Monday, July 28, 2014

Sassi Summer Cooking & Wine Series

By: The Food Hunter

Explore the regional flavors of Italy while you learn to prepare authentic Italian dishes with Chef Nicosia at Sassi restaurant in Scottsdale. Designed for home cooks of all skill levels, these interactive demonstrations focus on a different region of Italy each week. To complete the culinary experience, hand selected wines are paired with each dish so guests may be fully immersed in the rich, regional flavors of the country.

Below is a short video of Chef Nicosia making sausage during a recent class and some still of the food that was made and served that night.

eggplant cakes

pasta with sausage & broccoli rabe

These classes are a great way to experience a chef in action, ask questions and learn how to cook some delicious food.

Sassi Restaurant
10455 E Pinnacle Peak Parkway
Scottsdale Az. 85255

This meal was provided complimentary, however all opinions and comments are my own.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Have You Tried Cabot Cheese?

By: Davinia Perrin

Calling all cheese lovers, I recently had the opportunity to sample a few varietals of Cabot Cheese blocks; Pepper Jack  and the Sharp Light Cheddar.  Both had a surprisingly soft smooth texture.  

The Pepper Jack had the perfect amount of spice and I must admit most of it was eaten sliced straight from the block, with a few pieces making their way into salads and sandwiches. 
The Sharp Light Cheddar had a great sharp flavor and didn’t skip on anything other than being half the fat.  It boasts some impressive stats: only 70 calories per 1ounce serving, and 4.5 grams of fat.

Founded in 1919, Cabot Creamery is a co-op, owned and operated by its members and dairy farmers located in New England and Upstate New York.  They have a vested interest in providing the highest quality dairy products because 100% of their profits go directly to their family farmers.  If you haven’t tried the “world’s best”, I highly recommend you find a store near you and pick up one of Cabot’s award-winning cheeses.  
After all, everything is better with cheese! 

In order for me to support my knowledge-sharing/writing/blogging activities, I occasionally may receive monetary compensation and or product in exchange for my recommendation, and/or testimonial. However, I only recommend products or services I have personally used myself and trust.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Eating Whole Foods: Roasted Carrot Gnocchi

By: The Food Hunter

It had never occurred to me before now to make gnocchi from pureed carrot; but once I saw this recipe in Domenica Marchetti's book, The Glorious Pasta of Italy I realized that it actually makes sense. The sweet flavor and creamy texture of the carrots is similar to those of sweet potatoes and pumpkin; both of which make excellent gnocchi.

In this dish the carrots are roasted to enhance their sweetness and then pureed until fairly smooth. Next the carrots are mixed with ricotta and just enough flour to bring it all together. What makes this dish even more unique is the cooking method. The gnocchi are first boiled in water, then tossed with a browned butter herb sauce and topped with Parmesan cheese before they are put in the oven for a quick bake. The results are phenomenal, when the gnocchi hit your mouth you instantly taste the sweetness of the carrots immediately followed by the bold nuttiness of the melted Parmesan and browned butter mix.

Don't let the lengthiness of the recipe fool you; it may be time consuming but it's very easy to make and it's so worth it! Oh and don't forget to scroll down and enter the Whole Foods gift card giveaway below the recipe!

Roasted Carrot & Ricotta Gnocchi
(pintable recipe)

For the Gnocchi

1-1/2 lb/680 g carrots, peeled (1 lb/455 g after trimming),
cut into chunks
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher or fine sea salt
2 tsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp minced shallots
1 cup/225 g whole cow's milk ricotta cheese
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
3/4 cup/85 g freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup/30 g unbleached all-purpose/ plain flour,
plus more for rolling the gnocchi

For the Herbed Butter
6 tbsp/85 g unsalted butter
1 heaping tbsp mixed minced fresh herbs
(I used parsley and oregano)
1/4 cup/55 g freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese,
plus more for serving

To Make the Gnocchi
: Heat the oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C/gas 6. Place the carrots in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet/tray or shallow roasting pan/tray, and drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil over them. Sprinkle with a little salt and toss with a spatula. Roast the carrots for 30 to 40 minutes, or until they are completely tender and browned in spots. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C/gas 6.

Heat the butter in a frying pan placed over medium heat. When the butter is melted and begins to sizzle, stir in the shallots and sauté, stirring frequently, 4 to 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the roasted carrots and toss to combine them with the shallots. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Transfer the carrots to a food processor and process until fairly smooth (a few little bits are good for texture). Scoop out the carrot puree into a bowl. Add the ricotta, egg yolks, Parmigiano, 1/2 tsp salt, the nutmeg, and a few grinds of pepper. Gently stir in the 1/4 cup/30 g flour, taking care to combine everything thoroughly.

Place a scoop of flour in a shallow bowl. Have two standard tablespoons at hand. With one spoon, scoop up about 1 tbsp of the carrot mixture and then transfer it to the other spoon. Transfer the mixture back and forth a few times to help shape the mixture into a ball (it does not have to be perfectly round). Gently drop the ball into the bowl of flour and coat it lightly. Then roll the ball between your palms to produce a chestnut-size nugget. Transfer to a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet/tray. Repeat until you have used up all the mixture. You should end up with 32 to 36 gnocchi.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously.

