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 :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Best Gadget Ever

My Grandma loved gadgets.  If I took her to Bed, Bath and Beyond, she would stand at the gadget wall looking for anything she didn't already have.  Truth be told, she pretty much had them all.  So it is in that spirit that I purchased the Vacu Vin Pineapple Slicer.  I can't remember where I first saw it, but it might have been on America's Test Kitchen.  With apologies to Alton Brown, it really is a uni-tasker.  At least I haven't found another use for it.  But it doesn't matter to me.  And oh, by the way, this is not a paid advertisement or a promo.  I just love this thing is all!

It work on the same principle as a corkscrew for wine.  You have the handle and then three different size slicer/corers for your pineapple.

Cut the top off the pineapple and chose the size slicer/corer you need.  Attach the handle.

Then line up the bottom hole of the slicer/corer over the core and press down hard so the slicer goes right into the pineapple.

Once it's in securely, all you have to is start turning it.  Hold it firmly in one hand and push down and turn. 

You may get some juice bubbling up while you're turning, just tip the pineapple over and dump it into the bowl you're going to put the cut pineapple into.  You don't want to lose that juice!  

Turn it until you get to the bottom of the pineapple.

Now comes the tricky part.  Turn the pineapple sideways and while holding it still, firmly grasp the handle of the slicer/corer and start pulling it out of the pineapple.  There is suction at work here, so it's not as simple as just pulling it right out.  It takes a little effort and at times, the handle will come off.  Just put it back and on resume.   With a little finesse, you'll be able to pull the whole pineapple right out of it's skin.

Take off the handle, flip it over and you have perfect slices of pineapple.

It then slides right off the corer part and you can either make slices (they are already sliced but all attached to each other) or chunk it, or whatever else you want to do with it!   It's the greatest gadget ever!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sugo Italian Bistro

On the occasion of the 18th wedding anniversary.... wait, 18 years?  Seriously?  I'm just going to gloss over that fact and pretend I'm not that old.  So anyway, on the occasion of the anniversary, we decided to give Sugo Italian Bistro in Cuyahoga Falls a try.  Having been to, and loving Chowder House, Chef Louis Prpich's other restaurant, we've been wanting to try Sugo.  This one is in the very able hands of Chef Michael Ferris.   And well, I'm just in love with the name.  Sugo, meaning sauce in Italian, is what my Grandma and my mom always call it when we're having a pasta dinner.  So the name has a special meaning for me.

We arrived at 7:00 pm.  I was surprised to find how small it was on the inside, but so beautiful.  It's all red and black and dim lights.  I loved the interior!

After putting in our appetizer order, we were brought a basket of delicious warm bread and a dipping oil.  The oil had some herbs and pepper in it.  Very nice.  Not too spicy.  Just right.
We started out with the calamari appetizer.  This was not like any calamari I'd had before.  It was so elegant.  A whole calamari stuffed with a sausage/mascarpone mixture.  It is then breaded and fried and served with an arugula salad and a marinara sauce.

It was so incredibly crispy on the outside and juicy and tender inside.   The arugula was a perfect compliment.

The crispy coating did fall off a bit when you cut into it, but who cares!  It was yummy.

Next came our salads.  We both got the house salad, which was a lovely blend of mixed greens, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and Gorgonzola (and I think) Parmesan cheeses in a house Italian dressing.  Very nice!

I was having a hard time deciding between the Chicken Roulade (a chicken breast stuffed with sun dried tomatoes and Boursin cheese, served with roasted fingerling potatoes and a Parmesan cream sauce) or the Roasted Crispy Half Duck (juicy half duck roasted crispy with a honey/thyme glaze and served with roasted vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes).  Something caught my attention on the menu though that steered me more towards the duck, it was the addition of "nom, nom, nom" under it's description!   Seriously, if you add a bunch of "nom's" to your menu, that is probably the favorite item.  And our waitress confirmed it for me when I told her I was hedging between the two.  The "nom's" and the waitresses gushing clinched it, Crispy Duck it is!

And nom nom it was!   Everything was perfect.  The duck was succulent and moist, with a delicious crispy skin.  It was both sweet and a little spicy.  The veggies were flavorful and the garlic mashed potatoes were silky and yummy.

