Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine: June 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Marcellino's...Best Italian in Phoenix?

I think so. I admit I haven't eaten at every Italian restaurant in the city but I have tried a good majority of them. Marcellino's is hands down above the rest. If you're looking for Chicken Parmesan this is not your place. But if you're looking for homemade pasta and fresh quality ingredients you will love Marcellino's.
My husband and I celebrated our 10 yr. wedding anniversary at Marcellino's this weekend. We started our meal with the mozzarella special. The mozzarella is imported from Italy which makes a big difference in this commonly found appetizer known as the Caprese. It's a more moist and tastier form of mozzarella than what's found in the states. Asparagus and prosciutto are also included to make this dish stand out even more.
As a main course I chose the rosemary infused parpadelle with a wild boar ragu. My husband went with the Fillet Mignon stuffed tortellone. Both dishes were fantastic. I was really surprised at the way the rosemary in my pasta stood out and mixed so perfectly with the wild boar. The tortellone were extra-large pasta stuffed with a puree of fillet and vegetables in a light tomato sauce. We followed our entrees with a piece of homemade ricotta cheesecake and some espresso. Marcellino's version of this traditional Italian dessert was superb. I would love to hear you're opinion on the best Italian restaurant in the valley. Please comment. Marcellino'sRistorante 1301 E Northern Ave Phoenix, AZ 85020 (602) 216-0004

Friday, June 29, 2007

Chocolate Chips with an Edge

Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite. So when I was offered a malted chocolate chip cookie today I couldn't possibly turn it down. Oh and I'm so glad I didn't. It was delicious. It looks just like a regular chocolate chip but it has malted milk powder added to the dough. Now if your concerned about where to get the malted milk I found out that it's located in the coffee aisle by the nondairy creamers. Deanna's Famous Chocolate Malted Cookies 1 cup butter flavored Crisco 1-1/4 cups brown sugar 1/2 cup malted powder 2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract 1 egg 2 cups flour 1 tsp. baking soda 1/2 tsp. salt 1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate pieces 1 cup milk chocolate pieces In a mixing bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients; beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggand mix well. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the mixture, mixing well. Stir in the chocolate pieces. Shape into 2 " balls and place 3" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for about 15 minutes. Let cool for 2 minutes before removing from pan. Makes about 1-1/2 dozen.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Homemade Burger

I was craving a good burger last night but didn't want to have to deal with the restaurant crowds. So I decided to make my own. I wanted something a little different than just a plan beef burger so I headed to the market and grabbed the following ingredients: 1. bacon (3 pieces cooked and crumbled) 2. a jar of roasted peppers (one pepper minced) 3. sliced provolone cheese (2 slices per burger) 4. garlic (3 cloves minced) 5. lettuce (1 leaf per burger) 6. beef (1 lb lean ground) Still not feeling it I went out to the garden and grabbed some: 1. basil (1 teaspoon minced) 2. sage (1 teaspoon minced) 3. tomatoes (1 slice per burger) Mmm this was going to be good. I started by cooking up my bacon and crumbling it into small pieces. I mixed that in with my beef, garlic, minced herbs and roasted peppers. I formed 4 quarter pound patties and fired up the charcoal grill. I cooked the burgers for about 4 minutes per side. I decided to go with something a little different for the bread and toasted up a ciabatta roll. I added provolone cheese right at the end; dressed my roll with lettuce and tomato and was ready to sink my teeth in.
The burger was delicious. It was very moist, probably from the roasted peppers. It was definitely an interesting blend of ingredients that worked very well together.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Guilt Free Homemade Ice Cream

I received a Cuisinart ice cream maker for my birthday last year and have been working with perfecting a recipe for guilt free ice cream. Here's what I came up with: Vanilla 1 cup whole milk, chilled 1/4 cup sugar 2 cups fat-free Half & Half, chilled 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Whisk together milk and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Stir in Half & Half and vanilla. Place in refrigerator for 15 minutes or longer. When ready turn on ice cream machine. Pour mixture into freezer bowl of machine and let mix until thick, about 30-45 mins. Eat or freeze immediately. Chocolate 1 cup of whole milk 1/4 cup sugar 8 ounces of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate broken into pieces 2 cups fat-free Half &Half, chilled 1 teaspoon vanilla Heat milk. In a food processor mix sugar and chocolate until chocolate is finely chopped. Add hot milk to this and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Stir in Half & Half and vanilla. Chill for at least 30 minutes. When ready turn on ice cream machine. Pour mixture into freezer bowl of machine and let mix until thick, about 30-45 mins. Eat or freeze immediately.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Finding Paradise in Phx...Niccoli's Deli

