Tag Archive | Pasta

New Plant-Based Pastas from Explore Cuisine!

Explore Cuisine Packages Display
All Photos By Gail

There is no denying that Pasta is a popular go-to ingredient for creating quick, versatile and delicious meals to please any palate. For Pasta Lovers who may have had to eliminate this tasty staple from their diets due to a gluten intolerance, there are now many gluten-free pasta options on the market that make it possible for everyone to indulge. Explore Cuisine has a line of organic pastas made from beans and other plants that are a great place to start when you want to prepare a tasty, healthy meal for yourself or your family. Take a  look at a few of the super quick and easy dinners that I’ve recently prepared for myself with Explore Cuisine Pastas and absolutely no advanced planning!

Edamame Spaghetti Package

I bet that you had no idea that Edamame, familiar to most as the little green soybeans that everyone likes to nosh on before the meal at Japanese restaurants, can be use to make some of the most delicious pasta you will ever taste. Explore Cuisine makes a few different varieties of Edamame pasta, including everyone’s favorite; spaghetti.

Edamame Spaghetti Package

Edamame Spaghetti can be used in all of your favorite recipes as a substitute for wheat-based pasta. You might find that you like it even better, and it’s good to know that Explore Cuisine’s Edamame Spaghetti contains nearly half of your daily protein and fiber requirements in just one serving!

Edamame Spaghetti Serving Suggestion

I made an easy and scrumptious Primavera by adding frozen mixed vegetables that I had on hand, and tossing the pasta in butter, salt and pepper to taste.

Edamame Spaghetti Serving Suggestion

Then I covered it with cheese, which is how I like my pasta!

Chickpea Fusillii Package

Explore Cuisine also specializes in a line of Pulse Pastas; a term that may be unfamiliar to you. Pulses are part of the legume family, and the term ‘pulse’ refers to the dried seed. Dried peas, dried beans, lentils and chickpeas are the most common varieties of pulses. Pulses are very high in protein and fiber, antioxidants, and low in fat! This where Explore Cuisine’s Organic Chickpea Fusilli comes in.

Chickpea Fusilli

Chickpea Fusilli is a healthy and delicious mealtime choice that contains only four organic, whole food ingredients. This pasta also contains 11g of protein and nearly 20% of your daily dietary fiber requirement per serving. With its soft and supple texture, and mild taste, Chickpea fans will be in Heaven!

Chickpea Fusilli Serving Suggestion

Since this pasta is a bit more sturdy than the spaghetti, I topped it with Trader Joe’s frozen meatballs and jarred sauce. Delicious and satisfying!

Red Lentil Penne Package

Red Lentil Penne is also a pulse pasta. With the smooth texture of flour pasta and the benefits of lentils, the Red Lentil Penne is a fantastic choice for any penne based pasta dish. Comprised of only two ingredients, Red Lentil Penne pasta is  protein rich  and a good source of fiber. Organic, gluten-free and free of GMOs, it’s pasta reinvented!

Red Penne Pasta Serving Suggestion

Here is the penne topped with a light tomato vodka sauce and a dollop of creamy cottage cheese (you could also use Ricotta, if you had that on hand). Out of this world delish!

Explore Cuisine Packages Display

Explore Cuisine’s Italian style pastas were created in the Apulia region of Italy, which is famed for being the home of pasta. Explore Cuisine worked side by side with pasta masters and professional chefs to deliver the authentic taste and texture of the best Italian pasta but made with the goodness of chickpeas and lentils.

Learn more about Explore Cuisine foods, and get recipes, at This Link!

Product Review: Explore Cuisine Pasta

Explore Cuisine Pasta Boxes
All Photos By Gail

Do you like pasta? I sure do. One exciting thing about being a pasta fan is how innovative foodies and culinary experts alike are continually coming up with new recipes to make pasta a healthier, better-for-you meal choice, especially if you happen to be on a gluten free diet. At the recent Summer Fancy Food Show, I was introduced to Explore Cuisine pastas, which are made from variety of different kinds of organic beans. The folks at Explore Cuisine were kind enough to send me a couple of varieties to try at home, and happy to say that these pastas are fantastic!

Red Lentil Penne Pasta Box

Founded by Joe Spronz, Explore Cuisine products are vegan, organic, gluten-free, and kosher, ensuring your health and igniting your taste buds! These delicious bean pastas contain nearly 20-25 grams of protein per serving and are low in carbs and sodium while simultaneously containing a high fiber content. With Explore Cuisine, you’ll experience the incomparable taste of pasta with all the benefits of nutritious beans! I tried the Red Lentil Penne for dinner earlier this week, and it exceeded my expectations.

Red Lentil Penne Drained

A friend of mine who is an excellent Italian chef once advised me that pasta cannot be held to strict boiling times when cooking, and experience has shown her advice to be right on. But with this pasta, the suggested cooking time (8-10 minutes) on the back of the box is a pretty accurate if you don’t want the pasta to get overdone (and I like my pasta on the tender side). Just keep an eye on the clock, is all I’m saying.

Red Lentil Penne with Sauce

Here it is, all plated and topped with Trader Joe’s Bolognese Sauce and a grating of cheddar cheese, which I love on my pasta as a change-up from the traditional hard Italian cheeses. Explore Cuisine Red Lentil Pasta has a distinctive and very satisfying flavor of lentils.  And, unlike many gluten free pastas I’ve tasted, it maintains an appealing bite and mouth feel. This pasta is an excellent quality product that anyone should be proud and excited to serve to their family.

Red Lentil Penne with Sauce

Here is close-up of my quick and delicious meal! So yummy!

Learn more about Explore Cuisine foods (they also make rice-based pasta, and soups, among other items) and get recipes at This Link!

Easy Pasta Carbonara Featuring Jones Dairy Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon!

Jones Diary Farm Bacon
All Photos By Gail

Hello and welcome back to another enlightening episode of Cooking With Gail, a post where I make a delicious dinner from stuff I already have in my house. Today we are making a super easy Pasta Carbonara featuring Jones Dairy Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon. Bacon is something I like to keep on hand when possible, and recently I was sent an assortment off tasty meats from Jones Dairy Farm, including several types of Sausage, Ham Steaks, Canadian Bacon and, of course, the Cherrywood Smoked Bacon pictured above. What I am trying to do is use these meats in ways that differ from the standard manner of just cooking them up for breakfast with a side of eggs. While Pasta Carbonara does include both Bacon and Eggs, you will be surprised at how fancy these ingredients can taste. Fancy!

Raw Bacon

What you will need to make Pasta Carbonara ala Gail for one is:

Three or more strips of raw bacon (I like to cut it in half for easier cooking)

One egg (beaten)

Margarine or butter

Pasta of your choice (I used spaghetti)

Cheese (optional)

Beaten Egg

While the pasta cooks in boiling salted water, cut the bacon in half, if desired, and fry it up until crispy. Beat the egg well and set aside. Lay the cooked bacon on paper towels and then, when cool, break it up into smaller pieces.

Crumbled Bacon

You may be thinking that Bacon is Bacon, and that all Bacon is created equally delicious. I am here to tell you that this is not necessarily the case. Jones Diary Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon cooks up quickly and gets very crisp, because it has an excellent balance of fat to meat on each strip. I do not know if that is owed to their superior butchering technique, or if they have magic pigs, or what. I just know that when I say I like my bacon cooked until it is “stiff, like little boards,” this is what I am talking about.

Another stand out quality of Jones Dairy Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon is the slightly sweet taste that is infused in the meat from the mild Cherrywood smoke. The flavor is distinct and noticeable immediately on your fist bite. I really love it.

But let’s get back to the Carbonara Prep!

