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Archive for the ‘italian’ Category
Thursday, January 31st, 2013
My newest adventure is actually grabbing a recipe from one of the bazillion newsletters I get each day and cooking something from it for dinner that night. One night in and I’m already improvising of course. I never follow recipes! The first recipe was from the Epicurious newsletter: Rigatoni with Spicy Calabrese-Style Pork Ragù
The first thing I changed about this recipe is the simmer-for-4-hours bit. I didn’t have 4 hours. The second thing was I only had a pound of sausage and no ground pork. I did say “inspiration” right? Oh, and no carrots. I food-processed the onion, celery, garlic and chili flakes. Meanwhile I browned the sausage until it was almost cooked through. I took out the sausage and put the pureed veggies into the pan and cooked all the liquid off of those until the edges started getting toasty.
Then I added the sausage back in, tossed it with the puree and added 2 cans of tomatoes that I pureed in the food processor and one can diced. I like some chunks in my sauce sometimes. I put that on low and let it simmer until it was thick.
I didn’t have any rigatoni…seriously, I didn’t go to the store for this one! I ran with what I had! I had farfalle so I cooked that until it was 1 minute from done then I put the pasta in the pan with the sauce and let it cook the last minute in the sauce.
I learned that trick from Molto Mario years ago! It’s the only way to have pasta. It integrates all the flavors and keeps the pasta from becoming a clump under the sauce.
In the end it only took about 45 minutes for the whole process. I’m sure it would have been far richer and wonderful with 4 hours of simmering and more pork. I’ll try that sometime. This was a lot like a typical go-to pasta dish I make a lot without a recipe but the trick I liked was food-processoring the veg. It integrated the flavors into the meat and tomatoes much more quickly I think.
I thought I’d do a second day of newsletter recipes tonight but all the newsletters were Superbowl themed and I was not interested in quesadillas or chili so the next adventure will have to wait until next week when “ball” season is done.
Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
Japan met Italy in my kitchen tonight. I got black cod from my CSS (Community Supported Seafood), my weekly seafood CSA. I was in the mood for something japanese-y.
I found this recipe for miso-glazed cod. I used the marinade (1/4 c mirin, 1/4 c sake, 3t sugar, 4T miso) and let my cod marinate in that for about an hour.
In the meantime I dug around my kitchen to see what I should serve with the fish. I decided to make some sushi rice and make arancini out of that. Once the rice was cooked, I added seasoned rice vinegar, a little soy sauce, some minced green onion and some parsley…mostly because I have a cubic yard of parsley from my dad’s garden right now. I shaped the rice into balls and fried them in 300° grapeseed oil until they were brown.
I also have a 1/2 cubic yard of arugula from my dad so I wilted that in a pan with some garlic and olive oil.
I grilled the cod on the barbecue for about 5 minutes on one side then about 2 minutes on the other.
To serve I put the arugula, then three of the rice balls, balanced the cod on top and put some grated daikon on top of the fish.
For a complete experiment, I’d say this was a huge win.
Friday, May 29th, 2009
Lillian’s Italian Kitchen
1116 Soquel Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
You can’t throw something in Santa Cruz without hitting an Italian restaurant it seems. Ristorante Avanti, Lucio’s, Limoncello, La Posta, all favorites of mine. I was looking for a simple lunch today and remembered that Lillian’s was open for lunch so decided to finally check it out.
Lillian’s isn’t like any of those. It’s more casual, more like something maybe from Little Italy. Granted I was there for lunch and I’ve heard they’ve got some items on their dinner menu that are must-haves. I got the lunch special which is a cup of soup and a half order of one of their pastas. The soup was Pasta Fagioli, cannellini beans, chard, just a hint of heat. I devoured it and mopped up the bowl with my French bread. Quite tasty!
And since I wanted something just basic and simple, I got the Penne Arrabiatta. It had a good amount of heat but not so much to destroy my taste buds. I would have added a little more salt and fresh basil (there was fresh basil on top but not enough to get some in every bite). But overall it was a good dish, I didn’t leave much!
I need to go back for dinner and not by myself so I can try more dishes. But all in all a very good lunch special and I walked out of there paying only $10! You don’t find that very often these days.
Sunday, April 19th, 2009
538 Seabright Ave.
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
We had an excellent dinner tonight at La Posta. I’ve been meaning go there for ages and we finally made it down. My husband and son devoured the mixed salumi plate (everything on the plate was house-cured except for the imported prosciutto). I had the Baby mixed lettuces with anchovy vinaigrette and was very much looking forward to the anchovy vinaigrette. I was not disappointed, it was overwhelmingly anchovied and amazing.
