- Kevin Godbee
- Mar 8, 2018
- 5 min read
There’s nothing wrong with doing tequila shots and munching on tacos, chips and guacamole … but that’s not what this tequila dinner was about.
Unfortunately, that’s how too many people solely think of tequila, but there’s more to it than that.
This spirit is strictly from the terroir of Jalisco, Mexico, and made from the Blue Agave plant. The best tequilas are 100% blue agave. (Check the label next time you’re at the liquor store. You might be surprised to find out that some of the hyped up “big name” bottles do not say 100% blue agave.)
Tequila can actually be quite elegant, and what better restaurant to have an elegant dinner at than IL Ritorno. Needless to say at this point, but we were pretty darn impressed.
I mean, Italian food with tequila. Mmmm hmmm. Yep.
IL Ritorno recently announced that they would have a Spirit Series—5 course dinners with a different spirit for pairing at each meal. The first one took place on February 27, 2018 and featured Lunazul Tequila. Lunazul’s Master Distiller Francisco Quijano made the trip from Mexico to help educate us on tequila. Most of it, I already knew, but an interesting thing that I did learn is that there is a special glass for tequila… and it’s not a shot glass. It’s a type of flute glass.
The Riedel Tequila glass, designated the Official Tequila Glass by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila, was designed to enhance Mexico’s finest Reposados, Añejos and Reservas de Casa Tequilas. The delivery from the glass to the palate makes the beverage taste round, supple and sweet. – RiedelUSA.net.
Heaven Hill Distilleries makes several bourbons, and supplies Lunazul with barrels to age their Añejo Tequila in for 12-18 months. Leigh Erickson from Heaven Hill was in attendance as well.
“These mugs were given to us when we arrived with a terrific tequila drink called Cantaritos made with fresh juices and we were told to take them home with us. They are not just any ordinary mug. They are hand made by the mentally disabled as a form of work. Instead of just giving them money they are are giving them a purpose. Each mug is unique and varies slightly. There is a stamp on the bottom as well. They are called Cantaritos mugs. Cantaritos is a traditional road side beverage in the Oaxaca region.” – Lori Brown on Facebook
First Course: Hamachi Crudo – fingerlimes, & calabrese chili foam
Paired with the Lunazul Blanco
The Hamachi Crudo was light, subtle and smooth, pairing perfectly with the blanco tequila, which had similar attributes. It’s kind of like the Italian version of sashimi.
The Lunazul Blanco was quite smooth with faint notes of citrus and a slightly herbaceous finish.
The little thing on the plate that looks like a cigar butt is actually a fingerlime. It’s a microcitrus. You squeeze it over the top of the crudo to get some lime juice, and there are tiny little balls, that is actually the pulp, that come out as well.
Second Course: Talegio Agnolotti with wild boar belly, chanterelle mushrooms, & charred garlic scape,
Paired with Lunazul Reposado
I’ll just say here that all of the pairings were perfect.
As is the nature of a several course dinner, and pairings, each course gets a little bigger in flavor as we go.
The Lunazul Reposado has a little more body with caramel, fruit and a tiny bit of spice, which worked well with the mushrooms, wild boar belly, and the saltiness and butteriness of the talegio cheese.
Third Course: Seafood Risotto with seared scallops, Key West pink shrimp, citrus lace, & jalapeño
Paired with Lunazul Añejo Primero
The Lunazul Añejo Primero was quite interesting being that it was the first time I’ve ever seen an Añejo that was clear. It’s aged in American white oak barrels for 18 months, which is why.
The tequila is complex, but not as heavy as an amber-colored añejo. It has a more rounded mouth-feel with oak, citrus, and caramel with a slightly spicy finish.
This worked well with the creaminess and chewiness of the risotto and round fleshiness of the scallops along with the buttery sweetness of the shrimp.
Fourth Course: Truffle Spaghetti
Paired with Lunazul Double Barrel Aged Reposado
The Double Barrel Aged Reposado Tequila is first aged in American white oak but then finished in barrels selected from Heaven Hill formerly containing wheated-bourbon for 11 years.
The earthiness and full mouth feel of the tequila was matched perfectly with truffles and creamy rich flavor and mouthfeel of the spaghetti.
At the end of the meal, Chef asked me which was my favorite. At the time, I said that they were all so good that I couldn’t pick a favorite. After I got home and thought about it more, the Truffle Spaghetti was my favorite.
Fifth Course: Blood Orange Panna Cotta with Meyer Lemon Gelato, & Vanilla Tuile
Paired with the Lunazul Añejo
IL Ritorno is one of the only places we eat the bread at, and this goes for the dessert too.
The Añejo tequila was slightly sweet, mildly fruity with a full bodied mouthfeel. What better to have with a sweet, creamy panna cotta with the citrusy gelato balancing out the other flavors and mouthfeels.
Great job IL Ritorno and Chef David Benstock & Master Distiller Francisco Quinjano!
There are three more spirit pairing dinners coming up, but they are selling out fast, so you should follow the links below to get your tickets right away.
- Readers Rating
- Rated 4.9 stars
4.9 / 5 (5 Reviewers)
- Your Rating
- IL Ritorno
- Italian, Northern Italian, Modern Italian
- Mon - Sat 5:00pm - 10:00pm
- View menu
- Take Reservations: Yes!
- 449 Central Ave #101, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, US
Northern Italian food with a modern flair.
