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 :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's My Birthday and I'll Muffaletta if I Want To.

It might be one of the most perfect foods. Then again, I might say that about anything that has olives in it. A Muffaletta, if you're not familiar, is an Italian sandwich that was created in New Orleans. It's usually made on a crusty round loaf of bread, but I'm using a long one this time. It usually contains various kinds of Italian lunch meats and cheese and then is topped with a spread made of olives, garlic, roasted peppers and all kinds of yumminess. So let's start with the olives. I use pitted Kalamata (although you can pit them yourself if you like).

Then use a large green olive. I don't really have a preference, just whatever is looking good at the olive bar that day.

I used a roasted sweet pepper... you can roast them yourself or use the jarred variety. In this case I use the jarred kind. They work perfectly! Today I have yellow.

This all goes in the food processor with some extra virgin olive oil (just enough to keep the mixture together but not be too wet) and I'd like fresh parsley, but I didn't have any today so I used some dried oregano and dried basil. Pulse it slowly until it's just chopped and mixed (zebra bowl is optional).

Then take your bread and cut it in half lengthwise. I like to dig out some of the bread from the top so the olive spread has a nice little cubby to nestle itself into. And then put the spread on that side of the bread. You can use as much or as little as you want. If you have some leftover, mmmm bruschetta.

And now it's time to add the meat! You can use whatever varieties of meat you want... capicola, mortadella, pepperoni, salami, ham, whatever you like. I just happen to have some ham leftover from earlier in the week so I used that as well as capicola and mortadella.

Then comes the provolone. If you don't like provolone, by all means use mozzarella. After you put the cheese on, carefully... very carefully, put the top of the bread over it. Then wrap it in plastic wrap, tightly, and place in the fridge. It should stay in there a couple hours so the olives have time to seep into every crevice of that bread.

Take it out about half an hour before you are going to eat it, unless you like it cold, then this step is not necessary. Enjoy!!!

What would I do differently if anything? I might cut it down to 1 or 2 cloves of garlic instead of the three I used. This particular garlic is really strong and kind of spicy. If the garlic is milder, I'd go with three. I'd also pull out some of the bread on the bottom half. But oh yes, the muffaletta is delish!!!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cranberries, it's only the beginning

I have recently discovered that I have 4 bags of fresh cranberries that I had put in my freezer. I guess they were on sale during the holidays and I bought them repeatedly and forgot. You know what this means don't you? It means I'm going to be making a lot of things with cranberries in them! Please share with me your cranberry recipes... the more the merrier!

To start off I made Cranberry Streusel Muffins. I searched recipes and, as often happens, I did not find exactly what I was looking for. Why is it that most recipes for anything cranberry call for orange too? YUCK! I absolutely hate anything with orange in it. Not the color mind you, the flavor of an orange makes me shudder, and the smell is even worse. Ack, I'm giving myself the heebies just talking about oranges! I know I can leave out the orange or substitute lemon, but it becomes a mission to actually find a recipe that doesn't have orange in it.

The recipe I actually ended up using is a variation on a recipe for Apple Streusel Muffins. Make the streusel topping first by combining 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup chopped pecans and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon. Set aside.

For the muffins, sift together 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon. To that, cut in 1/4 cup of vegetable shortening until it resembles fine crumbs. Combine 1 egg (slightly beaten) with 1/2 cup of milk and add the whole thing to the flour mixture and mix until it's all incorporated. This is a very thick batter. Add 1 cup of fresh or frozen cranberries and mix.

Spoon the batter into paper lined muffin pan, filling each about 2/3 full.

Sprinkle the top of each muffin with the streusel topping.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

This recipe makes 12 muffins.

Cranberry Streusel Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup shortening
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 cup cranberries


1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender (or fork) until it resembles fine crumbs. Combine egg and milk. Add to dry ingredients all at once and stir until just combined. Stir in cranberries. Spoon batter into paper lined muffin cups, filling about 2/3 full. Sprinkle each with some of the streusel topping. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Garlic Rosemary Focaccia - What's not to love?

I have a customer who is in deep lust with my Garlic Rosemary Focaccia Bread. It happened quite by accident. Hey, isn't that how all the good ideas start? Anyway, Nick's office has a monthly luncheon at the end of the month for employees. I was hired to make the bread for the lunch a few months ago and made several trays of the focaccia. One of Nick's fellow employees loved it so much, she ordered her own tray. And then ordered it again. And then again. And then again! She even ordered it for her family Christmas party. You're probably wondering why they don't hire me to do the whole lunch each month. That sure would be nice, but they can't afford it. Usually the employees make a bunch of stuff and they buy a few things.

