Saturday, December 20, 2008

PRETZEL PEANUT BARK

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,
I have been doing a great deal of baking this holiday season. I had several classes this season that were just chocolate and cupcakes. I also baked with my son's girlfriends, and I hope this will become a new holiday tradition. And then there was the marathon baking session, with my friend and cooking assistant Dianne Jackson, who makes beautiful cut out cookies that are perfectly decorated and look fantastic on my cookie trays.
I have taken cookies to many parties this season as well and have gotten great compliments, but to my surprise the recipe that is most requested is not a cookie after all, but more like a candy. PRETZEL PEANUT BARK is super easy and quick to make and you, your friends and family are going to love it. So whip up a batch today, let the bark set up and break it into pieces and then fill either pretty bags or decorative tins with it and you have a great last minute gift to give. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we all have.
Buon appetito e Buon Natale,
Carmela Tursi Hobbins

PRETZEL PEANUT BARK
18 ounces white chocolate
3 cups stick pretzels broken into small pieces but not crushed, then measured
2 cups dry salted peanuts
Line a cookie sheet with waxed or parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water until smooth, or melt in the microwave in a 2-quart glass dish. Microwave at high for 1 minute and stir. Repeat if necessary until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in pretzel pieces and peanuts. Stir well. Spoon mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet, spreading the mixture out so that the ingredients are evenly distributed. Allow the mixture to cool for several hours or refrigerate for 45 minutes, then break the bark into pieces.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

PUT ITALY UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE
















Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,
Are you still looking for a great Christmas or Holiday gift? One that will create a lifetime of memories? Then I have a great idea for you. Why not give Italy for Christmas? For the past 6 years I have been leading culinary tours to Tuscany and have taken hundreds of people on this wonderful trip. I am now taking reservations for May and Sept. 2009.

Included in the trip are 7 nights lodging in beautifully restored farm-house villas. All ground transportation to and from the Pisa airport and throughout the week. Pickup and return to the Florence train station. Breakfast daily, 5 lunches and 7 dinners with wine. Two cooking lessons taught by local experts in Italian cuisine. Fully escorted with English and Italian speaking guides. All guests receive a specially designed event planner/recipe booklet upon arrival.

Visit the markets of Florence, take a stroll on top of the wall of historic Lucca, hike the world famous Cinque Terre with it's breath-taking views. Enjoy lunch on Il Campo in the center of Sienna and buy beautiful ceramics in San Gimignano a small town known for it's many towers. Enjoy a spa treatment (up-grade) in the spa town of Montecatini and make the Tuscan favorite Tortelli with a local expert. Drink the wines of Chianti. And all the while there will be only 12 persons participating. For complete details go to my web-site at www.carmiescucina.com
To make your reservation contact me at bchobbins@comcast.net The reservation deadline for the May 23-30, 2009 trip is Jan. 31, 2009.

I hope you will join me in "Bella Toscana," for a trip of a lifetime.
Buon appetito e Buon Natale,
Carmela Tursi Hobbins








Sunday, December 7, 2008

LOOKING FOR A HOLIDAY GIFT


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,
The holidays are going to be here before you know it. I realize that this is hard to belive but just check your calander or look out the window and our wintery sceen will confirm it. I want to suggest an easy gift idea, my cookbook. It has great recipes, stories and photos and if you love Italian food you will love this collection of three generations of Italian cooks. The best thing is you don't even need to leave home to get a copy. Contact me at my website, www.carmiescucina.com or email me bchobbins@comcast.net and place an order. I will sign a copy, mail one out to you. And if you place an order by the 20th of Dec. you can have your own copy for gift giving. Order two and you can have a copy for yourself.
I also will be at St. Patrick's Church on Dec. 14th from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00p.m. signing books and selling my spicey condimento so you could get a copy there too.
Reviews of the book are great and everyone loves it, you will too!
And just because you took the time to read this entry, here is a sample recipe for you to enjoy over the holidays.
CROSTINI WITH PEARS, GORGONZOLA, AND HONEY
6 slices of country-style bread
1 large ripe firm pear
5 and 1/2 ounces of gorgonzola dolce (sweet cheese)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons honey
freshly ground black pepper
Toast bread slices briefly in a heated oven.
Peel the pear and cut in half vertically. Core and cut each half into thin slices. Melt the sugar and butter in a saute pan and add the pear slices. Cook on medium heat until pear slices begin to caramelize lightly and soften. There should be a bit of syrupy liquid with the pears. A few drops of water can be added if there is not sufficient liquid.
Divide Gorgonzola and spread over toasted bread. Place pears on bread and drizzle with honey. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
Buon appetito,
Carmela Tursi Hobbins


Monday, December 1, 2008

CARMELA'S COOK BOOK GOES INTO 4TH PRINTING

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I got my Christmas present early this year. Another shipment of my cook book, Carmela's Cucina arrived this morning. It is now in it's 4Th reprint and I am so excited that it is still doing well.

The book includes recipes from 3 generations of great Italian cook's, my grandmothers, Mom and my own. It also includes recipes from my culinary tours, cooking classes that I teach around the Twin Cities and also from my brother's restaurant, the Latin King in Des Moines.

If you are looking for a really great gift for the holidays, my book is just what you want to give. If you are really lucky maybe the recipient will make you a great dinner or bake you some cookies from it.

To get your signed and personalized copy of the book contact me through my web site at www.carmiescucina.com or go to Barnes and Noble, Byerly's or Cook's of Crocus Hill for a copy.

And don't forget to give yourself a present of my book too. I guarantee you there will be no one disappointed!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Turis Hobbins

Friday, November 28, 2008

CLASSES PERFECT FOR HOLIDAY ENTERTAINING


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,


Now that Thanksgiving is behind us it is time to focus on the next holidays that are quickly approaching. I will be offering 2 holiday baking classes to make your holidays easier. If you like sweets and desserts these classes are for you. And if you love chocolate, I have one class that you are going to especially want to sign up for and bring a friend or two along too.


On Thur. Dec. 4 from 1:00-3:30 p.m at Edina Community Education I will be teaching a class that I call, CHOCOLATE AND CUPCAKE CELEBRATION WITH CARMELA'S CUCINA. We will be making Coconut Joys, Peanut Clusters, Nutella Ravioli,Chocolate Mousse Spoons, and Red Velvet Cupcakes.To register for this class contact Edina Community Education at http://www.edinacommunityed.org/ or phone them at 952-848-3952.


And on Sat. Dec. 13 from 1-4:00 p.m. I will be teaching the art of Italian Dessert Making, or as they call it, DOLCI, ITALIAN DESSERTS at Cook's of Crocus Hill at 50th and France. Come and enjoy Tuscan Bread Pudding with Amaretto Sauce, Zuppa Inglese, Zeppole with an Almond Cream Filling, Torta Cioccolata and Crostata di Marmelata. Any of these delicious desserts will make you look like a pro for your festive holiday dinner or party. To register go to http://www.cooksofcrocushill.com/ or phone them at 952-285-1903.


For all of my favorite desserts and recipes perhaps, a copy of my cookbook, Carmela's Cucina is just what you need or would like to give as a holiday gift. To purchase one go to my website at http://www.carmiescucina.com/ or to http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ and they also can be purchased at Cook's of Crocus Hill and some Byerly's stores.


I hope to see you at a class or at a holiday event very soon.


Buon appetito,


Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Thursday, November 27, 2008

LET THE COOKIE BAKING BEGIN

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

In my cucina, we barely have the Thanksgiving Turkey out of the oven when our thoughts turn to cookie baking. And in fact we started a bit early this year, when I invited my two son's girlfriends over last weekend for an extra early start. We made 8 different cookies and packaged them up so that each of the girls could take some to their Thanksgiving feasts. And we even managed to stash a few for future holiday events. The following recipe for COCONUT JOYS was given to me years ago by my friend Jacki and we make it every year as it is a big hit in our family. One of the nicest things about this cookie, is that you do not have to bake it and therefore it frees your oven for other cookies that do need to be baked. I hope you like it as much as we do. It is a winner!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

COCONUT JOYS

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3 cups coconut
4 ounces melted chocolate chips
Red Hots for decoration (optional)

Melt butter in a saucepan. Pour melted butter into a mixing bowl and add powdered sugar and coconut. Mix well. Shape rounded teaspoons of mixture into balls. Make an indent in center of each cookie. Melt chcocolate chips. Fill centers of cookies with melted chocolate and top with Red Hots. Makes about 3 dozen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I know you all must be very busy this week getting ready for the biggest feast of the year. I love this holiday, because it is all about the food. No presents to think about, just the traditional foods that we have all come to love. You don't really even have to think about the menu that much as some things are a given.

I got off easy this year, we have been invited out, so all I have to do is bring the cranberry sauce and an appetizer. Since I was on Show Case Minnesota (www.kare11.com) last week and demonstrated an appetizer I will make the same one for our feast. It is quick and easy and I am going to share it with you, the best part is you can make it ahead and then just heat it up when you are going to serve it. Everyone at your gathering is going to love it.

Most importantly, I want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, filled with family, friends and really good food.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

BAKED STUFFED BRIE

1 large round of Brie Cheese
1/2 cup of chopped and peeled green apple
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup dried craisins
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon melted butter
Box of crackers such as Carr Water Crackers

Mix everything together except the Brie. Slice the Brie horizontally in half. Put half of the mixture on the bottom half and cover with the top half and pour remaining mixture over the top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Serve with crackers.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A VISIT TO TABOR HILL WINERY IN MICHIGAN

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Last weekend while we were in South Bend, In. visiting our son and his wife and going to the Notre Dame football game ND lost in 4 over-times we managed to fit in a visit to a near-by winery. After Mass on Sunday we decided to make a 30 minute road trip to visit Tabor Hill Winery and Restaurant in Buchanan, Mi. 800-283-3363, www.taborhill.com

After touring many wonderful wineries in Italy my expectations for a great wine and food in this part of the world were rather low. Was I ever surprised! First of all it was a gorgeous day, sun shining and fall at it's peak, the colors were amazing. The vines had just been recently picked and all that remained were a few lonely stragglers. The drive leading to the restaurant was lovely with beautiful fall flowers in full bloom.

A fire was burning in the fire place as we entered our dining area and were taken to our table which overlooked the vineyard. It was a perfect place to be seated. Our new daughter-in-law was pleased that we were so happy with her selection of the outing for the day.

I was amazed at the variety of the menu, not what I would expect in Buchanan, Mi. There were several fish dishes to choose from, pasta, pheasant, elk, bison chicken and pork. It was the macadamia nut encrusted tilapia with coconut milk sauce that grabbed my attention and Jeannie's each beautiful plate was garnished with a pineapple and more nuts and the moist, tasty fish laid on a bed of braised red cabbage. It was awesome.

Bob decided to go Italian, I am still off pasta after 3 weeks of it daily and of course, in Italy it is the best pasta ever, but the small sampling that I had of his gemeli pasta in a porcini mushroom and wine sauce with black walnuts and pancetta was very good. With this creative dish he chose a wine called Red Arrow Red after the highway that the winery is on. This was matched perfectly the pasta, and was a robust blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Bob was delighted with his selection.

Patrick was the most adventuresome of the group and went with the pheasant which was moist and cooked to perfection in a Merlot sauce and was surrounded by tender root vegetables. He also selected a Merlot from their vineyard which he thought went perfectly with his meal.

I am sorry to say that we were too stuffed to try even one dessert as we had loaded up earlier on a calamari appetizer, warm crusty bread with an herb butter and a some of us had a crisp garden salad. While Jeannie and I enjoyed a thick, tasty curried chicken and rice soup.

We took a short stroll through the vineyards and a tour and then drove further into Mi. and to see the lake. Funny, the cutest little ice cream shop was just ahead and all of a sudden we did have room for a bit of dessert after all. And who could not stop at a place called Oink's Ice Cream Shop? My butter pecan cone was creamy and chuck full of pecans, I ate every last bit. And you guessed it, feeling a little piggish I was oinking on the way out!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

HOMEMADE MANICOTTI

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

In the convents of Italy, you will see the "Sisters" wearing Manicotti (white muff like sleeves) to protect their black habits while working in the kitchen and making pasta. I prefer to eat my Manicotti and you will too.

During the month of November, I will be offering several classes in Manicotti making. This stuffed pasta is perfect for the up-coming holiday season and can be made ahead and even frozen for several weeks before your holiday party.

In these participation classes we will make 3 delicious fillings using ricotta and mozzarella cheese, spinach and mushrooms and a hearty meat filling. We will make the homemade pasta, roll the Manicotti and bake them in a tomato sauce.

Our class will also include and antipasti of meats, cheese, olives and mushrooms. Enjoy a fresh insalata mista (mixed green salad). And for dessert we will make an Italian tradition, "Tiramisu."

In Italian families Manicotti are reserved for special occasions, you will want to make them for your next special occasion as well.

To reserve you spot go to my website at www.carmiescucina.com and click on the community classes where you will find a complete listing of where and when I will be teaching this fun class. You may also contact me at bchobbins@comcast.net

For District 196, Eagan Community Education go to: www.district196.org/ce
For Edina Community Education go to: www.edinacommunityed.org
For Hopkins Community Education go to: www.hopkinscommunityed.org

And if you cannot attend a class all of the recipes are included in my cookbook, "Carmela's Cucina". Contact me for your signed copy.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Saturday, October 25, 2008

BELLA TUSCANY CAN BE YOURS/ INFO SESSION NOV. 17

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I am sorry that it has been such a long time since I have communicated with you, but I have been a very busy girl traveling to Italy and Ireland. Ireland was awesome, but it is Italy and Tuscany in particular that I am going to write about today.

As many of you know I lead culinary tours to Italy a couple of times a year. They are terrific weeks, full of fun, food, good wine and touring the most beautiful part of Italy. This year my group consisted of 11 people all of which were eager for some new adventures and they did get their wish.

Our trip begins in Florence with all of the art, history, and great restaurants that one can hope for. Also the Florentine Food Markets which are colorful, tasty and displays the most wonderful and unusual food one could hope to see under one former train station roof top.

Our driver Maurzio picked us up shortly after our visit to the market and drove us through the picture perfect Tuscan country side and to our home for a week in Villa Erina overlooking the charming walled city of Lucca. After lunch in our villa and a short rest we were off to explore the hill town of Monticatini, well known for it's many spas. While we did not indulge in a spa treatment we did fully enjoy the best pizza in the area.

Sunday is reserved for Lucca and the charming walled city that it is. It was September and of course market time, so the streets were packed with the locals that gives such an excitement to the city that one must experience for themselves. We have a tour by a local guide and have lunch at the famous Bucca Sant'Antonio.

Monday we visit Cinque Terre the 5 lands that Rick Steve's has made so popular and while we walk between two of the towns we ferry to Vernazza where our seafood lunch is being prepared especially for us. After lunch we are ready to actually hike between the remaining towns.

Our week long tour continues with cooking classes, wine tours and visits to Chianti, Sienna, San Gimingnano and Greave.

