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 :)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ahh Summer Tomatoes and Panzanella Salad!

The tomatoes are abundant! This year I grew seven different varieties of heirloom... Brandywine, Yellow Brandywine, Pink Caspian, Black Sea Man, Green Zebra, Red Zebra, and Pruden's Purple. Well it turned out my Pruden's Purple plant is actually another Brandywine, but that's OK.

My usual tomato salad consists of tomatoes, cucumbers (from someones garden if I have them, if not, the English variety) and my own basil or mint. Nick and I have discovered that we like mint in our tomato salad just a touch more than we like the basil. But both are delicious. Then a sprinkling of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and enjoy! We have this every day when our tomatoes are ripe.

But yesterday, I decided to make a Panzanella Salad. It's a salad I love, and cannot find in too many restaurants. The dearly departed Serpico's on State Rd in Cuyahoga Falls had it on their menu and made it exactly how I wanted it. Not many restaurants will do that for you.

My Panzanella consisted of a big juicy Brandywine tomato, chopped fresh Mozzarella cheese, chopped fresh basil and cut up chunks of a delicious Ciabatta bread (Northeast Ohio folks, keep your eyes on that Orlando "Oops" rack in Marc's stores - I've gotten delicious Ciabatta loaves, french breads and OMG out of this world Asiago loaves!).

If I had to guess on proportions of the dressing I would say 2 Tablespoons of balsamic and 3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. But honestly I just pour. Salt and pepper as you wish and toss. Once the salad is mixed, let it sit for a few minutes so the juices of the tomato combine with the dressing. Before serving, toss in your bread chunks. The dressing soaks into the bread and oh so delish! Don't do this too much before serving or you run the risk of soggy bread. It's still yummy, don't get me wrong. But it's better if it's still a little firm, I think so anyway.

Unfortunately my finished product picture came out blurry. I but hopefully you can still get the idea of it's juicy fresh deliciousness.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Raisins, Two for the Price of One

My father in law has asked me from time to time to make him rice pudding. He said no one ever makes it anymore and he loves it. I've never made it before, but I thought I would give it a try. I found some recipes, and as I usually do, took the things I liked out of several to create my own. I started out with a short grain white rice, arborio is good. One of the recipes said to bring 4 cups of water to a boil and then add 1 cup rice and cook for two minutes. I decided to give that a try and it worked out well. Blanching the rice seems like the way to go here.

Once that is done, or while it's cooking actually, heat up 4 cups of milk. I suggest you use whole milk for this. I don't know how it would turn out if you used a lower fat content of milk. You do not want the milk to boil at this point, just warm it. The the milk add the flavorings of your choice. My choice was vanilla extract, a little cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg.

When the rice is done blanching, turn the heat up on the milk some and let it get to a very light boil, then add the rice to the milk. Cover and simmer on a very low heat for 30-45 minutes. If you have a gas stove, as I do, you may want to check on the rice several times and give it a stir. I can never seem to get my flame low enough no matter how low it is!

After 40 minutes or so (it should be thick and creamy), add half a cup of sugar and stir well. Then turn off the heat. Add 3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter and stir to incorporate completely. After the butter is mixed in, add 2 egg yolks, one at a time, mixing each one into the rice completely. Then add in your raisins. I used about 3/4 cup.

This really isn't pretty too look at, but it tasted absolutely delicious! Nick and I were both very pleasantly surprised by how yummy it was.


4 cups whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
dash nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup short grain rice (like arborio)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 egg yolks

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add rice and cook for 2 minutes, drain. In the meantime, heat 4 cups of whole milk with the vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. When rice is drained, turn up the heat and bring milk to a very light boil. Add rice and stir. Cover and simmer on a very low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 30-40 minutes, stir in sugar until completely incorporated. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter until completely melted. Then add one egg yolk at a time and stir completely after each yolk. Serve warm.

And since I had to buy raisins for the rice pudding, I decided to make some oatmeal raisin cookies too. I did not have enough butter to make the recipe I usually make so I had to search. I found a great recipe on the Simple Recipes blog that used all shortening, no butter. I wouldn't usually make a recipe that is all shortening since I prefer butter but in this case I made the exception. The blog was so great, and reminded me so much of the recipes I have that are handwritten by my own Grandmother.

This recipe is SO simple it's not even funny! Start out by creaming the shortening with brown and white sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

Sift the dry ingredients together... flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.

Add to the creamed shortening and sugar mixture and mix well. Then add your raisins and nuts if desired. I used pecans because I had them on hand. Then add the oats last, mixing them in by hand.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls or with a tablespoon cookie scoop, and place on greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Leave on sheet for about 2 minutes after they come out of the oven, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Grandma's Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
3 cups oats (you can use quick or old fashioned, but not instant!)
3/4 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins

Cream shortening and sugars, add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

Sift flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Add to first mixture and mix well. Add raisins and nuts. Add oats last, stirring in by hand.

Spoon by rounded tablespoonfuls on to a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Leave on sheet for 2 minutes after coming out of the oven, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Stromboli? Calzone? Call it what you will!

Do I call this Stomboli? Or Calzone? Or sausage bread? Or fold over pizza? I don't know. I guess it could be called any of those things. I just call it yummy! Looking around at what I had in the house yesterday I decided I had to make use of some zucchini my in laws had given me, the sausage I made with my Grandma and Mom a few months ago, and whatever else I could find in the house or in the garden.

