Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Carrabba's Tastemaker Event

3400 N. Central Expressway
Plano, TX 75074
(972) 516-9900
Josh Goldschmidt, Proprietor

This past Saturday we were invited to attend a Tastemaker Event at Carrabba's Italian Grill located on Central Expressway in Planoas part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program. This was my first event as a Foodbuzz publisher and I must say that I am looking forward to many more to come. It was a wonderful platform to meet with other fellow food bloggers and foodies and not to mention all that delicious food.

Founded in Houston by Johnny Carrabba and Damian Mandola in 1986, Carrabba's Italian Grill is not just another Italian food chain out there. Many of their dishes are unique and based on family recipes handed over through generations. They have several locations all over the country - be sure to check them out if you haven't already.

When I got this invitation I was pretty excited because I had never been to Carrabba's before and I love Italian food. The event started off with a warm welcome by the proprietor, Josh Goldschmidt who then led us to the front of their kitchen where we were given a chef's demonstration of their signature pesto and pasta dish - "Penne Franco". All their pastas are made fresh and do not sit for more than 2 hours. While we were at it, along came their house special light and fruity blackberry Sangria - it was needless to say the best I have ever had so far. If and when you visit Carrabba's, which I strongly recommend, please do ask for their Sangria - guaranteed you will love it.

Afterwards we proceeded to our assigned seats marked by our individual personalized menu cards. The lunch was kick started by fresh baked bread with the dipping and their "Grilled Bruschette" topped with pesto, tomato, basil and cheese. It was a light and lovely start to what would be one of the best Italian food I have had in recent times.

Next up were the 'Zuppa'  - I went with the "Minestrone" and Ashish tried the "Sausage and Lentil Soup". We each sampled both and loved it. The soups were very hearty but light and makes you want to jump on to the next course which is precisely what we did. Of course there was a lot of foodie conversation around the table and the Sangria kept coming :)

For our entree course we got "Tag Pic Pac" (ain't that a fun name) - which is a Tagliarini pasta in a Picchi Pacchiu sauce with chicken, crushed tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil. Ashish got the "Pasta Carrabba" - which is a Fettuccine Alfredo with grilled chicken, sautéed mushrooms and peas. All the dishes were very unique and had a very homemade feel to them. Their food is made fresh and that actually reflects in their dishes. If you had an Italian heritage and your Italian grandmother made lunch in her cozy home in Italy - this is what you would get to eat.

We each also got our goodie bags of their bread, carrabba caesar salad, and their signature pasta "Penne Franco" - with Chicken, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and black olives, with ricotta salata. Along with it were a serving of their mini-desserts which was a "Chocolate Coconut Mousse". So the lunch that left us wanting to taste more of their dishes lead to a comfy dinner at home with more surprises.

The ambiance of the place plays well with their food. Pair that with the friendly staff and you have a winner. The experience of meeting other food bloggers under this setup was very enjoyable and we look forward to meeting them all again.

Thank you Carrabba's and Foodbuzz.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rubies -- for a hot summer's day

I live in Texas and HOT doesn't begin to describe it. It can get well over 100 degree F for several days and stay that way just like now....for those of you who are right now thinking that's so 'eewww' - let me tell you that it has its advantages. More sun means more time to spend outdoors and more reasons to have ice cream or hit the pool or buy lots of sun dresses :)  I totally love love love the weather and the openness that is all Texas. All that you need is  sunscreen and a bottle of water -  a hat also helps :)  I am leaving you with a wonderful drink for one such day.

About a month back or two, we went to check out 'Taste of Dallas' - for those unfamiliar with it, its a flavor filled 3 day festival that showcases Dallas' top chefs and restaurants. I have been to 'Taste of Chicago' once before and totally enjoyed it. I wasn't overly impressed with Dallas though but that's mostly because of the layout and how much one had to walk around in the wonderful weather we have out here. But once I got to the food stalls, it was a totally different story. I sampled a lot of cuisines but what stuck with me was this totally refreshing drink that I had - It was called "Rubies in Coconut" served by The Asian Mint.

Found out that the rubies were actually water chestnuts covered with tapioca and served in sweet coconut milk. You have got to try this one - Its definitely a keeper. The coconut milk is just sweet enough and you wont believe what the water chestnuts do to this drink. Its crunchy and borrows some sweetness from the coconut milk.

Before you give up on this drink cos its got water chestnuts, give it a try. You will be surprised.


1 small can water chestnuts
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/3 cup sugar
red food coloring
1/4 cup coconut milk


Chill the coconut milk in the refrigerator. Slice about 10-15 water chestnuts into cubes. Add about 6-7 drops of red food coloring and make sure the chestnuts are all covered. Drain the any excess water and coat them with tapioca starch. To get large rubies, spray the chestnuts with some water and roll them again in tapioca starch. You can repeat this process several times until you are satisfied with the size of the rubies. 

Boil a pot of water and drop the Rubies into it. Once they start floating up remove the Rubies using a strainer and place them in ice cold water in a bowl. 

combine 1/3 cup sugar with 1/4 water to make a syrup. you can either heat them up in a saucepan or just microwave it for about a minute in a bowl. Once the syrup has cooled down add it to the chilled coconut milk. Make sure the coconut milk is not too thick. Check for sweetness and accordingly add more or less of the sugar syrup. Drop the Rubies into the sweet coconut milk. Grab a good book or listen to some good music on the patio and step into paradise :)

This recipe yields about 2-4 servings.

bon appetit !!!