Nick opted for the Veal Medallions.  Called the "Chef's Favorite" on the menu, the veal was tender and juicy and served with roasted vegetables and a pancetta/sage pepper cream sauce.  I don't generally eat veal, but I did have to have a taste and it was out of this world!  And really, I just love a purple spud!

I ended up boxing up half of my duck and didn't think I'd be able to have a dessert myself, but Nick was up for one.  I just had a few bites of his and after having them I wished I had ordered my own!   He ordered the pear, honey and ginger cheese cake.

That is a whole lot of yum!   Not too big, not too small.  Just yummy and perfect.   I think the crust was made of crushed ginger snaps, giving it a really nice ginger bite but otherwise the ginger was mild and not overpowering.  Very good stuff!

Sugo is moderately priced.  Not crazy expensive and very casual.  I'd definitely recommend it and I'd definitely go back!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Luca's Amazing Nutella Pizza

It's pretty well known that I am a big Nutella freak. Anywhere, anytime if Nutella is involved, I'm there.  So when my friend Erica told me that Luca's, the new pizza place in Stow, has Nutella pizza on the menu I knew I had to have it.  And Erica knew I had to have it so she invited me and the man over for dessert and coffee.  Dessert being this very Nutella pizza!   Oh yes, I couldn't wait!

Thinking about it before having it, I wondered what the crust would be like.  I've had dessert pizza's before and they usually use a sugar or shortbread type of cookie as the crust.  But this pizzeria is New York style so I wondered, would they use their regular pizza crust for it?  Maybe with a little sugar added to the dough?   Hmmm the possibilities were intriguing. 

My first look at the pizza made my mouth water.  It was the regular pizza dough, very thin and lightly baked.  I didn't detect any sugar added, and it wasn't needed at all.  After it's baked, it's slathered with Nutella.  For me, that would be enough but Luca's upped the ante by adding some fresh strawberries and bananas and then the pièce de résistance... chopped hazelnuts. 

The pizza was huge!  The dough did not have a hint of brown on it, but it was done enough.  It had a really nice chew to it.  This is not a knife and fork dessert, you have to pick this baby up.  And you're going to want to anyway.  It's irresistible!  If you're a NY style pizza folder, then have it.  You can easily fold this slice.  The Nutella, as always is fabulous.  It's not hot, it's served cold or room temperature.  Although, warm with melty Nutella sounds pretty damn good too... hmmm, I might have to try it that way!  The chopped hazelnuts added the perfect crunchy contrast to the soft fruit, smooth Nutella and chewy crust.

It's simple, but delicious.  I haven't had the opportunity (yet) to try anything else at Luca's, but if this is any indication of the goodness they are putting out, then I won't be disappointed when I do.  And if you find yourself at Luca's for some pizza or a calzone, or something else, make sure you save room for some Nutella pizza!  

Buon Cibo mia Amici

Monday, September 5, 2011

Arancini, At Last

One of the things my Grandma talked about wanting to make but never did was arancini.  I'm not sure why she never made them, or why I never took a day and went to her house to make them with her, but it never happened.  And I thought of them from time to time, how delicious it sounds and how I'd like to make them.  When I see them on a menu, I order them.  So what is arancini you ask?   Having originated in Sicily, it's basically risotto that is shaped into a ball with some fillings in the middle, breaded and deep fried.  In the words of Ina Garten, "how bad can that be?"

Traditionally arancini start with saffron risotto and being the traditionalist I am, I would start with saffron risotto.  To make it, you need one small onion, diced and sauteed in a large pan on medium heat with a Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and a Tablespoon of butter.  

Once the onions have softened and are translucent, add 1 1/2 cups of Arborio rice.  Do yourself a favor and don't try and use regular long grain rice thinking it will work the same.  It won't.  You need a short grain rice like Arborio or don't even bother.   Add a good pinch of saffron.  It's expensive but a little goes a long way.

Stir together and saute for about 2 minutes.   You don't want the rice to brown or anything, but you want it to be nicely coated with the oil/butter.

Add 1/3 cup of white wine to the rice and stir until the wine is evaporated.  You should have another pot going with 5 cups of chicken stock.  I happen to not be able to find chicken stock in my favorite brand Kitchen Basics that week, so I opted for turkey stock.  And I didn't have any of my own available either.  You want to warm the stock but not boil it.  Just heat it gently.  Add one ladle of chicken stock at a time to the rice, stirring and stirring until all the stock is absorbed.  Then add another.   And keep doing this until you get the desired consistency of risotto that you want.  Normally it would take 5-6 cups of stock to get the loose risotto texture that is desired when eating risotto.  But since we are making arancini, you want the consistency a little stiffer.

