Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Philly Restaurant Week-Barbuzzo

A couple of friends and I decided we wanted to go to dinner for Philly restaurant week. It’s a week in Philly Sun-Fri where you can get a three course lunch for $25 and a three course dinner for $35. We were debating between Barbuzzo and Tinto, but I’m really happy we decided on Barbuzzo. At Barbuzzo we actually got four courses.

For the first course we each got two Crostini, Smashed Fava-Goat Cheese Crostini and Smoky Chickpea Crostini. The Crostini were a perfect start to the dinner. As a table we agreed that the Chickpea Crostini were the best. 

For our second course we had a choice between Sheep’s Milk Ricotta, Roasted Beets, and a Meatball Slider. My friend and I choose the Ricotta, while our other friend choose the Meatball Slider. If I were a meat-eater this choice would have been much more difficult. The meatball slider smelled amazing and my friend said it was great. However, I think the Ricotta would have won it for me anyway. It was hands down the best Ricotta Cheese I’ve ever had in my life. I didn’t even need the bread, I could have just eaten it with a spoon. It was so smooth and creamy, it melted in my mouth. My other friend agreed that it was amazing.

For the main course we had the choice of House Extruded Tufoli, Oven Roasted Murrays Chicken Breast, Grilled Bronzino, Pan Seared Gnocchi (could be made veg), or Capricciosa Pizza (could be made veg). Surprisingly, we all choose the Gnocchi, but I asked for mine to be made vegetarian. It was made with prosciutto, mushrooms, and homemade truffle butter. It was good, but my gnocchi and my mothers are better. The others really loved it though and thought my standards were too high and I have to agree.

For the dessert course we had a choice of Blood Orange Tiramisu or Salted Caramel Budino. We all choose the Budino, and thank god we did because we practically licked the jar when we were done. The budino is a layer of chocolate cookie crust, a thick and rich butterscotch pudding, salted caramel and whipped cream in a small (too small in my opinion) mason jar. We could have not asked for a better ending to our evening at Barbuzzo, it was so simple, but yet so flavorful. It just blew me away. I had no idea I would leave a changed woman, but I am. The Budino at Barbuzzo is simply one of the best desserts I’ve ever had…It is to die for!

I would honestly pay full price for any of their menu items and I will definitely be back for the budino!

110 South 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: 215-546-9300

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bringing a Little Bit of Summer Back

It is blistering cold out side and the snow is here to stay so I need a little bit of a reminder of summer. Fresh light and healthy dishes are a great way to have the taste of summer while cranking your heater up to 75!

The smell of steak floating through the air always brings me back to summer so I decided that's what Dom was having and I figured the goat cheese would lighten up a bit.

Steak with Goat Cheese

Simply season your steak with salt and pepper. Then sear in a metal pan with butter. About 2-3 minutes on each side for medium rare. Then add top with goat cheese.

Dom’s not a true fan of goat cheese like I am, but he really enjoyed this steak. It was simple and perfect and now is one of his favorites.

For me I created a light white bean burger with a lot of flavor.

White Bean Burger with Goat Cheese

1 ½ -2 cups of cooked white beans

Seasonings: Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.

First soak your beans in water overnight and cook until tender according to package instructions. Then mash with a fork, a potato masher’s holes are too big. Add salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and onion powder to your liking, a generous pinch of each. Form into burgers 3-4 and sear in a little bit of evoo until golden brown on each side. Be careful flipping these burgers, since they fall apart easier than normal bean burgers. Top with goat cheese. If you want to make these vegan just omit the goat cheese.

 I like this patty because it is pure protein a lot of veggie burgers are loaded with egg’s and breadcrumbs so this is a healthier version.

I ate these for left-over’s on homemade rolls from Alice bakery with lettuce and tomato and they were wonderful!

To go along with out steak and white bean burgers I made oven fries, which are a lighter healthier version of deep fried fries.

Oven Fries

1 large potato or 2 small/medium potatoes per person.
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Cut potatoes into desired thickness coat in evoo and place on a baking sheet. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. Cook oven fries for about 30 minutes depending on thickness.

Nothing reminds me more of summer than a fresh tomato salad, so it was the perfect paring for our dinner.

Simply cut up vine ripened tomatoes and cucumbers, toss with evoo and salt and pepper and you have a perfect summer tomato salad!

I really enjoyed bringing back a little bit of summer food in my household and I hope you incorporate some of your favorite summer recipes in your winter cooking!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Meat Sauce and Meatless Sauce

I’ve been craving meat sauce for years now. I don’t know why I haven’t made it meatless before but that’s beside the point. It was truly wonderful and for all of you vegetarians out there that miss meat it is a must try.

Meat Sauce

1 tbs of evoo
about 1 ½ lbs of  lean ground beef
¼ of a medium onion
3 to 4 cloves of minced garlic
S&P to taste
1 jar of homemade sauce (just tomatoes, salt, and basil) or some canned pureed tomatoes or you can buy diced tomatoes and puree them yourself
3 heaping tsp of tomato paste
Italian seasoning
Small pinch of hot pepper flakes
3 splashes of Merlot or whatever red wine you are in the mood for

Start by browning the meat in a large bottom pan or skillet with evoo for about 2 minutes. Breaking up the meat as you go. Then add the onions and garlic and cook until the meat is tender and breaks up to a smooth consistency. Then add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Next add your sauce or tomatoes and tomato paste, Italian seasoning, and a little pinch of hot pepper flakes (to your liking of course). Cook about 20 minutes until the sauce reduces and add a few splashes of wine. Cook another 10 minutes and serve over a ½ lb your favorite pasta, we used penne. It is important that you cook the pasta to al dente for meat sauces because mushy pasta cannot hold thick sauces. Top with any cheese you like. Dom likes Parmesan cheese.

This is your basic meat sauce and my hubby loved it! You can add peas, mushrooms or, sausage

Meatless Sauce

1 ½ tbs of butter
Drizzle of Evoo
2 8 oz packages of crimini mushrooms or 16 oz of portabellas diced
¼ of a medium sized onion
3-4 cloves of minced garlic
S&P to taste
1 jar of homemade sauce (just tomatoes, salt, and basil) or some canned pureed tomatoes or you can buy diced tomatoes and puree them yourself
2 heaping tsp of tomato paste
Italian seasoning
Small pinch of hot pepper flakes
Pinch of rosemary
3 splashes of Merlot or whatever red wine you are in the mood for

Melt the butter in a large pan and then add a drizzle of evoo and then add the mushrooms onions and garlic. Saute until the mushrooms and onions are brown and then add salt and pepper. Then add your tomato sauce, paste, Italian seasoning, pinch of rosemary, and hot pepper flakes. Let this cook about 20 minutes then add the wine and cook for another 10 minutes. Serve over a ½ lb of your favorite pasta and make sure it is al dente to hold the sauce. Top with any cheese you like, I really like Pecorino Romano for this dish.

The butter is important in this dish because it brings out the meaty flavor of the mushrooms. Also the rosemary adds a bright woodsy flavor to the sauce. My mom actually used to add mushrooms to her meat sauce, which gave me the idea to use mushrooms for mine.

I was very happy to recreate a meat sauce that actually tasted meaty. It was a welcomed treat because I’ve missed meat sauce a ton since it was a regular meal in my parents household growing up. The only thing I would change next time is that I would dice up the mushrooms a bit smaller. The smaller the dice of the mushrooms, the more it will be the consistency of a meat sauce.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Married to a Meat-eater Christmas

This blog is coming a little late because I was really sick after Christmas and could not blog. Better late than never I say! We host Christmas every year and I just love having it. This year on the menu: Fettucine Al Formaggio Parmigiano, Filet Mignon with Peppercorn Cream Sauce for the meat-eaters, Portobello Mushrooms with Lentils for me, Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries and Pecans, Mashed Potatoes, and for dessert Mini Red Velvet Bundt Cakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Glaze.

For the pasta course I chose to recreate the pasta dish we had in Aruba Spaghetti Al Formaggio Parmigiano. I did make one substitution I made Fresh Fettuccine instead of Spaghetti. I will blog about fresh pasta soon, so if you don’t want to make it you can get fresh pasta from your grocery store or just use dried.

Fettuccine Al Formaggio Parmigiano
5 tomatoes peeled, seeded and diced
5 basil leaves (whole)
3 cloves of garlic
S&P to taste
1 cup of Whiskey
1 ½ lb fresh pasta
3 cups of parmesan cheese shaved with a vegetable peel

First peel, seed and dice your tomatoes. This will take a little while so allow some time. To make the sauce saute garlic in a large pan with evoo until brown, then add your fresh tomatoes and basil. Saute until tomatoes have broken down a bit and add S & P to taste. Cook your pasta in salted water according to packaged instructions to al dente. Add the cup of whiskey to the sauce and light on fire.