We are already planning for next year and if you would like to be part of the group then please plan on attending the information session I am offering on Nov. 17, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. Contact me at 952-929-9583 to make a reservation. I hope to see you there.

Watch this sight for a more complete description of the tour in the weeks to come.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Thursday, September 18, 2008

TUSCANY

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I am leaving today for a few weeks of tours and travel in Tuscany. My first week will be with clients on a culinary tour and the second week I will be visiting family and friends.

Watch this blog for postings and news from Italy. And watch my website in Mid-Oct. when I announce dates for my 2009 culinary tours of Tuscany which you could be part of. And if you would like to rent a villa, farm house or an apartment in Italy, contact my partner in the culinary tours Doris Fortino through her website at www.ancoraitalia.com

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Friday, September 12, 2008

ENJOY THE CUISINE-SAVOR THE SETTING










Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,
"ENJOY THE CUISINE-SAVOR THE SETTING" is the motto that you will find on the menu at Stout's Island Lodge restaurant. The setting is just about perfect and so is the lunch or dinner you will enjoy at this quaint turn of the century lodge in Birchwood, Wi on Red Cedar Lake.

Last weekend, Bob and I made the journey by car and ferry for lunch with some friends on a beautiful late summer Sunday and had a wonderful culinary experience. Leaving Spooner after Mass, we drove about 30 minutes to the landing at Red Cedar Lake where we picked up the ferry that took us to the island. Reservations are required in order to board the ferry, for lunch, dinner or the weekend.


Stout's Island Lodge is on the National Register of Historic Places and is accessible only by ferry which runs hourly. Guests go to unwind and get away from the busy high tech world. There are 39 guest rooms in the main lodge and several rustic cabins. But we went for the food.


After the lovely 10 minute ferry ride we arrived on the nicely maintained grounds of the lodge and had a little stroll around before our lunch. It was a near perfect day, just warm enough, sunny and bright and the flowers were in full bloom. We even saw a few people playing croquet on the perfectly manicured lawn over looking the lake and then of course there were those who were just napping and relaxing the day away in a cozy lawn chair.


On the menu are several salads, soups and sandwiches for lunch. I ordered the New Orleans Style Muffaletta which was very tasty with layers of Italian Meats and Cheeses served warm and Bob went for the Stout's Club Sandwich and was I ever glad that we had agreed before we were served that we would split the sandwiches. His was the better of the two with a nicely roasted chicken breast, applewood smoked bacon and Tillamook Cheddar. The cibatta bread that it was served on was slathered with a rich lemon aioli. YUMMY!


But the highlight of the meal was the white chocolate and polenta pudding with fresh berries. I thought it sounded very interesting and was I glad that I ordered it. I licked the plate clean, but I did allow each of my companions a taste. I of course asked the waitress if the chef gave out the recipe? Her reply was that you never ask a chef for the recipe! Which was a huge surprise to me, as I get asked for recipes constantly and am always happy to share!


So now I am out to replicate this delicious, creamy and comforting dessert. I thought that it seemed like something Giada would make, but I have searched through her recipes, and can't seem to find it. Some weekend soon, I will be hard at work in my cucina trying to come up with this unusual and tasty spin on polenta. And if any of you out there have some ideas for me or a recipe, please, please fill me in. And if I ever perfect it, I will be happy to share.


Even though I was a little put off by the waitress and her response, an afternoon outing at this wonderful step back in time is worth it. Go to http://www.stoutslodge.com to make a reservation. But do it soon, their final day this season is Oct. 23, 2008.


Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Friday, August 29, 2008

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA

Where did the summer go? Wasn't it just beautiful? We had loads of company, and a great deal of fun, both in town and at our lake home in Wisconsin. Now it is time for the kids to return to school and a routine. Even though I don't have school aged kids anymore I still look for the school bus in the morning and in the afternoons. I like to watch the kids walk home after a long day, carrying their heavy backpacks. I think they could use a good afternoon snack. Below you will find my version of a Cookie Pizza that is part of my Kids in the Cucina Classes at Cooks of Crocus Hill. This recipe is such a hit with the youngsters in my class and I hope it will be for your special child too. With a tall glass of cold milk and some fruit, you have a great snack to see your child through the after school activities and to dinner. I hope your kids love KIDS COOKIE PIZZA.

KIDS COOKIE PIZZA

1 large sugar cookie
1-tablespoon strawberry or raspberry jam
Bar of white chocolate
Fruit roll-ups, red, green and yellow

Spread jam over sugar cookie, grate white chocolate over the jam. Cut out small circles of red fruit roll-ups and small strips of green and yellow fruit roll -ups. Place circles for peperoni and strips for peppers over the chocolate shavings.

To make one large pizza: Take 1 roll of Pillsbury sugar cookie dough and spread out into a circle on a cookie sheet. Bake according to directions or until nicely browned. Cover cooled cookie with jam and shave white chocolate onto the jam. Cut red fruit roll-up into circles and green and yellow roll-ups into strips, add the pieces of fruit to the pizza. Cut into wedges and serve.

To see my complete teaching schedule at cooks of Crocus Hill go to www.cooksofcrocushill.com

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, August 11, 2008

OLD RITTENHOUSE INN

























Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,



I first read about the Old Rittenhouse Inn in Bayfield, Wi. about 25 years ago. Cuisine Magazine did a Christmas article about them and I have been wanting to make a visit there ever since. I finally made it last weekend.
Located at 301 Rittenhouse Ave. in Bayfield, it over looks Lake Superior and provided my husband, two of our close friends and me a beautiful weekend get away.




When we arrived to this beautiful B and B we were give a beautiful assortment of chocolate treats which included chocolate covered strawberries, a double chocolate cookies and a chocolate pecan clusters. The tray was decorated with fresh raspberries from one of the many farms in the area and with fresh figs which was a nice surprise.


After lunch we walked around charming Bayfield and admired the many boats docked in the marina. We returned to our rooms for a little rest and then gathered later in the afternoon for some champagne on the porch over looking one of the great lakes. The weather was picture postcard perfect and so was our weekend. It was so worth the 25 year wait to get there! I hope it won't take you as long to make the trip.


To learn more about this quaint little hotel and the area go to their website at: http://www.rittenhouseinn.com/ This weekend gets a perfect 10.


More about our weekend adventures in the days to come.


Buon appetito,


Carmela Tursi Hobbins








The rooms are spacious and done in the Victorian style and included a fireplace which would have been very welcome during the winter months and a whirlpool tub. The furnishings are quite beautiful, the room was very comfortable and the staff very warm and helpful.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

VIEW A VIDEO CLIP OF ME ON SHOW CASE MINNESOTA

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I had a great time today on Show Case Minnesota. I was interviewed by Corbin and demonstrated an easy Italian Chicken Salad. To get the recipe and view the demo, click on the following link.
http://www.showcaseminnesota.com/show/client_article.aspx?storyid=520151

And for more cooking ideas go to my web site at www.carmiescucina.com and click on recipes.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Thursday, July 24, 2008

SHOW CASE MINNESOTA, JULY 29, 2008

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I will be appearing on Show Case Minnesota on July 29, 2008 at 10:00 a.m. on channel 11. The recipe that I will be demonstrating is and Italian Chicken Salad or Insalata di Pollo. If you can not see the show that morning it will be on their web site at www.kare11.com You should be able to see the complete interview after the show and also learn more about Carmela's Cucina and what I do.

Hopefully you will have time to tune in and get the recipe for this great and easy meal for these hot lazy days of summer. I will also be showing some other items from my cookbook, Carmela's Cucina to round out this menu and some tips for hosting a perfect seasonal event.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, July 21, 2008

Level Five gets a 5!

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Level Five at the Guthrie gets just a 5 out of 10 in my opinion. A group of us went to the Government Inspector the other night which is a very funny production for the Guthrie. We wanted to keep things simple as everyone was coming from work and we had limited time. One of the group suggested that we eat at Level 5.

We showed up at about 6:00 p.m. without a reservation and our group of 5 was seated right away at a very nice and comfortable table. Our waitress was friendly and eager to serve us and took our drink order right away. Score 1 for the wait staff and hostess!

The bread basket we requested had a nice selection of dinner rolls including a multi-grain one that was nice and soft on the inside with a crisp crust. The butter they brought with the basket was especially creamy. Another point!

I wanted to eat light so, I ordered from their "Starter List." I selected 2 appetizers that sounded interesting, the Minnesota sweet corn chowder with fried tortilla confetti and the lemon-ginger grilled shrimp skewers with glazed peppers and onions.

I was very happy with my soup which was nicely seasoned and full of corn and chunks of potato, the tortilla confetti was a very nice touch, giving the soup a little crunch with each bite. Another point!

The dinner went down hill quickly when they brought out the entrees. My shrimp were artfully arranged on the plate, three skewers of shrimp, onions and peppers, shaped into a pyramid. But what a huge disappointment. The shrimp and vegetables were so dry and flavorless that I could not even get them off the skewer. They had been grilled to the point that they were so dry that the shrimp could not be eaten and there was no hint of either lemon or ginger as promised on the menu. Perhaps if a lemon wedge had been served with the skewers there may have been some salvation. The onions and peppers were hardly glazed and I would say more like burnt crisp. I really should have sent everything back, but I didn't want to do that with the group that I was with.

Later as my husband said," at the prices they charge we should send back food when it is not done right." Others in the group had a Caesar salad with grilled chicken breast, but I could not bring myself to order that yet again and one member did order the Grilled catfish, which may have been the best selection of the evening.

The company was great and so was the play so they get 2 more points. Giving our evening at Level Five and the Guthrie a 5. Oh, did I mention the view from the bridge? It is awesome. So if you are in the area, go to Level Five for a drink and stroll out on the bridge for a great view of a wonderful city. But try eating at another restaurant in the area.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Thursday, July 17, 2008

EASY SUMMER PASTA

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

The days are hot, hot, hot and if you are like me you don't want to spend much time in the cucina, so don't. Take the kids to the pool, read a novel on the porch, make a batch of fresh lemonade and invite a friend over for a refreshing drink.

The following recipe for a "no cook" pasta is easy to make anytime, but it tastes best during the lazy days of summer and when the tomatoes and basil are most flavorful.

And remember Italian prefer their pasta "al dente," or "to the tooth." Check your pasta often while cooking it to insure that it doesn't lose its firmness and become soft and mushy.

1 pound ripe, juicy cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
10 fresh basil leaves, torn
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound penne pasta
Parmesan cheese

Slice the tomatoes in half. Toss the tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic, basil, oil, sea salt, and red and black pepper in a large bowl. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, toss with tomato mixture and pass around Parmesan cheese.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

CARMELA'S CONDIMENTO

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Are you looking for a way to spice up your life? Then let me suggest a package of my new condimento. The Italians use it on their foccacia, pizza and pasta and now you can too. You can even make a simple pasta sauce from it. Just add a teaspoon of my new condimento to some garlic infused olive oil and dress your pasta with it. Delicious and a meal just like my cousins in Calabria would make.

Each 4 ounce bag is just $5.00 plus tax and you can get some by contacting me at my web site at www.carmiescucina.com My condimento is made for me by Graziano Brothers Imports in Des Moines, Iowa. This mix includes dried basil, garlic, parsley, oregano and crushed red pepper and is packaged with love, which makes any dish better. Try some today, you will like it, and it really will add some zip to your life. Following is an easy recipe to get you started.

FOCCACIA

1 can of Pillsbury pizza dough
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic crushed
1 teaspoon Carmela's Condimento

Open and unroll the pizza crust on to a greased baking sheet. With a pastry brush spread the olive oil over the crust and dot with crushed garlic. Sprinkle evenly with the condimento and bake according to package directions.

Your family is going to love you!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

HAPPY 4TH OF JULY

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

And happy 4Th of July. I just got back from teaching an excellent class at Cook's of Crocus Hill. My students loved it and it is just the perfect meal for the 4Th of July if you are sick of the usual burger and brats. It is easy to do and fun. When we make it at the lake we just dump it out on newspaper and call it a "Dump Dinner." When we are done we just roll up the newspaper and there are no dishes to wash! But it is actually a Shrimp Boil which I first started making when our oldest son, Brian lived in Mobile, Alabama. I will be making it this week-end when we visit our son, Patrick and his new bride Jeannie in their new home in South Bend. And I think ice cold beers are the perfect drink for this festive dish.

I hope your family will like it. It's not Italian, but we sure love it.

SHRIMP BOIL

1/2 pound Keilbasa per person
1/2 pound raw shrimp per person
3 small new red potatoes per person
1 ear of corn on the cob per person
Snow peas
2 small onions per person
2 lemons
1 bag of Old Bay or Zaterains seasoning for shrimp and crab boils

In a large pot add water, lemons and Old bay Seasoning bag and boil for 10 minutes. Add potatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Add sausage and onions and bring back to a boil. When potatoes are tender add the corn. Bring back to a boil. Add shrimp and cook just a few minutes until they are done and pink. Add snow peas. Drain and pour into a basket or platters or dump it all on the center of a table that is covered with newspaper or butcher paper. Have clarified butter and cocktail sauce ready. OK! DIG IN!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Thursday, June 19, 2008

LOOKING FOR A DAY TRIP?

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I just got back from a few days in Rochester, Mn. I was there to teach a couple of classes at the Italian Living Store known as Sopra/Sotto.

Sopra/Sotto carries beautiful Italian pottery, linens, oils, pasta, fancy food products and so much more. Located in the University Square Mall across from the Mayo clinic, a stop there is like a shopping excursion to Italy with out the expense of plane fare. This past week I taught two classes in their lovely kitchen that also includes a panini bar at lunch and a coffee bar all day long.

I will be back there teaching July 15 and 16. On Tues. night I will do a Shrimp Boil class that will be a nice alternative to the tiresome barbecue and on Wed. afternoon I will teach a desserts class. If you live in the area give them a call at 507-252-5522 to register for a class or go on line at www.sopra-sotto.com

And while you are in the area, make sure and have lunch at the newly open Chester's and eat al fresco on the new "Peace Mall." in Rochester. This town has a lot to offer besides the best medical care in the world!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, June 9, 2008

TURIS'S LATIN KING REIGNS SUPREME

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

For those of you living in Iowa or traveling to Iowa in the future, I have a tip I want to share with you. First of all I want to say that the Latin King is owned by my baby brother and his wife, Bobby and Amy Tursi. But over the past month I have had two of the greatest meals ever at their restaurant.

The Latin King is a Des Moines area landmark, located at 2200 Hubbell Ave. across from the A/D dairy and near the Iowa fairgrounds. (http://www.tursislatinking.com/) The first occasion was a celebration for my son Patrick upon his graduation from Medical School combined with a 60Th birthday celebration for my husband, Bob. The second time we feasted there was for a Groom's Dinner.
On both occasions, the antipasti was unbelievably delicious. Bobby and Amy have that piece of it just right. The artichoke and olive salad is light, crisp and very fresh tasting. The roasted asparagus is brought in from a local farmer and is crisp tender and flavorful. On one occasion we had fried onion rings that are a signature item and I love the fried calamari with a robust marinara sauce or spritz of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Marinated zucchini in a light vinaigrette was also served as well as an assortment of Italian meats and cheeses.
On both occasions, Pat Morris, the Latin King's Long time chef got the pasta just perfect. Bobby and Amy have just returned from Italy with some new recipes. Amy's new version of a spinach and cheese ravioli were a hit and will be on the menu on select days. The evening of the groom's dinner we enjoyed the usual pasta, penne with a spicy marinara sauce with just enough heat to it that it made you want to eat more.



The entrees were outstanding for both events. The first was a sage stuffed chicken breast with the bone and skin on the chicken which made it succulent and moist. For the groom's dinner we had a choice of salmon, chicken spiedini or a New York Strip. The salmon was a huge portion of moist salmon with a light tomato sauce served with a potato croquette that is both crisp on the outside and smooth and cheesy on the inside. Bob ordered the New York Strip Steak, that was perfectly prepared at medium rare. The steak was juicy and the garlic butter over the top was just the right touch.

On both occasions we had cakes from outside bakeries to celebrate the special occasion, but what made the dessert special was the large scoop of Spumoni ice cream that was served with it. Strawberry, chocolate and cream de menth ice cream with large chunks of pistachios and candied cherries. creamy smooth and delicious.

On your next stop to or through Des Moines make sure and eat at the Latin King. With any luck my Dad will be there to greet you. Just make sure you let them know that the "big sister" sent you.

Buon appetito,
Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A VISIT TO ELLIS ISLAND

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I attended a wedding last week-end in New York and went out a few days early to do a little sight seeing. One of the things I did was visit Ellis Island and it was such a great day that I just have to tell you about it.

My experience with my culinary tours to Italy is that it really is best to book your tour before you leave home. So I went to the Ellis Island web site at www.ellisisland.org and booked space on the Staten Island Ferry which took us past the Statue of Liberty (an amazing sight) and then to Ellis Island. Admission to both sights is free, but you must book and purchase tickets for the ferry. (total of $18.00 for ferry tickets and audio cassette tape, which is a must.)

Our group actually spent 4 hours touring the museum with a short lunch break. It is a wonderful and informative tour and the 25 minute movie that we viewed, "Island of Hope, Island of Tears" was very moving.

The best part of the day for me was the Family Learning Center where I had hoped to find my father's records of his immigration from Italy to the United States. I was greatly disappointed to learn that it would not be possible for me to get his information as they only have records from 1892-1924 and Dad came through in 1930. But Bob and I quickly decided to try and located my Grandfather's records as he came through Ellis Island twice.

Having some information on my Grandfather and doing a little quick math, we figured the second time he came through, after WWI was 1921. We quickly entered all of the data that we had in the computer and got his information. We learned that Francesco Tursi arrived on April 30, 1921 from Terravechia, Italy through Naples, Italy. We were able to get a copy of the ship's manifest and that he was number 17 on the record and we were also able to get a photograph of the ship that he sailed on which was the Palasciano. We have it all mounted in a beautiful frame and will give to my father as a gift.

Since we still had a bit of time we did some research on my great-uncles as well and now have that information to pass on to my cousins. It was so much fun getting this information and I suggest that if you are interested in doing something like this that you go to the Ellis Island web site and find out how and when your own family members made their way to the "New Land."

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

ANTIPASTO MISTO

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I had the best time today when Rob Hudson of Show Case Minnesota interviewed me and I made Antipast0 Misto for him. To view the video of the segment and to get the recipe just go to the Kare 11 web site at www.Kare11.com click on Show Case Minnesota and then click on Past Shows and finally click on Carmela's Cucina.

You will get a great recipe that you can use all summer long and find out more about what Carmela's Cucina is all about.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

SHOW CASE MINNESOTA

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I have been asked to do a cooking demonstration on Show Case Minnesota Wed. May 28Th at 10:00 a.m. on channel 11. Please tune in to watch me make a recipe that you will surely want to make for Father's Day or sometime this summer. And if you can't view the segment, then go to www.kare11.com and click on the Show Case Minnesota Link to get the recipe, but you must do this after the show has aired.

I hope you will tune in!

Buon appetito.

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Spring in Lincoln Park, IL

Greetings from Lincoln Park,

It is truly spring in Lincoln Park. Over the weekend, I visited my son, Patrick and his new bride Jeannie. They were nice enough to let me bunk in their tiny but oh so cute Lincoln Park apartment, overlooking Clark street between Fullerton and Diversey.

These few short blocks are a world bazaar of food and restaurants and we tried to take in as many as we could over my four day visit. On Friday night between raging storms we had Sushi at Kabuki and dessert crepes at the Coffee and Crepe House. I don't know much about ordering sushi, but I do enjoy eating it, I let Jeannie do the ordering. She selected a number of beautiful and tasty rolls and a wonderful calamari dish that was perfectly prepared. I am used to just drizzling a bit of lemon juice over my calamari, but Kabuki serves it with a spicy Bar B Que sauce that added a lot of zip to the dish.

A very interesting concept at Kabuki is that it is a BYOB establishment. Apparently there are many such restaurants that offer this and it really keeps the tab down. We enjoyed a few icy cold beers brought from home and our dinner for three was under $60.00 with tip. I wish the idea of BYOB would come around to our neighborhood eateries in the Twin Cities!

After a short walk we found ourselves at the Coffee and Crepe house. We chose two delicious crepes. the first was spread with Nutella, which I am crazy about. The chocolate and hazelnut spread was perfect with sliced bananas, folded into a triangle, the dish was accompanied by a creamy vanilla ice cream and the plate was decorated with chocolate and raspberry sauces. We also had another crepe between the three of us. It was filled with dark chocolate and raspberries and the plate adorned in the same fashion. The kids had not been there before and I think that it will become a regular treat for them.

These two small restaurants are just the beginning of many such eateries on Clark. A nice feature is that most of the store fronts are able to open their front doors and windows allowing them to offer "al fresco" dining.

During my weekend stay, we hit Starbuck, Caribu and Argo Tea for coffee and pastries. On Monday morning Patrick and I wandered into an Austrian Bakery with some very creative and beautiful wedding cakes. We indulged in a poppy seed claw, raspberry croissant and a fabulous and warm cinnamon roll.

On our way back to the apartment, Patrick pointed out the Sultan's Market that specializes in Middle Eastern Food. Wiener Circle that is a late night hot spot, with lines for Chicago style hot dogs that goes on for blocks. I am told that they have their own parking lot, which is unheard of in Lincoln Park, so while the store front looks pretty rough, it does a big time business. AndTin Lizzie's and Mickey's are popular and well know Michigan State Bars.

On another visit my husband, Bob was with us and we had a cozy brunch around a warm fire at the Galway Arms. It was a brutally cold Jan. weekend and the Irish breakfast hit the spot. Bob especially enjoyed the blood sausage with his eggs, I stuck with the rashers of bacon. On my spring visit the Galway's patio was packed all weekend long.

Basil Leaf Cafe, directly across the street from the apartment, serves great pasta dishes that we enjoyed on a summer visit, and the kids say that they eat there often enjoying a wonderful bowl of soup and lots of hot bread.

We didn't just eat, Sunday afternoon included a 2 hour stroll through the Lincoln Park Zoo and the neighborhood and I even made it to the the Chicago Art Institute on this trip and took in the impressionists exhibits, which are wonderful.

Chicago is an eating town and Lincoln Park serves up some of the world's best. Now sadly it is just SLIM FAST for the next few weeks!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CINCO DE MAYO

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,

Hola, It is so hard to believe that it is already May. The forecast is rather bleak with cool temperatures and lots of rain. I have an idea for you to brighten you weekend. As you know May 5th is also known as Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo, (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/cinco_de_mayo) is a celebration of Mexican food and heritage. It is to those of Mexican background what St. Patrick's Day is to the Irish, or what Oktoberfest is to the German's.

So pull out a colorful pinata for the kids and the Margarita glasses for the adults and then make up the following recipe for a great Cinco de Mayo celebration.

SANTA FLORENTINA CHILI CHEESECAKE

1 cup crushed tortilla chips
3 Tablespoons melted butter
2-8 ounce packages of softened cream cheese
2 eggs
1-4 ounce can diced green chilies
1 fresh jalapeno pepper seeded and diced
4 ounces shredded Colby cheese
4 ounces shredded Monetary Jack cheese
1/4 cup sour cream

Combine chips and butter. Press into the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven. In a large bowl blend cream cheese and eggs. Add chile's, jalapeno, and both cheeses. Pour the mixture over the crust and bake for 30 minutes. Do not over bake. Remove from the oven and cool 5 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge and remove sides from the pan. Spread sour cream over the top and decorate with tomatoes, sliced onions, black olives and serve with chips.

I hope you and your family and friends have a wonderful Cinco de Mayo.

Ole!

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

MAY CLASSES

GREETINGS FROM CARMELA'S CUCINA,

It doesn't feel very May like when I step out-doors and the forecast is for chilly weather and rain. But, hey, it is Minnesota and we know that next week we will rush right into summer. And to get you ready for that day, I am offering a couple of cooking classes that you are going to want to take. So click on the appropriate link at the right of this post and contact the school where I will be teaching and sign up for a bit of summer.

On May 7, 2008, I will be down in Eagan, District 196, cooking up "Dinner al Fresco." This is a great menu for the summer months with several courses. Enjoy a bruschetta with tomatoes, basil and cheese, chicken breast stuffed with ricotta and spinach, pasta with pesto sauce stuffed into a tomato half and for dessert a delicious jam tart. Registration ends in a few days, so pick up the phone and make a reservation or register on line. www.distrcit196.org/ce or 651-423-7920.

It's swimsuit season and I have the class for you! Want to loose a few pounds before you actually go out in public wearing that skimpy little thing? Then, Italian Women Stay Slim is the class for you. This class is being offered at Kitchen Party in Blaine on May 14. Contact them at www.kitchenpartystore.com or at 763-780-0485.

If Blaine is too far to drive, then you can take the same class at Edina Public Schools on May 19. Contact them at www.edina.k12.mn.us/community or phone them at952-848-3953.

The menu for Italian Women Stay Slim includes Tuscan bean salad, Italian stracciatella soup, Balsamic glazed chicken breasts, surprise mashed potatoes and vanilla cream with chocolate dipped strawberries.

Hopefully one of these classes will appeal to you and I will see you there, check back frequently for more up-coming classes. And if you are looking for something special to make for Cinco di Mayo, check back later in the week.

Happy spring!!!!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

EAT, DRINK AND GET PUBLISHED

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Last night I had an opportunity to attend my first ever meeting of "Eat, Drink and Get Published". This is a number of Twin Cities writers that have formed a group a few months ago to get together monthly for networking purposes. Last night's gathering was all about food writing so I was very anxious to attend. The moderator for the evening was one of the food writers for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, Kim Ode. Her guests were Zoe Francois and Robin Asbell, both cook book authors, who have best sellers on their hands. WOW!

Since this was the first meeting that I attended, I was quite surprised by the number of people gathered together. All were happily sipping wine and noshing while networking. When I first walked into the room I saw Zoe, uncovering several platters of bread that she had baked just for the occasion. On one was a platter of sweet rolls, a recipe from her new cook book with co-author Jeff Hertzberg, called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The rolls were still warm from the oven, soft, nicely flavored with cinnamon and glazed with icing and delicious. I needed to hear more about her new way of baking bread!

She and Jeff have come up with a new method of preparing a yeast dough and keeping it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. The longer it is kept the more depth of flavor is developed in the dough. The theory is that you can always have dough ready to be baked into many different shapes sizes and types. The book is in it's 7th printing with more than 20,000 copies being sold. For more information on her method, the book and baking bread in general go to her blog at:
www.zoebakes.blogspot.com I think you will find that you like the bread as much as I did. You can also get her book at www.barnesandnobel.com and www.amazon.com

The evening ended with more sipping and noshing, but when I went back for another piece of cinnamon roll, sadly only the empty plate was left.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Friday, April 18, 2008

MOTHERS DAY GIFT IDEA


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,
According to the calendar Mother's Day is just around the corner. You may be thinking about a way to honor your mother with a special gift and I would like to suggest my cook book, Carmela's Cucina as a great present for the wonderful mother in your life.
My book actually honors my own mother and grandmother's. And it includes recipes from three generations of great Italian cooks. Recipes from the culinary classes that I teach, from my food and wine tours to Italy and from our family restaurant, Tursi's Latin King. In this collection of recipes, photos and stories of growing up in an Italian American family, I share with you the finest fruits of my experiences in the kitchen and of Italy.
Perfect for any gift giving occasion the book may be purchased at Byerly's in St. Louis Park, Barnes and Noble, www.barnesandnoble.com and through my web site, www.carmiescucina.com
From antipasto to pasta to dolce, (dessert), you will love the easy and simple recipes that will become your family favorites too. I hope that Carmela's Cucina will soon be a part of your cook book collection.
Buon appetito,
Carmela Turs Hobbins

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

CULINARY AND WINE TOUR OF TUSCANY AT 2007 PRICE

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Here is a special offering to experience autumn in Tuscany first hand. And to do it at a 2007 U.S. dollar price. Join us, Carmela Tursi Hobbins, Doris Fortino and Doug Haynes-for an immersion into Italian culture and cuisine. The three of us will be your hosts, tour guides and translators for the Culinary Event Week of September 20-27, 2008.

This will be a week of hands-on cooking classes where you"ll learn from area experts and well-known chefs. You'll learn classic Italian culinary skills and will return home ready to impress your family and friends with local Tuscan recipes.

Of course, not all of your time is spent in the kitchen. We'll take time to dine at the famous and the small and charming restaurants and of course, we will be sampling the fine wines of Tuscany. We have also planned excursions to Lucca, Siena, San Gimignano and the beautiful seaside coast of Cinque Terre with a seafood lunch in a fortress tower. September is the perfect time to visit Tuscany, the weather is warm and you will tour without the crowds.

For this all-inclusive week, we have every detail covered-from pick-up at the airport to local historic tours and, of course, food! Book now because space is limited to 12 people for each week. Special culinary Event Week price (excluding airfare) is $2,995.

Visit www.carmiescucina.com for more information and to reserve your place.

And according to my travel agent Besse Maragoes at Shilling Travel the air fare at that time will be just over $1,000. Or go to www.northwestairlines.com for complete air fare details.

I hope to see you in Tuscany this fall.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Friday, April 11, 2008

TUSCAN FARM HOUSE COOKING: IL MULINO

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Bought back by popular demand, District 196 has asked me to teach the class, "Tuscan Farm House Cooking: IL Mulino" again this season. The first class was completely sold out, but a few seats remain in the class that will be held at Black Hawk Middle School in Eagan on Wed. night April 16, 2008 at 6:30 p.m. To register go on line at: www.district196.org/ce or phone 651-423-7920.