Hot Pasta and Butter

Return the cooked, drained pasta to the pan and add butter or margarine to taste, to add flavor and keep the noodles from sticking together. Next, add the beaten egg a little at a time, stirring well between each addition to blend and let the hot pasta cook the egg into a smooth, sauce-like consistency. In this case, it’s all in the wrist. At this point, you can add some grated Parmesan cheese, if you like. You are almost done, and ready to eat a delicious, home cooked meal!

Pasta Carbonara Finished Dish

Plate the Pasta and add crumbled Bacon on top! So easy, so quick and so darn good! Make sure you have a glass of your favorite red wind on hand to accompany this fine dinner!

Get more information about Jones Dairy Farm meats, get recipes and find out where to purchase them in your neighborhood, at This Link!

Roth Introduces New Flavored Raclette Cheeses!

Roth Mediterranean and 5 Peppercorn Raclettte
All Photos By Gail

Do you like melty cheese? I sure do. You might recall that back in February I attended the Winter Food Fete, where I was introduced to Roth Raclette cheese, and thus began a new love affair with most delicious melty cheese I have ever tasted.

In addition to their original, Montanella Raclette, Roth has introduced three new flavors this Spring, including Mediterranean – with garlic, black olives & sundried tomatoes – Five Peppercorn, and Roasted Garlic. Holy Cows Milk!

Here’s a bit of insight as to why Raclette is such exceptionally delicious cheese: by combining Swiss traditions and the finest Wisconsin milk, Roth creates each flavor variety of Raclette cheese – which is characterized by a firm texture, pale-yellow color and scattered small openings.

Roth Raclette Melting

Roth Raclette has a mildly nutty and distinctive, aromatic flavor that intensifies when heated – which makes Raclette ideal for melting. At Food Fete, Roth Cheese Representatives served samples of the Raclette is its meltiest state, on small rounds of bread after heating it briefly in tiny iron skillets. Seriously, it was cheese heaven.

Roth Mediterranean Raclettte

Obviously, I asked to receive samples to review for the blog, and they were happy to oblige. Over the past weeks I have been especially enjoying the Mediterranean variety, as I find that the addition of Olives and Sundried Tomatoes enhances some of my favorite foods on which I enjoy eating melted l cheese.

Raclette Cheese on English Muffin with Sausage

On a chilly Saturday afternoon I made this lunch of melted Raclette on a toasted English muffin, served alongside a grilled chicken apple sausage. It was the most delicious lunch. You almost cannot do better than this. It follows that Raclette makes insane grilled cheese sandwiches.

Roth Raclette on Pasta

I enjoy eating pasta and it is easy to make at home. Raclette is an ideal substitute for the standard go-to pasta toppers such as mozzarella or parmesan cheese.

Raclette Cheese on Meatballs

Raclette crumbles very well; good to know if you do not feel like washing your cheese grater (hereon.biz electric cheese graters guide can be a useful one). Here are some meatballs I made with sauce and Raclette cheese crumbled on top. Delish!

The bottom line is that Raclette is simply delicious cheese and you surely will be thrilled with its taste and texture should you choose, like me, to just be a cheese purist. If you care to be a bit more adventurous, however, Roth’s website has lots of delicious recipes for cooking with Raclette cheese that you can explore at This Link! Buy Roth Raclette Cheeses online or find a retailer in your are Right Here.

Fall Editor Showcase Highlights Cooking and Entertaining for the Holidays!

Full Room View
All Photos By Gail

In anticipation of an extra festive holiday season — which always seems to arrive sooner than you expect — The fall Editor Showcase food and networking event took place on October 15th at the New York Marriott Marquis. This fun and well-attended event was packed with tastings and cooking demonstrations for over two dozen brands of food and kitchen equipment to make sure everyone is fully prepared for all of the parties and food-centric events that will kick off with Thanksgiving in just two short weeks!

Here are some of our favorite exhibitors from the show!