Check out that color!  That's the saffron at work.   Once the risotto is done, set it aside to cool completely and make your filling.  I've had them with a tomato sauce, a meat sauce, peas, or cheese inside.  I had an idea for what I wanted to fill mine with and that's what I went with.   One pound of Italian sausage (either bulk or removed from the casings) browned with a diced small onion and some basil from my garden.

Once the sausage and onions are nicely and lightly browned, drain any grease off and mix it with the risotto.

Hot damn that looks good enough to eat right now!  But just wait.  Let it all cool completely and wait.  Chill.  You've come this far.  And so I chill.  Once the risotto mixture is cooled, it's time to start the arancini mayhem.  Put a pot on the stove with about 3-4 inches of oil (vegetable, canola, any light oil that has a high smoke point).  That oil needs to get to between 340 and 350 degrees.  I have a candy/deep fry thermometer that came in very handy for this occasion.   It is the first time I've used it for deep frying because I never deep fry.  Ever.   So this should be fun!

While it's heating I cut up the cheese.  Oh yes, there will be cheese.   Fresh mozzarella in fact.  Cut it up into a small dice.  Try not to keep eating it while you do that so there is some left for the arancini.

And now, assembly.   Wash your hands or if you're a wuss, put on some rubber gloves.  Take about 3 Tablespoons, give or take, of the rice mixture and form it into a sort of semi circle.  Then put one of your pieces of diced motz in the middle.

Take a little more of the rice mixture and place it over the cheese and then form the whole thing into a ball.  As you can see, mine fit in the palm of my hand.
Not too small, but not huge either.   A little bigger than a golf ball.  Once they are all formed, it's time to bread them.  Dip them in egg then in bread crumbs.  I'm using Panko.

And this is how many I got from the batch of risotto/sausage.

Look at those cuties.  From here I've washed my hands again, for about the 50th time and then check my oil.  It's ready!
Be careful with this huh?   It's hot freakin oil!  Gently put in three arancini at a time and don't go anywhere.  This goes fast.  Check out the action shot.

You can see they are getting brown really fast.   The temp of the oil shot up right before I put them in and this first batch got very brown in very little time.   But then I was able to get the temp down and things went a little smoother.

The one on the right was from that first batch with the too hot oil.  The one on the left, clearly perfect.   Money shot!

These were absolutely delicious.  The risotto was still creamy.  The sausage added a wonderful depth to the arancini and the cheese, what are you kidding me?  It's fresh motz, it's freakin fantastic anywhere at any time.  Try it.  Make them.  Don't fear the arancini!   You won't be sorry.

Buon Cibo mia Amici

Thursday, August 25, 2011

2011 National Hamburger Festival

It's National Hamburger Festival time again!  The 6th Annual and I think I've only missed one.  Last year it was insanely hot and this year it was only slightly better.  But we prevail for the love of the burger.  As always we go in with a plan to walk the whole festival, scope out who is there and what they are offering and then make our decisions.  It was very noticeably smaller this year.  Less participants.  But the ones that were there were looking good.  I'm good for 3 half burgers, no more.  And that's pushing it.  These aren't little namby pamby burgers that are offered.  They are usually pretty hearty with lots of stuff on them.  So we bought our food tickets, scoped and oddly, Nick and I came to the same decision about our first burger.  We rarely get the same one so we can taste as many as possible.  But Inferno in Medina called to us both, probably for different reasons.  I was interested in the burger, I can't speak for the man, but the Inferno booth did have lots of cleavage.

The Wisconsin Burger was 100% Angus beef topped with Tillamook cheddar, mozzarella and provolone cheeses plus applewood smoked bacon on a pretzel roll.  Oh yes, a pretzel roll!!!  I love a pretzel roll.   And honestly, I didn't even realize the burger was on one.  They had me with the cheeses.

This was a tasty burger.  I would definitely visit Inferno to try others.  And perhaps wear a low cut top so I could fit in.  After this one, we walked around a bit.  I had been eying the Nosh Box truck as my next burger.

I admit, it was mainly for the spectacle of it.  Can you guess which one I was eying?