I decided I wanted to make a dough and wrap all these amazing ingredients up in it. So I made my Grandma's delicious pizza dough.

1 1/2 teaspoons of dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 1/2 - 3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil

Proof the yeast by placing it in the bowl of your mixture with 1/2 cup of warm water and let sit for about 10 minutes.

After that time, add the other cup of warm water and combine well. Add 3 cups of flour, salt and olive oil and mix with a dough hook.

When all combine, and the dough comes off the sides of the mixing bowl (you may need to add more flour), put in a well oiled bowl and let rise for 2 hours. This dough is enough for two pizzas.

So, while the dough is rising now is the time to put together everything else. I've got the sausage... sadly, the last of the sausage. I have the zucchini that I decided to shred.

What else? I went out to the garden and picked the leek I had been growing as well as some tomatoes and herbs.

What we have here (tomatoes - front to back) is a Black Sea Man, a Red Zebra and a Caspian Pink. Also we have mint, sweet basil and opal basil. And behind all that is the leek I guess I left in the ground too long! It was huge!!!

So, I crumbled the sausage and sauteed it with the shredded zucchini and chopped leek, with a little pepper. I do not add salt to this because the sausage has plenty of salt in it. You need to cook this until all the water that comes out of the zucchini cooks out.

For the second one, I again crumbled the sausage and sauteed it with chopped leek and spinach. The spinach was bought, but I had it and it needed to be used up. Again, you need to cook this until all the water that comes out of the spinach cooks out. You don't want soggy bread!

With both fillings done, and the dough nicely risen, it was time to stuff! Oh my, this is getting exciting! I spread the dough out on a lightly oiled baking sheet and then put the filling on and sprinkled with some basil from the garden and little mozzarella cheese.

Then I folded up the dough and vented it a little on top and brushed with a little olive oil.

It then goes into a 425 degree oven. And comes out looking like this!!

I served it with the rest of my garden treasures... the tomatoes, a cucumber from my brother's garden, and my mint with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

If you want you can make a marinara dipping sauce for the bread, but quite frankly, it didn't seem necessary to us. The bread was absolutely delicious!

Martha does me proud with peanut butter ice cream

Martha Stewart's recipes don't always turn out how she says they should. I don't know why that is, but it is. Not this time though. When I saw the recipe for Peanut Butter Ice Cream in the July issue of Living, I knew I would have to make this for Nick. The man is a peanut butter freak. But if you decide to make this recipe, be prepared because it's a bit of a process. And do not forget to freeze your ice cream maker insert!

You start out by heating the cream and the milk with a cup of cocktail peanuts. As you can see from the photo, I used Spanish peanuts because that was what I had on hand.

Once bubbles start to form, remove the pan from the heat, cover and let steep for 3 hours at room temperature. Or if you prefer, you can do this part the day before and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

After it has steeped (or the next day), reheat the mixture until it's hot, but not boiling. In the meantime, in a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt together.

When the peanut mixture is hot, remove from the heat and slowly and steadily whisk it into the eggs and sugar in a steady stream. If you don't have someone available to help you either do the whisking or the pouring, you can do what I did and put a kitchen towel under the bowl so it doesn't move while you pour and whisk at the same time. Who knew I was so coordinated! I sure didn't. When the peanut mixture is all incorporated into the egg mixture, return it to the saucepan and put the heat back on.

Stir constantly over medium heat. You do not want to let this come to a simmer but you do want it to thicken up just enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Now that it's thickened, strain out all the solids with a very fine sieve and pour into a bowl. It seems like a sin to discard all those nuts, but that's what you have to do with them. And quite honestly, when you see how soggy and gross they look, you won't mind tossing them out anymore. Place the bowl in an ice water bath. All that means is to get a bowl bigger than the one your mixture is in and fill it half way with ice and water. Then set the whole bowl with the ice cream mixture into the bowl with the ice water. Stir in the vanilla and then stir occasionally until the mixture is cold. This should take about 20 minutes or so.

From here, follow the instructions on your ice cream maker. Mine is Cuisinart and it only took about 20 minutes to get to the consistency needed, which is of very soft ice cream. Once it gets to this stage, fold in a cup of your favorite peanut butter. It could be smoothy or chunky but the recipe recommends that you not use natural peanut butter because the texture doesn't work as well. I'm very glad it said that in the recipe because I love my natural peanut butter and probably would have used it. Then I'd be blaming Martha again for steering me wrong!

You can dig in right then if you like your ice cream kind of melty. But I transferred mine to one of those handy dandy plastic won ton soup containers I love so much and froze it for a little while. It makes about a quart and a half. The peanut flavor of the ice cream is wonderful and the peanut butter swirled inside the ice cream just makes it that much better. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup salted cocktail peanuts
6 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter

Heat cream, milk and peanuts in a medium saucepan over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges. Remove from heat, cover and let steep at room temperature for 3 hours (or refrigerate overnight).

Prepare and ice-water bath. Uncover cream mixture, and reheat until hot but not boiling. Whisk yolks, sguar and salt in a large bowl. Add cream mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until well combined. Return mixture to saucepan, and stir constantly over medium heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 8 minutes). Do not let the mixture come to a simmer.

Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. Discard solids. Set the blow in the ice water bath. Stir in vanilla and let cool, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes.

Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Transfer to a large bowl and fold in peanut butter until ice cream is swirled. Use immediately or freeze for up to 1 week.