Written by Kevin Godbee
Publisher & Co-Founder of St. Petersburg Foodies
World Food Championships Certified Food Judge #1541
Certified Chili Judge #62 by the International Chili Society
Certified Steak Judge #1562 by the Steak Cookoff Association
Rouxbe Culinary School Enrollee
Culinary Institute of America "DISH" Member
I've always loved cooking. When I was 6-years old I wanted to cook. When my mom said that she was just running to the neighbor's and would be right back, I climbed onto the kitchen counter and found Lipton Instant French Onion Soup Mix. By the time my mom returned, I was stirring the pot on the stove, and proclaimed; "Look Mom! I'm cooking!"
In High School, I took three different cooking classes and got an A in each. After getting my first apartment, I used to cook 5-nights a week, and go out two nights. An old girlfriend from decades ago had a brother-in-law that was a CEO of a trucking company, and he used to entertain in Manhattan quite a bit ... and he started taking us along.
This was when I learned about gourmet food and fine wine. For a couple of years, Lori and I went out about 4-5 nights a week, but now we have a better balance of 50/50 between cooking at home, and going out to the amazing restaurants we are so lucky to have in our beloved St. Petersburg.
View all posts by: Kevin Godbee
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Across the pond (literally) from The Deck Bar & Grille (which I reviewed earlier this month – article here ) you’ll find Sushi Rock Grill which houses a completely different vibe and menu than the sports bar. Sushi Rock is located just off of the Pinellas Bayway in the plaza in front of the Isla Del Sol Yacht & Country Club. I’ll admit that I was shocked when we walked in the front door, as the decor surpassed my expectations. The exterior of Sushi Rock is quaint and very clean. When you pull into the plaza, it’s the first business you pass. I honestly don’t know what I had in mind for the inside of the space but I was pleasantly surprised when we walked through the dining room. The interior is modern and very clean and modest in size but bigger than I thought with at least a dozen or so tables and a sushi bar with seating. If you continue through the dining room to the patio, you’ll uncover even more seating along the water in the back of the building. It was an 80 degree + afternoon with plenty of sunshine and no signs of humidity (yet) so dining on the patio in the early evening was an attractive option. Other folks thought so too because shortly after our 5:00PM arrival every table outside was filled with the exception of a larger table that already had a “reserved” sign on it. The inside was no different either – when we left around 6:00PM, the inside was basically full and multiple take-out orders were ready and waiting to be retrieved and devoured. Upon taking our seats outside, we jumped right to the drink section – it was a very warm and sunny afternoon and a cool and crisp drink was necessary. Had we been anywhere else I probably would’ve opted for a rosé or perhaps sauvignon blanc, but being that sushi was in our near future, sake felt right. Our waiter pointed out a few suggestions and even showed us a few off-menu sake options. We went with his suggestion as it’s a popular choice and it definitely did the trick. Cloudy but bright, semi-sweet and ultra refreshing. Food wise, we kicked things off with Edamame – perfectly steamed soybeans with a sprinkle of sea salt. I’m a sucker for a snack that I can get a lot out of with minimal effort. Optimal ROI, if you will. Edamame is just that for me. And edamame is nothing to feel guilty about eating. In fact, it’s a great little warm up for the meal. Sushi Rock offers this simplistic and classic version of edamame as well as a spicy garlic rendition. I’m likely to co-sign on an order of vegetable tempura, or anything tempura really. The vegetables are fried in a light and delicate batter. Because the batter isn’t that heavy and frying time is minimal, the vegetables maintain their vibrant fresh flavors. I could’ve easily made a meal out of the edamame and veggie tempura alone. The dish arrives with 6-8 large pieces of assorted vegetables like zucchini, onion, carrot, broccoli and asparagus. Because some of the vegetables were so large they required a fork and knife, so my only suggestion to them would be to cut the veggies (like broccoli and zucchini) into smaller more manageable bites. So, you can’t just go to Sushi Rock Grill without ordering sushi/sashimi, especially considering the number of rolls offered. They have it all – raw, cooked, partially raw, vegetarian, coconut shrimp rolls, rolls with snow crab and lobster, and the list goes on. Having a tough time deciding on a roll(s)? Order Sushi Rock’s Sushi Jo which is a Chef’s choice roll with six different pieces of sushi/maki. I actually did not see this option until after we already ordered, otherwise this definitely would’ve been the move. They have similar options for their sashimi – they have a Chef’s choice app with eight pieces or a larger sashimi dinner selection that is also chef’s choice. Two rolls were ordered – the Lollipop roll and the Yummy roll. Two completely different rolls, yet they possessed similar characteristics: notably vibrant and fresh flavors The Lollipop roll is quite different than the typical rolls that I gravitate towards. Unlike most sushi rolls, the Lollipop is rolled in a cucumber wrap which added a fresh crunch with every bite. Wrapped in the cucumber you’ll find tuna, salmon and yellowtail and the roll is also served with ponzu and tobiko. It’s a very beautiful and appealing roll, bursting with natural flavor notes. The only downfall about the alternative cucumber wrap is that the pieces do not stay in tact, which can make for a more difficult bite. The Yummy roll was selected at random and is comprised of a simplistic combination of sweet potato tempura and avocado. It was much smaller and more manageable to eat and ended up being quite satisfying with only minimal ingredients. This roll is one of their vegetarian options. The house salad with ginger dressing is always a highlight whenever we go for sushi, no matter the restaurant. There is just something so satisfying about the cold and crisp lettuce topped with bright and zingy carrot-ginger dressing. At Sushi Rock Grill, all of the entrees come with the options of this salad or a soup. On a warm spring evening in Florida, the salad was an unquestionable move. There’s much more to Sushi Rock Grill than just the sushi. Their menu is chock-full of non-sushi items like curries, fried rice, beef and chicken dishes like Katsu and Korean Bulgogi and noodle bowls like this one – the Saigon Noodles. All of the noodle bowls (five in total) come with your choice of chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu. In the Saigon Bowl you’ll find rice noodles with tons of fresh Thai basil, bean sprouts, jalapeños and crushed peanuts with a French/Vietnamese sauce and a lime wedge (and you should always use […]