Yes, it was the burger with mac and cheese on Texas toast. Interesting thing about Nosh Box, they were the best prices of the day.   For 4 tickets ($4) I did get a whole burger.  I thought it would be a half and was pretty surprised when a pretty big whole burger was handed to me.  

The burger was moist but on a whole I wouldn't call this a favorite.  The Texas toast didn't hold up very well and ended up fall apart.  And the mac and cheese was kind of bland and a bit on the mushy side.  It wasn't bad, just not a fave.  

Nick also had been eying a Nosh Box burger.  He opted for one that isn't listed here, it was a Parmesan burger on a ciabatta roll.  

The ciabatta definitely held up better and the burger had a nice crust of the Parmesan.  But now that I've had a burger and a half (my usual limit) I was full and I hadn't even gotten to try Hodge Podge yet!  You may have heard of Cleveland's Hodge Podge truck because they are competing right now in Food Network's Great Food Truck Race.

But first, Nick had his eye on the deep fried cheeseburger.  I saw people walking by with it, and while it was intriguing, after the mac and cheese burger I just couldn't do it.  But Nick, oh yes he wanted it.   So we headed over to Metro Burger of Akron so he could get one.

He really liked it.  I had a taste of it and wasn't crazy about it myself.  The batter that it was fried in was sweetened, not by much, but enough to be off putting to me.  Looks pretty great though!

And so we head back to Hodge Podge.   The Hawaiian burger was in my sights, so I went for it.

And seriously, feast your eyes on this thing of beauty!

Mixed greens, bacon, cheddar and pineapple salsa!   And OMG was this a juicy burger.  I tried to capture a photo of just how juicy it was, but I'm not sure you can really tell...

Unfortunately for me I was too full to have more than one bite... OK maybe two and then Nick had to finish it.  I'm sure he was really broken up about that.   

And that was pretty much our Saturday at the Hamburger Festival.   But wait, Sunday is upon us and my friend Tom over at Exploring Food My Way has two extra tickets and wondered if I could use them.  Well, truth is, Tom had two extra tickets for Saturday that I used and now hell yes!  I'll use them for Sunday too!   Nick wasn't into going again, but I was interested in seeing the Amateur Burger Making contest since Tom was a judge.  So I got my friend Denise and we headed to Burger nirvana!  

This time I was going to take it easy, only one half burgers and maybe a side or a dessert.  Denise's first burger was that Wisconsin from Inferno.  Then we went to watch the amateurs and oddly enough, out of four people who were chosen to compete, only two showed up.  That sucks.  And being as it was such a small turnout, I was able to give the winning burger a try and it was pretty yum. 

As we walked around I noticed that the Hodge Podge Truck had several awards from the day before.  

And so I had to do it, I had to try their duck burger.   Ground duck with mixed greens, goat cheese and a cherry compote.  One bite and I was launched into a flavor spectrum that was simply out of this world!  By far my winner of the two day burger extravaganza.  It was simply delicious.  Tom also had the duck burger and Denise tried the gouda burger.  We all loved our burgers. 

Now I'm thinking dessert.  There was your usual things you find in these kind of festivals... funnel cakes and a whole bevvy of fried stuff.  Stuff like Twinkies, Oreos, Snickers and Buckeyes.  And quite frankly, none of that strikes my fancy.   In fact, I find it kind of gross.  And so gelato was my clear and easy choice!

I'm sure if you know me at all you know I did not get orange!  Hazelnut it is!  And it was yummy.

And so we come to the closing of another Hamburger Festival weekend.  Good bye Barney Fife, it's nice to see you every year (this was Faux FauxBarney.  Definitely not the same one that's been there previous years).

Good bye Goodyear blimp.   What Akron festivities would be complete without you flying overhead?

But wait, not so fast!   The Peanut Shoppe is open!   Being as Denise is not an Akron gal and I don't ever pass up and opportunity to go to the Peanut Shoppe, we went in.  It's probably one of my favorite places in Akron.

When you walk into the Peanut Shoppe, you are literally walking back in time.  It's an old school peanut and candy shop, where everything is measured on actual weighted scales and the candy and nuts all just taste better because they are bought there.   The place is full of Mr. Peanut memorabilia.  It makes you smile just walking in.

If you ever find yourself in Akron, don't miss it.