Bring your imagination as we travel to a cozy Tuscan farmhouse for a menu reminiscent of a relaxed Italian country dinner. We will make and enjoy, warm foccacia bread with paper-thin prosciutto, herb-rubbed roast pork loin prepared Tuscan style, roasted vegetable with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, salad all' Mulino and cream puffs with raspberries.

I will entertain you with my stories of traveling through Italy and growing up in an Italian American family. Be prepared to learn some great entertaining tips and enjoy a relaxing evening of delicious Italian food.

My cook book Carmela's Cucina will be available for sale the evening of the class and I will be happy to personalize it and autograph it for you. This collection of recipes, stories, and photographs would make a great Mother's Day gift as well as wedding and shower gifts as well.

I hope to see you in Eagan on the 16th of April and while you are signing up for that class think about registering for my class on May 7th also at Black Hawk, when we will be enjoying "Dinner al Fresco."

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, April 7, 2008

A WEEK-END IN KANSAS CITY

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Bob and I were invited to a wedding in Kansas City this past week-end and decided to go and visit friends from college and see the sights of this fun town as well as attending the wedding. At the recommendation of the groom's mother we stayed at the Intercontinental at the Plaza (www.ichotelsgroup.com )

The hotel's service was wonderful and is nicely decorated, but the best part is that it is just two very short blocks to the world famous Kansas City Plaza area. The Plaza is full of wonderful specialty stores and restaurants, coffee shops and galleries. The weather was beautiful, so we were able to enjoy the Spanish architecture and all of the many fountains.

Friday night, at my request my friend and her husband made reservations for the four of us to eat at Lidia Bastianich's Restaurant, Lidia's (www.lidiasitaly.com ) located in the historic Freight House. Lidia is considered the "first lady" of Italian Cuisine and is my idol, so I had been wanting to eat there for many years.

On a week-end evening Lidia's was buzzing and fun. We had a great table looking out at the room and a very informative waiter, who suggested that we start our meal out with a Frico. As part of some of my cooking classes I make Frico Baskets that hold salads, but this was a little different. The Frico was on a bed of roasted potatoes with a lovely asparagus and shrimp sauce poured over and then over that laid a crisp Frico made of Parmesan Cheese and garnished with more shrimp and asparagus. The shrimp and asparagus sauce was light and creamy and the contrast of the crisp Frico was delicious. I then had the trio of pastas, the first was a Spinach Fettuccine in a cream sauce, then came a spicy Capatavi pasta with sausage which was not too hot, but yet spicy enough to give the dish a nice zip. The final part of the trio was actually a creamy Risotto of seafood. My favorite of the trio was the Capatavi. The waiter did mention that all of the pastas were refillable, but at this point I was pretty full and wanting to enjoy dessert.

The trio also included a salad as well and Bob and I split a Beat salad with creamy Gorgonzola Cheese and roasted walnuts. It was colorful and the cheese was a nice contrast to the beats. All of the servings were very generous.

And for dessert, and probably my favorite course, was a Lemon and Olive Oil cake, which I make frequently for my clients as well, but they pared it with a lemon gelato that was delicious. The gelato had a hint of rosemary to it and a small sprig garnished the plate. It was very refreshing after all of the pasta.

If I were to go back however, I would choose what my friend had, which was a lovely portion of a sauteed chicken breast in a lemon caper sauce served over a bed of fresh spinach. The bread basket that they brought to our table when we first arrived with an artichoke spread and then another spread of olives was wonderful on the warm foccacia that made up part of the generous bread basket.

Food and service were great, I fulfilled my dream and I will go back on future trips.

And for those of you who love to watch the Food Network, scratch that idea on Sat. mornings and tune into a show that will teach you what real Italian food is about. You can catch Lidia's Italy on PBS, in the Twin Cities, that is channel 2 at 11:00 in the morning. You will learn more from her in 30 minutes than you ever will from some of the so called Food Network Stars.

Many of the ideas for my classes in the Twin Cities are inspired from Lidia's many cookbooks. So if you cannot make it to Kansas City or to the New York city area, where Lidia owns two other restaurants, you may want to take one of my cooking classes. To register for a class, look to the list of cooking schools that I have posted on this page and click on their link to see when I will be teaching at their location, what is on the menu and how to register.

Lidia's many cookbook's are available at Barnes and Noble and you can also get my latest cookbook, Carmela's Cucina there as well. www.barnesandnoble.com

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

CHOCOLATE OBLIVION

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

My students always ask during my cooking classes," which Italian restaurants do you like in the Twin Cities?" I rattle off a few and then always mention Al Vento (the Wind) as a really good southern Italian place to dine. However I had not been there in about a year and now have been back twice in a month because our first experience was so good and our second visit even better.

Located in south Minneapolis at 5001 34Th Ave AlVento puts out great food at what I think are very reasonable prices. On one occasion I ordered the Balsamic braised short ribs with Gorgonzola potatoes and carrots at $21.50, this was the most expensive entree on the menu. The portion was so large that I brought half of it home with me and had it for lunch the next day. Warmed up it was even better than the night before. I went for something a little lighter on my next visit, but was not disappointed. Striped sea bass with fava bean risotto and tomato beurre blanc was light and delicious. The sea bass was very moist and flavorful and the risotto nice and creamy. Because I was not feeling overly stuffed, I felt that I could order dessert to finish off the evening.

My daughter in law, Jeannie happened to be with us that night and after much consultation, we decided that we would split the Chocolate Oblivion. I love Jeannie, but the minute that dessert appeared, hand delivered by the chef, I began to regret my decision to share. But trying to be a good mother in law, I did not devour the entire dessert myself, although, I really was tempted to do just that.

Chocolate Oblivion lived up to it's name, the moment the first bite passed my lips I felt as though I must be in chocolate heaven. The pastry crust is light and flaky, the center is then covered with a sweet chocolate ganache with diced strawberries over the chocolate and a lovely vanilla cream anglaise pools around it all. If you go to Al Vento make sure and save some room for this wonderful experience. The only thing that would have made it better is if I had ordered a nicely chilled glass of Moscato to sip with it.

Al Vento will take reservations call 612-727-2724 or go on line at www.alventorestaurant.com They also do catering. And one of the nicest parts of the whole dining experience was that the chef/owner, John Hunt did come out to speak with us. I love supporting small establishments such as this and I suggest that you try them out too.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Sunday, March 30, 2008

ENDLESS PASTABLITIES

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

Last week my friend and food writer Sue Doeden contacted me. She had developed a recipe for Baked Ziti with Ham, Asparagus and Fresh Peas -- what a breath of Spring that is!

The reason for her call was to talk about cooking pasta, a subject that I love to discuss and teach in my many culinary classes. After I told her everything I could think of that is important about pasta -- the various kinds of pasta, how to cook it, and matching sauces with the different types of pasta -- she asked if I would be willing to do an audio-interview for the Bemidji Pioneer newspaper. Of course I readily agreed.

To read Sue's column and to get her recipe for Baked Ziti go to www.bemidjipioneer.com then click on her link, All About Food. If you would like to hear what I had to say about pasta (and I hope that you do), click on the audio icon that is part of her column.

Sue and I would love to hear what you think about the recipe and interview and, if you have a recipe that you would like to share, send that to us too. Most of all, if you have a pasta tip that you would like others to know about, please submit that as well.

And remembe, keep cooking pasta. The possibilities are endless!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MOTHERSAUCES

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I had a few free hours this afternoon and decided to go and check out the new cooking school where I will be teaching in April, Mothersauces. Located at 76th and Lyndale, Mothersauces is not only a beautiful store front offering any kitchen tool that you might want to purchase, cookbooks and spices, but they also have a beautiful area where they offer cooking classes.

