When it comes to food, I am easily pleased. However, I am NOT easily impressed. This cookbook, Carmine's Family-Style Cookbook impressed me very much! I read all the ratings on both The Good Cook and Amazon and both sites gave this cookbook five-star reviews. A five-star review could be for many reasons. Maybe the book is simply beautiful, has wonderful pictures, clear instructions, or just awesome recipes. This has the five-stars because it delivers FLAVOR to your table like no one's business. I am in love with this new cookbook! I have never had the pleasure of dining at Carmine's, but I am convinced that this cookbook will deliver all those flavors right in my own home.
The book is laid out in eight chapters: Appetizers, Soups & Salads; Carmine's Hero Sandwiches; Pasta, Fish and Seafood Mains; Meat and Poultry Mains; Side Dishes; Desserts; and Basic Recipes. There is a little story in the beginning of the book detailing the start up of their restaurant and their love for Italian food. There isn't a picture for every recipe, but there are many color pictures throughout the book. There are many Italian favorites in this book, including basic recipes for Carmine's Marinara, Meatballs, Breadcrumbs, All-Purpose Red Sauce, and more.
I'm not sure if I would recommend this book to a beginner cook, mostly because some recipes have recipes within a recipe and are rather involved, In fact, the Chicken Alla Romano had me a little flustered in the kitchen, but the end result was well-worth it. To explain, I had to make/wanted to make everything from scratch. That's what makes it good, right? I made Carmine's breadcrumbs, Carmine's Roasted Red Peppers, 1 Recipe Spinach in Garlic and Oil, and then continued on with the recipe. However, everything I have made from this cookbook is packed with flavor and I have been smacking my lips with delight all week : ) I highly recommend this cookbook. If you like flavor, this will be one of your go-to cookbooks.
The first dish that I made was the Chicken Alla Romano, which is a breaded chicken with a lemony butter sauce. It is everything you need for a family meal on one single platter and it is TO DIE FOR!! I think it is one of the best dishes to ever come out of my kitchen! Needless to say, I was very impressed.
The recipe begins with roasting five large red potatoes, along with onion, melted butter, rosemary, oregano, parsley and Romano cheese in a 350F oven for a little over one hour. It then requires you to make Carmine's breadcrumbs (skip the part where I shattered my brand new $150 Breville blender to pieces). Trust me and make these breadcrumbs, they are delicious and full of more flavor. I breaded the chicken and stuck in the fridge to let the breading dry out (a Tyler tip). While they were "drying out" I made the sauce. The sauce is a mixture of dry white wine, chicken stock, capers, roasted red peppers (which I also made from scratch), butter and lemon juice. When the sauce was finished I made the spinach in garlic and oil and set it aside. I then sauteed the chicken (this step was missed in the cookbook - rather odd). Once the chicken is sauteed, you put the potatoes and spinach into the oven to reheat. You also add a slice of fresh mozzarella to each chicken breast and bake until melted (about 4 minutes). Serve with potatoes on the side and sauce drizzled over the top. You will be smacking your lips, and I'm not kidding.
Next, I made Carmine's Rustic Lentil Soup, for Souper Sundays. It reminds me more of an Italian chili. It was also filled with flavor and was even better the next day when the flavors had a chance to blend a little more. Even my hubby liked it, and he is not a big soup fan! The base begins with bacon and pancetta,how can you go wrong with that? There is a lot of flavor with the bay leaves, fresh thyme, fresh oregano, and hot red pepper flakes. The lentils and veggies cook for about 45 mintues, a russet potato thickens up the soup, and it is topped off with sauteed Italian sausage- very hearty and delicious!
I wanted to try a dessert from the book. I have really been worn down on chocolate lately (did I really say that?) So, I opted for these Spice Cookies with Lemon Icing. These cookies were a great start to my Fall Baking Series. They were crisp on the outside and cakey in the middle with a light spicy flavor and a wonderful lemony glaze on top. They called for raisins, but I left them out because I like my cookies "unadulterated" (a word borrowed from my blogging friend Julie, The Sporadic Cook). These were the perfect way to cap off the Rustic Lentil Soup.
I have many more recipes bookmarked in my copy of Carmine's. Sometime soon I am going to make the Beef Cutlet Milanese with Caper, Roasted Pepper, and Tomato Butter Sauce. I plan on serving that with the Garlic Bread Parmigiana and maybe the Fontina Potato Croquettes. I am truly looking forward to both cooking and eating those dishes.
Please share if you have either been to Carmine's or cooked anything from their cookbook. I'd love to hear comments either way about your experience!!
I will be happy to share these recipes upon request, I just didn't want to make my post any longer than it already is : )
Congrats to Gaby of What's Gaby Cooking, she has won the Oikos Greek Yogurt giveaway via random.org, which selected number 12. I will be contacting Gaby and providing her information to Kristina at Stonyfield.