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.

From the Pinterest Files: Roman Summer Salad

I can’t promise that From the Pinterest Files will become a weekly feature, but I do plan to cook from my Pinterest board more often, so who knows? Whenever I do, though, I promise to let you know what I think, good or bad.

This Roman Summer Salad by Giada De Laurentiis is perfect for me, and you too, if big, bold flavors are your thing. It’s basically a salad version of pasta puttanesca, with tomatoes, olives, capers and garlic swimming around with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. To make it a touch more salad-y, I added chopped spinach and red komatsuna, both from Bialas Farms. Granted, it’s nowhere near tomato season here yet, but this recipe really made its presence known, and I just couldn’t wait a month to give it a try. And now that you know about it, you’ll be ready when tomato season comes your way, if it hasn’t already!

Roman Salad | Minimally Invasive

 

Cup4Cup Week: The Bread

FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL!

Sorry, had to get that out of my system. Even though the taint of the Saints’ scandal lingers and I’m still smarting from the BCS championship game last January, I can’t help but be excited for the start of the season. We Saints/Tigers fans are an optimistic lot. The booze helps.

Of course, you’ll need good food for the games this weekend, and you could do so much worse than a muffuletta, the Sicilian-by-way-of-New-Orleans sandwich invented by Salvatore Lupo at Central Grocery. It shares a meat-and-cheese situation with the Italian sub, but goes above and beyond in two important ways — the bread (a soft, round Italian loaf that’s light but substantial enough to take on the filling) and olive salad (with pickled vegetables and heavy on the garlic). Since I have no hope of ordering the sandwich in north Jersey or of getting a gluten-free muffuletta loaf at the bakery, I made my own.

And, well, I have to say the bread was not great. Looked nice, though:

I really don’t know if it was the flour, the recipe, my own incompetence, or some combination of those factors, but it didn’t work for me at all. The bread rose — more than I expected, actually — but emerged from the oven dense as dwarf star matter. Still, I had loads of meats and cheeses and a ridiculous amount of olive salad in the fridge, so I plowed ahead with the muffulettas, hoping a good soaking with olive salad oil would render the bread pliable enough for ingestion.

I used Emeril’s recipe and thought his olive salad was delicious, but lacked garlic. I KNOW, RIGHT? Craziness. Emeril is garlic’s ambassador, its Kris Kardashian. He revels in garlic the way David Foster Wallace reveled in footnotes — unashamedly and without regard for the reader. “Perhaps you could add another footnote or five, David?” The effrontery! But this is no time for balance and restraint; the more garlic you throw at olive salad, the clearer its point becomes.

If not for the bread issue, it would’ve been a damned fine sandwich even with the garlic paucity. Each muffuletta probably was less than a quarter of the Central Grocery sandwich, but I still only managed to eat a half, and that without the top of the bread which threatened to destroy the roof of my mouth. No thank you, bread; my Cap’n Crunch days are long behind me.

So all good experiments must come to an end. I’ll look for a new bread recipe with the Cup4Cup and let you know how it turns out. But do give the muffuletta a try if you have access to good bread and a cast iron stomach.

And happy footballing!

Changing it Up

I’ve been in the breakfast doldrums lately. My daily dose of yogurt holds little appeal, and oatmeal and eggs aren’t doing much for me, either. Still, a girl has to eat, so I whipped up a quinoa porridge which fortified me for a long, cold walk with the doggies. The texture’s closer to steel cut oats than to rolled or instant, and it has a wonderful nutty flavor even when cooked with milk. I made it with one part quinoa to 2 1/2 parts liquid (milk & water), but will distort the proportions even more next time to see if I can get it to a rice pudding consistency. I topped it with a little extra milk, cinnamon and a drizzle of honey, and it really hit the spot.

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Remember the roasted pears with amaretto mascarpone from last weekend? Well, I repurposed the leftover cream into semifreddo and it might be even better now. So easy to do — just lightly oil a loaf pan, line it with plastic wrap, spoon the cream into the pan and smooth it down, then fold the excess plastic wrap over the top. Freeze until you’re ready for dessert! We had it with some of the leftover pears, chilled and sliced.

