Italian

Limoncello Pound Cake

Limoncello Pound Cake

A chilled Limoncello is hands down my favorite summer aperitif, equally refreshing straight up or on the rocks with a splash sparkling water. Limoncello captures the essence of summertime in southern Italy where Lemon trees dot the sun drenched landscapes of of Naples, Capri, