The Best Porcini Mushroom Risotto, Period.

I am breaking one of my own rules, and I don’t care.

I have always said I would not claim something as “the best I ever ate” if I had not tried enough of a particular food to compare.

Scratch that.  For now, at least.

This past week, I had the opportunity to try a local Italian restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, Casa D’ Angelo.  I have wanted to try this place for a while now, but it is pretty pricey and shocking, not in my current budget.  What do you do when you really want to try a restaurant and can’t afford it?  You wait for your family to take you there.

I had family visiting from NY who suggested we all go to Casa D’ Angelo for dinner.  That’s right, I didn’t even have to debate internally whether it was rude of me to pick such an expensive restaurant because they picked it themselves.  Amazing.  The food here was so good and so authentic Italian, as judged by my relatives from Italy, that we ended up going back AGAIN before they left.  I seriously hit the food lottery that week.

One of the main persuasive forces of returning a second time was this risotto.

Mushroom Risotto at Casa de Angelo

Mushroom Risotto at Casa de Angelo

I ordered it on a whim as an appetizer for my boyfriend and I because I have never had a truly authentic risotto, and I certainly don’t have the time or willingness to add 5 sticks of butter to make this on my own.  I don’t care that I have not tried other risottos, and I don’t care that this is one of the least photogenic dishes ever- this risotto was pure heaven.  The truffle oil and porcini mushrooms added just the right amount of flavor on top of the divine creaminess of the cheese and other goodness in here.  The rice itself was perfectly al dente.  My hard to impossible to please Italian grandmother raved about this risotto.  This was seriously one of my favorite appetizers from a restaurant ever.  You can also order it as an entree, but I think the appetizer portion was plenty satisfying.

If you are ever in Ft. Lauderdale and looking for the best Italian food, go to Casa D’Angelo.  Order this risotto whether or not it is on the menu that day.  Somehow.

Every other part of my dining experience was delicious and blog-worthy as well.

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I ordered the linguine positano as my entree, which is linguine with shrimp sauteed in white wine, with garlic, fresh tomato, and arugula.  I thought this dish was phenomenal- fresh, simple yet flavorful, and filling.  The shrimp were a bit on the firm side, but I suppose that is better than overly cooked, rubbery shrimp.

So, my recommendations to you all:  1. Plan a trip to Ft. Lauderdale, if you don’t live nearby.  2. Invite family to cover the bill (joking, kind of.) 3. Demand to try the mushroom risotto. 4. Order anything else as an entree 5. Drink wine to enhance good time and better tolerate family and 6. Pass out in food coma.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan- A Very Tasty Use of Leftovers

I made a dish the other night (to be posted for meatless monday) that left me with leftover eggplant and fresh mozzarella.  If that doesn’t scream eggplant parmesan, nothing does!  I knew I wanted to try a baked variety to keep this dish on the healthier side.  (Yes, I realize fresh mozzarella is not necessarily “light”, but that’s all the more reason to not fry the eggplant!)

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I consulted a couple of different recipes and came up with this adapted recipe.  It turned out DELICIOUS, so I wanted to pass the inspiration on to you guys.

Note: the trickiest part in posting this recipe comes with the baking times.  I found mine to require way less baking than suggested, probably because I only made this using the 1/2 eggplant I had leftover (only needed enough to feed two).  I am going to post this as I did it for two people, but if making it for more people just be aware that your baking times will be longer.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan for Two

(Adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe and this Whole Foods recipe)

You will need:

  • 1/2 a large eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 6 TBS italian breadcrumbs
  • 6 TBS parmesan cheese, plus 1tsp divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • pinch of dried oregano
  • pinch dried basil
  • about 1/2 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced thick and chopped into chunks (or you can use shredded mozarella, regular or 2%)
  • Salt and pepper (look at how much salt is in your breadcrumbs.. you may not need to add any)
  • Jarred marinara sauce (or homemade), about 1.5-2 cups, divided

Steps:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the breadcrumbs,  6TBS parmesan cheese, oregano, and basil.  Transfer mixture to a flat surface such as a plate or cutting board.
  2. In a small bowel, combine the egg and 1 tsp water and lightly beat together.
  3. Line a large baking sheet (may require 2) with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  4. One by one, dunk each slice of eggplant into the egg, shake off excess, and then press firmly onto the breadcrumb mixture.  Turn the slice over and press firmly on the other side as well.  Transfer eggplant to lined baking dish.  Repeat for all eggplant slices.
  5. Bake the breaded eggplant in the oven on 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, and then turn them over.  Bake for another 10-15 minutes & remove from oven.  Keep a close eye on them at this point so they don’t burn.  Mine cooked for a total time of 30 minutes and they were perfectly brown.
  6. Line a 9X13 baking dish lightly with some marinara sauce, about 1/4 a cup or so.
  7. Transfer the breaded eggplant to the baking dish and layer with marinara sauce then fresh mozzarella cheese.  Keep repeating the eggplant-sauce-cheese layering process until all of your eggplant and cheese are used up.  Dust the top with a light coating of parmesan cheese, about 1 tsp (optional).

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8.  Bake at 410 degrees for 10-20 minutes, until cheese is beginning to brown and bubble.  Baking times vary- mine only required 10 minutes.

This recipe was so tasty, I highly encourage you guys to give it a try.  It can be a very healthy and filling meal if you use low fat mozzarella and pair with a nice big salad.  It is delicious enough for a date night in but easy enough for a weeknight meal as well.  This happens to be another one of those versatile recipes that will please kids, adults, vegetarians, and pretty much anyone that likes sauce and mozzarella cheese (i.e. EVERYONE!).

