American, Baking Recipes, Italian, Savory, Uncategorized

Broccoli Bolognese

Hey readers!

This Critiquing Carnivore has been busy! Not to worry though, I blocked out an entire evening to whip up a spectacular dish that was created by none other than Adam Rapoport, editor in chief at Bon Appétit! Shall I remind you that I’m obsessed with Bon Appétit and their test kitchen?

So this recipe was actually published almost two years ago, but it resurfaced recently when Rapoport and chef Molly Baz made the dish for the Bon Appétit YouTube channel. Aside from the recipe itself, the energy and whit between these two in the kitchen was hysterical and electrifying! So naturally I was inspired to make this “Brocco Bolo”.

Now I’m sure you’re all thinking of the red meat sauce that is typically seen when you order a bolognese. Rapoport’s reasoning for calling it a bolognese? Because it sounds better for a magazine…well he isn’t wrong. Let’s say that in the case of this recipe we consider it to be a bolognese because the base is still a creamy, meat sauce. Then with the addition of your steamed and chopped broccoli it really starts to thicken up, add that butter and cheese and it resembles a bolognese!

This recipe is right on point when it gives cooking times. I steamed the broccoli for exactly three minutes, as written, and it was perfect. With the end result the broccoli wasn’t overdone or super mushy. Same with the pasta, for that perfect al dente I cooked it for only nine minutes in the heavily salted water (my new favorite ingredient is pasta water- watch Bon Appétit pasta videos to understand!) because when you throw it in the pan at the end it still continues to cook and you don’t want over cooked pasta.

I probably could’ve broken up my sausage more like they did in the video and as shown in the photograph on the recipe’s website, but I definitely prefer bigger chunks of my sausage- literally just a personal preference; you do you!

When I was looking for the orecchiette pasta, at first I couldn’t find it. To compromise I was going to go with a fusilli or bow tie pasta for looks. Then I found the orecchiette and I’m so happy I did! As explained in the video, this “little ear” pasta is fantastic for a recipe like this because the pasta picks up some of the broccoli bolognese base in its tiny cup; you aren’t having to fight to get a good mix of everything in one bite. I did find this pasta in my standard grocery store, Barilla brand pasta to be exact so you should be able to find it. Let me know if you don’t and what shape you ended up trying this recipe with!

I tried to cook everything simultaneously and, while I am obviously not a professional chef with a lot of the tools they suggest to use, I wish I had done it all more in separated steps: handle steaming the broccoli, let it cool, then it chop it. Then go over to the skillet with the garlic and handle the sausage. I was close to burning myself and was running from station to station trying to accomplish everything while each ingredient was cooking faster than I was actually prepared for. It still, obviously, worked out and tasted amazing, but if you get frazzled in the kitchen easily you may be better off doing everything in its exact step.

I really hope you get the chance to try this recipe! It is definitely one that I’ll keep in my recipe book for future family dinner nights, it would be quite the crowd pleaser at any dinner party! Bon Appétit!

*Another tip: taste it before seasoning! Since you are heavily salting that broccoli/pasta water and using it as your secret ingredient, it does bring a lot of saltiness to the dish. I would say I maybe added a pinch more salt and then black pepper at the end.

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American, Baking Recipes, Savory, Uncategorized

Ramen Noodle Salad Recipe

Ever find yourself perusing Pinterest looking for a super simple, delicious, and healthy side dish? A side dish that isn’t just a salad or pasta or even green beans you threw in the microwave?

Well readers do I have a treat for you!

This Ramen Noodle Salad is an extremely refreshing take on “the side dish”. It is tangy and acidic while remaining cool and crunchy. It is the easiest side salad you could possibly put together and, guess what, it tastes better a day or two after it’s made. Yup, you can let this puppy sit for 24 hours before eating it giving you plenty of time to just throw it all into a bowl and not worry about it until later. Whoo hoo!

So here it is, my mom’s (and now our whole family’s) favorite side dish:

1 package of coleslaw mix

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup chopped scallion

1-2 packages of chicken ramen and seasoning packets

Sliced almonds

Sunflower seeds

3-4 shakes of soy sauce

Just dump it all into a large bowl, eyeball the scallions, almonds, and sunflower seeds adding as much or as little to suit you preference!

