Welcome to the new and improved Carano's Cucina. I make a lot of kick ass food and go out to some amazing restaurants. Take a look around and make yourself at home :)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Butternut Squash Soup

At the moment I have an over abundance of butternut squash.  I didn't grow it but it's so cheap in the stores once fall hits that I stock up since it lasts so long in a cool, dry place.  Previously I have posted recipes for Butternut Squash Pasta, Butternut Squash Risotto, and Roasted Veggies including Butternut Squash.  I do love me some butternut!  It's a very versatile and pretty darn easy to worth with veg.

Case in point, this soup is about as simple as it gets and it's all kinds of yum!   In a big pot heat up 2 Tablespoons of olive oil (by now you probably know I'm an extra virgin kind of gal.  What can I say, my Catholic upbringing keeps a soft spot in my heart for any virgin!).  Add one small onion chopped or as I used here, half of a large onion.  I strictly use whatever sweet onion is in season and they tend to be larger than your average boiling onion.  Add about a teaspoon of salt.  If you're going to used canned/boxed broth, keep your salting to a minimum since those tend to contain a lot of salt.  And a few grinds of pepper.

You just want to sweat the onions and get them soft.  Minimal to no browning so keep the temperature on the burner low.  

Peel and chop one medium sized butternut squash.

Medium dice is just fine.  It doesn't really matter because in the end they will be blended into a puree anyway.  Talk lightly again, and pepper too if desired.  Saute the squash with the onions for a few minutes, not long.  You just want to get the cooking process going.  At this point you can add a few grinds of nutmeg to the squash if desired.  Add four to 5 cups of broth.  Now, you can use homemade stock/broth (ideal) if you have it, or you can use canned or boxed broth.  My person fave is Kitchen Basics.  It's lower in salt than most and if you want you can get it completely unsalted.  It has a great flavor and it's made right here in Northeast Ohio.

I used one carton of Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock because I completely forgot I had my own homemade vegetable stock in the freezer.  Doh!   And I added an extra cup of water.  The carton is four cups.   Simmer the stock/squash mixture until the squash is fork tender.  This takes about 20 minutes or so.  Just insert a fork or knife into a piece of squash and if the knife goes in easy and slides right out, you're good.  Hmmm that sounds dirty. ;)

Turn the eat off and then take our your handy dandy immersion blender and blend that soup up into a puree! Immersion blenders are easy peasy to use, but if you don't have one you can use a food processor or you can use a regular blender.  Just be very careful and do it in small amounts because the hot soup will splatter.  

Once it was done I added some finely chopped sage, not a lot, sage is a very strong flavor but it goes very well with butternut squash.  Truth be told I probably would have added it before it was pureed if I had it, but I didn't so I added it after.  I liked it this way very much and liked seeing the specs of green in all the orange.  

This soup is so tasty and so easy to make.  All totaled, it took about 40 minutes to make, if that.  The hardest part is peeling the butternut.  There is no butter, no cream and a minimum of oil.  All in all, not too shabby!  


Friday, September 25, 2015

The Great Pumpkin Spice Experiment

With the surge in pumpkin spiced everything over the last few years, I decided to run a little experiment.  While doing my weekly grocery shopping I was going to snap a picture of everything that I saw that was pumpkin flavored or pumpkin spiced.  But my rule was that I had to happen by it, not go looking (if I did that I'd be there all night!)   Here is my compilation of pictures from three grocery stores tonight to which I'll add more as the weeks go by.

Added 11/15

Added 11/15

(added 11/12)

(Added 11/12)

I'm not sure how I feel about this (Added 11/6)

I know how I feel about this... NO.  (added 11/6)

Oy.  (added 11/6)

I'm surprised I didn't see this sooner (added 11/6)

That doesn't sound good to me at all  (added 10/30)

Not a speck of fudge on these Fudge Stripes (added 10/30)

Pumpkin Spice Kahlua!?  NO NO NO!!!!  (added 10/30)

Added 10/23

Goat Cheese?  Really?  added 10/23

Cheese again!?   added 10/23

Added 10/18

Added 10/18

New addition 10/17

New addition 10/17 - Ew!!!!

New addition 10/17

New addition 10/17 - Is this like pumpkin stove top?  Gross!

Thomas's English Muffins

Thomas's Bagels


I admit I do like this

Tried it, thought I liked it... not so  much.
Pumpkin Chips??

I think this one shocked me most... Nestle morsels??