- May 16, 2022 No Need to be Salty about The Salty Nun
From the creators of Salty’s and Stella’s in Gulfport comes The Salty Nun located in the Grand Central District. The Salty Nun took over the short-lived Swinger’s space, which I unfortunately never got a chance to try. From what I’ve seen through pictures, they kept the previous aesthetic and brought in a new menu. You’ll notice as you arrive the bright blue and green colors that adorn the large patio. The restaurant is about 90% outdoor seating and 10% indoor. It’s the perfect spot for a breezy St. Pete afternoon. Especially on the days they have live music. Unfortunately for me, I missed the live music by about five minutes. They were setting up as we were checking out. My friend and I decided to take a spot at the bar, my favorite thing to do when there’s just two diners. I quickly learned that this was a very casual joint by asking what fun breakfast cocktail they could make for us, and she suggested a screwdriver. The good news is that they offer doubles. She convinced my friend a screwdriver was the way to go, and I went with a Bloody Mary. The Bloody Mary was perfect for me, made with a doctored-up Zing Zang base. We decided to share several items on the menu starting off with the Pierogis and Black Bean Cake Breakfast. In my eyes, the Pierogis were flawlessly cooked (not that I’m an expert on Pierogis by any means). The dough was slightly chewy with a bit of crisp from the pan frying. The potato filling was extra smooth and had a slight garlic flavor. The Pierogis were topped with grilled onions and served with sour cream on the side finishing off each bite perfectly. The Black Bean Cake Breakfast was the star of the show for me. It comes with two crispy on the outside (presumably deep fried) soft with good texture inside and topped with a salsa verde, adding heat and acidity, and feta cheese, then two eggs your way and toast. We decided to order our eggs over medium and chose sourdough toast. With each bite of the black bean cake, we found a new way to eat it. A bite with just the cake and minimal salsa verde, a bite with salsa verde and feta, a bite dipped in egg yolk, a bite on the toast with the salsa verde and the feta and the yolk (aka the perfect bite). This was a dish that my friend and I both said we would come back for time and time again. Next up was the Thick Cut Challah French Toast served with cinnamon butter. I would say this one slightly missed the mark for me. The French toast itself was simple, as if you made it at home yourself. Which is not a bad thing! What threw it off for me was the cinnamon butter and not having syrup given to me until I was nearly done eating. The cinnamon butter was so cold it almost had the texture like it was just pulled out of the freezer. The flavor was there, but it would have been much better if it could have easily melted on my toast. Once I had a bite with the syrup and some butter I saw where the dish could be quite good, but it seemed it was poorly served and executed. I’ll chalk it up to bad luck on that one. From there we decided to move on to some lunch items. I ordered The Salty Smash Burger and my friend ordered the Salty Nun Turkey Club. The burger was served with two patties, American cheese, onion straw, lettuce and tomato. The “smash” burger was more like a double cheeseburger, sans smash. I had to remove one of the patties to even be able to take a bite, but it was worth it. The burger was juicy and flavorful and the crisp and saltiness of the onion strings rounded out the burger well. We ordered the Turkey Club with no bacon, as my friend doesn’t eat pork. It came served on lightly toasted sourdough bread with an abundance of turkey, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheddar cheese and mayo. This was your classic Turkey Club sandwich; it was refreshing and perfect for a warm afternoon eating lunch outside. Overall, The Salty Nun was a great spot to sit at the bar, have a couple of drinks and enjoy the company of a friend and some good food. I plan on going back on a Drag Brunch Sunday and ordering the Black Bean Cake Breakfast as soon as I can!
The restaurant traditionally known for its relaxed coastal cuisine, has introduced a new menu to bring Nouveau American Cuisine to Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg. Director of Culinary, Chef Nick Ocando says, “The new summer menu items are thoughtful and welcoming with a strong focus on high quality ingredients treated with respect.” The new menu items feature a wide variety of food sourced from many local farmers. This keeps the menu seasonally driven giving patrons the highest quality food to enjoy. One of the unique selections offered is the Piedmontese Beef Filet. This is a hard to find Italian breed of beef that is higher in protein than black angus beef. 400 Beach is one of the few restaurants in the area to import this special cut of beef. Monica’s cornbread, one of the most popular new starters comes from a special family recipe. Being a Maine native, Chef Nick takes the utmost pride in the quality of seafood we serve, such as, George’s Bank Scallops served with fava beans, English peas, baby summer peppers and fire roasted corn. Classics from his home town like the 400 Lobster Roll, East Coast Oysters and New England clam chowder are also delicious new additions to the menu. All of the menu items at 400 Beach are complemented by any one of the bar’s signature cocktails created by Ingi Sigurdsson, Director of Beverage. Ingi states, “Our new summer cocktail menu features classic summer cocktails with a fun and unique spin. For instance, our Rum Runner is made with banana, blackberry and lemon and sure to surprise the senses.” Fresh and lively summer flavors like cucumber, strawberry, mint, peach and even brûlèe’d jalapeno, turn every sip into a delightful complexity that will leave you craving another. There are five new cocktails to appeal to every type of liqueur lover.