Cherry-Coconut Pudding

A while back I happened to chance upon a Filipino dessert that piqued my interest. Its called "Maja Blanca" and there are several different recipes and toppings out there for it. But its essentially a coconut pudding made with, well no prizes for guessing here...coconut milk. They also add corn kernels for added taste and texture. I was not too sure about how that would work, so I went looking for something that will give it an extra kick. It turned out to be my lucky day that I had fresh cherries sitting at home....don't you just love summers ??

Anyways my version of "Maja Blanca" is made with coconut milk, corn starch, sugar, corn kernels and fresh cherries. It was an interesting dish. I wouldn't say that I fell in love with it but at the same time..It kinda grows on you. I was glad that I added fresh cherries cos it gave it a tangy taste and the crunch factor. The pudding itself is very 'coconuty', smooth and very light. So the cherries inside the pudding and over it added a lot of flavor combined with toasted coconut on top. 


1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons fresh sweet corn kernels
2 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 fresh chopped cherries 


Butter two 4 inch baking bowls, and set aside. Mix 1/4 cup of water along with the cornstarch and mix until smooth. Combine the coconut milk, remaining water, and sugar in a saucepan over low heat, and mix until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the corn kernel and then add cornstarch mix and keep stirring. The coconut mixture will start to thicken. Keep stirring to avoid lumps. 

Once fully thickened - (you will know this as it will get relatively harder to stir the mixture), take it off the stove. Drop the chopped cherries into the mix - do not over mix it. Pour the coconut mix into the prepared bowls and set aside. Once cooled, set in the refrigerator until serving. Serve garnished with toasted coconut flakes and cherries.

This recipe makes about 4 servings, each serving about the size as in the last picture up here.

bon appetit !!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Red Curry

This ones inspired by my life long love for Thai food. I think its the use of coconut and spices that I find very appealing. It is very well balanced and looks great, smells greater and tastes wonderful. 

So another work week night and yet again I am in my kitchen wanting to make something non-Indian for dinner. For the most part I stick to vegetarian food cos that's what hubby dear prefers - so my kitchen is always stocked with a variety of veggies and fresh herbs. I found a can of coconut milk and inspiration hit and I decided to go with a red curry. 

I had never made this before but have had it in a gazillion restaurants, so I am very familiar with the taste and smell that I am looking for. I built this recipe up as I was cooking adding ingredients that I thought would work up to making the dish as close to an original Thai red curry.

Needless to say I was very pleased with the results, else this recipe wouldn't have found its way up here. I would add a few more veggies or chicken the next time and maybe experiment a little with the spice levels and herbs. 


Olive oil - 2 tsp
Coconut milk - 1 can
Onion (small) - 1, sliced thin
Green onion - 1 cup, chopped
Cauliflower - 1 cup, florets
Bell Pepper - 1, chopped
Green chili -3, chopped
Dry red chili - 3
Ginger chopped
cilantro - 1/2 cup
Garlic salt to taste
Cumin - 1/2 tsp
Red Chili powder - 1Tbs
Ketchup - 2 Tbs
Soy sauce - 1/2 tsp
Brown sugar - 1 Tbs
Chili sauce -1/4 tsp


Heat the oil in a sauce pan or wok and saute the sliced onions for a minute or two. Add the chopped ginger, green chili, bell pepper and cook for a another 2 minutes. Add the cauliflower florets and green onions and mix well. Pour the coconut milk and stir. Add the spices, herbs, sugar, ketchup and the chili sauce one at a time stirring it into the coconut milk until its well incorporated.

Cook on medium heat until the cauliflower is cooked - Do not cook them till mushy, it needs to have a bite to it. Add the spices little at a time and check the spice level of the curry. Stick with what suits your taste and stomach. Also add some Thai basil to make it even better. Serve with rice and garnish with some green onion and cilantro.

bon appetit !!!

Cherry Clafoutis

I went browsing the web for some much needed inspiration and landed up on my friend Asha's blog, which by the way is amazing - she has some absolutely mouth watering recipes and wonderful photography, be sure to check it out. 

Browsing through her recipes I saw one for 'Cherry Clafoutis' - I had just got a bag of cherries and the recipe looked very appealing. Since I did not have all the ingredients that she used and was in mood to drive to the nearest store, I made some changes keeping with a recipe from Julia Child. It definitely looks a lot different from what my friend made but I totally loved the taste. It was light and airy and not too sweet. Its definitely a keeper :)
Thanks Asha


1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup sugar
5/8 cup milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbs unsalted melted butter
pinch of salt
handful of cherries, pitted


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine the milk, 1/3 cup sugar, egg, vanilla, salt and flour.
Lightly butter an 8-cup baking dish or individual ramekins, and pour a 1/2-inch layer of the blended mixture over the bottom. Place the pitted cherries over the batter. Make sure that the batter does not cover the cherries completely. The batter will rise, so make sure to place the pan or ramekins on a baking tray and place into the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the clafouti is puffed, browned and a toothpick inserted through the center comes out clean. Top with powdered sugar and enjoy as a quick dessert.

bon appetit !!!
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