Archive for May, 2015
May 28, 2015
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage & Toasted Hazelnuts is a 10 minute meal that will taunt your taste buds. Check out this quick and easy recipe.
I was introduced to The Ravioli Company by my friend Missy Casselli who told me of a wonderful pasta place on Platt Street. Being greeted with a warm homemade knot roll (which they still sell today 15 years later), I knew I found home.
My good friends Dwight and Lauren Otis own The Ravioli and they put out great homemade ravioli, fresh pastas and sauces. There is love in every single bite. If you are in a pinch and need something for dinner – there is no faster – no more tasty meal, than pasta from the Ravioli Company. You can always depend on their food – and a wonderful smile – their chocolate chip cookies aren’t bad either.
You will love this dish I created from one of their pastas. Please do let me know of your experience making this ravioli dish.
- 1 pound butternut squash from the Ravioli Company
- 1 stick salted butter
- 6 fresh sage leaves
- 15 hazelnuts (I get mine from The Fresh Market)
- Fresh cracked pepper
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
In a 350 degree oven – toast hazelnuts on a sheet pan until toasted – about 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool. Place cooled hazelnuts in a kitchen towel and rub until the skins come off. Coarsely chop.
Over medium high heat in a small saucepan, melt salted butter with 4 sage leaves (that have been pulled apart in 3 pieces), until the butter begins to brown. You’ll see brown specs occur. You must watch the butter after it is melted to keep it from over-browning. It can over brown quickly so when it begins to brown, take it off the stove – it will continue to brown. Taste to make sure this is the flavor you desire…and not burnt. It should have a very rich brown buttery flavor.
In a medium size stock pot, bring 2 quarts water to a rapid boil. Toss in the entire one pound bag of The Ravioli Company ravioli into the boiling water…stir a couple of times to make sure it does not stick. When the ravioli comes to the top (this takes less than 5 minute), drain and place 6 to 7 raviolis on a plate or nice bowl.
Spoon about 2 tablespoons sage brown butter over the ravioli, top with a couple pieces of sage leaves, fresh cracked black pepper, and a bit of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Serve with a big salad, a slice of hearty rustic Italian bread from Pane Rustica (perfect for dipping into the brown butter), and whatever wine you enjoy. Finish your meal with a hearty scoop of strawberry gelato and hazelnut biscotti – and you’ll have a great meal in 10 to 15 minutes.
Say hello to my friends Dwight and Lauren Otis – owners…and check out their website for all their other pasta offerings.
The Ravioli Company
3414 South Manhattan
Tampa, Florida 33629
May 28, 2015
If you like huge chocolate éclairs (my favorite) – run don’t walk and get an 8” traditional éclair from Mazzaro’s. If you like homemade Italian sausage, take a trip to Mazzaro’s in St. Pete. If you like huge tasty deli sandwiches all for $5.50 – well, Mazzaro’s is your place. If you like out of the ordinary fine cheeses and wine – you have it covered at Mazzaro’s.
Get my drift.
My good friend Cameron Salmon turned me on to this place about 6 years ago – and I’ve make it a point to visit it at least once every couple of months. If you haven’t been…you’ve got to go. If you haven’t been in a while – let’s go together…today???
Love this place. It’s worth the drive.
Mazzaro’s Italian Market
2909 22nd Avenue North
St. Petersburg, Florida 33713
May 21, 2015
Boiled, steamed, grilled…if you like fresh sweet succulent corn on the cob, well you must, that’s MUST, taste the corn from Frazier Farms. Yellow, white, or bi-color, there is no better sweet corn in the country.
David and Sharon Fraizer are the dedicated lovely couple who own Fraizer Farms and grow the sweetest corm you will ever sink your teeth into…really. Yes, the drive to Brooksville is an hour away – but you will find the time well worth the effort and gas. My good friend Park Newton turned me on to Fraizer Farms a few years ago and I’ve been a dedicated fan and patron every spring and fall since I found this gem.
My love of farms comes from our family’s regular visits to my Uncle Bradford’s and Aunt Hilda’s picturesque dairy farm in Buckfield, Maine…near Bear Mountain and Bear pond. Calling the cows in every morning and early evening for milking was a hoot all kids would cherish – I’d stand at the barn door which was connected to the house and scream “COME BOSS” – this time was always a favorite life moment. Even raking the muck (cow crap) was fun…certainly more for me than my uncle, cousins and farm hands.
Know too that my mom was from Boston so aunt is pronounced AUN t – not our southern way ANT. I remember the fresh blueberry patches, the donut man who would drive up every morning and deliver the best donuts ever – and the cream we could scoop off the top of the milk from the ice cold milk holder off the barn. Even the milk fights we’d have when hand-milking the cows. Yes, those were heady times for a boy – I think of them often.
I love my corn boiled. My mom would cook it for 11 minutes – and it was good. But I have found that the best is to boil it for 5 to 6 minutes so the corn keeps it fresh bite. Lots of Land O Lakes salted butter and Kosher salt and boy-oh-boy – I can make a meal off of four ears.
Fraizer Farms has loads of other fresh fruits and vegetables as well. Great tomatoes (that taste like a tomato), green beans, watermelon, and they also sell homemade preserves – I love their orange marmalade on a toasted buttered Wolfermann’s English muffin.
Please do let me know of your experience at Fraizer Farms. If you want – we can go together. I’ll drive.
20175 Manecke Road
May 21, 2015
Nana Banana Pudding is a super treat, and now you’ll have my secret recipe. (Click) Who doesn’t love banana pudding? I’ve made it so many ways…with Pepperidge Farm’s Chessman cookies, even Oreo’s, and different flavors in the cream filling like Grand Marnier or Framboise (raspberry liqueur) – but nothing beats my mom’s homemade cream filling, Nabisco Nilla Wafers, fresh bananas and homemade whipped cream.
Some prefer it topped with meringue – if that’s your fancy, go right ahead, but I like it best with fresh homemade whipped cream.
This cream filling is the exact one my mom used for her delicious strawberry cream pies she’d serve our family at Christmas. I use the same cream filling for this pudding and for many other desserts as well…like: éclair’s, fillings for cakes, and loaded with coconut for my coconut cream pie.
The secret to my banana pudding is I layer and assemble everything when the cream filling is hot. Most let the filling cool prior to assembling. Layering while hot allows for the flavors to intensify and meld quickly – providing a rich banana flavor in every bite.
- 6 cups whole milk (room temperature)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 6 whole extra-large eggs (room temperature)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons high quality real vanilla extract
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream (very cold)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons high quality real vanilla extract
Assembling Banana Pudding
- 1 box Nabisco Nilla Vanilla Waffers
- 8 to 10 ripe bananas (cut right before assembling in any shape you desire)
- Cream filling
- Whipped cream
Since most people do not have a dedicated double boiler, you will have to make one – all you need is a pot, a bowl, and some water…simple as that. The reason for a double boiler is to cook on indirect heat making sure the custard filling does not curdle by cooking too fast. The water should not touch the bowl filled with the ingredients – probably an inch below the bowl.
In a stainless steel or heat-proof glass mixing bowl, add sugar, flour, salt, and room temperature eggs – whisk until the eggs are totally combined…add room temperature milk and whisk until well combined.
Place on top of double boiler pot when the water is rapidly boiling. Using a whisk or wooden spoon, stir until the cream filling thickens and coats the back of the spoon with a thick coating. Once done take off heat and add vanilla extract and stir into mixture.
STEP TWO – Assembling
Most people cool the filling and then assemble. I find it better to pour the hot cream filling over the bananas and Nilla wafers…it helps all the flavors combine faster for a richer flavor. You’ve got to try it my way.
Ladle a light layer of cream filling on the bottom of a 9” X 13” pan – top with Nabisco Nilla wafers, then bananas and plenty of cream filling…keep layering like this (probably 2 layers total) finishing with the cream filling.
Make sure you have enough cream filling on each layer – this is not the time to scrimp. However, only use a single layer of the wafers with the bananas for each layer – I once doubled up on the wafers, making it way too dry. You should have enough of everything to make a 2 to 3 layer pudding.
Top with whipped cream. Refrigerate until cold. Can be layered in wine glasses, mason jars, trifle bowls – whatever your lil’ ole heart desires…it’s all good.
May 14, 2015
A good friend of mine, the owner of Nature’s Table in Hyde Park, Bryan Drummond, took me to lunch at the Shrimp Boat Grille a couple of years ago and it has turned into one of my favorite casual “go-to” restaurants in the Bay area.
I like a restaurant to be busy for then I at least know that the food is fresh…and the Shrimp Boat is always busy whether it is at lunch or dinner…but don’t let that detour you, for this family restaurant has a delicious great tasting menu.
Upon every visit, it is my intention to order just the entrée – but the homemade Crab, Shrimp, and Corn chowder keeps calling my name…and can I just order a cup…nooooo…it must be a bowl. Now this is not your ordinary chowder with a small bit of shrimp and crab mixed in – bountiful amounts of both are placed on top of this hearty chowder that could easily be a meal for most.
Thank goodness I always go with friends enabling me to taste their dishes, for I seem to be stuck on their fried shrimp and Ipswich clam combo. Ipswich clams are my favorite food from childhood. My mom was from Boston, and one of the first stops was always to either the Clam Box in Ipswich or Woodman’s in Essex. While my preference is usually the whole belly clam, the Shrimp Boat offers only clam strips – be assured however, they are perfectly hand-breaded and tender…deliciously sweet the way they should be.
The shrimp scampi, ahi tuna, steaks, are all perfectly prepared. Once I looked at an older gentleman at the table next to me being served one of the best looking chicken parmesans with a side of spaghetti I’ve ever seen in a restaurant. Tears came to my eyes – I just had to ask him: “Is it good?” – he said he always orders it and it’s the best he’s “ever had”…I ordered one to take home for dinner to enjoy the next night…it was gone by midnight that same evening.
Please do let me know of your experience at the Shrimp Boat.
