Great neighborhood food joints

Fans of the Copper Bell Cafe will be happy to know it has opened a second location in Riverview. From my column in today's South Shore News & Tribune, find out more about the Copper Bell and a few of my other favorite neighborhood restaurants.

Also, from San Vito Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, Romolo Coccoglioniti shares his family recipe for Provolone in Carrozza. Three words: deep fried meltiness.


Mocha-Mocha Cupcakes

Some days you just gotta indulge!

I made these mocha-mocha cupcakes for the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce monthly business luncheon this week.

Don't attempt to travel from point A to point B with these babies in 90-degree heat, though. Sadly, the garnishes and frosting melted, even with the air conditioning cranked up high in my car.

Have yourself a cupcake!

Mocha-Mocha Cupcakes

24 paper cupcake liners
one box chocolate cake mix
black coffee

Follow the instructions on the chocolate cake mix box, substituting coffee in place of water.

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup coffee-flavored liqueur
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder or coffee granules
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

Melt chocolate with liqueur and espresso powder in a small metal bowl that fits snugly over a saucepan or the top of a double boiler. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, using electric beaters, beat butter alternately with 3 cups confectioners' sugar and milk until creamy. Beat in melted, room temperature chocolate, then vanilla. Frosting will firm upon cooling but for a thicker frosting, beat in remaining sugar.

I topped these cupcakes with molded chocolate candy swirls. For instructions on how to make them, visit www.wilton.com. I bought my candy mold several years ago from either Michael's or Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts. I'm not sure if they still sell it or not:


My spiral slicer is here to stay

I guess it might come as a surprise, but I'm really not a kitchen gadget junkie. Somehow I've avoided the bread and espresso machines, even the escargot shell-holder craze.

But then this veggie spiral slicer came along and got my creative energy flowing. I just couldn't resist.

It arrived in the mail yesterday from amazon.com and I already used it.

If you don't already know what a spiral slicer does, it's the best tool for rapidly and consistently turning out ribbons, strings and curls of vegetables. Beets, onions, carrots, potatoes or jicama can easily be turned into salads or main dishes and sides. The interchangeable blades allow you to create different strand sizes.

I purchased this Benriner Cook Helper for making raw pasta from zucchini. You can find the Zucchini Pasta recipe in this week's Table Scraps column in the South Shore News & Tribune and on tbo.com.

On day two with my new toy, I did what any respectable girl from Minnesota would do. I made crunchy, fried sweet potato strings. I think they'll be perfect to garnish on top of tonight's pan-fried tilapia.


Sakura Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar

I had a truly phenomenal lunch today at Sakura Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar in Riverview.

If you're a sushi and sashimi addict like I am -- or if you prefer teppanyaki -- this place is definitely a MUST on your to-eat list.

It would be difficult for the food at Sakura to trump the elegance of the contemporary decor in this exciting new restaurant, but it did.

In addition to the sushi bar, there is a large hibachi room with eight built-in grills and shared tables, where the chefs can dramatically wield their knives.

Seafood dominates, especially in the various sushi and sashimi specialties. This Sakura Roll is made with spicy tuna, eel, seaweed salad and avocado wrapped with soy bean seaweed and tuna, then topped with caviar. I don't know when I've had such sparkling fresh sushi.

The artistic Fancy Dragon Roll includes shrimp tempura, Kani (krab meat) and cucumber wrapped in eel and avocado.

Lava Roll is a Sakura special roll made with spicy tuna, avocado and caviar in tempura with a chef's special sauce.

I especially liked this delightful assorted sashimi platter: tuna, shrimp, crab, white tuna, halibut, mango, salmon and eel in rice. All fish should be this good!

A closer view of the sashimi deluxe entree. Extraordinary! It's the high quality of its raw fish that makes Sakura a standout.

As with almost every order, artful presentation is an important visual aspect of the meal, like this Black Pepper Tuna Tataki served with ponzu sauce.

While this spanking new place is largely Japanese, the menu is layered with other Asian specialties like this Pad Thai.

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate Sakura's arrival: sleek digs, superb service, fabulously creative dishes -- oh, and don't forget that sushi and sashimi.

Sakura Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar
10722 Big Bend Road
Riverview, FL
(813) 671-2388
Sakura Japanese Steak House & Sushi on Urbanspoon


Happy National Farmers Market Week!

If you ate today, are wearing clothes or have a home, thank a farmer.

This year, August 7 through August 13 is Farmers Market week.

As farmers market shoppers have long known, buying food directly from the folks who grew it is a great way to add freshness and flavor to your table and more fruits and vegetables to your diet.

But locally grown food is not only good for your taste buds, it creates jobs, keeps money in local economies, promotes community development and can reduce environmental and public health costs.

If you want to find your nearest market, check out the USDA Farmers Market Directory online.


Flourless Chocolate Cake

I sat in on a raw food "un-cooking" demonstration recently by chef, educator and cookbook author LindaJoy Rose. She demonstrated several recipes from her book "Raw Fusion Recipes, Better Living through Living Foods."

I wrote about my "raw fusion" experience in this week's Table Scraps column in the South Shore News & Tribune and on tbo.com. Find it, along with a flavorful recipe for portobello pesto pizza.

Also from LindaJoy's cookbook is this decadent flourless chocolate cake. It's so good I've made it two times in the last several weeks.

It's so easy! You mix all the ingredients in a food processor, mold it on a cake plate, and you're done!


2 1/2 cup walnuts
Pinch salt
10 -12 medjool dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup raw cacao powder, unsweetened
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoons syrup or agave coconut nectar
2 tablespoons water

Place walnuts and salt in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add dates, vanilla, cacao, coconut oil and agave, then process until mixture sticks together. Add 2 tablespoons water and pulse for a moment. Form into a 6" circular cake on a serving plate. A small slice of this rich cake goes a long way!

Options: Garnish with mint leaves and/or raspberries.

Source: Raw Fusion Recipes: Better Living Through Living Foods


Yes, you CAN can!

If you can grow it, you can can it.

Many people are developing an interest in home canning with the goal of saving money or eating local foods throughout the year. Hydro Harvest Farms in Ruskin will be celebrating National Can-It-Forward Day on Aug. 13 by offering Canning 101 at 11 a.m.

The one hour class is designed to introduce participants to the basics of simple water bath canning with a few tips Terrie has learned along the way. Bring your canning recipes, tips and questions to share.

Reserve your seat by emailing Terrie Lawson at terrie@hydroharvestfarms.com.

Hydro Harvest Farms
1101 East Shell Point Road
Ruskin, FL 33570-5003
(813) 645-6574


How hot is it?