Archive for May, 2017
May 25, 2017
If you have been to Restaurant BT on MacDill across from DATZ, you will love the fast carry-out of BT’s incredible affordable Vietnamese food at BT-ToGo – also on MacDill, across Bay-To-Bay in a quaint shopping Plaza. BT Nguyen is one of my favorite chefs and while I was at the restaurant recently she asked if I’d been to BT ToGo??? The next day I was there.
You will find pork banh mi’s, beef & rice bowls, fresh stuffed rice paper rolls, curry chicken stew, and of course many of your Restaurant BT notables like her pumpkin soup and chocolate mousse.
When you want a great meal FAST – dash on over to BT To-Go
3215 South MacDill Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33629
Monday – Saturday: 11:00am to 8:00pm
May 25, 2017
Your guests will be enthralled with your homemade limoncello. Plus, in addition to being a wonderful aperitif or after dinner drink, so many wonderful desserts can be made with limoncello. So why not have some fun and make your own. The only downside is that it takes 8 days for all the flavors to meld properly – but it will be worth the wait I assure you.
A couple years ago I created a Limoncello Mousse Cake that was a true hit, and even created a video with my good friend Susan Merrill – click here to view the video and get the recipe.
I desire a real lemony flavor so I found that 14 lemons are the perfect amount for a robust citrusy taste
- 14 large lemons
- 1 liter fine vodka – (I like Tito’s Handmade Vodka)
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 ½ cups FIJI water
- With tap water, thoroughly rinse 14 lemons and dry completely
- Using a vegetable/potato peeler, peel the yellow rind off 7 lemons, being careful not to get any of the white part
- Zest the remaining 7 lemons with a zester, again making sure not to get any of the white rind
- Mix the peeled lemon rind and lemon zest together with 1 liter of Vodka – store in air tight container in dry cool place (not the refrigerator) for 7 days
NOTE: It is important to be exact with your peeler and zester and not get any of the white pithy part with your rind – so be careful or your limoncello will taste bitter. There are many different zesters you can use. The reason I recommend peeling half with a vegetable/potato peeler, and the other half with a zester – is the potato peeler provides a less pungent aromatic, while the zest gives off a really zesty component – which is why it is called a zester.
- After the lemon vodka mixture has melded for 7 days, combine 3 cups sugar with 3 ½ cups FIJI water in a sauce pan, off heat stir to combine, on medium high heat bring to a simmer for approximately 10 to 12 minutes making sure all the sugar has been dissolved. Do not stir while heating or it will crystalize.
- Let cool completely and add to the lemon vodka mixture
- Cover tightly and let sit for 24 hours.
- Strain in a fine mesh strainer into containers. Store tightly covered in refrigerator
STEP FOUR – SERVING
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- Combine sugar and zest – rub lemon around edge of small glass, dip edge in lemon sugar – fill with your “ICE COLD” homemade limoncello, garnish side with lemon peel
May 19, 2017
Is there a better bakery in Tampa for Cuban bread? Absolutely not. Most fine Tampa Bay restaurants use La Segunda for their Cuban bread…a Cuban is not a Cuban unless made with La Segunda which has been around since 1905.
There is not much better in life than sitting down at the famed Columbia Restaurant with a hot bowl of Spanish Bean Soup served with a hunk of “warm & crusty” La SegundaCuban Bread wrapped in white tissue-like paper and a crock of soft whipped butter. It is simply the best.
For those of you who are fortunate to be in an UBER-EATS delivery area that handles La Segunda – you can order all your bread (and other goodies) delivered right to your door. That’s what I do most half the time these days.
Today however, I had a hankering for the smells and tastes of this old-world bakery that only a visit would accomplish. Cuban bread was what I was after – just Cuban bread. Well, I walked out with a Cuban sandwich, 2 chocolate bon-bons, 1 apple turnover, 1 guava pastry, and almost forgot my loaf of Cuban bread. Impossible not to be tempted. Impossible. Go find out for yourself.
La Segunda Central Bakery 2512 North 15th Street
Ybor City, Florida 33605
Monday – Friday: 6:30am to 5:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 7:00am to 3:00pm
(ACROSS From The Academy Prep)
May 19, 2017
Saltiado is an authentic Spanish stew made with tender beef tenderloin, ham, chorizo, mushrooms, and garlic potatoes, all cooked down in a luscious red wine and tomato sauce, perfect any time of year, and especially nice for a family graduation dinner this time of year.