Italian Sunday

Update (1/22/11): This short rib ragu won Food52‘s contest for Your Best Short Ribs, and will be included in their next cookbook, out later this year!

Maybe it’s the tomato tooth I was born with instead of a sweet tooth, maybe it’s the towering heels I rock when my old bones let me, or maybe it’s only that Marcello Mastroianni was perfection on two legs, but I’ve always wanted to be Italian, just a little bit.


Exhibit A: Photographic evidence of alleged perfection, minus corroborating proof of two legs.

It isn’t that I don’t love a good bowl of shrimp & grits or that I don’t get a nostalgic glow from a breakfast of couche-couche and cane syrup, but polenta has been my go-to corn base of late. And after a long work week, what could be a more welcome sight or more soul-satisfying over cheesy, buttery polenta than a ragu of braised short ribs, I ask you?

It’s a dish that’s nearly impossible to mess up, which I think we all can appreciate in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. With so much else on the mind, it’s nice to throw something into the oven for a few hours and get on with other things. Of course, the initial prep work takes some time — chopping the vegetables, trimming and searing the beef, getting all of the elements in balance before the extended stay in the oven — but your time and patience will be well-rewarded by the outcome.

If you can manage not to devour it right away, let the ribs sit overnight in the refrigerator. This serves two purposes: as we all know, this type of dish is always better on the second day, and you’ll be able to remove some of the ungodly amount of fat the ribs throw off so much easier than if you only skimmed the surface while it was still hot. Of course, chilling the ragu overnight doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do a little quality control while it’s still hot, just to put your mind at ease that you have, in fact, made something that will be worth the wait.

Too bad I didn't make more.

But woman cannot live by polenta and short ribs alone. As a nod to the tables of so many of my fellow North Jerseyans, I made a Sunday gravy recently. It’s not something I tackle more than once a year because of the sheer effort and number of calories involved, but man, this makes for a pleasant food coma. I make no claims to authenticity, but I’m not sure too many others can either; it’s one of those dishes that seems to have as many variations as people who make it. The recipes may disagree on specifics, but all are unified in the insistence on Meat And Lots Of It. Me? I only used a paltry four types — pepperoni (not too much of it), sweet Italian sausage, pork butt and beef & pork meatballs. I browned everything but the pepperoni, then simmered it all for hours in tomatoes swimming with garlic until we were going mad (in the best possible way) from the smell.

not perfected yet

My gluten-free adaptation of this polenta cake didn’t quite pass muster, but with a little creme fraiche, it was still a nice way to end the meal. I’ll keep working on it and report back when I’ve found success.

recipe after the jump

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Pizza, My Endless Love

smoked trout & roasted garlic vs. pepperoni & roasted red peppers

Most days, I’ll hit the gym at lunch if I have the time to spare at work. With my commute, it’s the only chance I ever have for a real workout and I always feel better when I manage to do it. But Friday, I just wasn’t feeling it, so I hiked over to Chelsea Market instead. I’ve read great things about the gluten-free offerings at Friedman’s Lunch and wanted to try out one of their sandwiches after picking up some pantry staples at Buon Italia. The reuben from Friedman’s came back to work with me, and it was really, truly delicious, so much so that I didn’t miss the “real” bread one bit. Of course, I was ready to nap within 15 minutes of finishing it, but what a happy food coma it was.

My heavenly sandwich notwithstanding, the best part of my shopping expedition was scoring The Last Package of sheep’s milk ricotta at Buon Italia. They were out the last few times I’ve been, so my search started to feel a little like Woody Harrelson’s eternal quest for Twinkies in Zombieland. But then that lone package appeared before me, like a cream-covered grail.

Ummm yeah, you could say I love the stuff.

