Carbone’s Kitchen, Bloomfield, CT

Carbone’s Kitchen, Bloomfield, CT

I’ve eaten at Carbone’s Kitchen in Bloomfield, CT several times.  I’ve even reviewed them for the Valley Press when the restaurant first opened.  Each time, I’ve eaten there, I’ve had an outstanding experience!

There are several menu items that I enjoy, and I like trying the evening’s specials.  I love that they’ve carried over some of the classic dishes from the flagship restaurant in Hartford, like the veal, chicken and eggplant Parmesan meals.

Veal parmesan with a side of pasta

Veal parmesan with a side of pasta

Many of the menu items draw upon the family’s best traditional offerings and then add a more modern twist.   My husband has enjoyed the Crazy Carbonara which has Fettuccini pasta, bacon, sausage, spinach, peppers in a cream sauce.

Crazy Carbonara

Crazy Carbonara

I’ve tried the pan seared diver scallops that are made with bacon, brandy cream sauce, mushrooms, escarole and roasted sweet potato.  All the meals are a hearty-sized portion.

Pan seared diver scallops

Pan seared diver scallops

The desserts are a decadent indulgence.

Flourless chocolate cake

Flourless chocolate cake

We tend to opt for the chocolate selections.

Chocolate gelato

Chocolate gelato

I’ve also been to the restaurant for Happy Hour.  They have one of the largest bar areas that I’ve seen from restaurants in the area.

The happy hour specials are unbelievable!  During happy hour, 4-6:30 pm Monday – Fridays, the Ciccetti menu (small plates meant to be shared) is half price.  Select wine and beers are $4 and there are a few $5 cocktails.

Some of our favorite Ciccetti menu items include the gnocchi ala vodka, the mini arancini and the tenderloin meatball, which is the size of a tennis ball.

Gnocchi Ala Vodka from the Cicchetti Menu

Gnocchi Ala Vodka from the Cicchetti Menu

The mezzaluna (half moon shaped) grilled pizzas are also a great item for sharing during happy hour.  My favorite is the chicken pesto pizza.

Chicken pesto mezzaluna grilled pizza

Chicken pesto mezzaluna grilled pizza

The staff is always friendly and helpful in making suggestions or recommending their preferred items.  The atmosphere is great and the space is decorated in rich color tones, giving it a New York vibe.  I recommend putting the restaurant on your “list of places to try” if you haven’t already!

 

Have you tried Carbone’s Kitchen in Bloomfield or the original restaurant in Hartford?

What’s your favorite Italian food?

Linguini Alfredo with Turkey Bacon and Broccoli

Linguini Alfredo with Turkey Bacon and Broccoli

After being away on vacation for a week in the south gulf coast region of Florida and eating at several wonderful restaurants, I returned from vacation inspired to make a new dish for dinner. 

I’ve tried making Alfredo sauce before, but never created a recipe that would do justice to the roman restaurateur Alfredo Di Lelio, who first invented the dish back in 1914, until now.

This recipe makes a rich, creamy flavorful Alfredo sauce.  Best of all, it’s a simple recipe that’s good for any level of cook.

Linguini Alfredo with turkey bacon and broccoli

Linguini Alfredo with turkey bacon and broccoli

Linguini Alfredo with Turkey Bacon and Broccoli

Ingredients:

12 oz. whole-wheat linguini pasta

2 cups fresh broccoli crowns

5 tbsp. butter (margarine will not do)

2 medium-sized shallots, finely chopped

1 ¼ c light cream (measure it out and set it aside so it’s not too cold.  Otherwise it may curdle when adding into the warm pan)

6 oz. turkey bacon, chopped into ¾ inch pieces

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. coarsely ground pepper

½ c grated Parmesan cheese, divided (see below)

2/3 c pasta water (reserved from the boiling pasta)

1 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley (if desired for garnish)

Directions:

In a sauté pan on medium heat, cook the turkey bacon until crispy.  Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the fully-cooked bacon and place on a paper towel-lined plate, patting the excess grease from the bacon.  Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  5-7 minutes prior to the pasta being fully cooked add the broccoli and cook both together in the boiling water.  Before draining the pasta and broccoli, reserve 2/3 cup of the pasta water.  Drain the pasta and broccoli.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes until tender.  Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cream.  Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce begins to slightly thicken.  Watch the heat and lower if necessary – you don’t want the cream sauce to burn.  Add in the bacon, salt, pepper and ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese.  Stir.  Add in half of the pasta water and continue stirring until well mixed and heated throughout.

