the highest style of earthly grandeur. One of his four magnificent palaces contains three hundred and sixty rooms for guests, and a theater. His estates embrace one hundred and thirty villages, forty towns, and thirty-four castles. ... He has quite a little band of troops in his pay, and moves with military pomp and gorgeous retinue from palace to palace.
Esterházy’s holdings were so vast that at one point he is said to have had 2500 shepherds on his staff!

Esterházy’s cake followed in his financial footsteps—exceptionally rich, very elegant, and more luxurious than an average 18th century Hungarian would ever have eaten. It was developed in Esterházy’s honor in the second half of the 19th century and became—along with Dobos Torta and Rigó Jansci—one of the most popular baked goods in the cake-crazy city of Budapest. Fortunately, times have changed, and while Esterházy Torta is not exactly inexpensive, given all the work and great ingredients that go into it, the Torta at the Bakehouse is pretty reasonably priced.

All that background aside, what you’ll likely most want to know is that the Esterházy Torta tastes terrific. And it’s beautiful to boot. Layers of toasted walnut cake filled with a magnificent mixture of vanilla bean pastry cream, fresh whipped cream, and more toasted walnuts, lovingly decorated with vanilla and dark chocolate poured fondant in a distinctive wave design used specifically for Esterházy cakes. Complex layers of flavor; beautiful, delicate, and most definitely delicious. Stop by the Bakehouse or the Deli, buy a slice, and make a mental toast to positive social change and great cake! As Amy and Frank wrote in Zingerman’s Bakehouse, the Esterházy is “pure elegance—petite and beautiful to look at, refined and balanced in flavor, with a perfect level of sweetness—and it’s satisfying in delicate-sized pieces. Esterházy could end up being your hallmark dessert, the perfect finish to an inspired meal.”
Pick Up a Torta Today
Learn How to Make it at BAKE!
Peppered Bacon Farm Bread is our Special Bake this weekend—order ahead so you don’t miss out!

Salt & Pepper Peanuts

A Candy Manufactory classic in the making

While Miss Kim has been in the headlines and the Roadhouse was on national television, the Candy Manufactory has still been quietly making these terrifically tasty peanuts in the background, easy to go unnoticed with all that’s going on in the world at large and in our small corner of it here at Zingerman’s. 

While the crew at the Candy Manufactory have been crafting these Salt & Pepper Peanuts for years now, I hadn’t eaten any of them for ages. No real reason—they just sort of fell off my regular “playlist.” That changed last week when I bought a bag to bring home, and was reminded of just how good they really are. When they first came out a few years ago I thought they were a 10 out of 10! I’m glad to say they still are!

What makes the Salt & Pepper Peanuts so good? Like so many of our best foods, they’re pretty simple, really—start with amazing, plump, and flavorful peanuts, French fleur de sel (the highly prized delicate layer of crystals that form atop the natural salt ponds in the sun), and a healthy dose of that super tasty Five Star Black Pepper Blend put together for us by our friends at Épices de Cru using five different sources of superb black peppercorns (Tellicherry Reserve, Mlamala, Rajakumari, Tellicherry Extra Bold, and Shimoga, in case you were curious), blended to make one incredibly complex and exceptionally good flavor. 

These nuts are terrific out of hand—put a bowl or two out with wine, beer, or anything else you’re up for. I can’t guarantee that having them on the table will help your team, but they’re great to snack on while you’re watching a bit of fall football. They're also great on salads, as well as on ice cream sundaes (stop by the Creamery to pick up some gelato). You can coarse-chop them and use them as coating for fish or pork chops. Looking ahead to the holidays, you can add them to stuffing. Sweet, spicy, savory, and super tasty. Life changing.

You can pick up the Salt & Pepper Peanuts at the Candy Store inside the Coffee Company!
Try Salt-and-Pepper Peanuts Today!

Portuguese Piri Piri Salad

Tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers dressed with Portugal’s spicy hot sauce

As I was thinking about good ways to take full advantage of some of the last of the heirloom tomatoes we’ll be getting around here this year, I remembered this salad that I learned many years ago from Jasper White, the New England chef who came to do a special dinner at the Roadhouse over a decade ago now. If you aren’t yet familiar with Piri Piri, put it on your list of spicy foods to sample sometime soon! It’s best known these days for marinating chicken, but in this dish it’s a key ingredient with fresh vegetables. We all know hot sauce as an accoutrement to be dashed onto dishes like gumbo, scrambled eggs, or tacos. Here it’s used to splash liberally on your salad! 