The Deck Bar and Grille at Isla – it’s a spot that I’ve driven past hundreds of times on the way to St. Pete Beach yet never paid it any attention. That’s because it’s tucked away in the back of the Isla Del Sol Shoppers Village just off of the Pinellas Bayway. The restaurant sits on the water with an attractive open-air atmosphere. It’s cozied right up next to the Isla Del Sol Yacht & Country Club and The Deck is somewhere that I wouldn’t mind ending up at after a round of 18. The overall feel is that of a sports bar with a different game on every television, buckets of Rolling Rock and PBR and a menu of non-pretentious food items like burgers and sandwiches, wings, tacos and more. Indoor and outdoor seating is quite abundant with lots of bar seating as well. For 6:00PM on a Tuesday, the place was quite packed. With specials like all day happy hour from 11:00AM-6:00PM as well as $2.00 Tuesday deals on select beers and vodkas and trivia night, it’s quite easy to see why. The all day happy hour which happens Monday – Friday from open until 6:00PM also draws in the crowds. In addition to trivia, on select nights they also have karaoke and live music. The sports bar vibe that The Deck gives off, as well as the number of televisions, also makes it an ideal spot to catch a ball game. If you’re into karaoke, The Deck may just be the place for you. On Sundays, they have karaoke as well as brunch cocktail specials on mimosas and Bloody Marys. Per usual, my husband and I eyed two open seats on the outdoor portion of the bar and swiftly scooped them up. We were promptly greeted by the bartender and informed of the Tuesday specials: $2.00 PBR & Rolling Rock Cans, Fireball, 3 Olives & Deep Eddie Vodkas. We both jumped at a Deep Eddie’s Lime Vodka and Tonic – and of course it was as refreshing as it sounds. We mulled over the appetizers for a while but ultimately found balance somewhere between the hot boneless chicken wings and the nachos. The nachos were exactly as we had hoped: lightly topped with the basics like lettuce, tomato, queso, homemade chili and jalapeños and served with sour cream and salsa. It was plenty without being too overwhelming but we could’ve probably made that a meal had we eaten every bite. My husband loves buffalo chicken wings, especially boneless buffalo chicken wings. Okay, I do too – but not boneless. I’m a traditionalist all the way when it comes to my wings but hey, we have to pick our battles, right? The wings arrived and the portion was quite fair though the presentation was underwhelming. We opted for hot and the flavor was on point with the perfect touch of heat. However, we would have liked the boneless bites to possess a bit more crunch and character. However, we did watch a number of traditional wing orders make their way out to various tables and they looked delicious. In between our appetizers and the entrees we requested a simple side salad with balsamic vinaigrette and it was a fantastic intermission between the two acts. Nothing fussy or frilly – just some simple toppings on a small bed of greens with a zingy balsamic dressing to round things out. After watching them hit the tables of numerous hungry patrons around us, we ultimately decided that we had to get the Mahi tacos. The tacos arrive as a trio and do not come with two sides like the other entrees. Trust me, you won’t need the other sides. The tacos are enough heft on their own. The Mahi was wonderful and flaky with great blackened flavor. A simple slaw rests underneath the fish. Overall, the tacos were good but they could’ve used some kind of crema or a different salsa perhaps. We did not care for the small cup of tomato salsa provided. Out of everything from The Deck that we have had the chance to try thus far, the Tampa Cuban was my favorite. Between two pieces of a pressed Cuban roll you’ll find salami, mojo pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mayo, mustard and sliced pickles. Simple with the staple ingredients only, just as it should be. Each sandwich is served with a side. My usual choice would’ve been French fries but we decided to switch it up for a change and let tots have the spot light. Let’s face it, they did the job but French fries are just always going to be the go-to for me. Even with how busy The Deck was, in the midst of the dinner rush, the service was still impeccable. We were sitting at a full bar, which wrapped around the establishment, with multiple folks and our bartender never missed a beat. Ultimately, The Deck Bar and Grille at Isla is a quaint little gem, especially for the folks living in the surrounding communities and those who frequent the golf course. It’s the type of place with a bar that anyone would feel comfortable bellying up to. With specials like all-day happy hour, $2 Tuesdays and Sunday brunch specials, what’s not to like?
