Limoncello

Limoncello and I go way back. My father used to travel a lot for his job and often found himself working in northern Italy, where he became good friends with his business counterpart in the local office. My mom accompanied him whenever possible (because, Italy), and they’d enjoy a nice vacation on the company dime. This was back in the ’90s when flying wasn’t such a slog, so they’d return with all sorts of goodies, including homemade limoncello, which the ladies in our town really loved. I have to say, it wasn’t really my thing at the time, but I’ve grown to appreciate it over the years. Bright and scented by the sun, with sweetness on a sliding scale according to your taste, it’s an amazing way to use an abundance of Meyer lemons if you’re lucky enough to have a tree, or just a good way to indulge if you want to go the supermarket route.

Please check out Darcie’s post for her personal take on limoncello via Perth, Australia. I don’t know about you, but I get a serious case of wanderlust whenever I read her posts. Her limoncello recipe is so similar to The Kitchn‘s that we simply adapted it for you here.

Remember: Drink responsibly and please designate a driver if you plan to indulge!

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Limoncello 2 - Amy Roth Photo

 

Limoncello

Meal type Beverage
Misc Serve Cold
Bright, scented by the sun, and just as sweet as you’d like, homemade limoncello is a special treat.

Ingredients

  • 10 organic Meyer lemons (washed and dried)
  • 1 bottle vodka (750-ml; 100-proof preferred, or 80-proof)
  • 1-4 cup sugar (to taste)

Note

Adapted from The Kitchn.

Directions

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the lemons, taking care not to include the white pith. Place peels in a large glass jar and cover with vodka. (The remaining lemons can be used to make lemonade- yum!) Allow the peels to steep for about a month (at least 4 days, but longer is definitely better).
Make a simple syrup by combining equal parts water and sugar. Heat until fully dissolved and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, strain the vodka, removing all peels and sediment. Combine simple syrup and infused vodka until you reach desired sweetness and concentration.
Pour into a bottle. Chill and serve the limoncello on its own, or in a cocktail.

Gluten-Free Lemon Cake

If there’s one thing I hope I’ve made clear in this blog over the years, it’s that I hope you’re having fun in the kitchen and aren’t afraid to make substitutions. (Or is that two things? Oh, well.) Unless it’s a main ingredient like beef when I want to make pot roast, I don’t mind swapping out ingredients if I have something on hand that sounds appropriate.

Take this sunny, gluten-free lemon cake from Serious Eats. I haven’t had a great deal of luck with gluten-free cakes in the past, but this recipe sounded simple and intriguing enough for me to give it another go…with changes. I don’t often like the texture of cakes made with oil (and don’t keep vegetable oil in the house, anyway), so I used butter instead. I could’ve melted it to keep things simple, but wasn’t sure if that would leave me with the same texture I was trying to avoid, so I creamed it together with some sugar and hoped for the best. It smelled great and looked just fine coming out of the oven, so I was halfway there.

And then neither of the topping options sounded very good to me, so I whipped up a lemony cream cheese frosting that I thought would complement the cake. And it was tasty, but the cake’s texture was a little spongier than I like. But when I woke up the next morning, I gave it another try and was really happy to see that the cake had evolved overnight into something softer, almost pudding-like, probably the result of the humid weather we’re having. So I wholeheartedly recommend this recipe, especially if you like bright, lemon flavor without a lot of sweetness. Just wait a day for perfection.

And if you want it sweeter or tarter? Make a few substitutions. Why not? What’s the worst that could happen? (Not rhetorical; I’d really love to know. Leave a comment with any baking horror stories you’ve experienced, please!)

Gluten-Free Lemon Cake

Serves 6
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Meal type Dessert

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature (plus extra for greasing pan)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup sweet white rice flour (5 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch (1 ounce)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (rounded)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (from 2-3 lemons)
  • 2 Large eggs (at room temperature)

For the icing

  • 4oz cream cheese (softened)
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
  • pinch kosher salt

Note

This recipe was adapted from Serious Eats. I wanted a lighter textured cake than oil normally provides, plus a slightly sweeter base and tangy icing. I think I succeeded on all counts, and thank Serious Eats for the inspiration!

Directions

CAKE
Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with butter.
The the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until butter is light and airy.
In medium mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients — rice flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, and salt. In a measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, lemon zest and eggs.
With the mixer set to speed 3, add one-third of dry ingredients and mix until incorporated into butter. Add 1/3 of buttermilk mixture and mix until incorporated. Continue alternating dry ingredients with wet and mixing between additions until a batter is formed. Turn off mixer and scrape down the sides, then mix again for about 30 seconds.
Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow cake to cool to room temperature in pan.
ICING
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until it's light and fluffy.
Turn mixer to low and add remaining ingredients, mixing until incorporated fully into cream cheese.
With the cake still in the pan, frost with cream cheese mixture.