Stir into the heated sauce the cooked pasta and broccoli.  Add in some of the remaining pasta water if needed to further moisten the sauce.  Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese on top.  Garnish with the chopped parsley if desired.

Makes 4 good-sized servings, but can be easily doubled for a larger crowd.

This recipe makes four, good-sized servings

This recipe makes four, good-sized servings

If desired, you can substitute cooked chicken for the turkey bacon and skip the section about cooking the bacon.

 

Have you ever been inspired to create a new recipe after returning from vacation?

Do you have a good recipe for Alfredo sauce that would make Alfredo di Lelio proud?

Seared Scallops with tomato, basil caprese salsa

If you’re turning to fish on Fridays from now until Easter, seared scallops with tomato, basil caprese salsa is a perfect choice.  We like this recipe so much we eat it all year round!

Seared scallops with tomato, basil caprese salsa

Seared scallops with tomato, basil caprese salsa

Seared scallops with tomato, basil caprese salsa

Zest from 2 lemons

Juice from 2 lemons

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. sea salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

8-10 sea scallops (large ones)

2 cups plum tomatoes, diced

1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 tbsp. capers, drained

Cooking spray

The most common kind of scallops found in grocery stores is wet-packed.  Be sure to pat them dry with a paper towel and remove the side muscle.  The side-muscle is a little rectangular tag of tissue on the side of the scallop, which will feel tougher than the rest of the scallop.  Set the scallops aside on a plate.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Add the tomato, basil, capers and balsamic vinegar.  Stir to combine.  Set aside.

Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  I use a Cuisinart Griddler – this allows us to grill all year round.  Once the pan is heated, lightly coat the grill with cooking spray.  Grill the scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side until just cooked through. Do not overcook the scallops, as they will become tough.

When plating, spoon the tomato mixture over the hot scallops.  Serves 2, recipe can be easily doubled for larger crowd.

I pair the scallops with steamed green beans and a black-bean quinoa.   Enjoy!

What’s your favorite fish recipe?

Have you ever cooked scallops?

Cookbook book club – Ina Garten “Barefoot Contessa – Foolproof”

The first meeting of the “Food for Thought” cookbook book club focused on Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof” cookbook.  Club members were asked to select and cook recipes from that cookbook.

I set up the meal in a “progressive” style, meaning each course was served in a different location of the house.  The group gathered in the family room for appetizers, in the dining room for the main entrée and sides, and dessert was served in the living room.  This gave it a fun twist. 

As each club member described the dish they made, they were also asked to categorized the recipe’s complexity on a scale of easy, medium or difficult, and briefly explained the preparation process.

The appetizers consisted of a good mix of nibbles.  I made the cheddar crackers.  I eliminated the jalapeno and chipotle chili powder, opting for chives and dill replacement to accommodate my non-spicy palate. The crackers have a rich, savory flavor.  I assigned the recipe to the “very easy” category, as long as you have a food processor.

Cheddar crackers

Cheddar crackers

Terri made the Tuscan mashed chickpeas with the grilled bread.  It was delicious and had perfectly balanced flavors.  It made a good quantity – perfect for a party.  She assigned the recipe to the “easy” category, as long as you have a food processor – I see a trend.

Tuscan mashed chickpeas

Tuscan mashed chickpeas

Terri also made the easy tzatziki with feta.  She paired it with pita triangles and a variety of Mediterranean olives and pickled peppers.  The tzatziki was light and fresh tasting.  She also assigned this recipe to the “easy” category.

 Easy tzatziki with feta

Easy tzatziki with feta

We moved into the dining room for the main entrée and sides.  I made the crispy mustard-roasted chicken recipe.  I’ve made this dish a few times for the family and modified it slightly based on my experiences.  For example, I use boneless, skinless, thin chicken breasts instead of bone-in chicken.  I also add the juice of one lemon to the mustard and wine mixture.  This cuts down some of the heavy mustard taste.  I termed the recipe “easy-medium” on the difficulty scale.

Crispy mustard-roasted chicken

Crispy mustard-roasted chicken

Sharon made the Provencal tomatoes as one of our side dishes.   It tasted of the essence of summer with all those fresh herbs.  She assigned this recipe to the “easy-medium” category.  She commented that you need to use fresh breadcrumbs – dried just won’t cut it.