So there you have it, it's a cornucopia of pumpkin products.  Pumpkin lovers rejoice!   Everyone else, it'll be peppermint season soon ;)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ten Minute Dinner

This is the easiest, quickest (other than calling for take out) dinner you will ever make it and it's delicious.  It was inspired by a recent cooking show that I was watching.  Olive pesto.  Much like regular basil pesto, this is an uncooked sauce so in the amount of time it takes you to boil pasta, that's how long this dish is to make.

I used linguine because it's my favorite and what I had on hand, but I think it would be pretty great with a wider pasta, like a pappardelle.  So get your big pot of water on to boil and make your pasta.  Don't forget to salt your water when it comes to the boil.

While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, drag out your food processor.  Now, you can chop everything with a knife or you can use a mortar and pestle if you prefer.  The food processor makes very quick work of this though so that's what I went with.   You will need about a cup of pitted olives.  I used Kalamata, but I think any good olive would be good.  Just don't use canned olives.  It definitely won't come out the same.  Frankly I wanted to use oil cured Moroccan olives, but they are difficult to pitt so I went with the already pitted Kalamata's.  You will also need a clove or two of garlic, the juice of one lemon, a small bunch of fresh basil (about 10 leaves or so) and a small bunch of fresh Italian parsley (about 1/4 cup).  There is no need to add salt to this because the olives are plenty salty.  But you may want to add some pepper to taste.

Put it all in the food processor and pulse until you have a small chunky consistency.  You don't want it completely smooth but a little texture is nice.

And here's the thing, this is so fast that you even have time to do the painful task of washing the food processor before the pasta is even done!   So set your sauce aside in your favorite zebra bowl and get that pain in the ass thing washed before dinner.  You'll be so happy you did, trust me!

Once the pasta is done, drain with just a little of the pasta water left in the pan (not much, just about a 1/4 cup but you can hold some more aside in case you need it).  And then toss the pasta and the olive pesto in the pan (or a big pasta bowl if you prefer).  

This is absolutely going into my go to recipes.  It was so easy and so good!   I suspect I will make it often and tweak it as I go.  I think it would be great with the addition of pine nuts or maybe some Parmesan cheese (although we did add it to the top after it was done).  Possibly the lemon zest in addition to the juice.  Maybe even some anchovy or hot pepper flakes.  The possibilities are endless!!!


Saturday, March 8, 2014

What Am I Doing at Deagan's Kitchen?

Lakewood.... it's far from where I live, so what am I doing at Deagan's Kitchen in Lakewood, Ohio?  Well, I was headed out for a night on the town, dinner and a play, with my friend Cindy.  We were going to see Carrie, The Musical at the very wonderful Beck Center in Lakewood and it was my job to find a place to dine beforehand.  So looking at places near the Beck, I found Deagan's Kitchen and we decided to give it a whirl.

When the day arrived though, we were both running late and were worried that we might not make it through dinner and to the play on time.  It was a dilemma, but we decided to give it a go.  We got to the restaurant and decided we would tell our waitress that we were in a bit of a hurry.  That worked out well.  She was more than happy to help us along.  We started out with the fabulous roasted nut appetizer.  These were cashews, walnuts, almonds (both regular and Marcona), and pecans.  They were roasted with rosemary and served warm.  I so loved these flavor bombs.  Warm nuts, seriously does it get better?  The aroma alone is intoxicating.

After our nutty appetizer, we decided, because of time constraints, to just get three small plates and share them.  This worked out quite perfectly.  We chose Crisp Eggplant.  These were slices of eggplant fried crispy and rolled with ricotta cheese.  It was served with arugula and stewed plum tomatoes.

We also chose Drunken Goat Cheese Crostini.  Big slices of bread with melted goat cheese.  Served with grapes. prosciutto and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.  I'm not sure what was drunken about it, but it was yummy.

And last but never least, the Shaved Brussel Spouts.  Oh brussel spouts!  I love them so and these were so incredible.  The shaved sprouts are served with bacon, walnuts, smoked blue cheese.  Oh seriously?  Yes, seriously.  I'm in love and I don't even really care much for blue cheese.  

I'd love to return to Deagan's and have an actual dinner but I am in no way complaining about the small plates we did partake in.  They are closed on Monday, but open every other day of the week.   Located at 14810 Detroit Avenue Lakewood, Ohio 44107.  It's been quite a while since I'd been to Lakewood and having lived there for a few years, I didn't recognize it at all.  So much has changed, for the better, which is not to say Lakewood was all that bad.  It as pretty nice when I lived there over 15 years ago.  But wow!  All the restaurants!  I think I need to spend more time there.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Are You Ready for Pronto?

