The Weekend Gourmet: 10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013 F

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gameday No Forks Feast...Featuring Papa John's Pizza and Buffalo Wild Wings

This month’s football food spotlight is shining on two classic dude-approved foods: pizza and wings! Anytime my bunch gets together to watch the Texans play, there’s going to be food involved…and pizza and wings are two of the most-requested menu items. That said, I want to be watching the game too…not in the kitchen rolling out dough and frying up chicken wings. That’s where convenient takeout and delivery options come in. It's one of secret weapons to ensure everyone is properly fed without messing up my kitchen or making me miss any of the big plays! Earlier this month, we teamed up with Papa John’s and Buffalo Wild Wings to set up the ultimate dude-approved pizza and wing menu. I call this casual menu my No Forks Feast, because everything served is eaten out of hand on paper plates!

Papa John’s is an Official Pizza Sponsor of the National Football League. They delivered hot, freshly baked pizzas to the front door just ahead of kickoff for a Sunday night game. We ordered a Tuscan Cheese pizza for the vegetarians and All The Meats pizzas for the carnivores. The name is appropriate, because this pizza is topped with a generous amount of pepperoni, Italian sausage, beef, bacon and Canadian Bacon. The pizzas arrived piping hot with tons of melted cheese. Papa John's also sent along one of their new pizza-shaped chocolate chip cookies for us to try. The cookie came sliced just like a little pizza and was buttery and golden. It was crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle, and full of melted semisweet chocolate chips.
We also ordered a six-flavor wing platter from the Buffalo Wild Wings takeout menu, and the entire ordering and pickup process was so simple! We called our order in the day before the game and made arrangements to pick up a combination of traditional and boneless wings about 30 minutes before game time. The entire process was seamless, and everything was neatly packed up and ready to go when we arrived. All I had to do to set the wings up for everyone was open the individual boxes of wings and arrange a platter of blue cheese, ranch, and carrots & celery sticks nearby for everyone to enjoy. They even accommodated our special request for all drums on our traditional wings! The boneless wings are two-bite breaded chicken breast pieces tossed in one of Buffalo Wild Wings' signature sauces. They're ideal for people who don't like to fuss with bones. We also tried sauces and dry rubs so we could experience each serving option that is offered. 
Since I didn’t have to deal with cooking the main dishes for this party, it allowed me to focus my attention on a homemade appetizer and dessert. Since my goal was to make gameday as stress-free as possible for myself, I made one of my favorite dips and some of my addictive Spicy Nutty Maple-Bacon Caramel Corn the day before the game. Both are absolutely perfect for this No Forks Feast since they can be enjoyed "by hand." One of my most-requested recipes to take to parties is my chunky Two-Step Greek Ranch Dip. It’s super easy to make and pairs really well with the pizza and wings. It combines my love of ranch dip with some of my favorite Greek-inspired ingredients and is served with crispy pita chips. Everyone who tries this dip goes nuts for it, so I'm happy to share the recipe with you again today.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Berry-Port Puff Pastry Turnovers with Blueberry Glaze...Featuring Driscoll's Berries and Bonne Maman Jam

Those of you who are regular readers of The Weekend Gourmet know that I cook much more often than I bake. However, once the weather turns cooler in Fall, I'm ready to turn on my oven and bake up a few tasty treats. I've come up with some shortcuts for baking that save me time and result in delicious goodies. One of my secret ingredients is puff pastry...it lets you make pastries very easily, and the end result is quite impressive. When my friends at Driscoll's asked me to create a recipe using their fantastic berries, I thawed out some frozen puff pastry and put on my thinking cap. Then, the kind folks at Bonne Maman sent me some of their all-natural French-inspired fruit jam. I knew the jam would make a great partner for my Driscoll's raspberries and blackberries. I had a flash of inspiration: what pairs well with berries? Port. I decided right then to make Berry-Port Puff Pastry Turnovers with Blueberry Glaze. 
These gorgeous pastries are ready for the oven in about 20 minutes, but the end result looks like you spent hours in the kitchen! Inside of each turnover is a generous spoonful of Bonne Maman's Wild Blueberry jam and a mixture of Driscoll's raspberries, blackberries and port wine. The vibrant fuschia drizzle is made with more of the blueberry jam that's thinned with hot water before being combined with powdered sugar. These turnovers are out-of-this-world good and ridiculously easy to make!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Darden Restaurant Group's Pumpkin Dessert Challenge...Featuring Pumpkin Spice Bundt with Maple-Pecan Glaze