Served with yellow rice, fried plantains, La Segunda Cuban bread, and of course delicious flan for dessert. Add a salad, and there you go – a feast for any graduate…Spaniard or not.
Some will say this dish is “involved” or “complicated” – while it has a few steps, hopefully, I’ve laid out a step-by-step process easy to accomplish a great meal you, your family, and friends will enjoy and talk about for years to come. Perfect for a Sunday Dinner.
MISE EN PLACE
Not only is Mise En Place a great Tampa restaurant, the home of my friend Chef Marty Blitz (who makes the best soups in the world by the way), Mise en Place translates from French to English – “everything in its place,” which is essential for both a restaurant kitchen and the home cook. Prepping and getting all your ingredients ready prior to cooking a single thing will slice your overall prep time in half. I mise en place every single dish I make. It makes cooking and baking so much easier.
- 3 pounds choice beef filet. Tell your butcher you want a trimmed whole tenderloin
- 6 chorizo sausage (Publix carries a couple brands)
- ¾ pound deli ham (sliced ½” thick – at Publix it is #8 – probably about 2 thick slices)
- 2 pounds (after peeled and cut) Russet potatoes
- 1 pound sliced button mushrooms
- 1 pound sliced portabella mushrooms
- 3 cups finely diced onion
- 3 cups finely diced green peppers
- ½ cup EVOO
- 1 stick soft salted butter
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 5 cloves thinly sliced garlic for frying of potatoes
- 3 cups red wine (burgundy or Cabernet)
- 3 cups tomato sauce
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 tablespoons soft salted butter
STEP ONE – Frying Potatoes in garlic infused extra virgin olive oil
- 16 ounces extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 5 cloves thinly sliced garlic
- 2 pounds (after peeled and cut in ½ inch cubes) russet potatoe
Put sliced garlic and EVOO in heavy bottomed pot large enough for frying the potatoes and place on a burner set to medium low. Cook slowly until the garlic has soften, about 30 minutes. Let oil cool. Basically you want lto infuse the olive oil with the garlic – so this can be done days in advance. It is always best to make your own infused oil as opposed to buying one.
Remove garlic and set the heat to medium high – approximately 325 to 350 degrees. In small batches fry potatoes until golden brown, take out of oil and place on flat sheet pan with a rack. Lightly salt each batch immediately after removing for the oil. Set aside in large 6 to 8 quart casserole or large throw-away foil pan.
STEP TWO – Prepping & Searing the Beef
- Cut beef into 1” cubes
- Mix together with 2 teaspoons Kosher salt and 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons salted butter and 2 tablespoons EVOO
In heavy bottom skillet (I prefer cast iron) melt butter with EVOO over medium heat. Sear beef in small batches. If you put too much beef in the pan it will steam and not sear. Sear on both sides and put in dish with potatoes when seared. Continue until all beef is seared.
STEP THREE – Sautee Mushrooms
Add 2 tablespoons salter butter and 2 tablespoons EVOO to skillet on high heat – once melted (be careful not to burn) immediately add mushrooms and 1 teaspoon salt, stir and cook down until most of the liquid is cooked out. Add to beef and potato mixture.
STEP FOUR – Searing Diced Ham & Chorizo
Once the mushrooms are cooked and placed in casserole reduce heat to medium and add diced ham and chorizo, stir and sear until a bit of a crust develops. Add to casserole.
STEP FIVE – Sauce
Add the following to skillet on medium heat:
- 2 tablespoons EVOO
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 3 cups each finely diced onion and green peppers
- 1 tablespoons salt
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
Stir and cook down until the peppers and onions are mushy. Add 2 bay leaves, 3 cups red wine (burgundy or Cabernet), 3 cups tomato sauce (I use Hunts), 2 cups beef broth (I uses Swanson’s). Stir immediately to combine and stir every few minutes – cook down for approximately 30 minutes, stir in 2 tablespoons salted butter. Add to casserole, and stir to combine entire mixture.
FINAL STEP – Bake
Cover casserole tightly with parchment paper and aluminum foil. Bake at 250 for 45 minutes. Everything is cooked – you are just melding the ingredients without over-heating.
Yellow rice is a must for this dish. Serve it off to the side (not on top) of Saltiado. If you are serving a large group, you may want to make two packages.
