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 :)

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.

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!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Livin La Vida Retro

I can't explain it.  Retro Dog has been within 10 minutes of my house for several years now and I've never been  I don't know, so don't hassle me!  But now that I've been, I do believe I'll be going back. 

I already knew there were more things on the menu than hot dogs, which is good because I'm a notorious hot dog hater. I really just never liked them and don't plan on starting now.  But I do love all things retro.  And I do love burgers and all that goes along with a burger.  So on a particular Saturday night with not much else do, it was finally time to check out Retro Dog.

I love the whole look of Retro Dog, from the neon sign, to the old style diner interior, to the crazy artwork on the walls.  It's just a damn cool looking place.  And you can eat at the car hop if you'd prefer.

Looking over the menu I decided that I had to try a homemade root beer, that they have on draft.  Interestingly, I don't love root beer.  But the description sounded so enticing (Local Artisan and craft brewed to guarantee freshness and bold signature flavors.  Brewed with all natural ingredients including fresh winter green, vanilla bean, pure cane sugar and filtered water.  A combination that provides a delicious creamy caramel vanilla flavor that's sure to please sip after sip!) that I decided to give it a go.  It came out in a frosty mug and truly did not disappoint.   It was delicious!

The man decided on a peanut butter milkshake.  Yeah, you heard me right.  And Oh.  My.  God.  It was so good.  Thick and creamy, delicious peanut butter flavor.  A work of milkshake art.

And now for the main event.   The man got the dogs, 2 Retro Dogs.  As hot dogs go, they did look good.  They were chargrilled, which if I ate hotdogs, I'd want.  They are topped with Coney sauce, cheese sauce and onions.  The man loved them, loved the snap of the dog (which is a natural casing dog), and all around was very pleased.

He also go the fries.   Nice fresh cut fries.  Portion was good and they were fresh and hot.

I chose the Retro Burger.   This isn't an interesting gourmet burger, but a good old fashioned classic done right.  The burger is topped with American cheese, grilled onion, sliced tomato, shredded pickle, shredded lettuce, and mayo/mustard sauce.  As a burger lover, it doesn't disappoint.  In fact, I'm quite smitten with it.  Honestly, I don't think you can go wrong if you chose the Retro Burger.

Really, check out that beauty!  Yeah it's messy, but aren't most good burgers?   The cheese is oozy, the sauce drips out, the burger is juicy and flavorful.  

I also chose the tempura onion rings.   Now, there are times when onions in general don't like me very much.  But sometimes you just have to take one for the team and deal.  This was one of those times.  I mean really, if you saw these could you resist them??

I don't think you could!  They come with a sauce to dip them in, that I'm not exactly sure what it was but it was mighty tasty.  These are some stellar rings.  The onion themselves are thin and battered perfectly.  Not too much batter and fried to a crispy perfection.  

Yeah, I'd say my first Retro Dog experience won't be my last.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Little Trip Down South

It was a very welcome phone call I got a few weeks ago.  My friend Andi Smith, who wrote a fab book of sock patterns to knit called Big Foot Knits, was teaching a knitting class in North Carolina and asked if I'd like to go with her.  A chance to get out of town a few days?  You don't have to ask me twice!

It was a Tuesday morning when we got underway from Akron, Ohio and before too long we were starting to feel a bit peckish.  We pulled off in Cambridge, Ohio thinking we were going to have Chinese food when we saw Mr. Lee's Restaurant.  It was a no brainer.  We had to stop once we saw the place.  Most of you probably don't know, but maiden name is Lees! 

And really, isn't part of the fun of a road trip discovering those little hidden gems?  Mr. Lee's was just that.  It definitely catered to an older crowd and we were just a touch concerned that small town Ohio was not going to be very accepting of us coming onto their turf, what with Andi's purple hair and my tattoo's.  But we couldn't be more wrong!   Our waitress was the sweetest woman ever and really bent over backwards in her service.  And guess what?  The food was pretty darn good!  I had a turkey club with mashed potatoes instead of fries and cole slaw.

You can argue that a turkey club is a turkey club, but when it's made right, with good ingredients, it hits the spot.  The potatoes were real, which is always a plus and the cole slaw was fresh and very tasty with a little bit of a bite to it.  We were definitely off to a good food start on this journey.

Wednesday afternoon, while Andi was teaching her class at the adorable shop Warm 'n Fuzzy in Cary, NC, I went off on my own and headed over to Southern Season in Chapel Hill.  This is one beautiful shop!   If you're local to Akron, it's like West Point Market times 10!  Which is not to say anything against West Point Market.  I love that place.  Southern Season is definitely bigger though.  I really loved wandering around and looking at everything from the homemade chocolates, the extensive wine department, the housewares and the wonderful specialty items.  If I had access to refrigeration, I probably would have bought more than I did.  But I did get a lovely bottle of Sicilian wine (recommended to me by Darrin in the wine department and so pleased with the choice!), some hazelnut bark ($25 a pound! yeah I only bought a small piece), and some dried pasta.  

