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Posts Tagged ‘italian’

I hear Italy has the best tomatoes in the world.

As far as fresh tomatoes, nothing can beat one you pick off your own vine that has been nurtured for weeks.  The taste of sweet success, in nightshade form.

Those Italians have San Marzano tomatoes, they grow and can them.  I bought a large can of those imported tomatoes out of curiosity.  Are these really any better?  Well for a true scientific endeavour, I would have to prepare the exact same recipe using two types of tomatoes, forgein and domestic.  Did I have time for this experiment?  No.  I did prepare the San Marzano tomatoes in a lamb stew inspired by my late great aunt Viola.  My aunt sent me three of Granny’s old cookbooks aftering locating the shoe box housing them.  She sent me the books because you’re the family’s most passionate cook, she wrote in her card accompanying the books.  I cried.  I was elated and touched all at once.  In one of the books, a church group cook book, my Granny’s sister authored a few recipes.  One recipe was a tomato and meat stew, I had just picked up some lamb on a whim so that would be the meat, the tomatoes would be the handsome San Marzano.

Since this type of tomato is so prized and therefore more expensive, be careful to read the label on the can and check for a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) logo, there are immitations out there.  True San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the San Marzano (Campania) region of Italy.  You can buy the seeds and try growing your own, but I doubt they will be the same unless you live near a volcano.  If I find the seeds, I’ll give it a go.  Italy is on the must-see/visit/taste list.

San Marzano Lamb Stew

  • about 1lb of lamb
  • 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/2 head garlic, roasted in foil until soft and fragrant
  • herb de Provence
  • 2 white or gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • handful green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • parsley (garnish)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the tomatoes in their sauce over medium-low heat.  In corporate the roasted garlic, salt and pepper.  Break the whole pieces of tomatoes apart as they cook.

Season the lamb with salt, pepper, and herb de Provence.  Brown in a Dutch oven on the stove.  Remove and sauté the onion in the fat.  Return the meat to the pan and fill in the gaps with the potatoes and green beans.  Add the tomatoes and cover.  Transfer to a 350ºF oven for 30 – 45 minutes.

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Aerial view of Canyon Lake, TX (from Wikipedia)

A random road trip took us to the shores of Canyon Lake, just off the interstate highway south of Austin.  Hubby and I had never been out this way, except for the Guadalupe River while we were dating.  The Lupe is a toober magnet.  If you’ve never tried toobing, in the middle of a hot Texas summer, you should.  All you need is a cozy for your can and hat for your head, then float in the emerald green waters to keep cool!

Our kids are not old enough to safely partake in a toobing expedition, plus this was just a day trip. 

Canyon City is built on tourism, any actual homes are far up on the hills surrounding the lake, and they are big enough to see from miles away on the next hill.  There are log cabins lakeside as you roll into town.  A marina is full of sailboats gently sleeping on the calm blue water.  There’s a restaurant overlooking the marina, but that’s not where we ate dinner.

I spotted Italian Garden in what seemed to be the middle of town.  It lacked a view of the water but it looked newer than the taco-burger-fries tattooed shack down the way that might have a lake vista.  This place looked different, but not out of place.  For a small community it seemed the best was going to be found here.

Forgiving first impressions is not always easy.  The front entrance was drapped in construction plastic and the owner/hostess was cool, but not in a nice way.  What, you don’t like families dining in your establishment? 

Our waitress made up for the the other lady’s off-ish personality.  She loved kids, or at least showed interest in making sure they felt welcome at the table.  We ordered fettucine alfredo for the kids (bland as heck), italian sub for hubby, and chicken picatta for yours truly.  The basket of bread was not fresh, I would say it was made the previous day, bland too. 

For what is was, the chicken picatta was good, not great but for being a lakeside small town it was alright.  The chicken seemed to be poached, there was no browning, but it was skinless.  There was a small swirl of thin spaghetti to the right of the chicken breast under a pile of soft mushroom slices.  A few capers dotted the plate.  The lemon butter sauce, which had a good amount of wine in it, was the best thing on the entire table. 

I’ll have to try cooking the chicken picatta at home 😛

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