- May 3, 2022 Great Pizza and Good Grub at Slice of the Burg
We don’t often find ourselves in the farthest northern parts of St. Pete, but if you are there, Slice of the Burg is a great choice for NY style pizza and other good eats. It is owned by Mary Weis. She formerly owned the franchise of Westshore Pizza Roosevelt, which she closed on May 31, 2019 and in the same spot opened Slice of The Burg on June 1, 2019. [Note: Google incorrectly refers to them as a chain, but they are not. This is an independent locally owned eatery.] Coincidentally, even though we rarely get to this area, we were actually eating at a neighboring eatery, Que Pasa Mexican Cantina (which I love), right around the time Slice of the Burg opened, and made a note to check it out in the future, and then it never happened until last week. Full disclosure: Mary actually contacted us and offered to host us, which means we eat for free. Please be aware that for 99% of the reviews we publish, we do actually pay for the food. When we are comped, we always add up what we would have paid and make sure to tip appropriately. Also, being hosted does not in anyway buy a good review. You’ll see as we proceed here that we loved some things, but not all. Lastly, it’s obvious that we could not eat all of these pizzas, sandwiches and other food in one sitting. We ate portions of each, and took the rest to go, and gave the food to our homeless neighbors making sure to include napkins and utensils. On to the food! We had an extremely strong start with the Pepperoni Pizza and Meat Lovers Pizza which has pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham, and meatballs. Lori and I are in slight disagreement here. We both loved these pizzas and felt that they nailed it for NY style. However, last week Lori wrote the review of Nicko’s pizza. She feels that Nicko’s really perfected the replication of NY pizza, and that Slice of the Burg came quite close. I am of the opposite opinion. I think Slice of the Burg nailed it. It even passes the New York pizza fold and orange oil drip test. Then something really odd happened. After having a tastebud orgasm on the first two slices, the Margherita pizza didn’t do the same for us. I don’t understand how it came out of the same kitchen. The crust seemed different, more doughy bread-like, and we prefer to have the basil put on fresh after the pizza cooks. We jumped around the menu a bit, so next up are one of the starters that we loved – Philly Steak Egg Rolls. They come with “Zesty Sauce” which is a tasty somewhat spicy sauce with horseradish. You can also request ranch dressing, and we got both. These are super tasty, but a word of caution – they stay quite hot for a good 15 minutes. Be patient so you don’t burn your mouth. Next we had the Meatball Parmigiana sandwich and the Loaded Philly Steak, which has onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and cheese. These were both really good. The Philly was nice and succulent. The Meatball Parmigiana had great flavor. There was one thing we didn’t love about it, which is really just a personal preference issue that may not bother others. We prefer a more rustic texture for the inside of our meatballs, whereas these had a really fine texture that we do find at many places in St. Pete, so a lot of people must enjoy it. As I said, the flavor was quite good though. For the next item I have to go back to a lesson that former Tampa Bay Times Food Critic Laura Reiley taught me. Back in March 2019, I was interviewing her on our podcast just as she was wrapping up her job here and preparing to head off to The Washington Post. I asked her how she judges a restaurant, and one of the things she told me is that you have to keep in mind what the place is trying to be, or presents itself to be. For $10.49, the lasagna is a solid dish. Does it compare to the $25 lasagna in downtown St. Pete, or the $20 version half way up 4th St N? No, but this is not a fine dining establishment. This is no fuss, good value, easily affordable food, which many people appreciate in these times of inflation. That said, I felt the noodles were overcooked and that it was a bit watery. The flavor was good. We ended our feast on location (we took a couple things home to eat) with the Supreme Calzone which has pepperoni, sausage, onions, green peppers, and mushrooms. This was another perfectly executed dish. We ordered the small, and that’s what we got although we thought we got the large by mistake as it is HUGE. The calzone tasted just like what I used to get as a boy growing up in New Jersey. Later that night at home, we ate the Chocolate Covered “Cannoli” which was superb. Actually, Cannolo is the singular, but nobody uses that here in the US. (Credit to Bob and Susan Horn for educating me on that.) We also took home the Greek Salad and had that on Saturday for lunch. It was crisp, fresh, light and bright for a perfect lunch. We appreciated that the kalamata olives were pitted. Some of you may know that this is really the Greek-American version of the salad. Sometimes this version also includes potato salad, but this one does not, and that was just fine with us. The traditional un-Americanized Greek salad is actually the Horiatiki, or Village Salad in case you’re curious. The American version is more commonly found here. As is implied by the name, you can order pizza by the slice. Some of the other items offered include wings, stromboli, burgers, vegan pizzas, vegan appetizers and desserts, several […]
- May 2, 2022 Spiced Melon Panzanella Salad Recipe
