Friday, February 25, 2011

Butera Family Cannoli

Anyone who's seen the Godfather knows the quote: "Leave the gun, take the cannoli". It's the kind of moment that makes everyone smirk, who whacks someone and immediately thinks of dessert? The Italians thats who. And what could go better with a good classic mob movie than the classic Italian dessert? Noting. When we sat down to make this dish, we were going a little cannoli crazy around the Petruno household and Eric was wandering around the house mumbling what he thought was a pretty good godfather impression. Even the dog was unimpressed. Why had we gone crazy? A few weeks back Charisse had the Butera Family Cannoli recipe passed down to her from her Grandma Butera. This recipe had been in the family for generations and is saved for only the most special of occasions (mostly because it is a pain to make!). Maybe not a pain, rather a labor of love. A labor that is absolutely worth it, you will love them, we promise... have we ever steered you wrong? Back to the cannoli. This came from Charisse's Great Aunt Ida who was well known in the family for making these special treats. Charisse grew up around her Great Aunt but had never had the chance to try one. Actually nobody in Charisse's generation had the chance to try one, the recipe hadn't been made in 30 years! Now that Charisse has really taken on the cooking reigns in the family, Grandma Butera has been excited to share some of the family secrets with us, and this is one we've been excited for for quite some time now! In case you've never had a homemade cannoli, you can't even begin to compare store or bakery bought cannoli to these. Most of the time the shells are soggy or stale and the traditional Italian filling contains weird chopped up candied fruit and maraschino cherriesWe took a few liberties with ours using plenty of Chocolate Chips and drizzled Chocolate on top. How very American of us and a little too liberal as far as Grandma Butera was concerned but for us, well you can't have enough chocolate! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bison Steaks with Whiskey Pan Sauce

The American Buffalo (which is actually a Bison, not a Buffalo) is one of the most iconic animals of the American West... and last weekend we got to eat one. Eric actually got very excited when he found Bison steaks in the grocery store, like really excited. It was almost an almost inappropriate level of excitement. We're pretty sure we overheard a woman telling her son to behave or he'd end up like "that guy", pointing to Eric. We're not sure exactly what Eric was imagining Bison to be like but it was probably something along the lines of John Wayne walking in, cutting his slice with his boot knife and then both of them riding out to rustle up some outlaws with Wyatt Earp. In reality we had this on a Tuesday, after which we sat and watched Glee. Not that there's anything wrong with Tuesday nights, or Glee. Also, the Bison was fantastic in a completely unexpected way. Lean and flavorful, not gamy at all, just a really great tasty steak. Higher in protein and significantly lower in fat than even USDA Choice steaks Bison is quickly gaining ground as one of the many beef alternatives gaining acceptance in the US market and for good reason. The other part of this dinner was the pan sauce, something we've used before but never really focused on. Basically a pan sauce is just using the remnants from cooking high protein meats over high heat. Alcohol and a good scraping brings all the baked on flavor that is usually reserved for a long soak the bottom of the sink and gives you an extra flavorful sauce when mixed with cream and other goodies. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sweet Onion Corn Bread with Cranberry Butter

It's probably no surprise  that two people that love to cook as much as we do have a slight obsession with kitchen gadgets. Neither of us are able to pass by a kitchen store without stopping in just to "look" and always come out with shopping bags full of goodies. Our little old kitchen is so stuffed with pots and pans that we have now a dedicated corner of Eric's man cave, aka the garage, for the storage of excess pots, pans and a Charisse's growing canning storage. We get asked a lot that if we had to pick just one item that was a necessity in any household what would it be? The first thing that pops into Charisse's mind is her trusty old cast iron skillet. This is by far the most used skillet in the Petruno house and it is also the least understood by a lot of people. It always surprises guests when a cake or even a pizza are presented in cast iron, but there is just something that can't be described when cooking in it. 