I’ve tried this recipe using one packet of the chicken seasoning and two- I’ll be honest that I didn’t notice a huge difference so depending on how much you’re making if it is a smaller portion go with one, larger then use two!

I also do a mixture of breaking up the “raw” ramen into small and large bits. I think the large bits soak up the olive oil and white vinegar while still giving the salad that awesome crunch! Experiment with it to see what ratios you like!

Seriously though, this recipe is delectable and it is great for family nights and parties!

Happy Cooking!

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Baking Recipes, Sweets, Uncategorized

BA’s Best Cheesecake

Hey girl heyyy!

Followers, it has been a hot sec! I’ve been busy getting back into the swing of things (aka life) but I managed to squeeze in a little baking time! As you probably know from my last post and my Instagram (@critiquingcarnivore) I’m pretty obsessed with Bon Appétit Magazine. I had promised some friends a cheesecake a while back and where else was I going to go to look for a recipe?! Here it is: BA’s Best Cheesecake.

Aside from it being from BA, I fell in love with this recipe the moment I laid eyes on it. Firstly, it’s super simple. No water filled trays, no crazy additional ingredients. Simple, clean and elegant. I also loved being able to use fresh vanilla bean. It’s a little extra out of the pocket for this ingredient (World Market sells one pod for $7.99) but it really elevates the taste in contrast to plain old vanilla extract. It also made me feel like a badass chef cutting into it and scraping the vanilla seeds into the mixture!

Again this recipe was so easy to make and I highly recommend it! For the graham cracker crust the recipe says to use nine ounces. I don’t own a scale as of now so I did a bit of Googling and eyeballing and I roughly used nine sheets of graham crackers, or one sleeve from the box. I think next time I would use one and half sleeves as I didn’t have as much of a crust on the sides as I would have liked, however, if you’re not into that much crust, then stick with one sleeve!

This cheesecake was for a birthday so I wanted to decorate it and make it look extra pretty so I whipped up some basic cream cheese frosting with the last half of cream cheese and piped a cute design around the cake and accompanied it with blueberries for color. You could do strawberries, make a fruit sauce or jam, or leave it plain to shine on its own! Either way this recipe is fantastic as a clean canvas for whatever you’re feeling! Dress her up or down, either way she’s the best!

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Baking Recipes, boston, Cape Cod, Savory, Seafood, Uncategorized

Seared Scallops with Corn Summer Salad

Hey there readers! It is summertime which means one thing for this Critiquing Carnivore…Cape Cod! That’s right, as per usual, I’m back on the glorious Cape and serving up some delicious local fare and eating at the best spots. With my newfound inspiration (and obsession) with Bon Appetit Magazine, I have been waiting for moments to recreate some of their seafood recipes. Today, we’re making scallops.

The day we made this recipe my mom and I were sitting on the beach and she mentioned getting seafood for dinner. I love scallops, like yum yes please, so I simply sat there and prayed to the scallop gods that they would be a reasonable price at the fish market. Obviously, it worked! Scallops were bought and I got myself on Bon Appetit’s website.

Chef Carla Lalli Music (@lallimusic) developed this Seared Scallops with Brown Butter and Lemon Pan Sauce recipe and it very quickly became our inspiration! There is a YouTube video on this recipe to follow Carla as she is making the dish, too!

Like I said, this recipe served as inspiration so we tweaked and added some things. First we seared the scallops, we used olive oil while the recipe suggests either that or vegetable. Scallops don’t take that long to cook so keep an eye on how they turn opaque as well as the sear on the top, flat side. Three to four minutes on the first side should do, you’ll only need two on the other.

In our version, we sautéed spinach in the delicious aftermath of the scallops to serve as our base. Spinach is awesome because it works with anything and is so healthy and good for you!