Panzanella is a Tuscan chopped salad typically made with stale bread, tomatoes and onion and is served mostly during the summer months. The toasted bread cubes sop up the beautiful tomato juices, olive oil and lemon which makes for one incredibly satisfying bite. Feel free to use any bread of your liking -Focaccia, Brioche and Dave’s Killer Bread (as you know, this is one of my favorite brands at Rollin’ Oats) are all wonderful options for your bread cubes. One of the things I love most about this salad is that it has heft, while also remaining vibrant and fresh. Because of those characteristics, it’s a great salad for both a satisfying lunch/brunch entree or a bright pre-dinner appetizer. The combination of ingredients meshes extremely well together. Sweet and spicy Cantaloupe, fresh basil and mozzarella, crispy bread, savory prosciutto and a punch of citrus and olive oil – it’s extremely tough to go wrong. The crispy prosciutto is optional; however, it does add lovely salty and crunchy notes. At Rollin’ Oats you’ll find a three ounce package of Niman Ranch All Natural Prosciutto (currently on sale for $4.99). In Florida, Cantaloupe is in season April – June, so it’s usually quite easy to find during that time frame. Though if you’re looking to make the recipe at a time when cantaloupe is not available just simply use any ripe and juicy tomatoes that you can get your hands on. Spiced Melon Panzanella This salad has a split personality: it can pose as either a satisfying lunch or pre-dinner bite when served in smaller portions. 1 cantaloupe (Cut into 1-2" cubes)1/2 red onion (Sliced into thin half moons)8 oz mozzarella ball (Torn into irregular 1" pieces)2 cups bread (Any will do, like Italian loaf, foccacia, Dave's Killer Bread, etc. – torn into 1" irregular cubes)1/2 cup olive oil3 oz prosciutto (Optional)1 avocado (Sliced into small wedges)1/4 cup basil (Roughly chopped, plus more for garnish)1 lemon (Juiced)2 tsp salt2 tsp black pepper1 tsp crushed red pepper Preheat oven to 400F. Toss bread cubes in a large bowl with 1 tsp salt. Arrange in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes (you want bread cubes to be golden & crouton-like in texture). Remove from baking sheet and set aside.In a large bowl toss melon cubes with 2 tbsp olive oil, crushed red pepper, 1 tsp black pepper and 1/2 tsp salt. Refrigerate until ready to use. If using prosciutto, one slice at a time, place prosciutto slice between two paper towels and microwave for 45 seconds (or until crisp). Allow to cool and crumble in a small bowl. Repeat with remaining prosciutto slices.In a small bowl combine juice of one lemon and remaining oil, salt and pepper. Whisk until well combined.When you're ready to serve your Panzanella salad, add all ingredients except sliced avocado to a large bowl. Gently combine. Serve salad topped with avocado slices and more basil. Appetizer, Dinner, Main CourseItalianAbby Allen Recipes, Panzanella Salad Recipes, Spiced Melon Panzanella
- April 4, 2022 Lasagna Primavera Recipe
Grab a handful of your favorite in season spring vegetables and whip up this take on Lasagna Primavera. Spinach, mushrooms and bell peppers are all in season during the month of April here in Florida so I appointed them as the main characters of this dish. I chose to omit a red sauce and instead utilized only a light béchamel sauce packed with a punch of roasted garlic to lighten things up whilst still adding plenty of flavor. You can use whatever kind of noodles you want but I recommend saving yourself some extra stress and time by utilizing no boil noodles. It just makes everything a whole lot easier on yourself – work smarter, not harder, ya know? More times than not, I opt for a gluten free option. Typically, that option is Jovial’s organic no boil noodles. Jovial gluten free organic brown rice pastas are ready and waiting for you at Rollin’ Oats. I’m willing to bet that you won’t even notice the difference as the texture is incredibly similar, which is what I love most. All of the veggies, béchamel, and blend of three cheeses – mozzarella, mascarpone and parmesan steal the flavor show anyway. Lasagna Primavera Make this fresh take on lasagna on a Sunday and win lunch all week long. Any in season Spring vegetables are welcome to this party! Bechamel Sauce4 tbsp butter (I use Vital Farms which is sold at Rollin' Oats.)4 tbsp all purpose flour2 cups milk1 tsp salt1/2 tsp black pepper1 tsp garlic powder ((optional – for an added punch of garlic))Lasagna & Assembly16 oz lasagna noodles (A no-boil option is the way to go in my opinion.)8 oz mascarpone8 oz mozzarella (Fresh – chopped/torn into 1" pieces)2 cups Parmesan (Grated. Plus more for serving)8 oz crimini mushrooms (Roughly chopped)4 large carrots (Peeled and chopped)1 white onion (Diced)1 red bell pepper (Roughly chopped)1 green bell pepper (Roughly chopped)5 oz baby spinachfresh mint ((optional, for garnish))1 tbsp good olive oil (Plus more for serving (optional)) BechamelMelt butter in a pot or dutch oven over medium heat. As soon as the butter has melted whisk in the flour until a thick paste-like substance is formed. Slowly whisk in the milk 1/2 cup at a time until a creamy sauce begins to formulate. Add in salt, pepper and garlic and remove bechamel from the heat. Cover and set aside until ready to use – slightly warm on the stove before incorporating into the lasagna.Lasagna & AssemblyPreheat oven to 400F. Heat a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Add in all of the chopped and prepared vegetables, season with salt and pepper and cook until veggies begin to slightly soften – 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.To assemble our lasagna, begin by ladeling 1/3 of the bechamel sauce into a baking dish – evenly disperse to cover the dish. Next, lay four lasagna noodles side-by-side in the dish on the bechamel sauce. Spoon 1/3 of the cooked vegetables, followed by 1/3 of the baby spinach on top of the noodles.Now for the cheese. Dollop/spread 1/3 of the mascarpone as best as you can on top of the vegetables. Then, 1/3 of the mozzarella chunks. Parmesan is next and don't be shy with it, use 1/3 of the grated amount.Repeat steps two more times for a total of three loaded layers. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and then bake for another 25.Remove from oven, tent with foil and allow to cool for 20 minutes or so before eating. Serve with more parmesan, olive oil and fresh mint. Dinner, Main Course, Main DishItalianGluten Free Lasagna Noodles, Lasagna Primavera, Lasagna Primavera Recipes
- March 11, 2022 Corned Salmon & Brussels Hash with Rice Recipe