Farm Rich Snacks

Farm Rich makes a line of frozen snacks that you just pop in your oven to create amazing hot hors d’oeuvres that will win you fans every time. We fell in love especially with their Chili Cheese Bites (filed with real chili, not just chili peppers), which are just insane. Their Toasted Raviolis were also a huge hit with the crowd.

Athens Mini Fillo Shells Box

Athens Mini Fillo Shells are a product that every party hostess will want to have on hand for easy preparation of both sweet and savory snacks! The shells come fully pre-baked and all you need to do is add your favorite filling and heat. So convenient!

Athens Mini Fillo Shells

Of course, Athens had an assortment of prepared mini quiches and tiny cheese cakes, as well as other taste tantalizing surprises, to give use more clever ideas of how to serve these shells at your next party! So yummy!

Legends from Europe SignageLegends from Europe Display

Legends from Europe is a campaign uniting five authentic PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) products from Europe, including Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigianio Reggiano — two of our favorite things to eat! Legends from Europe offered show attendees the chance to sample a full spread of snacks featuring its products and also had recipes on hand so you can make these delicacies at home.

Bertolli Olive Oil Display

Bertoli Olive Oil has grown to become the world’s Number 1 Olive Oil brand. Bertoli offers a variety of oils which we were able to sample brushed on delicious Italian bread. Bertoli had something else going for them at their booth which we found hard to resists: Chef Fabio Viviani!

Gail and Fabio

What a charmer he is! Bertoli were very smart to align with Fabio because I’d buy whatever he is selling.

Success Rice Display

Success brand boil-in-bag rice has been a best selling brand for years and it tastes great in a variety of recipes, samples of which they had on hand at Editor Showcase.

Success Rice Pudding

Bourbon Raisin Rice Pudding made with Success Basmati Rice is super easy to prepare and tastes rich, sweet and exotic.

Success Jasmine Rice Balls

Success Jasmine Rice is used in this exceptional recipe for Laotian Nam Khao (Crispy Rice Balls), which were devoured by attendees very quickly!

Alouette Cheese Spreads

Alouette Cheese Spreads had a couple of exciting new “Bold” flavors to preview including Wasabi Cheddar, which is just mind blowing, and Buffalo Cheddar — which is sure to become a favorite as well! While these new flavors will not be available until February, 2014, there are tons of other flavors for you to try in time for the holidays. Alouette Cheese Spreads are convenient for entertaining on the fly, and come in resealable tubs which keep them fresh.

Alouette Cheese Spreads Display

If you want to get super fancy you can even hollow out a pineapple and impress your guests by serving your favorite dip made from Alouette Cheese Spreads right from the pineapple! Crazy!

Pasta Month Display

Just look at this lovely display courtesy of the National Pasta Association. Nobody loves pasta more than I do, so I was way into all of the tasty and healthy recipes they had to give out as part of their Pasta Fits promotion, such as this yummy past salad picture below.

Pasta Month Salad

Ninja BlenderNinja Blender in Action

If you enjoy making your own healthy juices, smoothies and sauces — or just like to cook a lot of recipes that require a first rate food processor — then you will not be able to live much longer without a Ninja Ultima Blender. The Ninja distinguishes itself by the multi-blade core that does a superior job of chopping and pureeing foods. Check out the side by side comparison above: Some Other Brand on the left, Ninja on the right. Behold the clear winner in blended results.  Ninja!

Cooking Plan It Cookie

Cooking Planit was giving out these cookies as well as bad ass magnetic photo recipe cards to promote this super cool website and mobile app that provides home cooks with step-by-step instructions to create full meals. They call it a “GPS for the Kitchen” – what an exciting and fun idea! Visit Cooking Planit at This Link!

Mann's Veggie Mac N Cheese

Okay, here is product that I would literally eat all the time: Mann’s Sunny Shores Veggie Mac-N-Cheese, which contains everything you need to make a fine dinner of Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli in one bag! Also, please note above they it comes in a bacon variety, ‘Nuff said.