October is National Pumpkin Month, and Darden Restaurant Group is celebrating with a trio of delicious pumpkin desserts at three of their restaurants. They challenged me to taste each of these featured desserts, then create a pumpkin dessert of my own that's inspired by one of their creations I'm always up for a fun challenge, so I jumped in with both feet...and a fork! Available for a limited time only, these fabulous desserts include:
·     LongHorn Steakhouse’s Pumpkin Spice Lava Cake. Warm pumpkin spice cake is filled with a smooth cream cheese icing and drizzled with Maker’s Mark® bourbon-caramel sauce and candied pecans. This cake is served warm, allowing the cream cheese icing to act like warm lava. This cake is on the rich side, making it ideal to share with that special someone.

·      Red Lobster’s Pumpkin Pie in a Jar. This dessert takes a classic Fall dessert and presents it in a fun, modern way! This dessert features layered pumpkin and cream cheese mousse with a graham-cracker crust, then tops it with sugared pecans. This parfait tastes features all my favorite pumpkin pie flavors, then takes it over the top with the luscious cream cheese mousse.

·      Olive Garden’s Pumpkin Cheesecake. Rich and creamy pumpkin cheesecake is topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce and ginger cookie crumbles. This cheesecake is sinfully good, and the ginger cookie crumbles provide a nice texture contrast to the creamy, spicy cheesecake.
I chose the Pumpkin Spice Lava Cake as my dessert inspiration and created a comforting Pumpkin Spice Bundt with Maple Pecan Glaze. I love bundt cakes because they're so versatile -- casual, but still nice enough to serve to company. My bundt cake features warm Fall spices and pumpkin. The cake is topped with a creamy maple glaze and chopped pecans.
A slice of this bundt cake goes perfectly with a cup of coffee for an indulgent breakfast treat...or with a cup of chai tea for an after-dinner dessert. To make the preparation as easy as possible, I used a boxed spice cake mix. Sometimes I just don't feel like measuring dry ingredients, so I always keep a box cake mix or two in my cupboard. I decided to throw a bit of a curve ball...the secret ingredients to the cake's texture and flavor are instant butterscotch pudding and pumpkin spice coffee creamer.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wendy's Favorite Things for October...

It's time for another monthly roundup of Wendy's Favorite Things...my favorite new-to-me culinary and kitchen finds. I absolutely LOVE trying out new items, working with them in my kitchen...and then sharing my finds with you. It's not fun finding new things that I love if I can't share them with my friends! Hopefully you'll discover a new food or drink to try out...because I've some fabulous discoveries to share with you this month. So...let's get started!

(1) Quinn Popcorn. Their slogan is Microwave Popcorn Reinvented. First, they changed up the typical microwave popcorn bag. Their revolutionary popping bag contains no chemical coatings (PFOA, PFCs, Poly, etc.). What’s left is a bag made solely from paper that's pressed to make it grease proof. The ingredients used in their popcorn flavors never use GMO ingredients or preservatives. The popcorn used is organic, and the expeller pressed oils are high in omega-3′s. Even better? This stuff tastes GREAT! Quinn Popcorn comes in great flavors like Parmesan & Rosemary, Hickory Smoked Cheddar and Vermont Maple & Sea Salt (my personal favorite). The popcorn is light and fluffy, and the seasonings are clean and flavorful. The Vermont Maple & Sea Salt perfectly balances sweet and salt. It's addictive...but I don't have to feel guilty since it's such a healthy alternative to traditional microwave popcorns!