I headed over to Andi's class to pick her up for our evening out only to find out that the incredibly sweet proprietor, Rebecca and her employee Jairlyn wanted to take Andi out to dinner as a thank you for spending the day in the shop.  Lucky for me they didn't mind if I tagged along.  This was going to be a dining experience new to me and to Andi, Turkish food!  Bosphorus Restaurant was as quaint as they come!  Small and inviting and wonderful aromas.  We quickly decided to just order a bunch of stuff and share everything.  

We started with the Bosphorus Meze Platter served with their delicious pide with sesame (which is the Turkish version of pita bread).

This platter consisted of Hummus, Baba Gounush, Ezme, Tabouli, Eggplant salad, Cucumber Dip, Stuffed grape leaves.  Yes, yes, yes.... a thousand times yes!!!  Everything I tried was wonderful.  The bread was soft, warm and flavorful.  The grape leaves were tender and succulent.  Oh my. Yes I gush over this first course because this was where my meal ended.   Oh to have continued but sometimes you just have to know your limits.  I was assured by everyone else how incredible the rest of the meal was and I believe them!

Cigar Bourek is feta cheese mixed with parsley, chopped onions rolled in special filo dough and fried. Served with marinara sauce. Oh wait!  I did have one of these and I would have liked to have had several more!   Oh that crispy filo with the creamy cheese.  *sigh*

And here are the rest of the selections that my dining companions assured me were just as amazing as the first two...

Mixed Grill Kabobs was three pieces of baby lamb and chicken, kofta, adana and beef liver. It was served with bulgur pilaf, pide bread and grilled veggies.  (I did sneak a little piece of chicken and was blown away by the flavor.   SO much flavor!)

Greek Salad is Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, stuffed grape leaves, parsley, black olives and copious amounts of feta cheese.

And finally, Feta Cheese Pide (which they also call pizza) consisted of feta cheese mix with chopped tomatoes, onions, parsley, egg and spices.  How did I resist diving into that?  How I ask!!!  How!?  A big thank you to Rebecca and Jairlyn for their hospitality and understanding.  I hope to come back to Cary so I can fully enjoy this amazing place!

The next day we were leaving North Carolina and were determined to have some Carolina BBQ before we left.   In a real moment of serendipity, my old friend Kevin sent me a friend request on Facebook after many many years out of touch that day and sent me a message wanting to catch up.  I told him definitely, but I'm in North Carolina at the moment and would be happy to catch up when I got back.  He responded with a BBQ restaurant recommendation that was pretty close to where we were and raved about how good it is.  And then later the same day, my friend Valerie recommended the same place.  Sold!   Off we went to Chapel Hill, NC in search of The Pig.

It was kind of oddly located, in a small strip mall.  I think both Andi and I expected some dilapidated old shack with smoke coming out the roof and some crusty old guys hanging around.  But it was a very clean, amazing smelling little place where you go up the counter and order and they bring it to your table when ready.  It is whole hog barbecue that uses antibiotic and hormone free pasture raised pigs for their BBQ.  Andi and I both decided on the BBQ plate (small!) which was a generous pile of house smoked pulled pork, cole slaw, pickles and hush puppies.  Seriously!   This "small" plate was only $8.00!

Does the photo do this food justice?  Probably not, but let me assure you there was nothing on this plate that disappointed.  On the table was four sauces to chose from and I went for the classic Carolina vinegar sauce.  Oh.  My.  God.  This is food of the gods.  The pork was the most tender pork I have ever had.  The sauce was perfect for it.  The smoke was just right.  It melted in my mouth.  The hush puppies were perfectly crispy and not grainy at all, which I find that sometimes hush puppies are.  The slaw was so good, with a very noticeable orange tint to it, be it from the carrots or a seasoning that was in it.   And the pickles were stunning.  Very reminiscent of my mom's homemade pickles.  Tangy and sweet, a perfect compliment to the meat.

We also ordered a side of Sprouts and Shrooms, which were roasted brussel sprouts and mushrooms, with what I believe to be the pork rub on them.  It was a nicely spiced seasoning, just perfect.  Not too spicy hot but just the right amount of heat and the roast on those spouts was to die for!  (Thanks to Kevin for recommending them!  I may not have even seen them on the menu if you hadn't!).  I'm a sprout lover anyway, but these would make a believer out of a sprout hater.  They are that good!  This is a big side, definitely enough to share (which we did).

And last but not least, we also ordered the house made pork rinds.  PORK RINDS!!!   I mean it.  Honest to goodness pork rinds.  But don't think for a minute these are your average old run of the mill, buy em in a bag pork rinds.   These are freshly made, and come to your table warm and they practically dissolve in your mouth.  But not quite.  You still get to crunch down and enjoy that texture.  Oh the porky goodness!

The Pig is not to be missed if you find yourself in the area of Chapel Hill, NC.  I promise, you won't be sorry you went and experienced it.  I'd go back just to eat there, it's that good.