The Whitest Soup

Until I posted this picture on my Facebook page last week, I had NO idea that there are people in this world who don’t like white foods! Taste and texture issues? Sure, we all have them — I despise mint and don’t like mix-ins in my ice cream — but it never occurred to me that one color could be such a turnoff across the board. So to all of you (like my brilliant designer-friend Jenn at Seahorse Bend Press) who are white foods-phobic, I apologize in advance for today’s post.

I blame Martha Stewart for my recent obsession with cauliflower soup. Making this recipe started the ball rolling and I’ve been playing with it ever since, paring ingredients each time to get to the essence of the soup. Like potage parmentier, I suspect this is a soup that can take endless amounts of noodling around, but doesn’t need it at all.

Cauliflower Soup @ Minimally Invasive

What I did amounted to more of a technique than a recipe. I roasted cauliflower florets and trimmed, chopped stems with a drizzle of olive oil and salt & pepper till it was slightly caramelized and the flavor was concentrated. While the cauliflower was roasting, I sautéed a chopped onion and a clove of garlic in olive oil until they were soft, then tossed the roasted cauliflower into the pot (minus a few florets set aside for garnishing) and added water until the cauliflower was just peeking out from it. You could use chicken stock instead of water if you prefer, but I was going for a vegan dish. After simmering for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to combine, I blended the soup in batches in my Vita Mix, then adjusted the salt to taste. Feel free to use an immersion blender instead of going to the trouble of blending it in batches; I was chasing creaminess this time around and so opted for the fussier method.

Cauliflower Soup @ Minimally Invasive

And if you stopped there, it’d be perfectly delicious, but I wanted a little bit of a bite, so I topped it with a few of the reserved roasted cauliflower florets and a very simple preserved lemon gremolata (for which I chopped 1/4 of a preserved lemon peel, a handful of flat-leaf parsley and a small garlic clove, then moistened it with olive oil and seasoned it with salt). I had some berbere leftover from this recipe, so I sprinkled a little over the gremolata and thought it really added a nice hit of spice to the whole thing. It’s not a necessary addition by any means, but if you have a spice blend you love, give it a try.

I’ll be back soon with more color on the plate, for everyone who hated today’s post.

Day 17, Roast Lemon Chicken

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 17

When the time comes to roast a chicken, I tend to go one of two ways — Zuni or Thomas Keller — depending on how early I can get my act together. (My act getting-togetherness being what it is, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that I default to Keller.) They’re both foolproof recipes that yield a moist, juicy bird with a minimum of effort, which I think we all can appreciate. But another reason I roast this way is because neither involves breaking down the bird beforehand. Butchering anything in my kitchen is often met with much sighing and gnashing of teeth, for it rarely turns out well. Not that it stops me. For a while, I thought poultry shears would be my salvation, but my chicken managed to look even more like a crime scene than usual. I tried the cleaver route as well, but things still went awry.

Then, earlier this year, I was invited to take a cooking course at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in exchange for a blog post on their site. How could I refuse, especially when they’re located in my (former) office building? I perused the courses, searching for the sweet spot in the Venn diagram of interesting, useful and schedule-appropriate. I found it in a course on Sustainable Meats, taught with a wicked sense of humor and smart-assedness by Chef Erica Wides. There were maybe 10 people in the class, all there for different reasons — their own health, a cleaner environment, and animal welfare concerns, just to name a few. We prepared an entire meaty dinner from scratch, but the most useful thing I learned that night was how to spatchcock a chicken without leaving it in shreds. I’ve used this method over and over and I’m still not quite sure why it’s so much easier for me, but it is. The proof is in the (chickeny) pudding, I guess.

What you do is sit the chicken on its butt and cut down one side of the backbone, flip it over, and cut down the other. Then you place the chicken breast-down and use your knife to cut a vertical slit through the top-center of the breastbone. Flip it over and press down on the breastbone with the heel of your hand to crack the ribcage. Flip it over again, run your fingers along the sides of the breastbone to release it from the cartilage, and pull it out. Now, it takes a little muscle, I won’t lie, but the results are stellar.

In addition to a newfound facility with spatchcocking, we got a heads-up about Chef Erica’s podcast “Let’s Get Real” on Heritage Radio Network. This is frank, hilarious talk about the sad topic of foodiness and how to get back to eating real food rather than a pitiful approximation of it. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I was already on board so it’s a reinforcement of my values, but it’s nice to hear I’m not the only borderline-orthorexic around.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 17

But back to the chicken at hand. This roast spatchcocked lemon chicken came from the January 2013 issue of Martha Stewart Living. It’s a bit more work than salting a chicken and throwing it in a hot oven, but worth the time if you have it to spare. The shallots and lemon slices caramelize on the pan in the chicken juices and are almost better than the chicken itself, if such a thing is possible. I served it with a colcannon-ish mashup — celery root mashed with sautéed kale, garlic and red pepper flakes with a bit of grass-fed butter added at the end, just cuz.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 17

How sexy!