Then we started with the brown butter and lemon sauce. I highly recommend referring to the recipe video for how to cut the lemon membrane. It’s easy once you see it, but the wording can make it a little confusing. When you add it to the brown butter the lemon practically melts and the aroma is spectacular. As you swirl and stir the sauce I recommend lightly pressing the bottom of the spoon you’re using against the lemon bits. This really helped the lemon to dissolve fully in the pan. Instead of capers we used parsley, which Carla suggests as a substitute in the video. If you do go the capers route remember that capers are salty!

Paired with the scallops, we prepared a simple corn, tomato, onion, and cucumber salad. Fresh, light, summery, perfect.

This was a great summer dish, it was so light and bright, the lemon sauce giving so much flavor and acidity. After tasting the sauce, my mom and I immediately agreed this sauce would be fantastic on pork, chicken, anything! The lemon bits really heightened the lemon flavor and it was fun learning a new technique from Carla!

I highly recommend this recipe for the summer! the additions we made elevated the recipe and created more of a cohesive meal rather than just a main dish of scallops so it’s a great time to get inventive and creative in the kitchen yourself! If you’re a lemon fan like me, get to the kitchen and start cutting those lemons! Bon Appetit!

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Bakery, Baking Recipes, Cookies, Sweets, Uncategorized

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hey readers! Today is a glorious day because the great Bon Appétit magazine has published and graced our kitchens with a new BA’s Best Recipe…the best chocolate chip cookies.

Chris Morocco who, if you have never watched any of Bon Appétit’s YouTube videos, is the man everyone turns to for advice and help and is the creator of this amazing recipe. When it came out, I knew I had to get in the kitchen and try them out!

I’ll start with this: chopped bittersweet chocolate versus chocolate chips. Both are great and the chips are the classic look, but the chopped up chocolate gives you chocolate in literally every bite and makes the cookie much more gooey, oozing with chocolate. Morocco is great and instructs that you can use chocolate chips, giving you all the options and measurements for both routes.

Another thing I like about this recipe is that you brown the majority of the butter, heating it in a saucepan and letting it bubble and, well, brown! Typically recipes call for room temp butter, but melting the butter gave it a really smooth texture right from the start. Along with the melted butter Chris Morocco calls for a lot of dark brown sugar compared to white sugar giving the batter a great, rich dark color. As you add the egg and egg yolks, the color softens and mellows out giving you that classic brown color.

If you are familiar with the BA Test Kitchen then you probably know that these chefs love their salt. Like the “pinch of salt” they use is like a mountain on my computer screen (even though it probably isn’t that much salt), so with that said when I saw this chocolate chip cookie recipe called for three quarters teaspoons of kosher salt (not your typical table salt folks) I was a little…😳. But y’all that salt in the end adds such a nice saltiness to the cookies that pairs perfectly with the sweetness and ratio of the chocolate. It really isn’t too much and I’m sure Chris Morocco spent time figuring out the perfect amount of salt for this recipe.

When it came to baking I usually start with the least amount of baking time to see how they do, how my oven is affecting them, etc. At the eight minute mark they were still a little too under-baked so I gave it nine minutes and thirty seconds. I think that ended up being a great time for the cookies…not over cooking them, but still giving you that gooey center. In the end I also got 27 cookies 🤷🏻‍♀️ some I made the big bakery style cookies that Morocco has been posting on his Instagram and others I did a more classic, smaller size hence the odd number. In any event, he says you get 16 cookies, but there is definitely enough batter to make much more than that! The cookies really expanded and grew out so that also helped with the size, getting bigger cookies!

This really is one of the perfect recipes (I am still biased towards the classic Hershey recipe) and this is definitely going to become a staple, go to recipe. Chris Morocco is a saint and I love Bon Appétit and all the chefs, but Morocco has my heart because of this fantastic cookie recipe. Go and try it out and enjoy the gooey goodness that Chris Morocco has graced us with.

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American, Dallas, Fort Worth, Italian, Seafood, Uncategorized

The Charles- Dallas, TX

Driving through the Design District in Dallas on a Saturday night the streets are quiet, barely lit from street lighting appearing to be…lets say questionable. My friends, Diana and Jonathan, are finally taking me to their favorite spot. They’ve constantly talked about this vibrant, dashing Italian inspired restaurant. The Design District, being dark and my first time in the area, made me curious about the spot based on the surroundings (although I could be wrong). Then you walk into The Charles and you are immediately transported into a different world.