Back in the summer, I had my yearly trek to the National Hamburger Festival in Akron.  It was there that I tried the Green Machine food truck's Italian Burger.  It was by far my winner that year.  It was delish!  Sundried tomato, balsamic caramelized onion, pesto aioli, smoked provolone and prosciutto on top of an Angus beef burger with lettuce and fresh tomato.  Seriously, what's not to love?  It probably sounds like too much, but it wasn't.  In fact, here it is...

Oh yes, look at that beauty!  I was hard pressed not to order it when I went to Pronto, the brick and mortar restaurant that was once the Green Machine.  It was on the menu.  But having had it once, I wanted to try something else.  And I'm also trying to be healthier so a burger and all those extras was probably not the best idea.

But before I get to ahead of myself, Pronto is located at 223 East Highland Road, in Macedonia, OH 44056, where Fat Casual BBQ was once located.  They are open Tuesday thru Saturday for lunch and dinner, closed Sunday and Monday.  It's small and quaint and only seats about 35 tops.  There is even an in house bakery for all the desserts.  The restaurant is billed at Modern Italian American Cuisine and to be honest, the lunch menu doesn't reflect that much.  Which is not a complaint, because the food was damn good.  I haven't been there for dinner, but the menu for dinner does have more Italian fare.  Chef Scott Wnek studied in Bologna, Italy so I can see that there is an Italian flair, just not exclusively Italian food.

I decided on the Vegetarian Sandwich, which was roasted eggplant and roasted tomatoes, arugula, balsamic reduction and garlic herbed goat cheese.  Simple, done well and delicious.  It was to be served with fresh cut fries and pesto aioli dipping sauce.  I asked for a side salad instead and for a small extra price, it was no problem.  It's that pesky healthier eating I mentioned earlier that made me do it!  

The man went with the Cuban.  A little bit of a different take, but a Cuban none the less.  Ham, dijon mayo, pickles, swiss cheese, moho sauce and pulled pork.

He got the fries and while it definitely looked like other plates that went by had a lot more fries, he was ultimately satisfied with the amount he had.  And that pesto aioli?  Fugget about it!!!  That's the stuff right there!  I took a bite of the sandwich and it was pretty damn good.  I liked mine better, but he said the same thing... he liked his better :)

And because the man has a sweet tooth, and there is an in house bakery, he had to try some dessert.   Yeah thanks, I did mention I was trying to eat healthier!  After speaking with our waiter, he went over to the bakery counter to scope out his choices.  He came back with not one, but two desserts!  A pecan bar and a lemon bar.  That probably sounds kind of dull but both were anything but dull.  I mean, come on... look at this thing of beauty!  It's a pecan bar dipped in chocolate!

Rich, nutty, buttery and Oh. My. God!!!  So incredible and the price was right at $1.99 (which was also the price of the lemon bar).  It was so good.  I had one bite.  OK, maybe two.  But I was good!   And the lemon bar did not disappoint.  It was tart and sweet, but not too sweet.  With a buttery crust and luscious filling.  Again, I only had a bite, or two, but loved both!

I think it's safe to say I'll be going back to Pronto!

Edited 3/7/14 - And go back we did!  A week later.  It was just as good as the first trip.  Want to know what we had?  Of course you do!

The first week we were given a coupon for a free soup with the purchase of an entree.  This week I was thrilled that the soup of the day was Butternut Squash Bisque.  Oh it's one of my faves and this was one terrific version.  There was a hint of nutmeg and finely chopped walnuts on the top.  *sigh*

The man decided he could not resist and had to get the Italian Burger that we had at the Burger Festival.  Can you even stand it??

 It sounds like a lot going on, but it is marvelous and does not detract from the deliciousness of the angus beef.  It has sundried tomato pesto aioli, smoked mozzarella, basil pesto aioli, crispy prosciutto, balsamic glaze and arugula.  It's served with fresh cut fries with basil pesto aioli and he was much more pleased with the amount of fries he got this time.  

Now feast your eyes on this!!   This was a special of the day and is not on the regular menu.  It's the Beef Tenderloin Salad.  Yes, salad.   Inside this glorious tower of decadence is arugula dressed in a balsamic dressing with a perfectly rare (but served cold) slice of beef tenderloin, one in each onion ring.  It also has sliced grape tomatoes, horseradish cream and balsamic reduction.  This was incredible!

And because the man always has to have dessert, he went over to the bakery counter again to check things out. This week he opted for the big ginger cookie (served warm and scrumptious!).

And the big chocolate chip cookie with an Oreo in the middle.  Also served warm.  It was melty and yummy and so comforting.  

Check out Pronto... I promise you won't be sorry!