How do you follow that?  You can't really so as we ventured on our way to journey home, I think just about anything was going to pale in comparison.  But we forged ahead with a plan in mind.  Drive until about 6 pm and then start looking for a place to hunker down for the night.  That place ended up being Ghent, WV.  About 30 minutes away from the destination, Andi found a Knight's Inn online and booked it for us.  And when we arrived, this is what we came upon:

Well... this is going to be interesting!   So yeah, the Knight's Inn wasn't the best.  The first room we were given had dirty sheets on the beds and a lovely view overlooking the dumpster.  But once we moved it was good enough for a night.  OK, we dealt with the skeevy surroundings and flat out refused to partake of the continental breakfast.  We just wanted to go somewhere and get a bite to eat then come back and watch Project Runway and get some sleep for the rest of the ride home the next day.  We spoke to the front desk clerk and asked about restaurants nearby.  We were hoping for a little family run diner with homemade food and as luck would have it, he knew just the the place.   It just turned out that it was the only place nearby and was 10 miles away.  So off we went, in search of Sherry's Diner.  

Again we were confronted with the idea that the locals in small town West Virginia might not be too welcoming of two crazy looking Yankees.  And while you could hear a pin drop when we walked in that door (or if you prefer, you could hear pig squeal and banjos playing), it really turned out nicely.  Our waitress was quite taken with Andi.  She loved her hair, she loved her accent (she's English), loved her purse and just loved her.  It was kind of cute.  I guess there aren't many Brit's hanging around Ghent, West Virginny.  

I ordered chicken and dumplins.  How can you not order something homey and comforting when you're in such a place.  It came with cornbread and two sides.  I got cole slaw and corn.  Andi ordered a chicken pot pie and a side of stuffing.  I'd like to say that everything was homemade and wonderful, but as it turns out, that while the menu said home cooked and the hotel clerk said everything was homemade, that was not the case.  I think the chicken and dumplins was mostly homemade,  and the cornbread was too.  But oddly, the chicken was grilled and then cut up into the dumplings, veggies and gravy, not cooked in it. 

But Andi's chicken pot pie was very clearly made by Marie Callender and her stuffing was made by Stove Top.

But props to them for the dessert.  Unfortunately I don't have a photo because we got it to go and by the time I did sit down to eat it, it didn't look as attractive as it would have if I had eaten it there.  What we got were banana fritters with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream.  There were about 8 fritters in each order.  They were chunks of sliced banana (about an inch thick chunk) battered and deep fried, then drizzled with chocolate sauce.  Andi's fan packed it all up for us and packed the ice cream separately so it wouldn't melt into the fritters by the time we got back to porn town.  That was very sweet of her.  And they were mighty tasty!

The next morning we hightailed it out of the seedy Knight's Inn, did not pass go, did not collect our free continental breakfast.   We were on a mission, again.  This time we would be stopping at Tamarack.  If you don't know of it, when you are driving on 77 through West Virginia, there are about 150 million signs telling you where Tamarack is.  It's a very large place where you can get anything West Virginia you can think of.   They also happen to have a food court there, which I found to be kind of a misnomer.  It was more of a cafeteria.  But a little search online and I found that Tamarack has an award winning breakfast.  Truly.  Tamarack has been named in Saveur Magazine's Top 100 American Eateries, Blue Ridge Country's Best Buttermilk Biscuit and a Regional Favorite from Southern Living.  Yep, that's where we're going!

Tamarack is huge, and quite nice.  You can really spend some time there even though it really is at a rest stop on the highway.  When we got to the food court we both knew what we wanted.  You pick up a tray and stand in line and then the woman behind the counter makes your breakfast to order.  And she is a machine!   Two eggs over easy, bacon, home fries and a biscuit (what?  Did you think I wouldn't get a biscuit that is voted the best!?   Silly!).  We both ordered the same.  And then I saw a big bowl of strawberries and blackberries on the counter and ordered a bowl of them as well.  Andi did too.

This was a hell of a delicious breakfast and adequately washed the ick factor of the Knight's Inn off of us.  The awards are definitely worthy and the biscuit was to die for!  Oh and they serve on Fiesta ware!  Very cool.

And so we continued on our journey.  Both so tired from the whirlwind of 4 days to and from North Carolina.  We were both silent as I drove, zoning out in our own thoughts or no thoughts at all.  Just driving that beautiful drive.  West Virginia is truly beautiful.  The mountains, the trees, the curves.  A really beautiful part of the country   But before we got home, we had one more stop to make.  We had to stop back in Cambridge at Lee's Restaurant again for some pie and some coffee.  And my dutch apple was delicious (Andi informs me that her Coconut Cream was also lovely).

This is apple pie perfection.  The apples were cinnamony and just the right texture.  The pastry was to die for, both the crust and the topping.  If you are in Cambridge, Ohio go to Lee's and get the pie!   

And that my friends, is my adventure down south.  Thanks for reading this far too long post.  I hope you enjoyed it! And btw, Andi... remember that barbecue? ;)