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 :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sloppy Joes, Such Messy Goodness!

As we get more and more away from instant or processed foods, it was time to give Sloppy Joe's a go. How hard could it be? Seasonings, tomato sauce, some onions and garlic... easy peasy. So I just decided to throw caution to the wind and mix together some flavors I thought we would like (and check it out, I wrote down actual measurements that I used while I experimented!). So start out with one medium onion, chopped. I generally use a sweet onion and for right now Vidalia's are still available so that is my onion of choice.

In a big pot with two Tablespoons of oil (I used veg for this), sweat out the onions. That means just lightly cook them until they start to soften but do not brown.

Add two cloves of chopped garlic.

My mom will tell you that garlic has no place in Sloppy Joe's, but she'd be wrong. Garlic has a place in every dish I make.

When the onions and garlic smelling good and look softened. Then add your meat. I used a pound of ground turkey. But if you want beef, by all means, use beef.

Cook and crumble your meat. If you have trouble doing this use the little trick I learned from Rachael Ray, use a potato masher to crumble your meat. It works great!

Once the meat is all cooked, drain out any oil in the bottom of the pan and then add one cup of ketchup and 1/4 cup of yellow mustard.

Let's discuss ketchup for a moment shall we? In my opinion, there is no other ketchup to be had but Heinz. Heinz is the one true ketchup. Hunt's you say? No. Absolutely not. Stokey's? Oh get real! It's Heinz and only Heinz. But if you want to use tainted ketchup, by all means, don't let me stop you. It's your funeral.

To that add two Tablespoons of molasses. Why molasses you ask? Well knowing that some recipes call for brown sugar, I decided that I didn't need too much more sweetness but I wanted the color that it would add. So molasses did the trick. Now it's time for seasonings. One and 1/2 Tablespoons of Cumin.

Yes, that's how I measure it. One teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and two teaspoons of paprika. I also added a dash of cayenne. Just a dash. I don't like things too hot. Stir it well and then let it cook for at least 20-30 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally.

To serve I like to heat my rolls up in and melt some cheddar cheese on the bun. And then pile on the slop!

They were delish! Good bye Manwich, nice knowing ya.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

All Garden (almost) Dinner!

I love to make things straight out of my garden. It's not only the sense of accomplishment at getting my hands dirty and growing actual food, but it also tastes damn good. So while I had some pork chops from the grocery store (raising pigs for slaughter in inner city Akron is probably not something I'm ready to take on), everything else made for this meal was from my garden or someone else's, starting with the marinade for the pork chops.

Thinking pesto sounded good, I made a quick marinade from about (and I'm sorry I'm always saying "about" but I'm not a measurer and I try really hard to approximate how much of each ingredient I'm using so that you can try it yourself) 1/4 cup of basil leaves and 1/4 cup of flat leaf parsley leaves. Added to that is 2 cloves of my very own garlic all in a food processor. OK, fine.. the extra virgin olive oil isn't homemade, nor did I mine the salt or harvest the black pepper. Sue me and then add them to your food processor (1/3 cup oil, salt and pepper to taste). Give it a whirl until it's pesto-like (not completely smoothed into a green liquid but with some substance left). Then slather it all over your pork chops (or chicken breasts or whatever else you have because I'm here to tell ya, this would kick ass on anything!)

Set the chops in the fridge until you're ready to grill. In the meantime, let's work on the side dishes. First up, burgundy beans from my garden. They aren't really burgundy. They're actually more of a deep purple. We like them raw, but we like them steamed too. I do this by putting about 3/4 of an inch of water in pan, bringing it to a boil and then dropping the beans in.

As they cook, they turn green. I think I captured this phenomenon rather beautifully here:

Don't cook your beans too soon, you still have to grill your chops. There's also a salad to make. That consists of my gorgeous heirloom tomatoes (Mortgage Lifters today), cucumbers from a friends garden and basil from mine. I use either basil or mint (or both) in my tomato salads, but since I made the pesto pork chops I decided to stay with that flavor and just use basil. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and that's all you need. Some crusty bread for dipping is a plus.

And that my friends, is an almost all garden meal and it rocked!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

In the Midnight Hour She Cried More More More Zucchini!!!

As I sat pondering one day what I was going to do with the rest of the zucchini and summer squash I still had, I started to wonder how it would be on pizza. If you read my blog regularly you probably already know that my Grandma's pizza dough is my go to dough. It is perfect every single time. Truly. And it's delicious too. Since I've posted how to make it twice, I'll just say that you can find the recipe on the Stromboli blog.

As previously mentioned, zucchini and summer squash contain lots of water so you can't just cut it up and toss it on a pizza all willy nilly or you'll get a blob of mush on top soggy dough. So, slice it up into 1/2 - 3/4 inch slices and then line them up on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.

Some of them look like half moons because I scraped out some of the seeds that were large and annoying to me. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then put in a 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes. Check them, they should look a little drier and they should be browning on the bottom.

At the same time, I decided to roast a Vidalia onion to put on the pizza as well. Just cut off the top, leaving the root end in tact, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and wrap in two sheets of aluminum foil. I use two sheets when roasting onions, shallots or garlic because with just one, sometimes the oil seeps out and burns on the bottom of my stove. Not pleasant.

When the dough is ready, (the recipe is enough for two pizzas... please remember that because I didn't the first time I made it and when my pizza went in the oven, it grew to the size of Texas!), stretch it out over your pizza pan. Since I only made one pizza, I took the second ball of dough and stuck it in the freezer for another day.

From here, brush the dough with some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a fresh herb. I chose thyme because I have it in my garden and it sounded like a good match to the squash. I also have chives from my garden here, but I ended up using them in the salad instead. You can also sprinkle with salt and pepper at this point if you like. Also on the board here, the onions after roasting and chopped.

Then I put my baked squash on top of the dough. Yes, I could have lined them up all nice and neat and made it look perfect, but that's not the kind of cook I am. I like it rustic and messy.

I used two whole (medium sized) summer squash and half of one very large zucchini. It's a lot, but it shrinks in the oven quite a bit. When you have it all on top the dough spread the onions on top of the squash and place in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Check it... is the dough starting to brown on the bottom? If not, let it go for another 5 minutes. After that time, top with cheese. I used provolone, but mozzarella is great too. Bake another 5 minutes until the cheese is nicely melted. And then... oh yum! Seriously. YUM!!!!!

Even More Zucchini!!!

I'm not on zucchini overload yet. Heck I haven't even made one bread! I just keep doing other things with it. Today I made a side dish, roasted potatoes, zucchini and summer squash. There is one thing you really need to keep in mind when you make dishes with zucchini or summer squash in them. They contain tons of water. So cooking times are going to differ depending on just how much water is in them. One way to remove some of the water is to slice the squash and then salt liberally and place in a colander. Let the squash drain for several hours and then quickly rinse or try to blot off some of the salt. Me, I don't usually bother with this step. I just go for the gusto!

So, zucchini and summer squash, cut into about 1/2 to 3/4 inch slice and the quartered. This is that Italian zucchini I got a the farmer's market at Howe Meadow and some summer squash I also bought there.

To this I added some chopped purple scallions

And my favorite potato of all, blues, which are really purple. Very purple, inside and out as you can see!

They aren't just pretty though, they are damn tasty! Mix all of them in a baking dish (I also threw in some Yukon Gold potatoes), drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and the bake in the oven at 375 for about an hour, do not cover it. They take longer than just potatoes would because of the aforementioned water in the squash. You want everything to get browned because, as Food Network chef Anne Burrell says so often, "brown food tastes good." So check it, stir it, shake it, watch it. It's worth it when you get this...

It's really super yummy. Add your fave herb on top when it comes out and enjoy! The squash is all roasted, the onions are pretty much gone but leave behind their flavor and the potatoes are crispy outside, tender and creamy inside.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More Zucchini!

After the reaction I got on FB and elsewhere to my last zucchini recipe, one I almost didn't even post by the way, I figured I would post anything I make with zucchini! This dish is a Carano household staple in the summer. It's one of our faves. Start with a good sized zucchini and a summer squash. Sometimes I'll add a red pepper into the mix, but I didn't today. Just the lovely Italian zucchini I got at the farmer's market, the summer squash and one of those awesome heads of garlic.

Once again, cut your zucchini and summer squash into about 1/2 inch slices.

For the garlic, cut off the top of one head and then place it on a double layer aluminum foil.

Drizzle with olive oil the seal up the foil. You can roast this garlic right on the grill. As an aside, can you believe the beauty of that garlic from the Farmer's Market? Not even a hint of a sprout inside! Gorgeous! (sorry Mom - she's probably got a serious case of the heebies reading me gush about garlic since she hates it so much - yeah, she's Italian. Yeah I know she's anomaly).

Brush both sides of the sliced squash with extra virgin olive oil and then line it up on the grill. You can put the foil wrapped garlic somewhere on the grill too. I find that it's best to turn that garlic on the grill from time to time because if you leave it in one spot without turning it, it will burn on one side. If you want to add a red pepper to this, just put the whole thing on the grill and let it char on all sides. Turn as it starts to char. You want it to get black. When it's all black on every side, remove and let set for a few minutes until you can handle it. Then peel off all the blackened skin, remove the seeds and chop the pepper up.

Depending on the heat of your grill, the squash should take about 5-7 minutes on each side. I'm guessing here because well, I watch mine and when it starts to brown I turn it. I don't really time it. So watch the edges and if it starts to brown, turn them.

We like ours nicely browned, but not blacked/burned.

When you've turned it, go in and turn on your pot of water to boil. You can use any pasta you want.... Rotini, Penne, Rigatoni, Linguine whatever. It's all good. I happen to have linguine on hand so I used that.

Once all the squash is done and the garlic is roasted to a nice softness, it's time to assemble. I cut the squash pieces into quarters (depending on how big it is, you may have to cut it more), basically bite sized. Then squeeze out all the garlic cloves. Mix all the veg and the gar with the pasta when it's done and toss with about 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Top with fresh parsley and basil, and then some Romano or Parmesan.

*sigh* This is my idea of heaven on a plate! If you'd rather make this a side dish instead of a main dish, you can check out a similar blog I did last year, using Orzo pasta.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Zucchini, Baked not Fried

It's zucchini time! I don't grow it because I get so much from other people that I don't need to grow it. And if I don't get it from someone, I can buy it at a farmer's market. This particular zucchini that I used on this day was from my former neighbor who came by to drop it off for me. How nice is that right? She gave me two huge zucchini's. One will most likely become bread, but the other was begging to be breaded. Since I'm really trying get back on my diet, I didn't want to fry it in oil, so I decided to bake it.

First I took the zucchini and sliced it into about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch slices.

From here it's done just the same as you would if you were frying it. Most things I fry I dip in flour first, but didn't feel the need to do this with zucchini. So I went straight to the egg (two beaten eggs) mixed with about a Tablespoon of Dijon mustard.

From there, dip in bread crumbs. Mine are mixture of plain bread crumbs, panko bread crumbs, Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese.

Line them up on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. And then I lightly spray the top of the breaded zucchini with Fabio spray. Wait, you don't know what Fabio spray is? Here, I'll let this explain it for me:

Ever since those commercials started I have called it Fabio spray, so now you know what it is and I bet you'll call it that from now on too!

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes (until lightly browned). If you wish, top with a little provolone or mozzarella.

You won't miss the frying! We didn't :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Move Over GA, SC Has Some Kickin Peaches!

Several years ago we went on a trip with my whole family to Charleston, SC to celebrate my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary. We chose Charleston because it was kind of in the middle between those of us in Ohio and my brother and sister, who had moved to Florida. While there, I discovered the joy of South Carolina peaches. Before this, I had always preferred nectarines. I don't know why, since I don't have an aversion to the fuzz on a peach. I just had my preference and that was that. Then I ate a South Carolina peach and all that changed. It was the best peach I had ever had. It was juicy and not too soft but soft enough that the juice ran down your chin and down your arm and it was so good you wanted to lick your own arm so as not to waste a drop. Since then I seek out SC peaches in our stores. So when my mother in law told us she was going to Myrtle Beach for a few days with my sister in law and her family, I asked her, if it wasn't too much trouble and she happen to see a roadside stand, could she get me some peaches. When they got back, I got the call... "I got you some peaches." Thrilled and excited to bask once again in peach rapture, I headed over to their house to pick them up.

The problem was, when I got them home and actually looked at them, they were kind of past their prime after being jostled around in a hot car for about 10 hours on the trip home. So what can you do but make pie?

I happen to really love Martha's "Our Favorite Pie Crust" recipe so that's what I use. She claims you need a pastry cutter, but I use a fork and it's perfectly fine. This recipe makes one pie crust. So if you want a top crust on your pie you'll have to double it. Start with 1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour mixed with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in a bowl.

Add one stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces.

Now you will need that pastry blender or, like I said, a fork. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Make sure the butter pieces are no larger than the size of a pea.

Sprinkle the mixture with two Tablespoons of ice water and work it through the dough. You want the dough to be able to hold together if you take some in your hand and squeeze it. If it doesn't, then you will need to add more ice water. Add it one Tablespoon at a time. It should look like this:

When you get it that consistency, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a disk about 3/4 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour to firm up.

While the crust is chilling, prepare your peaches for pie heaven! They need to be peeled so you will need a large pot of boiling water. You will also need a large bowl of ice water. I used about 8 peaches of varying sizes. They weren't overly large but they weren't small either. Drop the peaches, about two or three at a time, into the boiling water for about 10-15 seconds.

Take them out after that 10-15 seconds and immediately drop them into the bowl of ice water.

Once they are cool enough to touch, the peels will slip off easily.

Slice the peaches and put in a bowl and toss with a little lemon juice.

By this time, your pie crust is probably ready to be rolled out. Take it from the fridge, unwrap and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough carefully. You don't want to break it and you want it to be as much of a circle as possible. Make sure as you roll, you move the dough around so it doesn't stick to the surface. Add more flour to the board if necessary and make sure you flour your rolling pin. But don't over flour, you don't want a dry crust. The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick.

When you have it in the size you need and know it will fit in your pie plate, roll the dough around your rolling pin.

Gently unroll the dough into your pie plate.

Cut off some of the excess, but not all. With the excess that is left, tuck it under the plate.

From here, if you have more pie crust talent then I, you can do all kinds of fancy stuff to the crust. But since I'm really not very good at that, I just lightly crimp it with a fork.

Now take your peaches and mix them with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and a liberal grind of fresh nutmeg. This isn't any ones recipe, just a mixture I threw together based on how I've seen peach pies made in the past. The mixture will most likely be pretty juicy which is why you need some cornstarch in there to thicken up those juices while it bakes.

For me, you can't go wrong with a streusel topping. I prefer it over a second crust. For an easy streusel topping, combine a half a stick of unsalted butter, softened, with 3/4 cup of flour, 1/4 cup light brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Use your handy dandy fork again to mash it all together and make a crumble. I wanted to add chopped pecans to the topping, but when I went to get them, I discovered I didn't have any. Doh!

Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the pie.

Put the pie on a baking sheet. Trust me, don't skip this step! You do not want to clean peach lava off the bottom of your stove. Bake the pie at 450 degrees for the first 8-10 minutes. Then lower the temp to 350 and bake for another 45-50 minutes.

You can let it cool, or you can eat it warm. You can serve it as is or add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You can do whatever want with it, but now matter how you serve it, it won't last!