For those of you that don't know about cast iron cookware, a skillet, dutch oven and griddle are essential for your collection. They can go from stove top to oven and are great if you like to camp because you can cook just about anything on a open flame and they are basically indestructible. There has also been some new science out there that cast iron cooking is extra healthy for women. Some iron from the pan gets absorbed by the food your cooking and then gets into your system via eating. In America there is iron deficiency in women is a big issue, especially if your looking to have kids so this is yet another way to be a little more healthy without lots of extra pills or weird sounding supplements! We have made many a delicious dinner in our cast iron but one of our favorite things to make in the skillet is a good old fashioned corn bread. Last week we were craving corn bread but Charisse wanted to try a new twist by combining the sweet and savory mix. This recipe has a few more ingredients than the usual cornbread but is not that hard to assemble and tasty to eat. The cranberry butter was so good and we made a little extra that we have been using on toast and in our oatmeal. Although it's been warm and sunny in California, warm cornbread definitely feeds the need for comforting winter time food. 

A quick tip for those of you who are looking to invest in some cast iron cookware, we suggest browsing garage sales and thrift stores. Although brand new pieces are not expensive, we have found skillets and griddles for around $7.00. Just be sure to re-season them before using. If you have a favorite cast iron recipe we would love to hear about it! We are always looking for new ideas!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lemon Chicken Fingers

Last weekend our friend Nicole Chubb Ralston came over to do a portrait session for us and we're pretty excited to get the shots back. Charisse and Nicole when to high school together and we've been hanging out more since we moved back from the city. Nicole started her photography business right around the time we started our blog, so we've both been enjoying going through the same experiences at the same time. Turning something you love and are very passionate about into something that puts food on the table (okay in our case, provides the money to buy the food) is a huge challenge that takes the kind of dedication and patience usually reserved for putting a rocket on the moon or getting that first real world job or making the perfect martini. Its really really hard. Okay so maybe every martini tastes perfect after the third one but still, you get the point. When you listen to someone talk about a business they started or a company they grew you never hear about all the nitty gritty details, nothing about how many forms you have to fill out to get a business license, how much time you have to spend on Google researching "business plan", how nothing goes "according to the plan" or how often that first big break they had was just dumb luck. Of everyone that we've talked to about this the two things that keep popping up are perseverance and knowing what it is that makes your thing different. If you have something you love, you can eventually find a way to make money doing it. Right now, we love these Lemon Chicken Tenders that Eric made. These are baked instead of friend, so we count them as "healthy" and they taste amazing. Perfect for the "big game" (we can't legally call it the Super Bowl) or when the kids are having a sleepover. They carry a ton of flavor that you wouldn't expect from chicken fingers but don't worry, the kids will like them too!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pocket Slider Burgers

For Christmas our friends Rob and Wendy gave us a fun little kitchen gadget that makes perfect patties for slider burgers and we finally had the chance to use them. We’ve wanted to try it out for a while now, but felt that we didn’t want to add just another burger, so we got creative. These pocket sliders made a perfect appetizer for a Sharks watching party we were going to later that evening. This month we’re getting ready to plant our “Victory Garden” in the back yard. We planned on this last year and failed due to lack of dirt, and a bent thumb on Eric's end. We looked back on why we never finished our planters and the obvious answer was "hammers hurt". Eric needs to get better at aiming that thing. When Eric first described the garden area as our victory garden, Charisse asked "its not a vegetable garden? How do you grow victories?" Okay, so maybe we added that last part for dramatic effect but here in the US and in England a backyard garden holds more meaning than just a fun hobby. Beginning in 1917, American and British citizens were encouraged to grow small portable foods like vegetables and . While victory gardens made a terrific marketing tool, the effect on the home-front was fairly pronounced in a number of ways. Most of the time when someone thinks of a victory garden one conjures images of 1940's war propaganda. In reality both world wars depended on individual households doing everything they could to reduce their draw on existing resources. A garden in the front lawn meant more than just more food on the plate and happier people, there was more food for G.I.s fighting overseas even with a reduced labor pool as so many of the laborers normally involved in agriculture were enlisted. At this point, Charisse began rolling her eyes and summed up Eric's whole lecture with a comment along the lines of "so everyone had more food and was happy".