Sartori Cheese Gift Bag

Last, but not least, I would like to give an extra special shout out to Sartori Cheese, producers of artisan and premium cheese for seven decades! Sartori makes the most delicious cheese you have ever tasted — and I have tasted a lot of cheese. They also gifted me with this coveted swag of a reusable insulted canvas tote filled with five different varieties of their awesome cheese plus a set of wine glass charms! Sartori Cheese!

As always, Thanks to Formulatin PR for the Hook Up!

AOL Presents Now Eat This: Italy, Cooking with Rocco Dispirito!

Rocco Books
All Photos By Gail

When you hear the name Rocco Dispirito, you may at first think, “What a hottie” — amiright? But also, Rocco is a skilled and charismatic Celebrity Chef who has hosted and starred in many TV shows (Rocco’s Dinner Party, how fun was that?) as well as being a restaurateur and author of many best-selling books on food and cooking. Rocco Dispirito!

Rocco Dispirito
How Cute Is This Guy?

If you have been following his career for as many years as I have, you may recall that Rocco, while consistently adorable, was not always as lean and trim and he is now. He got into shape by learning to cook in the same manner as his Italian ancestors: and not just by incorporating fresh, local ingredients and creating preparation techniques which reduce the use of traditional fats and carbs, but also by adopting a more leisurely-paced approach when it comes to the experience of social eating.

Tuna Crudo
Tuna Crudo, One of Rocco’s Low Calorie Yet Gourmet Specialities

Rocco’s latest New York Times best-seller, Now Eat This! Italian, takes on all of your favorite Italian food recipes by reducing them calorically while keeping the very fresh and authentic flavor. In fact, most of these dishes come in at 350 calories and under without sacrificing deliciousness.

AOL Sign

In the book’s accompanying video series, which debuted on AOL.com earlier this month, DiSpirito travels to various regions in Italy to learn from the foremost Italian food experts, real Italian Moms! The show is a lot of fun and also lets you see the beauty of the Italian countryside.

Kitchen
International Culinary Center Test Kitchen

Last evening, AOL hosted a hands-on cooking event with Rocco at The International Culinary Center for a select number of lucky bloggers and contest winners, where we all had the chance to cook a meal with Rocco and then sit down together to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Rocco lead the class with his step-by-step recipes and stories behind each dish and he was very patient with those of us who are challenged even by slicing a tomato (raises hand). It was a great time and I learned that making lovely homemade Italian food does not have to be intimidating at all.

Here’s what was on the menu:
Caprese Salad
Caprese Salad

Pasta with Clams
Pasta with Clams

Roasted Chicken
Roasted Chicken with Zucchini

Rocco Making Dessert

Rocco was kind enough to make the evening’s dessert – a fresh Strawberry Italian Ice – for us tableside so we could enjoy our after dinner drinks. This quick and simple frozen dessert is basically just fresh berries (I suppose any fruit could be swapped out if Strawberries are not your thing), ice and the same thickening agent used in the faux olive oil salad dressing. Sweet and refereshing!

Strawberry Granita
Strawberry Italian Ice

Proseco
After Dinner Proseco

Rocco Signed Book

Because Rocco is so awesome, he took the time to pose for photos with every single person at the event and also gave each of us a personally signed copy of his book, so that we could cook his recipes at home. The first episode in the Now Eat This: Italy! series, in which Rocco makes Caprese salad after visiting the actual cheese makers, can be enjoyed at This Link. Thanks again to Rocco and AOL for a very fun evening!

Bobby Van’s Grill: Fine Dining Made Easy

Bobby Vans Interior Shot
All Photos By Gail Unless Noted

Fine Dining in New York City does not have to mean sitting in pretentious surroundings faced with unfamiliar food choices that sound more like works of art than something delicious to put in your mouth.  More often than not, the greatest dining pleasures are derived from simple choices, such as a nicely cooked steak accompanied by a few favorite side dishes, and served in the comfort of a warm and classic old school atmosphere.