Provencal tomatoes

Provencal tomatoes

Pat made the crispy english potatoes.  The potatoes were perfectly crisped using a par-boil first, then roast cooking technique.  The pancetta adds a nice smoky flavor to the potatoes.  It was a perfect side for the chicken.  She termed the recipe in the “easy” category.

Crispy english potatoes

Crispy english potatoes

To cap off our main meal, I also made balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts.  I’ve never made or eaten Brussels sprouts before, but wanted to try them and thought this was the perfect environment for experimentation.  The recipe is “super easy” to make.  The combination of balsamic and the pancetta really enhanced the baby cabbages’ flavor.

Balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts.

Balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts.

During dinner, I prepared five quick questions for each club member to answer.  The questions covered the topics of favorite and least favorite foods, food allergies, and preferred celebrity chefs.  The answers to these questions not only gave us good dinner conversation, but also offered us some ideas for future meetings and any special accommodations for various members.  We also discussed any dishes we were afraid to cook and found out that we can learn from each other’s cooking expertise.

Finally, we moved into the living room for dessert.  Susan made a lemon cake that was not only moist and delicious, but also beautiful to the eye.  She categorized the recipe as medium difficulty.  She commented that the recipe might be easier for those with a stand mixer, since the preparation involves alternating batches of ingredients.

Lemon cake

Lemon cake

I also made the chocolate peanut butter glob cookies.  They are a decadent cookie that has chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, pecans and walnuts.  Definitely not a recipe for someone with nut or peanut allergies.  I categorized this recipe as medium difficulty.

Chocolate peanut butter globs

Chocolate peanut butter globs

The chocolate peanut butter glob cookie recipe was true to its yield and made 24 decent-sized cookies.  I packaged them up as our take-home treat for everyone to share with their families – or not and keep for themselves!

Take home treat - cookies!

Take home treat – cookies!

In total, nine dishes were made from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa recipe collection.  All were delicious.  It was a beautiful meal with plenty of variety.

Nine Ina Garten dishes were made!

Nine Ina Garten dishes were made!

All in all the first meeting of “Food for Thought” cookbook book club was a success.  Everyone enjoyed themselves and the food.

Our next meeting is scheduled for late April.  Pat is hosting.  We’ve selected Bobby Flay for our next celebrity chef focus.  I’m looking forward to our next gathering and already salivating thinking about the delicious dishes the group will create!

What’s your favorite Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa recipe?

Have you made any of these recipes that the cookbook club made?

Lentil, Black Bean and Chicken Chili

“Chilly weather calls for chili.”

At my house, I usually don’t make chili.  My husband has an award-winning recipe that everyone loves.  But with the cold winter of 2014 and several visits from the polar vortex, I’m feeling the need for hearty comfort food and a hot bowl of chili seems to fit.

This recipe is chock full of protein – sure to keep your belly full with one bowl!

Lentil, black bean and chicken chili

Lentil, black bean and chicken chili

Lentil, black bean and chicken chili

1½ cup dry lentils (the small ones)

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. sea salt

1, 20 oz. can of diced tomatoes, undrained

1, 10 oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained

1 lb. ground chicken

4, 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce

2, 15 oz. cans of black beans, rinsed and drained

Place the lentils in a large saucepan and cover with water by several inches.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are tender, but not mushy – about 10-15 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until the onion softens.  Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Be careful not to let the garlic burn.  Add the ground chicken and brown the meat, while breaking it down into small pieces.

In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, oregano, cumin and salt.  Mix together.  Add the spices mixture to the stockpot.  Stir well to combine, allowing it to cook into the meat mixture.

Add the tomatoes (with their juices), the tomato sauce and beans to the stockpot.  Stir well to combine.  Cover and simmer so the flavors can blend together for about 10-15 minutes.  Fold in the lentils and let cook another 5 minutes.  Serve warm.

You can simply top a bowl of the chili with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions and a dollop of sour cream.  Or as my husband likes it, top it with sliced jalapeños.  I served it on top of brown rice for an entrée.

It makes a large batch that serves 8 – enough to eat some now and freeze some for another time.

Do you have a favorite chili recipe?

Have you ever entered your chili in a chili cook off?