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, March 21, 2011

Don't Fear the Broccoli Rabe

Have you ever been at the grocery store and spotted something that looks kind of like broccoli, but the florets aren't tight and there are a lot of leaves on it?  Well pick it up and put it in your cart!   It's Broccoli Rabe (also known as Rapini) and this slightly bitter green is one of the best things ever.  Both in taste and for your health.  It should be perky, not wilty, with sturdy florets and clean firm green stems. 

Sauteed in some olive oil with lots of garlic, it's a beautiful side dish on it's own (or on top of a roast pork and provolone sandwich like DiNic's in Philadelphia... quite possibly the worlds most perfect sandwich).  But generally how I make it is with some pasta and Italian sausage. 

Get your big pot of water for your pasta on to boil and then take about half a pound of bulk Italian sausage (if you can't find bulk, just buy it in links and squeeze it out of the casing) and brown it in a big skillet with a little olive oil to get it moving along on medium high heat.

You can certainly use a full pound of sausage if you want.  Actually I usually do, but I'm trying to cut back on the fatty foods so I'm only using half a pound.  As it starts to brown, move it around and keep it crumbled.  You should have some big chunks and some small, but all separate and not stuck together. Reduce heat to medium and add about five (more or less, depending on your taste) chopped garlic cloves.  Mmmm garlic.   Don't give the garlic a chance to burn, that would be really bad, so as soon as you start to smell the aroma of cooking garlic, add half a cup of white wine.   I generally add wine to most of my pasta dishes, but if you don't like to cook with wine you can use chicken stock.

The wine will cook out and just leave behind beautiful flavor.  While all this is going on, your water is probably starting to boil so throw in some salt (I do it by hand but if I had to measure I'd say at least a Tablespoon if not more), and the pour in your pasta.  Traditionally, this dish uses Orecchiette pasta, or little ears, and it's a good one to use.  But alas, I didn't have any in the house so I opted for Farfalle.  Once the pasta is in the pot and you give it a good stir, take your cleaned and roughly chopped broccoli rabe and put it on top of the pasta.  You just want to blanch the rabe, which is to say, boil it for about 20 seconds or so.

After it's blanched, scoop it out and put it in the skillet with the cooked sausage.  Don't worry about draining it, the water that's left on it is just fine in the pan. 

By now the wine is all cooked down and the pan needs the moisture of the rabe.   Once all the rabe is in, add salt and pepper to taste, stir it around with the sausage and when the pasta is done, reserve about a half to one full cup of the cooking liquid and then drain the rest.  Add the pasta to the skillet and reduce heat to low.  This is why you want to use a big skillet.  Give the pasta, sausage and rabe some stirring or if you're adventurous, toss it together.  If it's too dry, add some of the pasta water to and stir again. 

Serve with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil on top and some grated Parmesan or Romano. Does it get any better?

Buon Cibo mia Amici.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spreading the Nicolinni's Love

A couple of my gal pals, Cindy and Denise, and I decided to give Nicolinni's new restaurant on Restaurant Hill in Montrose a try.  It's located at 85 Montrose W. Ave. in a former Bennigan's, but you'd never know it.  It's made a beautiful transformation from Irish to Italian.  They can be reached at (330) 664-080.

It's so pretty and welcoming on the inside with a menu chock full of things I wanted to try.  We started off with a family style salad.  One salad for the table, dressed before it arrives.  To be honest, this was a little too Olive Gardeny to me, but I went with it.  I didn't realize this was how it was served so when we were asked what dressing we wanted, I just said Italian, thinking I was ordering for me.  Had I realized it was family style, we could have gotten an undress salad with an array of dressing brought to the table.  But it was fine. 

We also got a basket of delicious crusty bread, served with an herbed dipping oil.  For me, the oil was too mild.  An extra virgin would have made this perfect.  But the fresh baked bread was wonderful all on it's own anyway.

Now it's time to chose and appetizer.  Sautéed 'scarole, Wedding soup, calamari oh my!  So much to chose, so little time!  We opted for an appetizer of Fried Zucchini with Marinara.  This proved to be a pretty excellent choice.

Large planks of beautifully fried zucchini were doused in a flavorful rich marinara.  It was just the right amount to share and not spoil lunch.  Quite frankly, I could have made a meal of a few of Nicolinni's Primi offerings.  But I did decide on a lunch.  It was a toss up between Pasta with Chicken and Greens, or Pizza with Potato and Greens.  Dammit, I was having those greens somewhere, somehow during this meal!  And the pizza won out.  It just sounded too good to pass up.   What do you think?

This my friends, is a thing of beauty and it tastes just as good as it looks.  Incredible homemade crust, 'scarole that absolutely melts in your mouth, crispy and creamy potatoes and bubbly cheese.  I want some right now please.  Seriously amazing.

And if that weren't enough, we were celebrating Cindy's new job at this lunch so we just had to get dessert and what better dessert when you're in an Italian restaurant?   Why Tiramisu of course!  Nicolinni's has a pastry chef on premises who makes all the desserts from scratch.  This is something I love and admire.  The desserts are not institutional.  They are fresh.   They aren't bought in bulk at GFS or somewhere else.  They are handmade, with love.  You could taste it, you could see it.  It's a thing of beauty.

Yum.  It's wonderful to see a locally owned restaurant in an area dominated by chains.  I will definitely be making a return trip to Nicolinni's.

Buon Cibo mia Amici.