(2) Kerrygold Garlic & Herb Butter. Why have I not tried this amazing buttersooner?!?!? OMG...so good! If you're not familiar Kerrygold butter, you should be. It's Irish butter made from milk that's from grass-fed cows. It's creamy, rich and oh so good! The garlic & herb butter takes things one step further by adding garlic and lots of fresh herbs...making it a ready-made compound butter. The herbs used include parsley, chives and dill, as well as a healthy dose of garlic. I love to use this butter to create delicious garlic bread. Simply soften the butter, spread on French bread, sprinkle with parmesan and toast it under the broiler. I also love to melt a bit of this flavorful butter in a skillet, add a bit of lemon juice, and add a pound of shrimp. It's the quickest scampi you'll ever make!

(3) Alvita Organic Tea. Founded in 1922, Alvita makes a fantastic line of organic herbal teas. If you're a tea lover who tries to avoid caffeine in the evenings, this line of herbal teas is a great one to try! They offer a wide variety of herbal teas that are certified gluten free, organic and kosher. My personal favorite is the Ginger-Peppermint tea. Both herbs are traditionally used to soothe unsettled stomachs. I like to brew this tea according to the package directions and make a latte by adding a bit of almond milk and honey or agave. It's a great way to unwind in the evenings since it's naturally caffeine-free. To find Alvita teas near you, visit the Store Locator on their website.

(4) Nature's Habit Granola. I love to keep granola on hand to sprinkle on top of yogurt or add a bit of crunch to morning oatmeal. This award-winning all-natural granola from Napa Valley is my new favorite. It's full of nuts, heart-healthy whole grains and antioxidant-rich dried fruits, so it's as good for you as it is good tasting! Flavors include Almonds, Pecans & Oats, Banana Chips, Almonds & Pecans, and Cocoa Cherry & Almond. They're crunchy without being too hard...and flavorful without being overly sweet. The granola comes in small packages of bite-sized trail mix, as well as larger bags of cereal-type granola. I love the trail mix for an afternoon pick-me-up at work, and I use the cereal as a topping or cereal addition.

(5) Recipe Inspirations by McCormick. This handy product is a busy cook's best friend. Each flavor variety includes all of the herbs and spices necessary to create a complete dinner. No measuring...no sorting through your spice rack. Everything you need is included, and it's even pre-measured. You simply add the fresh ingredients and cook the recipe according to the package directions. It doesn't get much easier, people! They offer several varieties, but my personal favorite is the Chipotle Chicken Tacos. Simply add the spices to some olive oil and vinegar, marinate chicken breast and veggies, then give everything a quick saute in a skillet. In less than an hour, you've got a delicious dinner ready to go! I keep a couple of these Recipe Inspirations in my cupboard at all times for those nights when I'm short on time but want to make a quick and flavorful meal.

(6) McGah Family Cellars' Scarlett 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. I try not to use words like "the best" very often since it's such a subjective term that depends on individual opinion. That said, Scarlett is quite simply the very best cabernet sauvignon that I have tasted this year. This fabulous red wine comes from McGah Family Cellars, which is located in Rutherford, Napa Valley. Scarlett is a sassy lass that features a deeply dark ruby color and a lush, complex flavor. Tasting notes include blackberry compote, Belgium chocolate and cassis. Let me put it this way: this wine is just plain nice to drink! It's silky smooth with plush tannins. I served this smooth full-bodied cabernet with a roasted pork tenderloin and a salad that was topped with a robust feta cheese. The flavors worked very nicely together. I'm certainly not a wine expert, but I know what I like. I like Scarlett...a lot! This wine retails for $60/bottle and can be purchased direct from McGah's website.