Niccoli's Italian Grocery-Deli 6102 N. 16th St. #9 Phoenix, AZ 85016 (602) 279-5335 Fax: (602) 279-0330 Email: I stumbled upon Niccoli's Deli by accident one day. We had just moved to Phoenix and went to the Shasta design center near 16th St. and Bethany Home to look at some pool designs. After browsing for a bit we realized we were hungry. Not knowing the area my husband and I were clueless about where to go for something good. Our pool salesman suggested an Italian place in the parking lot across the street and we decided to try it. Tucked way in the back of a small parking lot just north of Bethany Home on 16th St. we found Niccoli's Deli. And what a find it was. Since that day we have become regular customers and have gotten to know the owners, Joe and Peppy, well. They sell all kinds of Italian food and grocery items. We use thier homemade pizza dough, fresh mozzarella balls and dried oregano, still on the branch, to make our own pizza. Around the holidays we'll buy fresh ricotta cheese and Italian canned tomatoes to make lasagna. Phoenix is actually full of little gems such as this one. It may take a little bit of searching but they can be found. We just happened to luck out finding Niccoli's so easily.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Little Piece of Philly on the West Side

Mancini's 5626 W Bell Rd 602-439-2285 If you're looking for authentic Philly sandwiches check out Mancini's. This place is the real thing. The owners are from Philly and have worked in the food industry for years. In addition to the delicious sandwiches they are also a full service Italian restaurant. My favorite thing on the menu is the roast pork sandwich with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe. I also love the pear cheesecake. So far everything I've tried has been pretty damn good. The clientele includes a lot of Philly transplants; which makes for a very exciting group. On our last visit they were doing the Mummer's Strut. The west side was in need of a place like this. They have great food, live music on Friday and Saturday nights and they serve food until 4pm on the weekends. Thank you Bill and Jason for bringing a piece of Philly to the west side.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

If You're Going to Eat it You Should at Least Try to Pronounce it Right

Gnocchi It's pronounced NYOH-key. Not...Noh-ki...GEnoh-cy...GNoki ...NYACKI The ch is pronounced as a k. The g is silent. Any way you say it these little potato dumplings are delicious. I like them served with the following sauce. Butter Sage Sauce Melt 1 stick of unsalted butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add 8-10 whole sage leaves and remove the skillet from the heat. Ladle out about 1 cup of pasta cooking water before you drain them. Add the pasta to the skillet. Pour in enough of the cooking water to make a sufficient amount of creamy sauce to coat the pasta generously. Bring to a quick boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in grated Parmigiano-Reggiano salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately. (found in Lidia's Italian American Kitchen by Lidia Bastianich)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Phoenix Ranch Market

Set out last night to tackle the Phoenix Ranch Market. After hearing so many mixed reviews about the place I have to admit I was a bit nervous. All my fears were washed away when I walked through the front door and was engulfed by the smell of fresh bread and cakes being made. This was a real bakery; turning out homemade Mexican pastries. What a treat. I grew with a bakery on pratically every corner. Bakeries seem to be few and far between in Phoenix. So stumbling upon one at the Ranch Market was nice. Meandering further into the store I passed the la crema counter with fresh yogurt and cheese and the fish counter with homemade ceviche. Perusing the meat counter I was able to find such things as tripe and oxtail; chicken feet and cow skin. So I may not yet know what to use chicken feet for but I do know now that if I needed them they are available. This is food culture at it's finest. Another big part of the market is the food court. Aiming for the full experience I decided to have a bite to eat. Not speaking any spanish made this a challenge that was easily overcome by some very patient employees. I decided on the Torta Cubano. MMM what a good choice. For about $5 I got this nice sized sandwich stuffed with various meats and cheeses. All of this was topped with hot peppers, tomatoes, avocado and lettuce. It really was a treat.