Focaccia is a process. It's not something you can just whip up in an hour. It is SO worth the effort though. A Kitchen Aid mixer is your friend for this recipe. You start by making a sponge, which is just another way of saying a dough starter. It consists of yeast, warm water and flour, mixed together with the dough hook on your mixer. The sponge needs to rise for one hour (place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and then a towel). When it's risen it pretty much looks like a sponge, thus the name. But before it's done rising, that is when you begin to make the dough. Again, yeast, warm water, flour, but to the dough you also add some olive oil and salt. Get the dough well mixed and then add the sponge to the mixer and mix together. It's also at this point that I add about 3 Tablespoons or so of chopped fresh rosemary.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and then a towel and let rise until it doubles in size. That usually takes about an hour. If you have good yeast, it could go faster, but don't rush this process! Let it rise, and in the meantime you can roast your garlic. A lot of recipes I have seen for Rosemary Garlic Focaccia Bread use raw chopped garlic. But I didn't like that. The garlic can burn and get bitter. Instead I roast a whole head of garlic (instructions below). After it's cooled enough to handle, take the roasted garlic and squeeze the cloves out of their skin and into a bowl. Mash them with a fork and add about a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil, a teaspoon or so of salt (I use kosher) and about 3-4 Tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary. I'm sorry I'm not exact with this (I'll try to be more exact in the recipe below), but I do it mostly by sight. I like my mixture to not be too thick but not too runny either. There should be enough to spread on top of the whole bread, which at this point is ready to be put onto a cookie sheet (one with sides). Spread it out with your hands, into the corners of the pan and then let rise for a third time in the pan. Again, most recipes I've come across don't call for a third rising, but I find this really makes a lovely bread. Once it's risen for about 45 minutes or so, take your finger tips and make little indents in the top of the bread. You do not want to poke through the bread, just make little cups that will catch your lovely topping. Take a brush and brush the topping onto the dough.

It may look oily to you at this point, but don't worry. All that olive oil will seep into the bread as it's baking, and the garlic will keep it's lovely roasted flavor. Bake it at 400 for about 20 minutes. But keep an eye on it. If the bottom starts to brown too much, take it out. Try to resist eating it immediately when you take it out because it will be hot! But a few minutes should be sufficient. Enjoy!

Rosemary Garlic Focaccia Bread


1 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour


1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil


1 head of garlic, roasted
1 tsp. salt
3-4 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
4-5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Put sponge ingredients in the bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix until well mixed. Remove from bowl and knead for 3-4 minutes, adding more flour if dough is too sticky. Place sponge in lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise for about 1 hour.

For the dough, follow the same instructions as for the sponge, but add the sponge to the mixture before kneading. Knead for 4-5 minutes, adding more flour if dough is too sticky. Place sponge in lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise until dough doubles in size.

Once risen, put dough on a cookie sheet with sides and push dough into the corners with your fingers, until if fits inside the whole pan. Cover with plastic wrap, then a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.

In the meantime, take a head of garlic and cut off the top so that the cloves are exposed. Don't cut off too much, just enough so that the tips are cut off - discard them or use them in something else you're making. Using aluminum foil, double it up and then put the garlic, stem side down - cut side up-on the foil and drizzle with olive oil. Cover with the foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until garlic is softened and roasted through. When garlic is cool, squeeze out the cloves into a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the oil, salt and oil.

When the dough has risen it's third time, make small indents all over the dough, being careful not to poke through the dough and then brush the garlic/rosemary mixture all over the dough. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes.

The Non-Food Blog - Tree Tragedy

We have had our Christmas tree up since the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We probably would have taken it down yesterday, but it was moving day for Mom and Dad so we decided to put it off one more week. Well, I wish it was going to be another week. But at 6:30 am yesterday morning, Nick came and woke me up and said, "Kath, I need your help." In my sleepy delirium I said, "The trees down isn't it?" Yep. It was. How did I know? Because Nick only wakes me up with those kinds of words when something really bad happened (the last time lightning hit our neighbors tree and the tree fell on our car in our driveway). I just knew.

Last year and this year we tied the tree to the window frames with clear fishing line. We thought this would be the best solution with new kittens in the house, so that the tree won't fall if they get curious. Well you may remember that last year Murphy climbed both of our trees several times. This year, he never did. Not once. Until Saturday morning. Granted, I have no proof it was him, but previous behavior and a suspiciously injured (nothing serious) paw tell me otherwise.

Here it is, er was:

The tree stand is hopelessly bent. It cannot be fixed, we could not stand the tree back up. We picked ornaments off as best we could, while it was still on it's side. Then I had to hold it up while Nick took off all the lights and we took the tree apart. It was strongly wedged into the window, but miraculously did not break the glass or damage the wood. Nor did any of the lights break and only one ornament (a very small one) broke.

I don't know... do you believe them? I don't! Murphy's eyes alone (he's on the right) tell a very different tale! LOL

So... while we didn't plan on taking it down yesterday, it came down anyway. It took us about 2 and a half hours to get it all put away (we haven't done other decorations yet), then had to immediately get ready, pack up the car and get mom and dad back to their home! What a day!