(7) Entertainment 2014 Coupon Books. I've been a fan of these money-saving coupon books for years! What's not to like? You can save money on local restaurants via buy-one-get-one coupons for everything from fast food hamburgers to fine-dining restaurants. You can also save big on local attractions, as well as goods and services. Each coupon book also contains a section that helps you save on travel via hotel, airfare and rental car discounts. It's not difficult at all to recoup the average $35 price for the book with just a few uses. I keep my Entertainment book in my car all the time so I can use it anytime an opportunity arises. For example, I decided to do takeout one evening last week on my way home from work. A quick look through my Entertainment book allowed me to get one of our meals for free. That kind of savings adds up quickly! These coupon books are customized for most major U.S. cities and can be purchased right now for 10% off and free shipping

(8) Amy's Organic Andy's Dandy Candy Bars. These amazing candy bars are one of the latest creations from Amy's Organic Kitchen. They come in four flavors: Crispy, Crunchy (English Toffee with Almonds in Dark Chocolate), Chewy (Soft Caramel with Pecans), and Creamy (Whipped Creamy Center Topped with Caramel). These candy bars are made with organic natural ingredients...and they taste FANTASTIC! All of them are great, but I think my favorite was the Crispy. It contains rice crisps, almonds and soft caramel covered in chocolate. Each bar averages 200 calories and contains no GMOs, high fructose corn syrup or preservatives. These candy bars can be purchased online via the Amy's Organic Kitchen website, as well as at select health food stores around the country. Try to get your hands on these candy bars if at all possible...they taste fabulous and are a healthier candy bar option.

Disclaimer: The manufacturers of the products featured in this article provided me with samples of their item to facilitate inclusion. No other compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are my own. I only recommend products that I have personally tried and enjoy using in my own kitchen.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

#SundaySupper Halloween Party...Featuring Halloween Crunch Truffles

It's time to cue the ghosts and goblins and fire up your favorite scary movies! Halloween is in a few days, so the #SundaySupper gang is celebrating by sharing some spooktacular Halloween-inspired dishes today! Our host for this week's event is Kathia from Basic N Delicious, and she challenged us to come up with fun and delicious Halloween recipes. I knew that I wanted to do something sweet and colorful...so I put on my thinking cap and came up with my Halloween Crunch Truffles. The filling for these truffles is flavored with lots of crunchy goodies, then decorated with orange candy melts and colorful Halloween sprinkles. You can also dip the truffles in melted dark chocolate for contrasting colors on your serving plate. The main point is to have fun and let your creativity flow!
These truffles get their crunch from a combination of crispy rice cereal and crushed speculoos (Biscoff) cookies. They're also flavored with cookie butter (aka Biscoff spread), marshmallow fluff and a bit of powdered sugar to help act as binding. The filling is then rolled into balls and chilled before being dipped and decorated. The flavors are perfect for Fall, with hints of gingerbread and other warm spices. Watch out, though...these babies are wickedly addictive!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spotlight on P.F. Chang's Seasonal Fall Menu!

