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.

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.

From the Market: Memorial Day Edition

Gluten-free recipe from Home Cooking with Jean-Georges
Asparagus from Orchards of Concklin

Well, hello! It’s good to be back from my extended self-imposed exile. It’s a long, tedious story that involves dealing with a vexatious situation for the past two months with no end in sight. Also? Mid-life crisis and the eternal question of what do I really want to do with the rest of my life all tied up in a nice, black bow. My heart’s telling me food photography is the way to go: I love it and already have made some money at it without self-promoting too crazily, but is it something I can really do as my almost-sole source of income? Maybe it’s time for a leap of faith.

*****************************************

Last weekend marked the start of our weekly farmers’ market in Ringwood, which also means the start of my 2012 Farmers’ Market Feast series. Above, you see my first local (delicious, amazing, worth-waiting-all-winter-for) asparagus of the season treated very simply using an idea from Home Cooking with Jean-Georges, one of my new favorite cookbooks: toss blanched asparagus with a tiny bit of butter instead of olive oil and sprinkle liberally with parmesan shavings and lemon zest. I added a little truffle salt and turned it into breakfast with the addition of a sunny side-up egg, and it really lightened my mood.

gluten-free
Spinach & radishes from Bialas Farms, strawberries from Orchards of Concklin, salad greens from Nina’s Red Barn Farm

Then I got a little creative for lunch Sunday afternoon. I was far too sweatystanky to bother cooking with any form of heat because our air conditioner is not only merely dead, it’s really most sincerely dead. The panting and lethargy going on in our house was ridiculous, and it wasn’t just the dogs this time. So I made a fresh version of a summer salad roll with spinach & salad greens, fresh mint, peppery radishes, green onions, and the sweetest strawberries you can imagine rolled up in a softened rice paper wrapper. I went with a spicy fish sauce-based dipping sauce that provided a perfect salty accent to the rolls. Sure it would’ve been a lot easier just to have a salad, but where’s the fun in that? This could be a nice treat to serve at the start of a dinner party or to bring to a cookout, provided you keep the rolls covered with a damp paper towel.

This probably doesn’t seem like much cooking for three days, but I’m doing another cookbook shoot on weekends. It’s a lot of work, but a good time doing what I love — cooking and taking pictures. I’m not sure of the release date yet, but I’ll certainly keep you posted.

And on the cookbook front, I can’t let the unofficial start of summer go by without telling you about Grilling Vegan Style by John Schlimm. I spent a bit of last summer shooting it and just got to see the fruits of my labors a few weeks ago, just in time for grilling season. So exciting. If you’ve spent any time here at all, you know I’m pretty far from vegan, but these recipes were delightful. It’s a lot of fun to be able to eat your work at the end of a long day.


Grilled Corn on the Cob with Piquant Sauce (left) and Shiny Happy Poppers (right)

A great thing about John’s recipes is that little twist he adds that elevates them beyond normal everyday fare.


Two-Faced Avocado Sandwiches (left) and Mojito Mojo (right)

I also love the creative names and funny introductions he gives to each recipe.


Romaine Holiday (left) and Tattooed Watermelon Salad (right)

I’d never HEARD of grilled watermelon till I shot this book. Now it’s all I want to eat, and I never really liked watermelon at all.


Presto Pesto Lasagna

No need to turn on the oven and heat up the house when you’re making a vegan lasagna. It’s the perfect summer recipe!


S’More is Always Better!

How is it possible that I never had s’mores until I shot this book?! They might just be the perfect dessert and there really isn’t a meal that isn’t made better by a s’more finish. I speak from experience. (Vegan marshmallows and graham crackers can be a little tough to find, but many Whole Foods carry the Sweet & Sara brand, which are virtually indistinguishable from the animal-based thing. In fact, I might give the nod to the vegan grahams, so you definitely should give this a try.)

Time for a Snack

Healthy, gluten-free snack

I’ve been obsessed with avocados lately, just snacking on a half straight from the shell, sprinkled with a little salt. It’s a healthy and satisfying treat. But after reading that my friend Nicole at Love Life and her son Luca add honey and lemon to the mix, I now have a new favorite way to enjoy them. So, so good.

Update: Jeannie left a comment suggesting avocado with a drizzle of soy sauce, which I’ll be trying with my very next one. So what’s YOUR favorite way to enjoy avocados? I’d love to hear more suggestions!

Yep, More Chicken

Hi, it’s me, your favorite disappearing blogger! I’ve been tied up with work and taking care of the doggies while Gil‘s away this week, but I didn’t want to let too much time pass before posting about this heavenly dish — skillet rosemary chicken. I still haven’t quite figured out what makes it so wonderful because there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it. I mean, combining chicken with lemon, potatoes, garlic & rosemary…

STOP THE PRESSES!

ROSEMARY! Why didn’t anyone in the history of the world ever think of adding rosemary to chicken?! Brilliant!

But really, there’s just something about it that knocked my socks off.

It’s probably the copious chicken fat the potatoes and mushrooms roast in, now that I think about it. Mmmmmm….

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Yep, More Chicken”

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”

On the shoulders of giants

090322_bolognese

You guys know I usually like to wing it in the kitchen, right? It’s certainly not a surprise to poor Gil, who has to deal with my creations. (Btw — sorry for that particularly meh quinoa salad I made for dinner recently, honey!) But sometimes I do the thing up proper-like and follow real recipes from people who know what they’re doing — people like Mario Batali, Patricia Wells and Giuliano Bugialli.

Above, you see the first of two pasta dishes we’ve had in the last couple of weeks. Ground veal and ground pork sang a song of ragu from the freezer, and at their insistence, I did a web search for a real recipe to follow. The first link I clicked featured a video of Mario Batali making a traditional Ragu Bolognese. I’m so happy I followed the video’s instructions instead of the written recipe below; I never, ever, would have thought to cook each stage of the recipe for as long as instructed. But the prolonged cooking added a depth of flavor I’ve never achieved in my years of sauce-making. I might use slightly less wine next time because that flavor was especially strong (and not my favorite thing in the world, to be honest), but diffused with ample amounts of pasta, it was phenomenal.

090330_pasta

A few weeks ago, Gil and I got to spend three whole nights in the city during a pharmaceutical conference he attended for his magazine. I took full advantage of my time there and met up with friends on three consecutive nights for dinner and drinks. The first night I didn’t venture out of my work neighborhood, meeting my friend Scott at Bar Stuzzichini. I went mainly for the small plates (the arancini were disappointing this time, but I plan to recreate the zucchini alla scapece just as soon as my grill comes out for the season — possibly this very weekend), but the pasta dish we shared was the real revelation: macherroni alla chitarra, or pasta with pistachio and lemon cream sauce.

Once we made it home, I started researching recipes in my Italian cookbooks and decided to use a simple lemon-cream sauce adapted from Patricia Wells’ Trattoria and Giuliano Bugialli’s Bugialli On Pasta. I toasted shelled pistachios, cooled and chopped them, the steeped the smaller bits (pistachio dust, really) in lemon juice and cream while I made the pasta with my brand new Kitchenaid Pasta Rollers. (I happened to find them fairly heavily discounted on Amazon, but they’re worth paying an everyday price for.) After cooking the pasta, I tossed it with the cream sauce and grated Parmesan over a low flame until the sauce had thickened. Just before serving, I added more Parmesan, chopped parsley and more chopped pistachios. It was a great success, but not quite as pistachio-infused as the original. I have more experimenting to do before I give you a real recipe, but I’m pretty happy with the results of my first go-round. It’s hard to go wrong when you listen to the experts.