If you are cooking for two such as myself, on Monday I will be posting another great recipe to utilize the rest of the eggplant and mozzarella cheese, so stay tuned.

Have a great Saturday everyone!

Fresh and Easy: Tomato, Garlic, & Caramelized Onions Over Pasta

Monday night, despite an impending and untouched presentation I have due soon, I was in the mood to cook.  I wanted a meal that was 1) meatless (still loving meatless monday), 2) not complicated, and 3) healthy.

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Fresh cherry tomato, caramelized onions, and garlic sauce over pasta

Enter this recipe idea from Cristin’s RDealistic Diet Blog: a fresh cherry tomato, caramelized onion, and garlic sauce over pasta. I actually walked into the grocery store planning on making a different sauce recipe, but saw these gorgeous looking cherry tomatoes and knew I had to make use of them.

I followed her steps for the basic sauce and then spiced it up a little at the end.

What You Will Need

MIA: balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Missing in Action: balsamic vinegar and olive oil

  • Two containers of delicious, sweet cherry tomatoes
  • One large vidalia onion, cut into rings or slices
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO, divided
  • Balsamic Vinegar (optional)
  • Chopped, fresh herbs (optional), I used thyme and rosemary
  • Cooked pasta, cooked according to package directions

Step 1:  Caramelize the onion

Cut one large Vidalia onion into rings or slices.  Place onion pieces into a pan that has been coated with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (or butter) and heated over low-medium heat.  Stir onions around pan to coat evenly with oil or butter.  Reduce heat to low and let onions simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until they are in a caramelized state. You can add about 1 tsp. brown sugar during the cooking process to help with the caramelizing but this step is not required.

Beginning

Beginning

Finished

Finished

Note- this is the longest part of cooking this meal, but you do not have to stand over the stove the entire time the onions caramelize.  Check in on them every now and then, give them a nice stir, and go about your business.  You will know they are finished when they are extremely soft and browning.

Step 2: Simmer the tomatoes

In a large, deep saucepan (I used the one the onions were caramelizing in) heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  (Note- if using the same pan as the onions were in, it will already be very hot.  Heat your oil over low instead, otherwise it will spritz up as well as burn the tomatoes).  Add your two containers of washed cherry tomatoes, and turn so the oil coats them all evenly. Adjust the heat between low and medium.  They should be hot and cooking, but not sizzling too high.

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Step 3:  Adding in the Goodies

This sauce can cook for any from 15-25 minutes, depending on how chunky or cooked down  you want the tomatoes in the sauce.  Either way, after 10 minutes of cooking the tomatoes, add all your chopped, fresh garlic.  At this point,

  • If you want a chunkier, thicker sauce with more whole tomatoes: let the tomatoes and garlic cook on low/medium heat for 5 minutes, turning now and then.
  • If you want a thinner sauce with the tomatoes shed from their skins: cook the garlic/tomatoes for up to 25 minutes, or until it is at your desired consistency.  Stir the mixture every five minutes or so.

During the last 5 minutes of your determined cooking time, add your caramelized onions.  Then, some optional (highly recommended) add- ins include:

  • About 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp fresh, chopped thyme or basil
  • 1-2 tsp fresh, chopped rosemary
  • Chicken sausage

I went with balsamic vinegar, thyme and rosemary, and it was the perfect, fresh combination.

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Step 5: Scoop over pasta and enjoy

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I served this alongside some Alexia baked mushrooms and roasted brussel sprouts (both not pictured).  This dinner was a huge success!  The progress on my project due soon?  Not so much..

I am loving the idea of homemade sauces and would love to know your favorite recipes!

Battle of the Pizza Dough

I recently decided to challenge myself with cooking, and decided to make one of my all time favorite foods from scratch- pizza!  I wanted to do something different and special so I made a variation I knew my boyfriend, Ryan, would like.  I attempted BBQ Chicken Pizza with buffalo mozzarella, caramelized onions, and fresh cilantro on top.  The idea for this recipe was adapted from one seen on the Eat Live Run Blog.

By far the biggest challenge of this meal was making the dough from scratch.  The challenge did not arise in making the dough, but in working with it.  I guess it would only be fair to mention that I do not own an electric mixer so yes- this was all done by hand.

I was following the pizza dough recipe from the ELR blog ( Pizza dough recipe).  The recipe clearly states to use 1/2 of the dough for one pizza.  When I halved the dough and eyeballed what was in front me, I was afraid.  I was afraid to call Ryan into the room and have him  go bonkers over the insanely small portion in front of us.  I was not in the mood to hear some joke about how I apparently was putting him on a diet or making a personal pizza recipe.  Therefore, I decided to use all the dough.  Rookie Cooking 101: Follow the recipe.

Needless to say there was WAY to much dough and our pizza was pretty much sicilian style.  I was faced with the choice of undercooked dough in the oven or burnt cheese.  I cooked the pizza for about 5 minutes longer than recommended and tried to salvage my hard work.  In the end, the BBQ sauce and chicken were a bit dried from overheating and the onions crisped up a bit too much.  But, ultimately, the pizza tasted good.

Attempt 1:  BBQ Chicken Pizza

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However, I am a perfectionist.  Good is not great.  In the world of school, “good” is a B, and I want an A.  So what is a girl to do?  Try again.  And that’s exactly what I did the next night.  Only this time, I did two things different:  1. Follow the recipe.  2.  Cook what I want: margarita pizza!

Attempt 2:  Margarita Pizza

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The result? An A+.  Added bonus: it was even more photogenic.  Next time I would like to try to make the pizza sauce from scratch as well.  But for now?  This rookie cook is pleased add pizza to the list of things I can cook.