Sunday, January 22, 2012

Limoncello 1.0

During the holiday travels from Stockton to Healdsburg, we managed to amass a large number of lemons. All from the backyards of friends and relatives who said, "Please, take some lemons." With all these lemons on hand, I decided to give limoncello a try.

The first time I had limoncello was in Italy. It was homemade by my wife's Italian relatives. It was a powerful but tasty "digestivo" that was served at the end of a meal. He gave me a bottle which survived the suitcase ride back to the States.

I decided to start with this recipe I found on the Food Network by Giada De Laurentiis.

The result was tasty but a little too sugary and not enough kick. So there are some lessons to be learned. But this first taste was right afterwards. The finished product should sit in a pantry for a few weeks to a month to let it mellow.

During the time that this first batch was steeping, I was doing some online research and noticed that other recipes called for 1 bottle of vodka and one bottle of everclear (or sometimes grappa). I am told that one can get pure alcohol in Europe. Which is probably what I tasted in Italy. I have seen jars of "moonshine" at BevMo so I may try that in version 2.0.

Steeping for 4-5 days is not enough. It should be two weeks to a month in a cool dark place. A few sites recommend using a large sun tea jar so that you can screw it shut.

Another thing was the fact that my limoncello was clear. The limoncello I remember was opaque. Now it is possible that with more steeping time the alcohol may begin to get opaque. This recipe (which is closer to what I'll try next time) says that adding the simple syrup while it's warm will make the mixture opaque.

This is a great site that clearly explains all of the steps.
Another excellent site with lots of explanations.
Lots of different ideas in the responses.
LA Times article.
Rick Steves article on the topic.

How to Serve
Keep the lemoncello in the freezer and serve straight up in a small glass after dinner.
You can add a little ice and club soda for a refreshing summer drink.
Here is a site with lots of drink recipes that include limoncello.
Or perhaps a limoncello collins.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Apple Sharlotka

This time of year, it's easy to get overwhelmed with citrus and fruit. In the box, we've had lots of pears and Satsumas recently. Oranges and lemons are coming in and there are lots of apple varieties still in season.

Our overrunning fruit bowl got a little lighter after a friend sent me this recipe for something called Apple Sharlotka. I had to agree with her that it looked simple, delicious, and not unhealthy. Plus, I had plenty of apples on hand.

A sharlotka is a traditional Russian cake; not unlike the French clafouti. Both are simple, traditional cakes requiring few ingredients and made often to go along with tea or coffee.

The recipe is ripe for experimentation. Try substituting out some of the white flour for a healthier flour. Try some brown sugar instead of white. More nutmeg or cinnamon.

The results were quite tasty. Lots of fruit and not overly sweet.

Apple Sharlotka

  • Butter or non-stick spray
  • 6 large tart apples, such a Granny Smith
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Ground cinnamon, to finish
  • Powdered sugar, to finish

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Get a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Lock the paper and the bottom back into the pan.
  3. Butter or non-stick spray the bottom and sides.
  4. Peel and core the apples. I used an apple slicer/corer which made 8 slices. I sliced those once again to make 16 slices and then chopped in the opposite direction making 4 or 5 chunks per slice. Add apple chunks to the springform pan.
  5. In a large bowl add eggs and sugar. Using an electric hand mixer beat the eggs and sugar until they are well blended. 
  6. Add in the vanilla and nutmeg.
  7. With the mixer still going, add in the flour one tablespoon at a time mixing well before adding the next. Each spoonful will add more thickness. When all of the flour is in you may be asking yourself, "Is this cake mixture or drywall compound?" Meanwhile, slowly spin the bowl while mixing searching for hidden bits of flour on the bottom.
  8. Pour the mixture over the apples and use a spoon to thoroughly mix the apples and the batter. Take the time to evenly distribute the batter throughout.
  9. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the springform pan for at least 10 minutes. 
  11. After cooling, run a kitchen knife between the cake and pan. Unlock the pan and remove the side. Flip cake onto a dinner plate and remove the bottom and the parchment paper.
  12. Dust with cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Delicata Squash with Quinoa Pasta

This evening's weeknight meal was a mix of trying to make a decent meal and trying to clear out the fridge with its mix of post-holiday ingredients. Not only that, it's illustrative of how I sometimes cobble together a weeknight meal.

It started with that Delicata squash that's been staring at me every time I come into the kitchen from last week's box. OK, you are the main ingredient tonight. How about sauteed squash over pasta, I thought. A quick check of the pantry confirmed that there were lots of pasta choices, including our favorite quinoa pasta. A plan was unfolding.

Cutting and cleaning the squash got me thinking that there needs to be a counterpoint. Going through the fridge, I noted a few jars of sun dried tomatoes. Nearby were the remains of some oldish goat cheese that can add that creaminess. And there's that bunch of spinach from last week and we're getting another bunch tomorrow. Now we're getting somewhere.

How to tie all these disparate ingredients together? There's the last of some remaining pesto from another holiday meal. Perfect.

While the pasta water heated up...
  1. Saute cubed squash in olive oil
  2. Add roughly chopped sun-dried tomatoes and stir
  3. Add some roughly chopped parsley and stir
  4. Add cleaned spinach leaves and stir
  5. Add most of the pesto and stir. Reserve some pesto for the pasta
  6. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
  7. Drain pasta and return to pan. Add some oil and pesto and stir to mix well
  8. Plate pasta and top with squash mixture
  9. Top with crumbles of goat cheese
A bottle of 2008 Beringer Alluvium Blanc Knights Valley complements it all.


More Delicata Squash recipes: