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, February 26, 2010

Lemony Broccoli Pasta!!!

Ahhh a recipe for you Lenten observers. Being a recovering Catholic myself, I no longer adhere to Lenten observances, but I used to and I know many who still do. So this recipe is very timely in that respect. Plus it's very easy and very yummy. Two big bonuses! So start with the broccoli. I found some gorgeous broccoli last week. It was so fresh the stalks so thin it almost looked like broccolini (which would also be great for this recipe)!

Wash it, and cut it into flowerettes with a nice sized stalk attached. You don't want them too long or too thick. If you have a lot of stalk left, cut those into same sized pieces as your flowerettes. Don't waste them! They are still good. Then place it all in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, give a good stir and put in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Check it after 30, if it's not browned enough, go another 5 - 10 minutes. You don't want it too dark, but you do want it caramelized.

While the broccoli is roasting, you should also be roasting your shallots and boiling your water for the pasta. OK, OK... I know I use shallots a lot. But I love them! They impart such a lovely flavor, especially when roasted. They are sweet and tender and oh, just a whole lot of yum. If don't have shallots or don't like shallots than use garlic and roast it!

Yes, I used three rather large shallots. You don't have to use that much but why wouldn't you? If you got em, use em! To roast, cut off the root end and put the shallots in foil, then drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil over them and close up the foil. You may want to double foil them or what I do is after they wrapped in foil I put them on one of those foil pie tins and put the whole thing in the oven. Sometimes the oil can leak out of your foil and cause bad smells and an ugly mess on the oven floor.

When shallots come out of the oven (same time as the broccoli), cool them enough to touch them and then squeeze them out of their skins and give them a rough chop.

Depending on the kind of pasta you use, you'll need between 7 and 10 minutes before the broccoli and shallots are done to cook the pasta. I am using Barilla whole wheat spaghetti. It takes a little longer than regular spaghetti, but not by much.

So when all the ingredients are done at roughly the same time, oh yes... it can be done, mix them all together. Add salt and pepper to taste and about a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil if there isn't a lot of oil left over in the broccoli pan. You can also add the juice from the bottom of the foil that the shallots were cooked in. Don't waste the yum! You just want to make sure the pasta isn't dry. And wait! Don't forget our lemons! You will need the juice of at least two lemons. If they are juicy lemons, then two, if they aren't real juicy then three. Toss all of this together with some Parmesan cheese and you've got one delicious dinner!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Steak Salad Insanity!

I don't usually like to cook steaks indoors. That's why God made grills. But I had a steak in my freezer and it kept calling to me to do something with it. So why not make a salad out with it? So start with a screaming hot cast iron skillet. When the butter does this the second you put it in the pan, then THAT is screaming hot!

That is two Tablespoons of butter and about a Tablespoon of canola oil. Then put in your steak, add salt and pepper.

This goes fast... really fast so don't wonder off and don't start anything else. After 3-4 minutes, turn that steak!

Look at that caramelized yumminess on that steak! The crust! Oh it's perfect. After another 3-4 minutes, take the steak out of the pan, onto a plate and put a foil tent over it to keep it warm while it rests. That is if you want it medium rare. If you want it more well done keep it in the pan another minute on each side. But seriously, why would you want to do that?

While the gorgeous slab of beef rests, it's time to make the salad. I'm not an iceberg kind of gal. I like interest mixes of lots of different lettuce so a spring mix usually does the job.

Then just add whatever you have that you want to put in there. I had some already cut and cleaned cauliflower, so that went in. As well as some radishes, scallions, peppers and croutons.

After tossing and dressing your salad with the dressing of your choice (I use a classic vinaigrette mixture of 1/4 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper) then it's time to slice up your lovely steak. And check out how lovely it is! It came out perfect.

Then put it over the top the salad and oh, enjoy heaven!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An Eggroll Would Sure Be Good Right About Now

Every Chinese New Year, Marc's (a NEOH chain of discount stores) gets in all kinds of good stuff. Bok Choy, Napa Cabbage, all kinds of different tofu's, egg roll and won ton wrappers, etc. And every year, I must buy the Bok Choy. This year was no exception.

Unfortunately, it was a touch past its prime when I bought it so I really needed to use it up fast. I decided to make a stir fry. I had chicken tenderloins in the freezer, the bok choy, some sweet peppers, carrots, scallions, rice... ok. I can throw this all into a pretty decent stir fry. I started with the bok choy, cleaned and chopped.

Then I put it in my biggest frying pan (because believe it or not, I do not have a wok. I think I need to remedy that) with some olive oil. I probably should have used veg oil, but I'm so used to reaching for the olive oil, so I grabbed it. I let the bok choy cook for a few minutes then added some chicken broth to the pan so it could simmer.

Then it was time to chop up everything else.... carrots, peppers, chicken, scallions.

And in the meantime I got the rice cooking. You may or may not remember that I tend to use jasmine rice. I put 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter in the bottom of the pan and saute 1 cup of rice with 1/4 cup of slivered almonds. After the rice and almonds saute for a few minutes (before they brown), I add 2 cups of chicken broth and let simmer until it's done and all the liquid is absorbed. After it's done I added three chopped scallions to the rice.

In the other pan, the bok choy is simmering away with the carrots and peppers (add more chicken broth if the pan starts to dry out). In another pan (ugh, too many pans!) I am browning the chopped chicken tenderloins. When they are just browned on both sides, I add one Tablespoon of brown sugar and 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar to the pan and let it cook with the chicken for a few minutes. This gives a nice sweet and sour flavor to the chicken.

Then put the chicken in the pan with the veggies and simmer with about a cup of chicken broth.

From here it doesn't really need to simmer much longer. Just until the chicken is completely cooked. Then add the finished rice to the veg/chicken. If there is still a lot of broth, you may want to thicken your sauce with a slurry of one Tablespoon of corn starch and 2-3 Tablespoons of water, stirred together. You don't have to mix the rice and veg/chicken though. You can just serve the veg/chicken over the rice if you prefer. But I like to have my rice sauced too, so I mix them.

And enjoy!

And doh! I realized today that I had ginger root in my freezer! That would have been a nice addition to this stir fry! Urgh.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Giant Yum Factor!

I heart jasmine rice. I use it almost exclusively (unless I'm making risotto of course). I can sometimes even find brown jasmine but it's not as readily available as white jasmine. I'm always looking for a new way to make rice too. I got to thinking about how rice would taste made with coconut milk. I actually kept coming back to this thought over and over again over a course of time but kept stopping myself because Nick does not like coconut. But I decided I had to try it so I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a can of coconut milk. I was pretty happy to find that Thai Kitchen sells a lite variety of coconut milk that has 65% less fat and 60% less calories than regular. Who'd a thunk!?

It's very easy to find in any ethnic food aisle at the grocery store. I started out like I always start out my rice dishes... 1-2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter in the bottom of your pan, when melted add 1 cup of dry rice and saute the rice for a minute or so. Shake that can of coconut milk very very good before you use it. The ratio for one cup of dry rice is 2 cups of liquid. The can contains 1 and 3/4 cups of coconut milk so I used 1/4 cup of chicken broth to supplement it. Then added a teaspoon of course sea salt.

Because I had them on hand from the night before, I took out my leftover sauteed plantains and chopped them up to add to the rice.

I added them about halfway through the cooking process. It doesn't take long for the rice to cook and you can just see how creamy and delicious it's going to be.

I served it along side chicken burritos (chicken tenderloins, sauteed with diced tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, scallions and chilies in a whole wheat tortilla).

This rice was so delicious and like nothing I had ever tasted before. It was creamy and kind of dense. More so than when just making rice with broth or water. The texture was different too. It was really yummy. But did Nick like it? Well when he saw it, he immediately knew I did something different just by how the rice looked. He asked what I did and I said, "why don't you taste it first and then I'll tell you." He did. He's a pretty fearless eater. He loved it. I don't think you could really pinpoint a coconuty taste to the rice. Why not give it a try for something a little different? And don't worry about the plantains if you can't find them. I think it would be delish without them too!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ricotta Walnut Pesto!

How amazing does that sound? Pretty darn amazing right? RIGHT! It was a Saturday morning and I was watching all my favorite PBS shows... America's Test Kitchen, Cook's Country, Ciao Italia, Avec Eric, Julia and Jacque and of course, Lidia's Italy. It was on Lidia's Italy that Lidia Bastianich was making this wonderful sounding dish. Of course I changed it up a little. Start out with 2 cups of walnuts and 5 cloves of garlic. Pulse them in the food processor (or chop by hand) until they are small pieces but not powdered.

The put them on a cookie sheet and roast at 350 for about 15 minutes. Check them because there is nothing worse than a burnt nut. Once you start to smell them roasting, they should be done or close to it. You can shake the pan around a little to make sure the nuts and garlic are roasting evenly. I don't think Lidia did this step but my thinking was that since this mainly a sauce that is not cooked, the garlic and nuts being roasted can only add another level to it. And I'm not real crazy about raw garlic.

While the nuts are roasting, get a large pot of water boiling for your pasta. I used Gemelli this time. In a large bowl, take a big handful of fresh parsley, chopped. It ends up being about 1/3 cup of parsley. 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. 3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and do not forget to salt and pepper this! This can easily end up kind of bland. You really need to make sure you season the sauce and the pasta water.

Then add one 15 oz. container of ricotta. If you can get fresh, by all means do so. Around here, it's not always easy to come by. And being on a lighter eating regime, I opted for part skim ricotta. Mix all the ingredients together.

By this time the walnuts are probably done so remove them from the oven and allow to cool a little.

Once the pasta is done, reserve some of the cooking liquid just in case your sauce ends up being too thick. And then mix the pasta with the sauce. Add some water if necessary.

And then mix in the walnuts.

It's really wonderful. I had leftovers for several days and the nuts never got soggy.