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, May 29, 2009

A Variation on an Old Fave

I think it's pretty much a given at this point that I love brownies. I specifically love Nick Malgeri's Supernatural brownies, as witnessed here and here. Well I couldn't help myself, I had to try to come up with yet another way to mess with them. This time... mint.

I wanted to incorporate a nice mint flavor that wouldn't be too overpowering so I went to and old favorite of mine, Andes Mints.

Once you make the brownie batter (you will find the recipe by following the links above), pour half into your prepared 9 x 13 pan and then line up the mints over the batter.

Two boxes of mints was the perfect amount. I didn't even get to sneak one while I was doing all that unwrapping (56 mints in all). Then pour the rest of the batter over the top of the mints and smooth out. You can't even see the mints after you do this and will end up being a nice little surprise when they are done.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350. The brownie aroma is intoxicating!

They came out just as I had hoped, delicious and slightly minty but not overpowering. Some of the mints completely melt and disappear into the batter, so do not. YUM!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's Smoker Season!

Ever since the weather broke, and it really really did finally break, I've been dying to get out my smoker. You may recall that last time I smoked a few times. I did a pork shoulder and ribs. This year I was determined to do a beef brisket. Well that day was finally here on Memorial Day, just this past Monday. I bought a small brisket (about 4 and a quarter pounds) because it was only going to be Nick and I.

I decided to dry rub it and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Unfortunately I cannot be too precise for you with my dry rub because I started with a base that was already mixed for me. It was a pepper kind of seasoning blend that a friend gave me in a bag so I don't know the name of it. At any rate, I started with that, added about 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and then just eyeballed the rest of the things I threw in (probably about 2 Tablespoons each). I added cumin, dry mustard (smaller amount of that), kosher salt, paprika and garlic powder.

I rubbed it all over the brisket, front and back and then put it in the fridge, covered, overnight.

I had read online that brisket takes about an hour per pound on a smoker. I probably will up that figure to an hour and a half per pound. I kept it on for a little over four hours.

When we lift that lid off the smoker, every time it's like a glorious revelation. I always hope to hear a chorus of "ahhh!" from the heavens. The aroma is insane. The meat looks beautiful. And we can't ever wait to get it in the house and dig in. This time was no exception.

The bark on the outside was nice and dark. I let it set for about 15 minutes. 15 minutes of torture mind you, as we circled that brisket like we'd never eaten before in our lives. And when I started slicing it, we couldn't keep out hands off it! Nick even said, "we're just going to end up eating it all before we even sit down at this rate." So we calmed down, I started to slice it on the diagonal and plated it up.

I served it with a pretty standard macaroni salad I make and some baked beans (that I didn't make).

It was juicy, tender and delicious. But I did think it needed a longer cooking time. I put it in a low oven the next day for 2 hours and it was even better!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Composting for Dummies

I've been known to get a bee in my bonnet and then have to do whatever it is that is buzzing around my head. This particular time I decided we should be composting. I didn't want to make a really big deal out of it, and I couldn't build a compost bin for my small yard. So I did a little bit of research online and very quickly came upon this site with it's very easy directions for making a garbage can compost bin. I realized right away that this was doable immediately because I had everything I needed on hand.

So start with a garbage can and drill holes in it all around and on the bottom of the can.

Find a good out of the way place to put the can (mine is behind my garage) and then prop it up on bricks or whatever you have that can serve this purpose. We used leftover glassblock we had sitting in the garage.

Under the can, put a little disposable pie tin. This will catch the water that comes out of the compost barrel and you can use it to water your plants. Granted you won't get much from that little tin, but it's all good.

Add about 3 inches or so of dirt to the bottom. I used Miracle Gro Organic Garden Soil, but I think you can just use dirt from your yard.

To that add a layer of what is called "browns." This is newspaper, or shredded paper. Things of this nature. I just happen to have a big bag of shredded paper on hand. Nick and I recently bought a shredder so we've been shredder happy.

Now it's time to add "greens." And this is any trimmings for fruit, vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds... things of this nature. The day I started my little compost project, I had a pineapple to cut, some bell peppers and strawberries. Because pineapple is so hard and course, I chopped up the skin in small bits so it would break down quicker. This goes over the top of the paper.

DO NOT use any kind of dairy or meat products. And no fats of any kind.

And to that, add another layer of dirt, sprinkle with water, put on the lid and viola! You (and I) are now composting!

You should mix it up once a week. And whenever you add more "greens" add more "browns" and more dirt. Easy peasy... .if it actually works! I'll let you know in about 6-8 weeks if it is!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Oh No She Didn't!!!

Oh yes she did.

I decided to use up a few things I had in my pantry that I bought for something I never ended up making or bought in the hopes of using it for something and never did, or what have you. Looking at these things I did the only logical conclusion I could come to was cookies.

So I turned to Martha. Martha has a pretty decent peanut butter cookie recipe and it seemed like peanut butter cookie would make the best base for what I had in mind. So start out with two sticks of softened butter and cream that with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

Beat until pale and fluffy. Add one egg and mix well. Then add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 cup of smooth peanut butter. I used smooth because I had it, but I see nothing wrong with using chunky.

For the dry ingredients, sift together 1 and 1/4 cups of flour with 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda. Add this to the peanut butter mixture and mix until just combined.

OK, now the good stuff. To the cookie base I added one 4 oz. bar of Nestle Chocolatier (bittersweet), cut into chunks.

One cup of peanut butter chips.

And three Butterfinger bars, cut into chunks.

Oh. My. God.

Mix everything together quickly so as not to break the chunks of chocolate or Butterfinger too small.

Then scoop out with a cookie scoop or if you don't have one of those, roll into about one inch size balls and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. There is no need to press them down with a fork like you would with regular peanut butter cookies. These spread out all on their own.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, then when you remove them from the oven, let them sit in the tray for about 5-8 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.

They are crispy but still chewy and soft.

They are sweet, but not unbearably so. They are oh so very yummy!!!!

Peanut Butter Cookies (ingredient list)
courtesy of Martha Stewart's Cookies

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup salted peanuts