It’s 8:45pm and the party is just getting started here at The Charles. The bar full to the brim, every seat filled with happy faces of satisfied and hungry customers. It takes me a moment to adjust to the crowd as we made our way to the bar, where we wait for our table. Every server is squeezing by and weaving through people, kindly acknowledging everyone they may accidentally tap. The bartender, who comes to help us, greets us with a smile and energy that is too hard to explain- an electric charge that exudes around him. One of the collaborators, Chas Martin, knows my friends and makes a point to say hello, give us each a kiss on the cheek, and give off the energy ten times bigger than the bartender. You can tell he has put his heart and soul into the restaurant. You see him fluttering from table to table, person to person, making a point to connect with everyone in his establishment.

The decor of The Charles is like entering the fantasy of someone’s innermost dreams. Exposed beams create an industrial look, light fixtures that resemble bubbles or balloons adorn the ceilings. Dainty wallpaper on one wall contrasts with the leopard print chairs and benches. Boars heads, ancient Italian vases and corbels, and feather looking chandeliers all contribute to the fantasy image that one embarks upon entering The Charles. A different feel and vibe than any other Italian restaurant and I loved every bit that I took in.

When our table was ready, our sweet waitress took the time to explain the concept and idea of The Charles- family style dinner where you order several different courses and share. How very Italian. She, like the other bartender and staff, had a “je ne sais quoi” that is something you have to experience there for yourself. My friends and I all agreed, there must have been extensive or precise training for the staff to have gone through to all make the experience an incredible and special one.

The chef, J. Chastain, and Martin traveled to Italy together to immerse themselves in the Italian culture, look, and food. I learned this from my insider friends who know what’s what, especially in the Dallas food scene. You can tell by looking at the menu that this trip struck inspiration because it exudes Italian inspired items. The chef did his research and created a menu that is exquisite, rustic while also being elegant.

We started with wood fried oysters and I must say that I do not like oysters, but my friends convinced me that these are not your typical oysters. These are wood fired topped with crispy pepperoni and parsley- these will most likely be the only oysters I will ever eat in my life. The texture is not that of a raw oyster, but rather lightly cooked and not the usual slimy touch. The other item that was a first for this carnivore was beef tartare- the theme is that I don’t typically eat anything raw. This tartare was divine though, the bed of beef on top of a toasted piece of garlic bread and adorned with pepper chips and served with ricotta. These menu items I highly recommend for your starters and both are a good introduction to raw proteins.

Our next few courses came out and they are true stars. I’ll begin with the pastas:

Our first pasta is the veal ragu cappelloni which appears to be a fan favorite when you look up The Charles on Instagram. Served in a Parmesan cream sauce the cappelloni was stuffed with ragu and paired beautifully with the light sauce. Secondly we ordered the spicy creste di gallo which is a spicy shrimp, red sauce based pasta dish. The spicy kick compliments the dish as a whole and doesn’t leave your mouth on fire or with that kick stick in the back of your throat. Lastly to round out the pastas we couldn’t resist getting the cacio pepe fritters that had a delectable garlic fromage base and hint of lemon. Each pasta dish was cooked to utter perfection. Having been to Italy before each dish had that Italian inspiration with a twist to it and I felt like I could tell the chef knew what he was doing when it came to cooking the pasta. I highly recommend each of these dishes, but for me the creste di gallo takes the cake.

As for our main entree dish the pork spoke to all three of us. Fathoming this much food was a bit daunting, but the menu really has so much to offer and we couldn’t resist. Thank goodness we didn’t let the daunting task win because this pork was some of the best I’ve had. Boasting fennel, mushrooms, and orange twist the pork was a beautiful pink color inside, juicy and oozing flavor. It cut like butter and as soon as it graced my taste buds I was in heaven. It was extremely flavorful and to my delight immensely, but not overpoweringly, peppery. While there are several eye catching entrees, I would return solely for this pork dish alone (but we all know that I wouldn’t get just the one dish either). The chef really took my breathe away with this pork, to the point where I wish I had bread to collect the sauce (I would say that is the one and only downside to the restaurant, I wish I had something to soak up all the sauces and creams from each dish, seeing that licking plates in public is not necessarily acceptable).