P.F. Chang's China Bistro recently introduced a new seasonal menu for Fall that features menu items geared toward cooler temperatures and Fall seasonal produce. They recently invited us out to sample some of these new menu items and share our thoughts with you. This limited-time menu features new appetizers, entrees, desserts and cocktails...so there's something for everyone to enjoy! We arrived and quickly settled on an appetizer, opting to try the new Crispy Korean Chicken Wings. These spicy wings are much easier to eat than traditional hot wings, because they're served lollipop style. They're a real winner, flavored with sweet and spicy red chili sauce that reminds me of sriracha...and topped with green onions and sesame seeds.
These wings are downright addictive...crispy, light and full of flavor. These are definitely a must try! For our entree, we opted to share the Vietnamese Noodles with Steak & Shrimp. It was light and bursting with flavors that are inspired by Vietname pho. It's flavored with hoisin, sriracha, cinnamon and corriander. Ask for lime and cilantro on the side so you can flavor it to taste with these bold ingredients.
I really loved this entree! It had tons of flavor, but it remained light and refreshing. The serving size was generous too. That means there's plenty to share...or do what I did and save a portion to take to lunch the next day. We ended our tour of the new P.F. Chang's Fall menu with a fantastic seasonal dessert: Caramel Apple Wontons. Imagine a light and crispy wonton wrapper filled with caramel, cream cheese and apples...then fried to a golden brown and topped with powdered sugar and more caramel sauce. It's not too sweet or heavy...the perfect ending to our meal.
With that, our sampling of the Fall seasonal menu was over...but make sure to link to the entire menu to check out the rest of the fabulous menu items. The Citrus Mustard Prawns are on my list of items to go back and try very soon! While I have your attention, I also want to share some fun news about a P.F. Chang's contest with you. They're having a Goodness of Fall Contest via Facebook, so check it out. The Grand Prize is a trip to the beautiful Napa Valley...and daily prizes of $50 P.F. Chang's gift cards are also up for grabs. Click on the link above to enter...and maybe you'll be a lucky winner!!

Disclosure: P.F. Chang's provided me with a gift card to sample their Fall seasonal menu items to facilitate this post. I received no other compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Guest Blog for the Gulf Oyster Industry Council at James Beard Foundation's Taste America Event!

Michael and I recently had the privilege to serve as guest bloggers for the Gulf Oyster Industry Council (GOIC) at the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America event in New York. We took part in a contest via Facebook a few weeks ago and won the opportunity to attend and cover a Taste America event at one of eight cities across the country. We opted for a weekend in New York to attend its Taste America event, which was named The Artful Chef -- Linking the Worlds of Fine Art and Food. We arrived at The St. Giles Court Hotel on Friday afternoon and were thrilled to discover that we had been booked into a huge suite that included a large balcony that featured amazing an amazing view of The Chrysler Building, a large living room, and a comfortable bedroom. The hotel used to be a residential building, so it was very much like staying in a New York apartment. We absolutely loved it! We settled in a bit before getting dressed up for the dinner, which was held at Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark restaurant. 