Anyway, the wheels started spinning even before I left the building . . . pasta would be good, maybe with some butternut squash. My old standby — ravioli stuffed with ricotta and an egg yolk — wasn’t something I wanted to waste this precious bundle on during my first attempt at making a fresh gluten-free pasta, so that was out. But how about pizza? Gluten-Free Girl‘s pizza crust was just featured on Michael Ruhlman’s blog, so I could share the recipe. And from there, I was off, doing taste tests in my imagination, adding/rejecting toppings based on how they’d play with the ricotta. I finally settled upon a recipe that, while simple, worked perfectly, with roasted garlic, smoked trout, a touch of parmesan and baby arugula. The ingredients married well, without any one component overshadowing the others.

I went with bolder toppings for the second pizza, adding muenster cheese (we had no mozzarella), plum tomatoes, sliced pepperoni, roasted red peppers, more ricotta, parmesan, red pepper flakes and the few remaining leaves of basil from my plant on the deck. Neither Gil nor I could decide which pizza we liked more, even after taste testing until we nearly burst. The only thing I’d change for next time would be to roll out the crust as thin as possible, till it’s almost crackly, but that’s just a personal preference.

So remember, kids:
1. Friedman’s Lunch = awesome, but plan for a nap.
2. Try to take my sheep’s milk ricotta and you’ll lose a hand.

recipes after the jump

Continue reading “Pizza, My Endless Love”

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.

Amy’s first risotto

091222_risotto

So… yeah. It’s been a while. How’ve you been? You’re looking great — have you lost weight? My apologies for abandoning this site, but things got seriously out of hand at work those last few weeks leading up to Christmas, and I couldn’t find time to do any cooking at all, and what’s a food blog without food? Keeping quiet seemed like the way to go.

The weekend before Christmas was a little less hectic, so I did manage to cook something before taking off for Louisiana — a risotto. Actually, my FIRST risotto. (Oh, stop your gasping.) I’ve always avoided it because the thought of standing in one spot stirring for so long didn’t appeal, but it was snowing and I had a bunch of mismatched ingredients in the house that didn’t add up to much else, so hey. Why not? It was that or shovel the driveway.

My parents sent me back to Jersey with about five pounds of frozen shrimp and crab meat the last time I visited. All that was left in our freezer was one container of crab, so I set my sights on turning out a delicately-seasoned risotto. (Going easy on seasonings isn’t something that comes naturally to me, but crab requires a light hand.) It couldn’t have been easier, really. I sweated some onion in a decent amount of olive oil and butter with 4 bay leaves, added a little garlic once the onion was translucent and cooked it for 30 seconds or so, then added a cup and a half of arborio rice, stirring it in the fat until the grains were just starting to look chalky. Then the laborious process (or so I imagined it would be) of adding liquids and stirring, stirring, stirring started. I began with 1/2 cup of dry white wine, cooking until it was absorbed, then added warmed shrimp stock one ladle at a time, until the rice was creamy and cooked through.

At this point, I stirred in about 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, then folded in the crab and some finely chopped green onions. And you know what? It blew my mind. I really thought that making a passable risotto would be beyond me, but when you start with great ingredients, I guess it isn’t so hard.

091222_arancini

Of course, I made extra so we could have arancini with the leftovers the following day. To start, I made a quick tomato sauce with another freezer find — a Ziploc bag containing about half of a large can of crushed tomatoes. (I don’t throw anything away if I can help it.) I added it to some sauteed onions and garlic, then hit it with a shot of sherry vinegar, a pinch of sugar and some crushed red pepper, before setting it aside to simmer while I finished up the rest of the meal.

The spinach was simply wilted with some olive oil and green onions. It would’ve been heavy on the garlic if only I had some in the house, but no. Rassafrassin’ snowstorm.

For the arancini itself, I mixed in a little more cheese and some milk to the cold risotto and formed it into golf ball-sized portions, stuffed with a small piece of cheese. (Which I think was taleggio, but can’t say positively. We always have a few types of cheese in the fridge at any given time.) The rice balls went into flour, then egg wash, then panko bread crumbs before spending about 15 minutes in the freezer to firm up.