Make sure the flame is out and then add pasta and toss to coat with the sauce.

Remove to a hot bowl ( in a 250 degree oven for 10 mins) and toss with cheese.

Plate and serve immediately. 

Since it had been a few months since we ate in Aruba we couldn’t compare too well, but my husband said it was even better and my in-laws said it was pretty close and very good. My parents loved it but have never eaten Spaghetti Al Formaggio in Aruba. We all gobbled it down. Next time I will use spaghetti though and see how that comes out. It was defiantly a hit and is staying with us for next Christmas!

Filet Mignon with Peppercorn Cream Sauce
3 tbs butter
4 8 ounce filets

3 tbs
¼ cups sliced shallots
1 cup beef stock
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbs cognac
2 tbs of multi colored dried peppercorns

This recipe was adapted from Epicurious. Season steaks simply with salt and pepper. Cook steaks to desired wellness in melted butter, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to plate and cover with foil. In the same pan add 3 tbs of butter and shallots. Sautee for 3 minutes add beef stock and scrape up the bits at the bottom of the pan. Allow to thicken for about 6 minutes. Then add cream, cognac and peppercorns. Cook for another 5 minutes until the sauce comes together. 

Plate the steaks and spoon over the steaks.

Everyone loved the steaks, even my mom who doesn’t really like red meat. She said the sauce made the dish.

Portobello Mushroom with Lentils
1 cup Lentils
3-4 Portobello caps
1-2 tbs of butter
Garlic powder
Onion powder

Cook Lentils to Packaged instructions. Once lentils are done add a ¼ cup of mushroom stock a pinch of cumin, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. In another pan melt butter and cook Portobello’s until tender. Plate the Portobello and spoon lentils over them.

This was good but I think I would have preferred a Peppercorn cream sauce for this too. I just went with lentils to have some protein for Christmas.

Mashed Potatoes
1 medium red potato per person or more for leftovers (I used 6)
4 tbs butter
1 cup sour cream
Some milk to thin it out about 1 cup

Peel and chop potatoes. Make sure they are about the same size. Add potatoes to salted water and boil until potatoes are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Drain water from potatoes. Mash potatoes in the pot then add butter and mash some more. Next add your sour cream and stir with a spoon. Add as much milk as you’d like for the consistency you like. I added about 1 cup.

The sour cream adds a nice zing to the potatoes and goes really well with beef!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries and Pecans
2 lbs Brussel Sprouts
2 tbs of evoo
2 tbs butter
S&P to taste
1 cup of chopped pecans
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350. Wash and trim brussel sprouts. Slice brussel sprouts in half, quarters or leave whole depending on size.

Place on a baking sheet and coat with evoo, butter, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 30-35 minutes until they are almost done, shaking the pan from time to time to let them brown evenly. Add pecans and put back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes until the pecans are roasted. Add more evoo or butter if the brussel sprouts are too dry. Remove from oven and toss in dried cranberries.

I made these last year and was surprised that everyone loved them. I didn’t know others liked brussel sprouts, or maybe it was just the way I made them. So I made them again this year and they were very yummy! I love the crunch of the pecans and the sweetness the cranberries bring to the sprouts!

Mini Red Velvet Bundt Cakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Glaze

1 cup of unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ¾ cups natural sugar
2 ½ cups of flour
1 ¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sour milk (1 cup of milk 1 tbs white vinegar let stand 5 mins)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp vinegar
2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces red food coloring

3 cups powdered sugar
¾ cup (6 ounces) softened cream cheese
¾ tsp of ground cinnamon
3 tbsp milk to thin out

Recipe adapted from Recipe Girl. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bundt pan with baking spray. Cream butter and sugar. Mix eggs, sour milk, vanilla, baking soda, and vinegar in a separate bowl. Add Salt and flour in another bowl. Alternate flour and sour milk mixture to the creamed butter. Mix well after each addition. In a small bowl add the food coloring and cocoa powder and mix. Then add to the cake batter and mix until combined. Pour batter in the bundt pans and bake for about 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack.

When you are ready make the glaze. Mix all ingredients together. Move the baking racks with the cakes on them to a pan to catch the glaze then spoon the glaze on the mini cakes letting it ooze down the sides. Decorate with sprinkles or leave plain. 

I actually made these for Christmas eve and saved some for Christmas. They definitely changed my mind on red velvet, which I never really liked before!