And if you’re STILL looking for a Christmas present for that special food-lover in your life (hey, I just finished my shopping yesterday, so no judgement here), a recreational course at ICE could be just the thing. I know I’d be thrilled to receive such a gift.

Day 4, Lemon Curd Tart

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 4

I just love the bright zing of a citrus dessert, don’t you? Chocolate has its place — I’ve known and loved many chocolate desserts over the years — but citrus just seems fresher and lighter on the palate, if not in calories. This tart came about through a bit of trial and error, but I was very happy with the final product and hope you will be, too!

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 4

The fillings are quite sweet — apple-lemon curd topped with candied orange peel — so a buttery almond crust is the perfect foil. Elana’s Pantry is my go-to site for anything almond-flour related, and this simple, rich tart crust did not disappoint. Just be sure to make the base as thick as the sides. You can see my base was a bit too thin which caused a few problems when cutting.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 4

Instead of a straightforward lemon curd, I searched for something that would play well with apple, as my original idea was to top this with roasted apples (which fell apart, hence the candied orange peel) and found an interesting recipe for a Bramley apple-lemon curd. Bramleys are a variety of cooking apple popular in the UK, quite sour, and quite impossible to find in the states. Still, the recipe was intriguing enough that I substituted the tartest varieties of apple I could get my hands on and walked away with a sweet, delicate filling for the tart. Now that I think about it, I wonder if quince would be an acceptable substitute for Bramleys. Hmmm…anyone?

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 4

I have to admit I chose the candied orange peel for aesthetic reasons, as I did the amount shown in the photos, but apart from the difficulty it caused slicing the tart, it was a good choice. I’d advise topping the already-cut pieces with a few slivers of peel just before serving to make life a lot easier.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 4

But the absolute best part about this recipe? It’s a two- three- four-fer. Is that even a thing? The recipe makes a LOT of lemon curd, which is a wonderful homemade gift, assuming it can be refrigerated soon after you give it. Packaged with a little porcelain spoon and a sleeve of shortbread cookies, I promise it’ll bring a smile to your food-lover’s face. The orange peel recipe also yields a metric shit-ton, so give those as gifts, too, or make them even more special by dipping them in melted bittersweet chocolate first. LOVE. And then there’s the remaining orange syrup…stay tuned for that one.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Day 4, Lemon Curd Tart”

Snacktime Redux

Grilled Avocados with Herbs | Amy Roth Photo

In my ongoing to quest to get MOAR AVOCADO in my diet, I took advantage of an already-hot grill to make these luscious beauties that were inspired by a post on Love Life.

Grilled Avocados with Tomatoes and Herbs | Amy Roth Photo

To make them for yourself, just lightly oil the cut side of avocado and lemon halves then grill until the avocados have grill marks and are heated through, and the lemons are lightly charred and caramelized. Chop up whatever herbs you have on hand (parsley, thyme, lemon thyme, chives and basil in my case) then mix with a good olive oil and salt, toast some nuts (pine nuts here), and slice some cherry tomatoes. Top the avocado halves with the herbs, nuts and tomatoes, then give the caramelized lemons a good squeeze over the whole mess.

Grilled Avocados | Amy Roth Photo

Good luck limiting yourself to just one (half).

It looks like Food52 had avocado on the brain, too. Check out all of the scrumptious entries to their avocado contest here.

Pucker Up

I’ve been behind the curve on many things in my life: growing hips, getting married, watching The Wire…just to name a few. Knowing this, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise (at least to me) that I’m only now discovering Meyer lemons, but it sort of is. Oh, it’s not that I haven’t tried to use them for the past couple of years; it’s that they were awfully elusive/sold out whenever I thought to look. But our local Whole Foods has had a good supply these past few weeks, so I’ve more than made up for lost time.

(For anyone else who suffers from the same predicament as me, you can find a good Meyer lemon disquisition here.)

It’s pretty easy to plan an entire meal around the Meyer lemon if you try just a little, so I dug around and found a simple, elegant pasta recipe at The Amateur Gourmet and put my own spin on it with smoked fish straight from my brand new Camerons Stovetop Smoker. (Thanks again for the birthday present, Naomi!) In that heady state of new toy-infatuation, I did two versions of the pasta — one with smoked salmon and one with smoked trout. I thought the salmon was delicious on its own, but too assertive for the rest of the flavors in the pasta. The trout, though, was perfection. It mingled nicely with the zest, crème fraîche and greens without overshadowing any of them.