To Make the Herbed Butter: Melt the butter in a small frying pan placed over medium-low heat. When the butter is melted and begins to sizzle, stir in the herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, for just a couple of minutes, or until the butter has taken on the flavor of the herbs. Remove from the heat. Spoon some of the herbed butter into a baking dish large enough to hold all the gnocchi in one snug layer. Set the dish near the stove.

When the water is boiling, carefully drop half the gnocchi into the pot. Cover the pot until the water returns to a boil, then uncover and cook the gnocchi for about 5 minutes. They will float to the top when they are nearly done. Using a skimmer or a large slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi to the prepared baking dish. Cook the remaining gnocchi in the same way and add them to the baking dish. Drizzle the remaining herbed butter over the gnocchi.

Sprinkle the 1/4 cup/55 g Parmigiano over the gnocchi and place in the oven. Bake the gnocchi for about 15 minutes, or until they are hot throughout and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately. Pass additional cheese at the table.

Simplify: The gnocchi may be boiled, placed in the baking dish, and drizzled with the herbed butter up to 1 day in advance. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate. Remove the dish from the refrigerator about 1 hour before baking. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake as directed. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 21, 2014

Welcome To The New Beverages Page

Our First Featured Mixologist: Julie Hillebrand

By: The Food Hunter

Welcome to the new beverage page where we will be showcasing all things liquid. From beer & wine to coffee & tea, if it goes in a glass we will be talking about it here. In addition to the beverages we will also be introducing you to the brands and people behind them.

Our first featured mixologist is Julie Hillebrand, Resident Mixologist at J&G Steakhouse at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale. Julie got her start in the beverage world at the young age of 18; training on the bar at the Mexican restaurant where she waitressed. She continued to work at restaurants both in the US and in Germany during her college years, picking up a taste for global flavor which she strives to replicate in her drinks.

Being hired by Jean-Georges Vongerichten's team in 2008 to start J&G was a great accomplishment for her. Julie was trained by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric, the masterminds behind the world famous New York bars: Employees Only and Macau Trading Company. From them she learned the differences in producing spirits, and the variances within spirit categories from one brand to the next. They also guided her when she began experimenting with making her own infusions and were her inspiration for  making bitters at home.

As you can tell Julie is no stranger in the kitchen; a skill set that has been very helpful in building cocktails. She is a strong believer in fresher is better and prefers creating her own whenever possible. Julie takes advantage of the many farmer's markets around town for fresh produce and herbs which she uses in beverages like the Garden Gimlet below.

Making her own lime cordial instead of using commercial brands, which are often filled with preservatives, is just another way Julie commits to freshness in her beverages and it certainly shows in the quality of her drinks.

The Garden Gimlet will be featured at J&G starting today!

(printable recipe)
1.5 oz Tanqueray Ten Gin
.75 oz Fresh Lime Cordial
.5 oz Green Chartreuse
.5 oz Sancerre, or French Sauvignon Blanc/White Bordeaux
Cucumber, 2 thin lengthwise slices from a little Persian cucumber
2 medium Basil leaves

Shake all ingredients, reserving one cucumber slice and a Basil leaf for garnish. Fine strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Slide the remaining cucumber strip between the glass and the ice. Slap the last Basil leaf and place it on top. A splash of soda water would be great for texture and hydration on a hot day.

Fresh Lime Cordial
1C freshly squeezed lime juice
1C sugar (I use raw, unbleached sugar. The flavor is great!)
1/2C filtered water
**Carefully remove the zest of one of your limes before juicing them.**

Put all ingredients into a sauce pan on medium heat, bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for five minutes, then remove pan from heat and allow to cool. Fine strain the cordial through a chinois and add an ounce of vodka to help preserve it, if you like. This will keep in the refrigerator for a month.

Friday, July 18, 2014

5 Ways to Eat Healthy Without Ruining Your Budget

By: The Food Hunter

Eating healthy can be expensive but it doesn't have to break the bank. Here are a few tips that have helped me when choosing what to eat.

1. Eat less meat. Cutting back on meat is a money saver. Embrace Meatless Mondays and incorporate more vegetables into your diet. The fact is most of us eat more meat than we need to and not enough fruits and vegetables.

2. Shop in the moment. Seasonal foods are not only cheaper but also taste better. By shopping seasonally you can try a variety of foods throughout the year. To find out what is harvested during each season in your area go to

3. If you absolutely have to buy something off season, frozen is the way to go. Frozen fruits and vegetables are harvested at the peak of their ripeness making them super delicious all year long.

4. Make Friends. Get to know the produce manager and/or the butcher at your local store. They can tell you what's in season or what will be on sale soon. Meal plan accordingly.

5. Buy in Bulk. Shopping the bulk bins allows you to purchase the exact amount for your particular needs. There's no need to spend extra or something you won't use. Plus most items are much less expensive when purchased by the ounce.