My main course was the Roasted Striped Bass with clams,artichokes, fingerling potatoes, and leeks. The fish was perfectly cooked, the leeks still had a bit of a good crunch to them, the clams were flavorful, everything meshed very well together. I accompanied the meal with a glass of 2005 La Spinetta “Ca di Pian” Barbera d’Asti, careful not to drink it with the artichokes! It was a beautiful wine.
I finished the meal with two incredible scoops of Strawberry Gelato. It’s made in-house and is the essence of strawberry. It’s served atop strawberry puree and with a large, yummy in-season, local strawberry. A perfect dessert, that is if you’re a strawberry freak! It was awesome.
I’m glad we finally made it down there, it was worth the wait. We’ll be back soon.
Thursday, July 24th, 2008
B & B Ristorante
In the Venetian
Las Vegas, NV
I used to watch Molto Mario religiously. I have a hard time deciding which I enjoy more, Italian or Japanese food. So on our trip to Las Vegas, I booked dinners for both. The second night we were at Nobu, but our first night was at B&B run by my favorite Italian chef, Mario Batali.
First things first, a bottle of Brunello please! Yum Yum!! The wine list is impressive, if not overwhelming, and they’ve got quite the mark up — holy my gosh!! — our sommelier called it the “Strip tax.” But, the wine was pure bliss. As usual, I didn’t even get to the second page of the menu. I ordered as many antipasti and primi dishes as I could. Oddly, the dishes I was looking most forward to from watching Mario’s shows were the least interesting to me when I actually ate them. The Calamari and Seppie Fritti was fine but really not the best calamari I’ve ever had. The Marinated Fresh Anchovies “alla Giardiniera” were incredibly fresh (not surprisingly), not fishy like you would think anchovies to be, but they were all about the vinegar they were marinated in. It made drinking wine with them incredibly challenging. They were really good, but not a dish I would return to the restaurant to get. Those two dishes aside, the rest of the meal was fantastic.
The Roasted Beet Salad with Ricotta Salata was the antipasti winner for my husband. It seemed they had every kind of beet known to man on the plate and they were all perfect. The ricotta salata was a nice touch, it balanced the dish well and wasn’t too cheesy.
What really blew me away about the dinner was what I ordered from the primis. The blue ribbon winner for me was the Spaghettini with spicy budding chives, sweet garlic and one-pound lobster. It was so simple, pasta in a spicy red sauce, but none of the flavors were lost to each other. The spice didn’t overpower the sweet, tender lobster. The chives and garlic were a fragrant addition to the sauce but weren’t too strong. If I wouldn’t have had the Beef Cheek Ravioli coming next, I would’ve loved another dish of this. But, alas, I finished off the spaghettini and the large, rich plate of ravioli was put in front of me. This was really amazing. It was like a rich, slow cooked, stroganoff (but a really good one) wrapped up in a perfectly cooked pasta. The truffles were sizable but the truffle flavor was really in the sauce. The Brunello worked tremendously well with both the beef cheek and the spicy spaghattini so that was an excellent choice. The only problem with the ravioli dish was that it was too incredibly rich for me to finish. I didn’t want to send any back to the kitchen but I couldn’t eat another bite.
Actually, that’s not entirely true, I did order dessert. I got the Cioccolato, the Italian chocolate death, with raspberries and espresso syrup — heavenly! My son got the chocolate malt gelato and the Mint Stracciatella which was thoroughly enjoyed (the Mint Stracciatella should be a palate cleanser for them), and my husband got the cannoli. All three desserts were lovely. I still think I would’ve liked to have ordered in other spaghettini for dessert though!!
Wednesday, June 18th, 2008
Boccaccio Ristorante Italiano
18 Dame Street
Dublin 2, Ireland
Phone: (+353) 1 679 7049
I’ve been to Dublin twice now. The first trip was in the summer of 2006, the latest was just this past June. Sure, there’s the Book of Kells, churches that are nearly 1000 years old, but what about the food!? Both times I tried to do my research as to where to eat, and although Dublin is coming into its own as a tourist destination with a couple of Michelin stars, I could not find a restaurant I wanted to return to for a second meal. That is until we found Boccaccio.
It has very much the same atmosphere as Limoncello, in fact every meal at Boccaccio closes with a complementary shot of limoncello. So in brief it’s everything I love about Italian cuisine: a relaxed atmosphere, a family feel, and phenomenal food.
We went there twice in the week that we stayed in Dublin. The first night I ordered Linguine al Granchio (Pasta with crab meat claw, spring onion and fresh tomato concasse). The crab-tomato sauce concoction can easily be muddled. Either you can’t taste the crab, or the crab takes over with the fishy/wharfy taste — neither of these problems existed at Boccaccio. The crab was fresh and added a creaminess to the tomato with more than a hint of spice.