Hard as it was to do, I saved a little room for dessert. Earlier in the day I found a recipe at Thursday Night Smackdown for a Meyer lemon curd so delicious it almost didn’t make it to the refrigerator. I put the leftover egg whites to good use and made pavlovas from Simply Recipes. So we ate, essentially, an upside-down lemon meringue pie, only I didn’t have to deal with the annoying crust.

Sweet lemon clouds. Heavenly.

From the Market: Week 8

Or, corn week

And we’re back with another weekend of cooking, fresh from the Ringwood Farmers’ Market. Despite temperatures that reached the triple digits a couple of weeks ago, it didn’t really feel like summer to me until this weekend, when I first spied corn at several booths at the market. And because corn heralds the arrival of tomatoes (thus my favorite food weeks of the year), I’m a happy, happy girl.

So with a full bag of corn and some adorable baby eggplants, I set my sights on grilling this weekend. The only question was what slant to give the meal, and after some consideration (Mexican — lime & cotija? Italian — balsamic vinaigrette? Cajun — loads of paprika, oregano & pepper?), I decided to go for Middle Eastern with a harissa rub/dressing since the cumin, coriander and paprika would play so well with the flavors of the grill.

There are lots of ways to grill corn and I’ve tried most of them. Rolling the shucked ears in foil with a little butter and spice is where I started years ago, but that only takes advantage of the grill’s heat and doesn’t capture its essence. Grilling already-shucked ears bare on the grate is a little more satisfying, but the kernels tend to dry out and turn rubbery, no matter how attentive you are. So I’ve turned into an unshucked griller. I remove some of the outer husks, peel back the rest and keep them attached at the base, then strip the silk from the cob. At that point, it’s really simple to season the corn however you like, re-cover the ear with the husks and tie them at the top with one of the detached husks. Some people like to soak the cobs, but I prefer not to so the outer husks burn and char, and infuse the kernels with the smokiness of the grill.

For this weekend’s meal, I brushed the kernels with olive oil, then sprinkled them with dry harissa. I like to keep the dry rub around because I’m never quite sure how long the paste will keep with fresh garlic in it. Using powdered garlic and leaving out the water solves that problem, and it’s easy enough to turn it into a paste later. The corn roasted over a hot fire for about 20 minutes while I turned the ears frequently. The outer husks charred to black and began to crumble away after a time, but we were left with smoky, tender corn cooked through perfectly. Just before we dug in, I drizzled it with some harissa sauce (more on which later):

SUMMER'S HERE!

Although I’d be perfectly happy making an entire meal of grilled corn, Gil probably wouldn’t be, so I threw together a quick salad as well. While the corn was grilling, I placed the baby eggplants in the in-between spaces and let them cook until they were charred and had just enough form to escape going all Bruce Davison in X-Men. Once off the grill, I sliced them in half lengthwise, slathered them in harissa sauce mixed with lemon juice and honey and let them marinate till they’d cooled down and were shot through with spicy-sweet-tart flavor. They were perfect over a simple salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette, and damn if this isn’t going to be a go-to recipe for me this summer. The flavors just marry so well.

a fine side dish

Last weekend, I was fooling around with some basil and decided to use it in a green apple sorbet, but never got around to posting it here because the recipe isn’t quite where I want it to be yet. It’s awfully refreshing on a hot summer day, but is just a little too reminiscent of frozen applesauce for my liking. Once I find the appropriate level of tartness I’ll share, but for now, here’s a picture to serve as a placeholder.

refreshing!

Hope you all had a great weekend and managed to stay somewhat cool.

recipes after the jump

Continue reading “From the Market: Week 8”

This is going to be as difficult as I thought

Homemade bread’s a little like sex — even when it isn’t transcendent, it’s still pretty good.

To put it another way, this focaccia didn’t really come close to meeting my expectations for the Life List, but the charred bits of lemon rind and salty crunch were enough to keep me stealing bits all weekend whenever I found myself in the kitchen. And maaaaybe I found myself in the kitchen just a little more often than usual, but I’m not really helping my case here, am I?

I had two issues with it: The lemons were far too tart, even sliced paper-thin, and the bread itself wasn’t as pillowy as I know it could be. Using Meyer lemons would solve the first issue, but I’m not sure what to do about the second.

Any suggestions or recipe recommendations? I’d be happy to invite you over for a sample, assuming I don’t just park myself in the kitchen until it’s all gone.

Spring has sprung

090417_tarts

On a cool and rainy Monday afternoon, it’d be easy to grumble a bit and wish the vestiges of winter would just leave for good already, but memories of our perfect weekend weather keep my emotions in check. The sun and warmth had such a curative effect on my doldrums that I BAKED, people — and if that isn’t a testament to spring’s power, then I don’t know what is.

So welcome, Spring, and please don’t rush off so quickly. Perhaps I could tempt you to hang around with a nice lemon tart or two…

lemonquad

Pucker up!

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Spring has sprung”