This St. Patrick’s Day, swap out brisket for salmon to create this play on the ever-popular corned beef and cabbage. I present you, Corned Salmon & Brussels Hash with Rice. The best part about this recipe is that the cook time is significantly less – it’s allowing that salmon to hang out in the fridge with the cure that takes a bit of patience. Sure, one hour will suffice, but I recommend overnight (12-16 hours). After the cure, the salmon only needs a handful of minutes to cook before it gets added into the hash. To make this hash, all of the ingredients can be found at Rollin’ Oats Natural Food Market. There, you can always count on the product quality to be top notch with lots of local and organic products. The salmon that they sell is fantastic and found in the freezer section, along with a number of other items like wild game and various other frozen meats. If a hash isn’t quite your thing, you can absolutely keep all of the components of this dish separate. For example, you could serve a salmon filet over a bed of rice with a side of sautéed brussels and onions for an equally as satisfying experience. Corned Salmon & Brussels Hash with Wild Rice Pickling Spice1 cinnamon stick2 dried bay leaves6 cloves2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds2 tbsp coriander seeds1 tbsp black peppercorns1 tsp red pepper flakesCorned Salmon1 lb salmon filet (Skin on, wild-caught preferred)1 lemon (We are using the zest only)1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (I recommend dill and parsley)1/4 cup brown sugar1/4 cup salt1/4 cup pickling spice3 tbsp Irish whiskey (Or whatever whiskey you have on hand)1 shallot (Small in size, minced)2 tbsp butter (Vital Farms is what I use)Brussels & Assembly1 lb brussels (Washed, trimmed and halved.)1/2 medium white onion (Sliced thin)4 tbsp olive oil (Divided)1 tsp salt1/2 tsp black pepperdill & parsley1 cup cooked rice (Basmati and wild rice or most any grain will suffice.)1/2 cup white wine (Use something that you would drink.) Pickling Spice BlendPlace all ingredients in a spice grinder and grind. A mortar and pestle will also work for this. Reserve any leftover spice blend for another use.SalmonCombine pickling spice blend with remaining ingredients except the butter and salmon in a medium bowl.Put salmon into a glass container or bowl skin side down. Evenly coat salmon with mixture. Place into the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 12.Remove salmon from the container and wipe off the rub and remove the salmon skin.Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add the butter. When melted, add the salmon cured side down. Allow to cook for 5-7 minutes – it will have some crust and color. Flip and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool and then pull salmon filet apart into 1-2" chunks. Set aside until ready to add to hash. Brussels & AssemblyHeat a dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Add onion and a few pinches of salt and cook stirring occasionally until onion has slightly softened – 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and place in bowl until ready to add back to skillet.Add remaining 2 tbsp olive oil to skillet and increase heat to medium high. Add brussels, cut side down and cook undisturbed until beginning to crisp and char – 5-7 minutes.Toss and cook for another 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add in the wine 1/4 cup at a time to deglaze the pan and scrape up the browned bits. Add reserved cooked onion and salmon chunks. Stir to combine in skillet and allow to cook for another 2-3 minutes.Serve over warmed rice with fresh herbs and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Main Course, Main DishAmerican, IrishCorned Salmon Recipes, Easy Salmon Recipes
- February 2, 2022 Curry Chicken & Rice Stuffed Peppers Recipe
Curry, spice and Cilantro-Lime rice. That lineup is enough to get me excited about a meal. Thus far, 2022 has been quite chilly for the most part, which has had me leaning towards comforting recipes. Curry is something that we make a lot of and for this month’s recipe, I wanted to present it in a more approachable way with a dinner that would be familiar to most. Curry Chicken & Rice Stuffed Peppers are the answer to these colder weeknight evenings where ease and comfort are idyllic. In the recipe I call for yellow curry paste, but that’s only because it’s my preference. Use the the same quantity of any other curry paste that you like/is available to you, like red or green. If you enjoy making your own paste, I encourage you to do that as well. But for those of us looking for a shortcut, Rollin’ Oats has a variety of curry pastes readily available for purchase. Speaking of ingredients at Rollin’ Oats, they also carry our current favorite rice, Right Rice. Right Rice is made up of roughly 90% vegetables (including lentil & chickpea flour and pea fiber) and blended with a small amount of rice flour. They have a variety of flavors, like Cilantro Lime and Garlic and Herb and the rice is incredibly easy to prepare and ready in about ten minutes. While this dish is quite healthy already, if you want to take things a step further and make it vegan, eliminate the ground chicken or replace it with your favorite meat substitute of choice. Curry Chicken & Rice Stuffed Peppers Spice up stuffed peppers with the addition of a flavor-packed yellow curry sauce. Dutch Oven 4 red bell peppers (Try to choose ones similar in size that will stand upright. Tops, seeds, stems and ribs removed. )1 lb ground chicken28 oz whole peeled crushed tomatoes14 oz coconut milk1 white onion (Medium in size, diced.)4 garlic cloves (Peeled and minced)1 knob fresh ginger (About 2 inches long – peeled and minced )2 tbsp yellow curry paste (Any store bought will do. Or make your own if you're feeling adventurous – it isn't that difficult.)red pepper flakes (Optional for added spice.)1 tbsp olive oil4 tsp salt (Divided. Plus more as needed)1 cup lacinato kale (Ribs and stems removed – chopped)1 cup cilantro (Roughly chopped. Feel free to add any other fresh herbs you have on hand as well. )1 lime (Cut into 4 wedges)7 oz rice (For this recipe, I'm using Cilantro-Lime Right Rice. Prepare the rice per package instructions.) Preheat the oven to 350. Heat a medium dutch