1020 Bloomingdale Avenue
May 14, 2015
Why wait to go to a restaurant to enjoy chicken Marsala when you can make it yourself in less than 30 minutes? It is one of our biggest hits for catering. This recipe is so scrumptious, and a snap to make.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 ½ lbs total weight)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour for dredging
- Kosher salt & freshly cracked pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salted butter
- Colombo sweet Marsala wine
- 3 cups chopped crimini and button mushrooms (or any of your favorite mushrooms)
- ¼ cup Italian flat leaf parsley
- ¼ cup chopped shallots
Place individual chicken breasts on a plastic cutting board, cover with plastic wrap and pound out until approximately ¼” thickness. Salt and pepper both sides of chicken breasts
In a heavy bottomed skillet sauté pan, set to low, heat 2 tablespoons salted butter and 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil until the butter is melted
Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour with ½ teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and place flour mixture in a pie pan or plate
Bring oil and butter to medium high heat being careful not to let the butter get too brown
Dredge the seasoned chicken breast in the flour mixture – shake off excess flour and place in skillet until lightly brown – about a minute or two on both sides depending on the thickness of the chicken
Put cooked chicken on plate and hold until sauce is made
Add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil with ¼ cup finely diced shallots, and ¼ cup Marsala wine to the sauté pan on medium high heat scraping the brown bits from the pan with a wooden spoon.
Once all the brown bits are off the bottom, add the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon of the seasoned flour. Stir with wooden spoon, add salt and pepper to taste and let the mushrooms cook down. Add 2 ¾ cups Marsala wine over medium heat and let the wine reduce by half. Stir in 1 tablespoon soft butter.
Place chicken breasts in the pan and coat with mushroom Marsala sauce – sprinkle with parsley and serve on a warm platter or in the sauté pan with homemade mashed potatoes, haricot verts, salad, wine, and a Pane Rustica French baguette.
May 07, 2015
This is my go-to dish when I just find out company is coming and don’t feel like spending all day in the kitchen. A simple dish to make and packed with flavor.
- 2 pounds 16/20 raw shrimp peeled and deveined – 16/20 means there are 16 to 20 shrimp in a pound
- Extra virgin olive oil – enough to cover the shrimp
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh garlic
- 2 tables chopped fresh parsley or cilantro or even mint if you like – whatever taste you would prefer – or all 3 if you are daring
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt for when the shrimp are cooked
- Fresh lemon halves for grilling to squeeze after shrimp are cooked
- Long skewers soaked in water for 15 minutes or longer if you have the time
Peel and devein shrimp but leave tails on. Place in bowl with olive oil, garlics, pepper flakes and fresh herbs – toss and let marinate for 15 minutes or up to 6 hours if you have the time. You can do this ahead or while you are cooking the couscous.
Skewer the marinated shrimp. You can grill (which is my preferred way), pan sear on a flattop or skillet, or even broil (about an inch from the top) these shrimp skewers. You want some color on the shrimp – but be careful not to overcook the shrimp or they will get tough. You can figure about one to two minutes on each side.
Immediately after they are cooked, sprinkle with Kosher salt and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the cooked shrimp
I like grilling my lemons for a minute or so – makes them really juicy and gives the juice a good flavor. If you are not grilling your shrimp however – just fresh lemon juice will be fine to squeeze over the cooked shrimp before serving.
Make The Couscous
- 2 cups couscous
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon butter
- ¼ cup diced onion
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups chicken stock
In a heavy bottom sauce pan with a tight fitting lid melt butter with olive oil and saute onion, add stock and bring to a boil, turn off the heat, add couscous and stir well – cover and let sit (off the stove) for 5 minutes exactly. It is done. Uncover and fluff with a fork – never a spoon.
- 1 peeled and seeded and diced cucumber
- 4 scallions chopped
- 2 diced yellow squash
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes (can use various colors as well) – cut in half
- 1 cup diced feta
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro or mint – or all of them or any combination you’d enjoy
Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over prepared vegetables. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, toss with couscous and refrigerate until ready to serve. Good served tossed in warm couscous or served chilled with the grilled shrimp. NOTE: If you want more dressing, double the recipe and use half to macerate the vegetables and half to drizzle over the couscous and shrimp when served.
May 06, 2015
EDDIE V’s – has a lobster taco to die for. My niece Blaine turned me on to this gem of an appetizer. She orders it as a full meal…with wine of course. They are plentiful enough to split or have as a meal. A soft pita-like taco shell is loaded with lobster, fresh corn, avocado, Mexican queso, cilantro all served slightly warm with fresh lime for an extra squeeze of heaven. If you are in a hurry and didn’t make a reservation – just go to the bar.
4400 West Boy Scout Boulevard
HUGO’S – While I try, and have tried Cuban sandwiches just about everywhere in Tampa, I keep going back to my gold standard…Hugo’s. Yes, Wright’s Gourmet and the Columbia make good ones – really good ones. However, when I want a quick Cuban, I find myself going back time-and-again to Hugo’s on Howard Avenue. They make the best. Pressed, all the way. If you haven’t tried one in a while I suggest you run right over there. Please let me know what you think…and which is your favorite Cuban in town.
931 South Howard Avenue