August Favorites

Another month gone by and this one signals the end of summer, though you wouldn't know it by the heat wave on the east coast this week. While I can't believe how the summer has flown, it's been a particularly fantastic one and I'm excited to round up my favorite eats over the last bunch of weeks.

Lipton Cold Brew Iced Tea
A refreshing way to hydrate. Though I love me some carbonation, fresh iced tea with a slice of lemon is just the ticket to enjoying a warm afternoon on the terrace. Oh and extra love goes out to my Cuisinart coffee pot, which dutifully multitasks as an iced tea pitcher until further notice. Gotta love a space and money saving item like that!

Using whatcha got
Like my skillet chicken parmesean or my daily at-home iced coffee, I’m all for using up ingredients that are already in my own personal pantry rather then shelling out for unnecessary goods. While I love a good sushi or pizza delivery, I also see the value in saving some coin on a random Thursday evening by finding inspiration in my own cupboard. Though I could actually feel my mom cringe when I made my skillet chicken parmesean, I was able to concoct a bona fide delicious dinner without breaking the bank or slaving over the stove - and getting in some quality blogging, TV, and terrace time to boot.

Otto's Truffled Honey and Brandied Cherries
Oh, mama, I could eat just about anything drenched in these two accoutrements. The ultimate complement to any cheese platter, Otto's truffled honey and brandied cherries are out of this world amazingly delicious. In fact, I once proclaimed that they'd top my Best Thing I Ever Ate list, and I'm sticking to that proclamation. I enjoyed these during girls night with my mom and sisters and just can't get them out of my head.

Yellowstone National Park

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my wonderful August vacation to Yellowstone National Park. Sampling local eats in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Gardiner, Montana added an extra bit of excitement to an adventurous and awe-inspiring sight filled vacation. From microbrews to bison burgers, the food, or scenery for that matter, didn't disappoint.

La Carbonara
One of my go-to restaurants and one that has not yet made it into a Restaurant Roundup. A tiny yet charming Italian restaurant on 14th and 7th, La Carbonara serves up fresh Italian dishes. I like it so much in fact that I tried to replicate their orrechiette with sausage, cherry tomatoes and broccoli rabe in my own apartment kitchen, but with a few alterations.

So there you have it. My monthly roundup of delectable eats, all of which were enjoyed this past month. But what I really want to know is, what did you enjoy over the last month? Did you test your skills in a new recipe? Or stumble upon a fun restaurant?

Recreate it: Penne with Turkey Sausage & White Wine Reduction

Last week, my fab friend Lindsey and I discovered a sweet little Italian restaurant called La Carbonara. A tiny restaurant with exposed brick and illuminated by candles, La Carbonara serves up delicious Italian fare with a modern twist. In addition to a bottle of Montepulciano (an Italian red wine, which at $25 a pop is a major steal for any Manhattan restaurant), I dined on orecchiette with broccoli rabe, sweet Italian sausage and cherry tomatoes, the latter of which quite honestly, I can't seem to get out of my head. At a sweet $9.95, this dish had all the right flavor moves and was served in a manageable portion - something virtually unheard of in an Italian restaurant. So with the orecchiette in my head for the last week, I decided to recreate it in my very own tiny kitchen. And I have to tell you, with some subtle substitutions to fit my own culinary parameters, I think it came pretty darn close to the original. Oh, and did I mention that it's healthy to boot? Full of fresh veggies and turkey sausage, this dish is destined to make my weekly repetoire. Check it out...

Pasta with Turkey Sausage & White Wine Reduction
1 box pasta of your choice (I couldn't find orecchiette, so I went with penne)
1 lb. turkey sausage, removed from casings
1 pkg grape tomatoes
1 bag fresh baby spinach
1C white wine (I used a cheap-o Pinot Grigio)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
parmesan cheese
kosher salt
pepper

Cook pasta according to box directions. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in skillet and add tomatoes which have been sliced in half. Add garlic and kosher salt, sauteeing until soft and they start to smell heavenly.

When desired heavenlyness is reached, remove from the pan and set aside. In that very same skillet, you'll cook the sausage. Remove the sausage from their casings (this is easily done by cutting a slit down the center of each one and removing the skin by hand...it's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it...oh, and wash your hands after this part) and add to the skillet which should still be hot. Let's face it, turkey sausage just doesn't have the same flavor as the real thang, which is why you should get the pan super hot with some olive oil before adding the sausage. Resist the urge to break it up immediately as you want to let it brown a bit. This will provide some great, and necessary flavor. Once it starts to brown on the bottom, you can start breaking it up and turning it over until all browned. Now comes the fancy schmancy reduction part. Remove sausage from pan. Deglaze said pan with 1 C white wine, scraping up the brown bits from the tomatoes and sausage as you go. Oh, and the beauty of cooking with wine? The chef gets to sample along the way (for research purposes, of course). Bring to a boil and reduce by half (that's the reduction!). Add turkey and tomatoes back in and sprinkle generously with parmesean cheese. Add spinach and stir until it wilts.

And it looks like this...

Serve over pasta and prepare to be hooked.

So that's how I recreated a fabulous restaurant dish in my very own apartment kitch. Have you ever tried to recreate a restaurant dish at home? How did it turn out?

Psst...I did in fact make another turkey sausage pasta dish, which you can find right here...but I must be honest and tell you that this newer one really hit it out of the park! For a variation, check out the old one.