Our host for the event was the GOIC's Ron Thompson. He was a fabulous host, introducing us to many industry people who he knew…as well as introducing me to my first-ever raw oysters! We arrived at Riverpark just as the cocktail hour was in full swing. We enjoyed a glass of champagne and a variety of creative passed hors d’oeuvres created by Riverpark Chef Sisha Ortuzar. GOIC was a national sponsor for the Taste America events, and they provided a huge oyster bar for guests to enjoy. I had never eaten a raw oyster before, but I knew this was the perfect opportunity! The oysters were shucked fresh and immediately placed on ice. Ron, pictured with me at right, showed me how to properly prepare the oyster with some cocktail sauce and lemon juice. Then, I took a deep breath and went for it! 
The flavor of the oyster was briny, with a good bit of spice and tang from the added condiments. I’m not sure why I waited all this time to try a raw oyster, because it was quite delicious once I got over my fear of the texture of a raw oyster. Michael and I both really enjoyed the Oyster Tacos with Green Tomato, Pickled Onions and Cilantro that were offered as a passed hors d’oeuvre during the cocktail hour. Before we knew it, it was time to go into the main dining room to take our seats for the four-course seated dinner. Each large round table seated eight guests, so we had a chance to share this fabulous dining experience with several fellow food lovers. The lights were low, and the table was beautifully decorated. One look, and we immediately knew that we were in for an evening to remember!
The evening's four-course dinner menu was created by four well-known chefs: Alex Guarnaschelli from Butter and The Food Network, Daniel Patterson from San Francisco’s Coi, Andrew Carmellini from Locanda Verdi, and Brooks Headley from Del Posto. Each course was paired with wines from Greece. We had never tasted Greek wines before, but we loved them. Shortly after being seated, the First Course was served: Beet-Cured Wild Salmon Carpaccio with Kohlrabi, Grainy Mustard and Crispy Shallots. This dish was light and very refreshing. We loved how the sweetness from the kohlrabi and sharp tang from the mustard worked with the wild salmon. The combination of flavors and textures in this gorgeous dish was amazing.
The Second Course was the very creative and delicious Sunchoke Soup: Sunflower and Chanterelles. The bowls were placed in front of us with a pesto-like sunflower seed concoction and thinly sliced chanterelles and sunchokes. The velvety sunchoke soup was poured into each bowl tableside, which made for a dramatic presentation. This soup was creamy and light, with the nuts, chanterelles and sunchokes providing the perfect amount of texture and crunch. The only word to describe this soup is sublime.
The Third Course was Braised and Roasted Veal with Heirloom Polenta and Broccoli Rabe. This dish featured tender veal prepared two different ways, served over creamy polenta. Each serving was also topped with slightly bitter broccoli rabe. The two veal presentations had different textures, but both tasted amazing. The earthy polenta and bitter broccoli rabe were fantastic textural and flavor additions to this complex main dish.
The Fourth Course was Butterscotch Semifreddo with Sour Melon and Sbrisalona. Everyone at our table raved about this dessert…the texture of the semifreddo was light as air, and the crunchy sbrisalona topping provided the perfect textural contrast. If I could’ve had two servings of this dish, I would have...it was that good! It was paired with a fantastic Greek VinSanto sweet dessert wine. This creative dessert was the perfect ending to a fabulous meal.
With that, our amazing dinner experience was over. It was an evening full of fabulous food, excellent paired wines and fabulous dinner conversation with our table of fellow food lovers! We had a fabulous time chatting with Ron as we lingered for a bit over coffee. Before we knew it, it was time to head into a waiting cab to be transported back to our hotel. We bid Ron goodbye for the evening in the lobby. We went back up to our suite to enjoy the amazing nighttime view of the city below us before we collapsed into bed. As you can see from the picture at left, we had a stunning nighttime view of The Chrysler Building from the balcony of our suite! We admired the view for a bit as we marveled at what a fantastic evening we had just experienced. However, we still had one more Taste America event left to cover the next morning: a cooking demonstration by Taste America All-Star Chef Daniel Patterson at Sur la Table!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for October...Featuring La Fogata Mexican Cuisine

This month's featured restaurant for The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out is La Fogata, a well-known and popular San Antonio landmark for Tex-Mex cuisine. La Fogata opened in 1978 and keeps legions of hungry patrons coming back thanks to a proven combination: award-winning margaritas, spicy fire-roasted salsa, authentic Tex-Mex food and a gorgeous setting. La Fogata is a peaceful tropical oasis amid the hustle and bustle of the city -- the perfect place to relax and unwind over a margarita (...or two) and some authentic Tex-Mex menu classics! 
They recently invited Michael and I to dinner to try some of their most popular menu items and share the experience with you. We walked into the restaurant's large, lush tropical courtyard and were immediately transported from the city to a tropical paradise... complete with a gorgeous bubbling fountain! We were warmly greeted by our hostess and shown to our table. While we looked over the menu, a server quickly brought out warm tortilla chips and spicy house-made salsa for us to munch on while we mulled over our margarita options. Based on the manager's suggestion, we opted for the very delicious -- and potent -- blood orange margarita. Their margarita presentation is the prettiest in the city in my opinion, complete with a gorgeous orchid garnish! We paired our margaritas with queso flameado, one of their signature appetizers. If you've never had this classic dish, it's melted Mexican white cheese with spicy chorizo sausage...flamed tableside with tequila. The cheese and sausage mixture is rolled up inside pillow-soft flour tortillas before being eaten.
While we enjoyed our gooey queso and delicious queso flameado, we looked over the dinner entrees and tried to decide what to order. Once again, the manager came to our rescue and provided us with some fantastic suggestions. Michael is a beef lover, so that quickly narrowed his selection, but I couldn't make up my mind. Thank goodness they have a perfect option for indecisive foodies: their Un Poquito de Todo platter...which translates to "a little bit of everything." 