Now, for someone raised on deep fried foods, I have a distinct fear of frying on two fronts: leaden, soggy food and an oily smell permeating the house. So this was the first time in maybe 20 years I’ve actually fried anything in more than a few tablespoons of oil. Heating the oil to 375F helped with the leaden aspect, and the fact that each batch took only a minute or so to fry didn’t leave my house smelling like a fast food joint. Can’t say deep fried stuff will appear on the menu very often, but I’m much more comfortable preparing it now.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Due to circumstances beyond my control, there wasn’t much in the way of cooking at Christmas, either. My parents are renovating their kitchen (and it looks AMAZING), but the appliances didn’t make it on time, so we ate out. A lot. Not a problem if you like fried seafood (which I do), but let’s just say it’s good to be back in my own kitchen, reacquainting myself with green vegetables and whole grains.

It was a difficult Christmas, to be honest. Everyone was “off,” as we had an unexpected death in the family just a few weeks ago and, as always in such a large extended family, someone’s going to be in terribly poor health. But it wasn’t all bleak by any means and there were many bright spots to be found — laughing with my cousin over her mother-in-law woes, watching a young cousin pulling a flaming barbecue pit on a toy wagon tied to a modified big wheel (no, seriously, I was crying with laughter and yes, I have pictures, but I’m pretty sure his mom would kill me if I published them), talking food and dogs with one of the best cooks in my family (who promises to give me his recipe for pickled mirliton, mmmm). But the icing on the cake was seeing two of my oldest and dearest friends from high school again, one for the first time in about 20 years. I can’t even tell you how happy Facebook makes me at times.

Because we ate out so much, I have almost no food pictures, but did snap a few of my dad shucking oysters on Christmas Eve. Good stuff.

091228_oysters

091228_shucking

091228_shells

Hope you all had a great holiday. Here’s to 2010 and wishing you all a happy turning of the page. Thanks for stopping by in 2009!

Another orangey post

091108_lasagna_small
Double-decker lasagna

Because the farmers’ market gods do not see fit to bestow seasonable, local produce upon us between Halloween and Thanksgiving, I stocked up on storage items last weekend — onions, potatoes and all manner of squash, plus another frozen tongue. It’ll be a long winter. But look, I’ve just gotta say: We need some new squash recipes around these parts. Roasted squash — excellent in a pinch. Good old squash soup — fine. It’s reliable, it’s easy, delicious and mostly unobjectionable, but I’m still kinda sick of it from last year, truth be told, so it might be a while before it graces my table and blog again.

In the interest of not boring myself or you (too late, they cry!) to death, I went all out and made a lasagna — something I never do. All those layers just kill me, but I was won over by this one. It was adapted from Giada’s recipe and was so good, I’ve got plans to make a few more updates and serve it as our Thanksgiving main course. This lasagna’s charms are subtle, but once it has you, it won’t let you go.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Another orangey post”

Finally, focaccia

091015_focaccia_sm

Finally.

It took two weekends of tweaking, combining and adapting recipes, but I finally settled on a Concord grape focaccia (inspired by schiacciata, but less desserty) we couldn’t stop eating. Gil did his damage to it while I was away at work, but each night before bed, I stood at the counter nibbling on tiny pieces that always added up to the one large piece I should’ve just cut for myself at the start.

Apart from the focaccia, I didn’t really do any cooking last weekend because I was working on my first (paying) portrait shoot! Last winter, Cara Packard, the super-talented owner of Cara Linn Cakes, hired me to take some promotional pictures for her business. She’s getting married next month, so her sister did a little sleuthing to find me and arrange a surprise bridal portrait session in the city. I had a great time working with someone so natural and relaxed in front of the camera, and found that taking pictures of humans is even more fun than taking pictures of food. Go figure.

a few bridal pictures and focaccia recipe after the jump

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