We ventured back the night before our plane was to leave which was a busy Saturday night. We didn’t have reservations and the place was packed. After giving my sob story of wanting to eat there one more time before flying back to the states, they fit us into a table as long as we could order, eat, and get out of there before a huge party was arriving at nine o’clock. Deal! I don’t need to linger, I just want the food!
This time I ordered the simple dish that so many restaurants don’t seem to be able to master, Spaghetti alla Bolognese. This was a classic ground beef version, nothing fancy, but high-quality meat that wasn’t drowning in sauce; a perfect ratio. With it we ordered the house wine: “Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Perugino Rosso” which, like in any good Italian restaurant, was highly drinkable and didn’t break the pocketbook.
Both nights I closed my dinner with the Tartufo Limone with Limoncello (Lemon ice cream with a soft lemon liqueur center coated with chrushed lemon meringue). I was in lemon heaven. It was creamy, it was tart, and with a shot of limoncello poured over it, it had a kick! I highly recommend it, along with the light-as-a-cloud Tiramisu.
I don’t know if I’ll find myself in Dublin again anytime soon. It’s an incredibly expensive city to visit. But at least now I know that if I do go back, I have a place to eat… and eat, and eat.
Monday, March 24th, 2008
THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED
I’ve been driving by Limoncello meaning to go there for a while. We finally decided, somewhat on a whim on Saturday night, to try out dinner there. Not the smartest move on Saturday night on Easter weekend, without a reservation. But we waited for about half an hour, and got a table outside. While waiting we could hear everyone raving as they left the restaurant after wonderful meals. I couldn’t wait for mine.
I started with an antipasti of Crostini di Melanzane al Funghetto (Toasted bread topped with fried eggplant, garlic, tomato, parmesan and Romano cheese). If you been reading my reviews for awhile though, you know that I got it without cheese. It was absolutely fantastic. The eggplant had no bitterness in it whatsoever, and was cooked perfectly. I shared one piece (with cheese) with my husband, and devoured the other three pieces myself.
For my main course I got the Strozzapreti al Sugo di Carne (Corkscrew egg pasta in a southern italian style meat sauce). I just recently began eating meat again. I’m not sure what changed, but it started tasting good to me again after 15 years of not eating it. I love how many more things I can eat off the menu now and after ordering this particular dish, I’m really happy I fell off the wagon. It wasn’t just a ground beef Bolognese sauce, it had what I believe were whole pork spareribs, but given that meat is new to me again, I’m not the best at identifying it yet. No matter what it was it was delicious! One of the things that is still creepy to me about eating meat is gnawing flesh off a bone, this was so good I had no problem with that this time! I was munching away!
My 3 1/2 year old son got the Linguine Li Galli (Flat spaghetti with a tomato, onion, caper sauce). He’s a huge fan of the caper. He was not disappointed either, the capers were huge and there were plenty of them. It’s always a bonus to find a very good restaurant that is kid friendly and still has amazing food (like here, Ristorante Avanti, and Caffe Lucio).
The waiter was very adamant that nothing in the kitchen is “precooked..” Apparently there are a lot of people who don’t understand the “slow food” concept in this town. Caffé Lucio also had to post a sign that cooking fresh food takes time and you need to be patient. Even when dining with a three-year-old I understand that there’s going to be a wait, actually I expect there to be a wait, if there isn’t one I get worried. Everything was served in a reasonable amount of time and what little wait we had was filled by a lovely 2001 Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montelcino. I think Brunello is my favorite Italian wine. It never seems to disappoint.
The only problem with the meal was that I couldn’t finish it! Really not a problem in the end, since I also got to have for lunch today.
I’m already looking forward to heading back and I really want to try their paninis at lunch. But now I know reservations are highly, highly recommended! It is popular for good reason, we had an excellent meal. Santa Cruz is definitely not lacking for a good Italian meal. But just like Italy, each place has their own style, specialty, and flair. Welcome back to the neighborhood Limoncello!
Addendum: I popped into Limoncello for lunch today. I was torn, so I asked the waiter if I should get the Panino con Bistecchina (Marinated flank steak in homemade bread) or the Cacuzzo con Calamari al Sugo (Calamari in a spicy tomato sauce in hollow bread loaf). He confidently recommended the flank steak and, not having had the calamari, I don’t know if it’s better, but I wasn’t let down with the recommendation. I was trying to decipher what the marinade was, and was told it was a secret, but all I could figure out was fennel seeds. I think that was the best steak sandwich I’ve ever had.
For dessert I got what was, I think, their signature dessert. It was a frozen parfait swirled with frozen limoncello yumminess. It was pretty as well as delicious and I could have easily devoured three or four of those, but really I was stuffed.!
So Limoncello has my wholehearted recommendation for both lunch and dinner!!