oven/pot over medium heat and add in olive oil. Pour in diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften (5-7 minutes). Add in minced ginger and garlic and stir until fragrant (1-2 minutes).Add chicken and one tsp of salt. Break up ground chicken with a wooden cooking spoon and cook until beginning to brown (8-10 minutes). Transfer mixture to a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix in chopped kale and prepared rice and set aside. Pour in chopped tomatoes and one more tsp of salt. Bring to a soft boil and reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer until tomatoes begin to break down. Spoon curry paste in and stir until well combined. Add red pepper flakes, if using, and coconut milk.Stir to combine. Simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt as needed.Turn off heat and stir in 1/2 of chopped fresh herbs. Start by adding two cups of curry sauce to chicken and rice mixture. Add more, 1/2 cup at a time, until desired consistency has been reached (if you want a saucier mixture, you may want to add up to 3 cups, or even more).Arrange peppers in pot/dutch oven with curry sauce. Sauce should cover 1/4 – 1/2 of the peppers. Spoon and pack curry chicken and rice mixture into peppers until they're completely full. If you have leftover mix, reserve for leftovers the next day.Cover pot with foil and bake at 350 for one hour. Remove foil, increase heat to 450F and bake peppers for another 10 minutes.Remove and serve with a good squeeze of lime and fresh chopped herbs. Main Course, Main DishAmericanCurry Chicken & Rice Stuffed Peppers, Stuffed Pepper Recipes
- January 11, 2022 Harissa Cauliflower Steaks with Maple-Tahini and Herby Peanut Crunch
Another low effort/high reward weeknight meal is ready to be added to your regular rotation. For those unfamiliar with Harissa, it’s a spicy chili paste that is frequently used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. I love using it to add flair and flavor. You can find it in most grocery stores – usually in the International section. However, you probably won’t find an array of options to choose from. One brand that I do see quite frequently though, including at Rollin’ Oats, is the Mina brand which comes in two heat levels: mild and spicy. I typically opt for the mild rendition and then if I want to increase the heat I just add in some crushed red pepper flakes one pinch at a time. Trust me, you won’t need much as Harissa in all forms is going to have plenty of spice. To balance out a spice-forward dish I often turn to tahini and something sweet like maple syrup or honey. Tahini is a simply toasted sesame that is basically ground to a paste-like substance that is similar to that of nut butters. When mixed with maple syrup, lemon juice, salt and a bit of water for thinning, this combination transforms into a savory-sweet drizzle that complements the heat. This maple-tahini mixture works well paired with many other dishes too, like grilled potatoes and also with medjool dates for an idyllic and luscious bite. These cauliflower steaks are satisfying enough to be enjoyed all on their own, yet even better when enjoyed with a side of crispy rice. Make sure not to leave out the herby peanut crunch. It’s crucial for optimal texture and added brightness from the fresh herbs. Harissa Cauliflower Steaks with Maple-Tahini and Herby Peanut Crunch Spicy, savory and sweet with a slam of crunch and zest – this cauliflower number hits all of the right notes. For the Cauliflower1 Head of Cauliflower (Organic, if available. Leaves trimmed and discarded.)1 Red Onion (Peeled and cut into 8 similar sized wedges)3 tbsp Olive Oil1/4 cup Harissa (Found at most grocery stores)3 tsp SaltPepper (To taste)Maple-Tahini1/2 cup Tahini1.5 tbsp Maple Syrup1 Lemon (Juice only)1 tsp Salt (Plus more, to taste)1/2 cup WaterHerby Peanut Crunch1 cup Peanuts3/4 cup Olive Oil2 tsp Salt (Plus more, to taste)1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper1 tsp Garlic Powder1/2 cup Fresh Herbs (Like Dill and Cilantro, chopped)1 Shallot, minced Peanut CrunchAdd peanuts, minced shallot, oil and a couple pinches of salt to a small pot and heat over medium.Stir occasionally until shallots and peanuts begin to brown, about 20 minutes.While peanuts and shallots cook, add crushed red pepper, garlic powder and 2 tsp salt to a medium bowl and have a strainer/mesh sieve ready as well as an area on the counter with paper towels laid flat (our peanuts/shallots will be cooling on here).When shallots and peanuts are ready, remove pot from heat and carefully pour mixture through sieve/strainer over the bowl with the garlic powder and crushed red pepper. Slowly pour peanuts and shallots over paper towels in an even layer. Allow to cool for 20 minutes then mix nuts and shallots back into oil and spices and stir to combine.Maple-TahiniIn a medium bowl combine all ingredients except water. Mixture will thicken as you stir – add in water one tbsp at a time to loosen up mixture until desired consistency has been reached (you want to be able to drizzle it without being too watery). Taste and season as needed.Cauliflower & AssemblyPreheat oven to 425F. Carefully cut the cauliflower head in half directly througth the stem. Then cut a steak (approximately an inch or so thick) from each half. If your cauliflower is large enough you can of course cut additional steaks. Cut up remaining cauliflower and florets and arrange everything in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.Drizzle cauliflower with 2 tbsp olive oil and 1.5 tsp salt and pepperRoast cauliflower for 15 minutes.While cauliflower is roasting combine remaining tbsp olive oil with Harissa and remaining 1.5 tsp salt. Stir to combine.Remove cauliflower from oven and evenly brush with reserved Harissa mixture. Add onion wedges to pan and roast for an additional 20 minutes (until cauliflower begins to take on some color on the edges).To serve, spoon and swipe some maple-tahini onto a plate, top with a cauliflower steak and some roasted florets and spoon over plenty of herby peanut crunch. Main Course, Main DishMiddle EasternCauliflower Steak, Vegan Dinner Recipes