I am scheduled to teach one of my favorite classes there on Wed. night April 8th at 6:00 p.m., Grazzietta's Farm House Dinner. The cost is $60 and you can go to the Mothersauces web site to register at: http://www.mothersauces.com/ or phone them at 612-331-9680.

Grazzietta was my first instructor in Tuscany. We first met as dusk in her beautiful Tuscan garden where she was picking herbs and vegetables for the meal that we would later prepare together. Loaded in her basket were sage, rosemary, basil, parsley, oregano and spinach as well as fresh asparagus. From there we went straight to her cucina and created the meal that we will make together at Mothersauces. We will begin with a Bruschetta of Spinach and Mushrooms and for our pasta course make Pasta ala Erbe, a pasta in a rich herb and tomato cream sauce, we will enjoy sage stuffed chicken breasts and fresh roasted asparagus and then end our meal with a delicious Torta di Limone with fresh berries and a flourish of whipped cream. This meal is a real spring time treat and I know that you are all ready for spring.

So, do not delay, click on the web site link in this posting or just move to the right hand side of this page where you will see the link to the web page and sign up for this fun filled class. And I promise you I will give you more tips about cooking Italian and the Italian life style.

Looking forward to seeing you at Mothersauces in April.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

JERSEY BOYS

Greetings From Carmela's Cucina,

I finally got to collect tonight on a Christmas gift from my husband, Bob. Tickets to the Jersey Boys! "Oh What a Night." From their opening song to their final encore, the Jersey Boys brought back hundreds of memories for this Italian girl growing up in "Little Italy" in Des Moines, Iowa. The energy of the performers who had Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons dances, and mannerisms down perfectly was amazing. The rough talk reminded me of some of my former school mates, OK guys, I promise not to give you up!

If you don't have tickets get them now, I understand that there are still good seats left go to www.ticketmaster.com and buy yourself some of the best entertainment in this town. You won't be disappointed. By the end of the evening the audience was up and singing and dancing to great tunes like, Rag Doll, Working My Way back to You, Walk Like a Man and my favorite My Eyes Adored You. It's a blast from the past so be prepared to have a good time and enjoy this great performance. Just a small warning the show was about 2 and half hours long, but went by so quickly that I was very sad to see it end.

And if you are looking for a quick bite to eat before the show, we like to drop into the M and S Grill at 5th and Nicolett for their Happy Hour from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.. They are still serving one of the best cheeseburgers in town with tomato, lettuce and onion, it weighs in at a half pound, so bring your appetite with you and it includes a large serving of fries, for just $1.95 (yes, I do have the price right). With a nice glass of Pinot Noir at $5.00 a glass it can be one of the best bargains in town.

So, "Hang On To What You've Got", and start making some plans!

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, March 24, 2008

COOKING CLASS AND BOOK SIGNING, MARCH 28, 2008

Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

I would like to tell all of you about my up-coming cooking class and book signing. On March 28, 2008 you will find me in the kitchen at Byerly's Grocery Store in St. Louis Park, creating Mini Meals in Minutes. This one hour class will include three recipes that are fun, easy and delicious. We will begin by making an Antipasti on a Skewer which will consist of Italian meats and cheeses, tomatoes and basil, all marinated in a zesty Italian dressing. I will then demonstrate Grilled Shrimp on a Skewer with a Pesto Sauce and end our Mini Meal with Nutella Ravioli. Nutella is a chocolate and hazelnut spread made in the Northern Part of Italy. The ravioli are deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar and are a real treat.

Following the demonstration I will be available to talk to you about my up-coming trips to Italy and sign my cookbook, Carmela's Cucina. This all starts at Noon in the kitchen at Byerly's and is sure to be a lot of fun. I hope you can make it for either the class or the book signing. You will pick up many good entertaining tips as well. For more information go to www.lundsandbyerlys.com or call 952-253-3409. The cost of the class is a real bargin too, only $10.00.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Sunday, March 23, 2008

MEMORIES OF TUSCANY


Last fall, ten of my clients and I made ourselves at home in the hilltown of Tofori in Tuscany.
Tofori is located an hour from the Florence airport and just minutes from the charming walled town of Lucca. Our group was split in two; some of us called Villa Margherita our home, while others claimed the villa Il Mulino di Torrigiani.
Our hosts Doug Haynes and Doris Fortino, formerly of the Twin Cities, are fortunate to call IL Mulino their permanent residence. After meeting our group at the Florence airport, they immediately began to make us feel at home with a welcoming bottle of cool crisp Proseco, the sparkling wine of the area and a long awaited Tuscan dinner. Doug and Doris were not only our hosts, but also our tour guides and translators. We experienced one glorious week of touring, dining and tasting the best wines of Tuscany.

Our week began with a leisurely stroll and a guided tour of Lucca. We found ourselves having lunch at the famous Buca di Sant’Antonio, a classic since 1794.Our seven-course lunch culminated with a tour of the restaurant’s wine cellars. Then we proceeded to the village of Petrognano and our first cooking lesson with Chef Lido Martini of the Fattoria Gambaro. Fattoria Gambaro is a quaint and rustic restaurant, with a busy kitchen… as we soon found out! Guido had us slicing, dicing, rolling and stuffing. The end result a multi-course meal we enjoyed consisting of ravioli, gnocchi, involtini of pork, a molded vegetable terrine that the locals call sformata, and Pannacotta for dessert. And, of course, there were bottles of Limoncello and Vin Santo to end our evening.Our week also included a visit to the Cinque Terre, an area of five fishing villages located on the Ligurain Sea. We hiked from town to town and found ourselves eating lunch at a restaurant built over the aquamarine sea.

We were driven around the Chianti countryside, admired the endless olive groves, vineyards and Tuscan pines, and sampled the liquid gold and the wine of the area. We stopped to visit the world famous butcher of Panzanno, Dario, and sampled his meats and lardo while being entertained with a recitation of poetry, which we could not understand, but thought was romantic anyway.
While we sipped the local wine and listened to melodic Italian music, we enjoyed our day with one of the village women, Anna Maria. She showed us how to prepare tortelli, the half moon shaped filled pasta with meat sauce. We worked in Anna Maria's cucina all day rolling and stuffing pasta, roasting pork loin, preparing potatoes, vegetables and pastries that we would have for dinner. After our work, we were rewarded with a candlelit evening al fresco under the Tuscan moon on the Ponte that is the bridge to the villa. We ended our day happily sipping our grappa and espresso and talking about a return trip.
Our final day was spent in Viareggio, a seaside resort, visiting the fish market as the fisherman delivered their catch of the day. We purchased the necessary ingredients to make Cacciuccio, the hearty seafood soup of the area. We returned to the Villa Costa where our hostess, Sandy, instructed us in the fine art of preparing the area’s specialty.
We dined around the swimming pool under the starlit skies of Italy and later danced and enjoyed the music of Beppe and Sergio and company, who entertained us by playing and singing Italian favorites. At midnight, we made our Limoncello toasts to our hosts Doris and Doug and thanked them for providing our group of Minnesotans with a perfect week in Tuscany.

The group found it difficult to leave the beautiful Villa Margherita and IL Mulino and the welcoming hospitality we found from all whom we encountered on our brief stay. My consolation was that I would be returning with other groups in the future to enjoy a repeat of what I feel is a trip of a lifetime.
If you would like to join me in such an adventure in Sept. of this year, then contact me at my web site www.carmiescucina.com and we can begin making you travel arrangements.
I hope to see you in Tuscany very soon.
Buon appetito,
Carmela Tursi Hobbins