By the end we were stuffed, the idea of dessert out of the question. But this meal was so special and we didn’t want the night to end so dessert was ordered and again we made a great choice. We tried both the infamous olive oil cake and the tiramisu. This tiramisu had a much darker color than the typical one, but still had that the great rich flavor everyone loves. The olive oil cake was moist and fluffy, drenched in almond tuile and bedazzled with grapes and a blanket of mascarpone.

The food at The Charles is obviously the principal of the show, but the soloists and corps de ballet frame the principal to create a performance that is technical, fluid, and stunning. From the interior decoration, the personalities and hospitality of every single person working there, and the attention to detail is what really makes The Charles an experience that you will forget. Accompanied with the great company of fantastic friends, The Charles is a place everyone should treat themselves to, whether it be a quiet date night or a fun night out with a group of friends. Either way you will be welcomed with open arms, just as the Italians do.

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American, Baking Recipes, Italian, Savory, Uncategorized

The Risotto Fiasco

This is the story of how I messed up, improvised, and succeeded at making risotto.

Okay, first of all, this is why I bake. I love cooking and I love how I can be experimental and try new things and make it up as I go, but sometimes it bites me in the ass.

In this case, it’s a beautiful Sunday morning and I’m about to go into the craziest time ever with a triple bill where I’m dancing all three pieces first cast (if you’re new to the blog, I’m a professional ballet dancer…yeah hi) so I wanted to make something really special. I’m single, I have the weekend to myself to rest and recoup so I wanna do a little “treat yo-self”.

When I first thought of what I wanted to make I immediately thought of my mom’s risotto. Creamy and perfectly cooked- my mom is an amazing cook, the best actually. I figured I could totally do this and boy was I wrong.

I called my mom roughly seven times- SEVEN- about how to make it, what kind of rice to get, why is there only organic shit, what kind of wine do I use, etc, etc.

So in the end, I had decided I wasn’t going to make this. I just was too in over my head. And then I found myself in the food store, wandering the rice aisle, and I grab a box that says “Risotto”. I call my mom and try to figure out what kind of wine to get and mention that the box says to add water. My mom said to me, “what did you get, I use chicken broth and it’s a long process. It takes time to make risotto.”

I BOUGHT THE WRONG STUFF. I am a Cancer zodiac sign too so you know I started getting upset and mad at myself. I spent all this money to make a dish that I don’t know how to make and had bought the wrong ingredients. I even had a freak out about having the wrong pot to make this risotto.

I was stuck- but this Critiquing Carnivore rallied herself together. I am my mother’s daughter and I can figure this out as I go and…improvise! *cue jazz hands*

Firstly, I bought Lundberg family farms organic arborio risotto- basically instant risotto instead of plain arborio rice. The instructions on the side say to use 2.5 cups of water, but instead I used 2 cups of water and half a cup of white wine. My mom said to use Sauvignon Blanc, naturally I had already gotten Pinot Grigio (at least I’m sticking to character with getting the WRONG INGREDIENTS). I also added a little lemon juice to add some acidity to it. With classic risotto instead of water you usually slowly ladle in chicken broth a little at a time, letting the rice absorb the liquid. My mom adds in the white wine and lemon juice for taste.*

In the end I added some chopped onions I had quickly sautéed as well, just to add some texture (and I love onions).

So moral of the story is mom’s know best and the risotto fiasco ended up working out. The boxed stuff came out okay (definitely not the same as my mom’s) and once I stirred in extra Parmesan cheese and top it off with parsley, I still felt like a Top Chef Queen.

*the risotto stayed pretty soupy up until the 15 minute mark- if you go the boxed risotto route DO NOT WORRY. The rice will absorb all the liquid in the end and if not just remove the pot from heat. If you cook it too much and the risotto looks dry, I would recommend adding more water…or wine 😉

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY INSTAGRAM: @CRITIQUINGCARNIVORE

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