Bobby Van’s has perfected  this approach to earn the reputation as one of the top Steak Houses in the city. At their midtown location, Bobby Van’s Grill, you’ll find all of their steak house and seafood specialties sharing an expanded menu that includes wood fired pizzas and pastas, catering to the tastes of the family-oriented clientele that frequents this Broadway-adjacent neighborhood. When we stopped in to BVG on a recent, seasonably chilly December evening however, we were there for one thing: a delicious steak dinner. We got just what we came for.

Artichoke Salad

We find it is best to stay on the lighter side with starters when a steak is imminent, so we looked for an interesting salad to share. Warm Crispy Artichokes and Fresh Greens ($15.95) surprised and delighted us with its fresh and innovative use of chopped, flash-fried artichoke hearts tossed in a lemon vinaigrette with frisee, diced tomatoes and parmigiano reggiano, topped with a Parmesan crisp. Very highly recommended.

Filet Mignon

We will never pass up the opportunity to order a fine Filet Mignon and Bobby Van’s, priced at $49.95, is an outstanding value (a petite filet is $43.95, but I say if you are going to go, go all the way). The tasty char seared on the outside of this medium rare baby conceals the perfectly pink center of a buttery meat mountain. The accompanying Béarnaise sauce is a terrific complement, but we also enjoyed dipping alternate bites into Bobby Van’s own house steak sauce, which is the perfect blend of tomatoey sweetness with a horseradish kick.

Hashed Browns by Anne
 Above Photo By Anne Raso

We’ve come to think of Hash Brown potatoes as a traditional complementary side to a good steak. Bobby Van’s Hash Browns are lightly infused with flavorful bits of sauteed onion and green pepper and browned in clarified butter to ensure that they are crisp but not greasy. Creamed Spinach
Creamed Spinach: Simple and Classic.

Mac & Cheese

The baked Macaroni and Cheese, made with white cheddar, has become a new favorite (how could we have forgotten the fact that beef and cheese taste so great together?). This dish has a delicious homemade essence but somehow also manages to taste light and delicate. If you are trying not to go crazy on the carbs, I would certainly suggest Mac and Cheese as a suitable potato-side substitute.

All side dishes are portioned generously enough for two and priced to share at $11.95 each.

Crepe Layer Cake

It goes without saying that there is no room for dessert after such a sumptuous meal, but we were so intrigued by the 21 Layer Crepe Cake that we could not resist on the possibility that we could manage even a single bite. This very light and luscious treat is comprised simply of whipped cream sandwiched  between layers of thin, tender crepes and topped with fresh strawberries and strawberry coulis. Point being, even if you think you are too stuffed for dessert, you can likely finish this one as it is lighter than air, yet very satisfying to the sweet tooth.

Pumpkin Nuage

Our very attentive and enthusiastic waiter also recommended we sample an off-menu special dessert on the night of our visit, the Pumpkin Nuage: a cheesecake with a traditional graham cracker crust whose filling’s texture is somewhat like that of a pie. If you are a fan of cheesecake and pumpkin pie, this dessert will knock your socks off.

Bobby Vans Steak Sauce
Bobby Van’s delicious bottled steak sauce is sweet but spiked with horseradish for a tasty kick.

For its delicious delivery of our favorite comfort foods in a festive and comfortable atmosphere, Worleygig.com recommends Bobby Van’s Grill for your midtown dining engagements, but especially when you want to have the best.

Bobby Van’s Grill is located 135 West 50th Street (Between 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY 10020, and is convenient to many subways including the 1, N and R Trains. Hours are Monday to Friday: 11:30 AM – 11 PM, Saturday and Sunday: 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM.  Phone (212) 957-5050 for Reservations.