- 1 Family Pack VIGO Yellow Rice (2 cups rice package)
- 4 cups chicken stock
- ¼ cup EVOO
Cook according to package instructions.
I love serving this dish with fried plantains. They are a snap to make. You must select BLACK plantains. Yes, black plantains – you will think they are rotten…they are not…just sweet and tasty. Slice 2” to 4” pieces. Fry at 350 degrees until golden brown.
There are many high quality frozen plantain products. If you are using a frozen product – thaw and lay them out on a sheet pan, toss with vegetable oil, and 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar. Bake at 450 degrees until golden brown – approximately 10 to 15 minutes – watch carefully until to not burn.
May 11, 2017
This small non-descript 12 seat, ten menu item restaurant packs a big tasty punch you should not miss. Anytime I find a gem like this I almost don’t want to tell anyone so I can keep it all to myself. Chef William is Italian through-and-through making everything from scratch including the pasta; and you will be delighted with his offerings all for $9.95 each (he needs to raise his prices) – except for the couple of specials he runs daily.
I love to see artisans who care about what do and Chef William shows his love of craft by the quality of the food he puts on your plate. The Bolognese was stupendous, meatballs excellent, primavera and carbonara perfect. Tiramisu was spot on as well.
This “no-frills” eatery is tops. Let me know what you think.
Piccola Italia Bistro
2140 West Doctor MLK, Jr. Boulevard
Tampa, Florida 33607
NEAR: Armenia & MLK
May 11, 2017
This incredible buttermilk gateau will quickly become a family and friend favorite. Perfect for any holiday or special occasion. It is much more than a cake covered in strawberries and whipped cream – each layer is laced with a delicious strawberry couli made with a hint of Grand Marnier, making each bite a moist and delicious taste experience.
It is also delicious made with fresh peaches – when they are in season (June 1st through the end of August), or even raspberries and blackberries or a combination of all the fruits. Let your desired palate be your guide.
STEP ONE – Prepare Cake Batter & Baking
- 2 sticks room temperature salted butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 4 extra large eggs (room temperature)
- 1 ½ teaspoons real vanilla extract
- 1 cup Marburger buttermilk (room temperature)
Makes 2 – 10” rounds – of which you will only use one of the rounds so freeze the other for future use (when the cake has cooled, triple wrap in plastic wrap and freeze)
- Pre-heat oven to 350
- Spray or butter (or Crisco) and flour 2 – 10” cake pans
- Sift Dry Ingredients – set aside
In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time and beat on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes to cream and fluff. Alternate flour mixture and buttermilk/vanilla, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Do not over beat for that will produce a tough cake.
Place equal amount of batter in cake pans. Slam individual pans on counter twice and swirl…this will eliminate bubbles forming in cake. Place on rack in center of the oven. Set timer for 15 minutes, and rotate pans when timer goes off. Set timer for 10 minutes…then 3 to 5 minutes thereafter. Cake is done when sides pulls away from the pan or when toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake.
Place on cooling racks for 10 minutes. Remove cakes and let cool completely. Wrap and freeze the layer not using. Perfect for a Boston Cream Pie or ice with your favorite chocolate of vanilla buttercream.
STEP TWO – Strawberry Couli
- 5 cups fresh bright red and ripe strawberries (cut in quarters)
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional – but I like it)
Place strawberries, sugar and Grand Marnier in food processor and process until liquified
STEP THREE – Sliced Strawberries
5 cups fresh bright red and ripe strawberries
Slice in rounds or length-wise
STEP FOUR – Whipped Cream
- 1 quart whipping cream
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
Place whipping cream in stand mixer with the whip attachment and turn on medium high until beginning to thicken, add vanilla and slowly add sugar until well incorporated. Beat until cream is thick. Do not over mix.
STEP FIVE – Assembling Cake
- It is best if you place the cake on a 10” cardboard cake round which can be purchased at Michaels
- With a large serrated bread knife, cut one layer of the cake in half and hold on cake round – cut side up
- Spoon about ¾ cup strawberry couli on cake
- Layer with sliced strawberries
- Spread approximately 2 cups whipped cream on top of strawberries
- Place second cake layer cut side up on whipped cream layered cake and repeat with couli and sliced strawberries
- Ice the entire cake (top and sides) with the remaining whipped cream. Place in cake pan and refrigerate up to 24 hours
- Each slice of cake should be served chilled with a drizzle of the strawberry couli