Are Nightshades Really Bad For You?

I would like to share an article that I wrote for The Huffington Post. If you ever had any reservations about nightshades (I did), I hope you find the information provided useful.

Speaking of nightshades, here is one of my favorite recipes for Chili Oil from The Woks of Life. This fragrant oil is used all over the world and has been around for decades. Although recipes vary among cultures, Italians use olive oil as a base, while the Chinese use various vegetable oils interchangeably, chili oil offers a rich flavorful boost to almost any dish. If you like heat, then chili oil should be in your pantry.

When I was an undergraduate at New York University, my roommate used to come back from China Town, usually late at night with her boyfriend in tow and ask ‘want some?’ She would hand me her white cardboard takeout container generously filled with ‘hacked chicken’, an irresistible dish made out of steamed chicken, hacked (skin, bone and all) into bite-sized pieces and heavily seasoned in a sauce made with this flavorful chili oil. It was the perfect late night snack. The seasonings had just the right amount of salt and heat to leave an indelible mark on my taste preferences.

Serving suggestion: Try a dollop of chili oil on cold sesame noodles .

Chinese Chili Oil

-1 1/2 cups peanut oil (vegetable or grapeseed oil works as well)

-5 star anise

-1 cinnamon stick

- 2 bay leaves

-3 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns

-3/4 cup Asian crushed red pepper flakes (Sichuan chili flakes are the best)

-1- 1/1/2 teaspoons salt (no taste)


Heat the oil, star anise cinnamon stick, bay leaves and Sichuan peppercorns in a small saucepan over medium high heat. When the oil starts to bubble slightly, turn the heat down to medium. Let the oil cook for 30 minutes. You may need to adjust the heat during cooking time. If the bubbling starts to die down, turn the heat up until it starts bubbling again, and then turn the heat back down to maintain a slight bubbling.

When the oil is done cooking, the seeds and pods should have darkened but not turned black (that means they burned which results in a subpar chili oil). Let the oil cool for five minutes. Place the pepper flakes and salt in a heat proof container and pour the oil through a fine mesh strainer over the pepper flakes. Discard seeds and pods. Let cool completely and store in a cool, dry place.