Bobby Vans Bag

Tasty Treat of The Day: Cucina Fresca Gourmet Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese Box Smoked Gruyere

Macaroni and Cheese: It is my thing. A couple of months ago I attended the Food Fete press event here in NYC, where I was lucky enough to meet Kristen, the PR representative for Cucina Fresca Gourmet Foods, which operates out of Seattle. I’m excited to report that Kristen hooked The Gig up with a couple of boxes of Cucina Fresca’s frozen Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese! I ate some of it last night for dinner, so I could tell you about it today.

Cucina Fresca Tangy Gorgonzola

I received two different varieties of Mac and Cheese in my shipment: Smoked Gruyere, made with aged Gruyere, Swiss, Fontina, and a touch of lightly smoked Spanish paprika; and Tangy Gorgonzola, made with a mellow Gorgonzola cheese blended with Fontina and a tangy blue cheese. Since I was grilling up a simple burger, I decided that Tangy Gorgonzola would be a complimentary accompaniment. I was so right! This dish has a very homemade taste but is also of the quality that you would get in a nice restaurant. Not only was the cheese sauce tangy, as promised, but it has a smooth and nutty  flavor that gives it a sophisticated edge, while keeping the 100% comfort food vibe. I wanted to eat the entire dish but stopped half way, because I was full and because it was so good I wanted to save some for another meal!

Because this dish is so rich and versatile, it lends itself well to being mixed with a vegetable (broccoli would be ideal) or perhaps some cubed ham left over from another meal or a few strips of crumbled, crispy bacon. Make it fancy! I enjoyed topping a bite of my burger with a spoonful of the tangy, cheesy pasta and pretending I was eating some kind of exotic gourmet burger. Fun!

According to the press materiel I received, Cucina Fresca Mac and Cheese dishes are all natural and carefully handmade in small batches. All varieties feature eggless penne pasta accompanied with rich, creamy sauce made with rBST-free milk, fresh cheeses and a touch of whole creamery butter. The secret to the creamy delicious sauce is that it is a roux-based béchamel sauce which the cheese is then melted into. Also, the pasta is cooked al-dente pre-packaging, so that it can finish cooking in your oven and absorb the flavor of the sauce. I am not a fan of hard pasta and this was cooked perfectly: tender but not mushy.

If you are one of those convenience junkies that can’t even figure out how to turn on a conventional over, don’t freak out; you can cook this product in the microwave. It will turn out OK. But let me tell you something as a confessed Foodie who loves convenience but doesn’t even own a microwave (yes, I just typed that): it is so worth it to take a few extra minutes to heat this up the way Mac and Cheese was intended to be cooked, in the oven. Cucina Fresca Mac and Cheese goes right from freezer to oven (all you have to do is take it out of the box and remove the plastic lid) and cooks to a bubbling, golden, uber yummy dish of molten cheesy goodness (with the much-desired crispy, browned edges, even) in less than 45 minutes. It is so easy! It is so good!

Cucina Fresca Mac and Cheese Four Varieties

Cucina Fresca offers two additional varieties besides the two sent to me: Sharp Cheddar, made with 2 year aged white cheddar; and Creamy Fontina, made with a blend of Fontina, aged Asiago and imported Parmesan cheeses. So cheesy! Each variety of Cucina Fresca Gourmet Mac and Cheese sells for $9.99 for a 20 ounce box that feeds two as a meal, but can be also be served as a side dish (reality check: it says on the box that it serves four, but seriously, who eats 5 ounces of Mac and Cheese and then stops? Answer: no one. Be smart and plan on serving two people, max, with one box of this stuff). Bon Appétit!

Visit Cucina Fresca on the web at find out about their other delicious, natural packaged foods at Cucina Fresca Dot Com.