This platter definitely lives up to its name, featuring a beef taco al carbon; a chicken flauta topped with sour cream, avocado and cheese; a quesadilla; and a cheese enchilada. They also brought me a cochinita de pibil taco to try, which is a Yucatan taco filled with spicy shredded pork. It's served in a soft corn tortilla with red onions and a slice of creamy avocado. The food was all tasty and perfectly seasoned, especially the quesadilla and the gooey cheese enchilada topped with a spicy meat gravy.
Michael selected the grilled Carne Tampiquena platter, with a side of spicy grilled shrimp. The meat is charcoal-grilled skirt steak served with creamy guacamole, fresh pico de gallo, Mexican rice, borracho beans and La Fogata's signature grilled green onions. Michael said the meat was perfectly tender and juicy...perfect for rolling up into fajita tacos. 
We were getting pretty full by then, but the manager said we had to give their house specialty guava empendada a try. We discovered guava empenadas during our trip to New York this Spring, so we were excited to find a local restaurant that serves this tangy fruit! The empenada is stuffed with guava and cream cheese, fried golden brown and sprinkled with powdered sugar. A side of Mexican vanilla ice cream was the perfect addition for this shared dessert. We loved the combination of crispy empanada crust and the creamy, tangy filling. 
We thanked the manager for his hospitality and menu suggestions and headed for home. On the way back to our car, we decided to walk around the beautiful outdoor courtyard area one more time. After a long, hot Summer, we really enjoyed the early Fall breeze that was blowing that evening. The restaurant and its grounds are quite large -- nearly 3 city blocks! They also feature talented strolling mariachis, who serenade diners both indoors and in the outside patio area. Many diners actually prefer to eat in La Fogata's picturesque, colorful outdoor seating area...especially during the cooler months. While they dine, they can enjoy a nice breeze and the relaxing courtyard view.

Disclosure: La Fogata provided us with a complimentary dinner to facilitate this feature. We received no further compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own. All photographs are copyrighted by Michael K. Garcia and may not be reprinted or otherwise used without prior permission.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sauce It Up #SundaySupper...Featuring Amatriciana Sauce for Pasta

It's time for another fun #SundaySupper posting...and this week? We're getting saucy! Our host is Foodie Stuntman from Crazy Foodie Stunts. He challenged us to create a tasty sauce from scratch...it could be savory or sweet. When I saw this week's theme, I knew exactly what I wanted to make immediately: homemade pasta sauce. I rarely take the time to make my own pasta sauce, so I tend to depend on Rao's, my go-to jarred pasta sauce. However, I made Amatriciana sauce once and absolutely loved how it came out. Since this was several years ago during my pre-blogging days, I decided to make this amazing sauce again and share it with everyone. This one's addictive...and so easy to  make!

If you've never had Amatriciana sauce, you're in for a real treat, my friend. It's made with only a few simple ingredients, but it makes for a fabulous pasta topping. Canned San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, pancetta or bacon, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and a splash of white wine. That's it...but oh boy, is it ever magical!! I like to let the simmer for about an hour to really get the flavors to combine and intensify, but that's all hands-off time. When you're ready to serve the sauce, simply toss with some pasta and top with some parmesan. Add a salad and some crusty bread and dinner's good to go!
I took a few liberties with authentic Amatriciana sauce. Originally, guanciale was used...but that pork product can be hard to find. Mario Batali says pancetta or even good bacon can be used. I had some bacon in the fridge, so I opted for that...if it's good enough for Mario, it works for me! Traditionally, Amatriciana is tossed with buccatini (spaghetti with a hole down the center) and topped with pecorino romano. I had penne rigate and parmesan on hand, so I used that. Just don't skimp on the tomatoes, though. Canned San Marzano tomatoes are essential to this simple sauce.

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