I’ve long been fascinated with the Portuguese community in the U.S. While the Portuguese presence seems pretty low key to those of us living out here in the middle of the country, back in New England it’s pretty darned prominent. From a historical standpoint, there are all sorts of interesting theories about Portuguese explorers coming to North America before Columbus, possibly as early as 1487. The first documented Portuguese immigrant came in 1634. A lot of the early Portuguese were Converso Jews fleeing the Inquisition. Fifteen Portuguese-Jewish families arrived in Newport, Rhode Island in 1658, and the still-standing and pretty famous Touro Synagogue was dedicated in Newport in 1763. At the end of the 18th century, significant numbers of immigrants started arriving here from the Azores, the islands that lie about a thousand miles to the west, off the coast of Portugal. Many got into whaling, which allowed them to make a living and escape the extreme poverty that was prevalent in their home islands at the time. The big push of Portuguese immigration began in the 1890s, again primarily Azoreans. Nearly 200,000 came in the first two decades of the 20th century. A later wave came in the second half of the 20th century, and the communities continued to grow in Massachusetts and also in Rhode Island. Like every ethnic group that’s come here, Portuguese immigrants worked hard to recreate the dishes they knew from home, blending and adapting them based on the ingredients that they found in the U.S. 

The salad is made with roasted green pepper, chunks of tomato, thickly sliced cucumbers, and a good dose of chopped fresh cilantro. (The cilantro is a key addition to the flavor, but if you’re not a fan, you can add fresh parsley perhaps.) It’s dressed with wine vinegar, olive oil, and the Portuguese Piri Piri sauce that we have at the Deli. In essence, it struck me as the Portuguese counterpart to a traditional Greek salad. I’m sure you could use any vegetable you like to eat in its raw state—I made mine the other day by adding some beautiful fresh radishes Tammie brought home. While it’s still relatively unfamiliar to most Americans, in Portugal Piri Piri is probably more popular even than Tabasco is in the U.S. It’s a legacy from the many years of Portuguese colonial activity in Africa; peppers came back from the Western Hemisphere to the Iberian peninsula and from there went down the west coast of Africa with the Portuguese to the Cape Verde islands and Angola. Pilipili means “pepper” in Swahili. It came to be made from what’s now known as “Birdseye peppers”—spicy and complex in flavor at the same time. 

The peppers for this sauce are still grown south of the equator then brought up to Portugal where they’re blended with vinegar, salt, and spices. Piri Piri is pretty all-purpose—great on fish, eggs, chicken, pork, beans ... You name it, really. It has a unique, fruity, spicy flavor that jazzes up most any dish. I love it! If you want to do up a really easy hors d’oeuvre, just drizzle a little onto toasted slices of baguette with Creamery cream cheese on top, or sprinkle it onto soup, stews, or just about anything else! 

The Piri Piri salad is very simple to make. Cut the cucumbers into reasonably thick slices and salt them so that they can drain a bit before you toss them in the bowl. Roast the green peppers over an open flame until the skin is charred, then when they’ve cooled enough to handle, scrape off the char with a knife, then slice them into one-inch squares. Cut a couple ripe heirloom tomatoes into chunks. Sprinkle with wine vinegar, oil, plenty of Piri Piri, and a little salt and pepper. Aside from the important quality of the vegetables and the olive oil, the Piri Piri is the key to making this salad so special. Easy, and a really good accompaniment to most any main dish, but especially fish. In fact, in deference to the Portuguese preference for tinned fish, the salad would be good with some of the terrific canned sardines we have on hand. Almonds make a great addition as well! 
Order Your Piri Piri Sauce!

Other Things on My Mind


Earlier this year, Sam Beam put out the previously-unreleased Iron and Wine album that was recorded before any of his others. Tallahassee is on the terrific Subpop label whose primary message is a masterpiece of humility: “We’re not the best, but we’re pretty good.” As the folks at Subpop say of the album, “Tallahassee is the foreword to your favorite book that you’ve somehow skipped over time and time again. It’s an alternative history mixed with some revisionist history told over the course of eleven songs.” It is also some absolutely beautiful music. 

Honey Babe by Algia Mae Hinton - Two weeks ago, August 29, would have been Algia Mae Hinton’s 92nd birthday. She passed away in the winter of 2018. Her music is the sort of acoustic blues that I love. She learned the Piedmont style fingerpicking on guitar and was also an expert buck dancer. An amazing woman and an incredible artist from whom we can all learn a lot! 


I’ve been re-reading Viktor Frankl’s classic Man’s Search for Meaning. I think this is my third time through, but I continue to find new insights. 
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this enews and you know someone else who might like it, please pass it along. Have questions about Zingerman’s? Write us at
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