Eolo: Contemporary Sicilian Fare in the Heart of Chelsea

As the story goes, the name Eolo is Italian for Aeolus, ruler of the wind. According to Greek mythology, Eolo lived on a small, volcanic island off the coast of Sicily. He gave Odysseus a wine bag filled with wind to speed his historic voyage home. Nearly there, Odysseus’s curious crew opened the bag, the winds escaped and their ship was pulled back to the Sicilian archipelago. Located in a neighborhood where restaurants can come and go in a matter of months, Eolo Sicilia a Tavola, a Sicilian-inspired Bistro now moving into its second year, is Chef Melissa Muller Daka’s love letter to the region of Sicily. What distinguishes Eolo from other neighborhood trattorias is Chef Melissa’s playful experimentation with tradition that still keeps her dishes in the realm of the familiar.

Chef Melissa Muller Daka

The Appetizer menu is varied and eclectic, featuring plenty of opportunity to be adventurous with your palate. From the Plates for Sharing that includes Crostini di lu Iornu (Grilled Bread with various toppings changing daily, Priced Accordingly) Mini Rice Balls (Various fillings changing daily, Priced Accordingly), Selections of Cold Vegetable Antipastos ($5, $13 and $25) to the Zuppa di Cuccuzza (Pureed Pumpkin Soup, $8), Purpetti ala Giuggiulena (Seared Lamb & Beef Meatballs with cauliflower, onions & sesame seed cream, $13) Purpu cu Ciciri (Seared octopus with lentils, mint, potatoes & cherry tomatoes, $14), and on to unique salads like the ‘Nsalata di Pira (Bosc Pear stuffed with mascarpone & gorgonzola with mixed lettuces and toasted pumpkins seeds, $14), you can step out of your culinary comfort zone with the confidence that Chef Melissa’s inspired ingredient pairings will result something delicious.

All Food Photos By Anne Raso

We quickly devoured the daily special Foccacia, Sfincione ($6) topped with tomato sauce, fontina cheese, radicchio and sliced fresh mushrooms. This foccacia was tender and delicious with generous toppings and crispness to the crust which gave it the presentation of a perfectly sized appetizer pizza.

Being big fans of the Beet, we were excited by the colorful ‘Nsalata Grigliata (Grilled Salad) with Radicchio & Arugula, roasted beets, grilled corn & asparagus, herbed yogurt cheese and grilled bread ($14). We had, however, forgotten that radicchio – while quite lovely – can be a bitter green, and probably should have asked for a bit of additional dressing on the side to curb that bitterness.

Pastas : (L to R) Ravioli, Cavatelli, Spaghetti

House made pasta is a restaurant specialty and, again, some ingredients can be a bit off the beaten path of what you might find in the average kitchen. Since all pastas are available in half or full order, we decided to indulge in half orders of several tempting choices. Feeling adventurous, we first opted for a special pasta of the day, Spachetti d’Ortica cu Melanzone ($12/$24)– spaghetti of stinging nettle, (a flowering plant) which gives the pasta a mild herb flavor – dressed with pesto, fresh eggplant, tomato and ricotta. The Ravioli di Eolo (stuffed with mascarpone & fontina cheese, topped with bold broccoli rabe and ground spicy lamb sausage, $12) was a hearty contrast to the more delicately-flavored spaghetti,  and the Cavatieddi Agrodulci (Cavatelli pasta with a flavorful cauliflower ragu, sweet caramelized onions, currants, toasted pine nuts and parmigiano, $12) was our favorite of the three.

If you are a regular reader of our restaurant adventures, then you know that we always like to order a steak as a benchmark of how a kitchen handles a popular, non-regional dish. Eolo’s Carni cu Pepperonata (Hangar Steak drizzled with garlic, lemon and herb extra virgin olive oil, ($27) was a serious pleasure with its zesty accompaniment of grilled mixed peppers and decadently crispy green olive potato gallete. The Potato Gallette, which is amazing, is also available as a side dish ($7).

Click the Pink Link Below to Read More of This Review and See Photos of What We Had for Dessert!

Continue reading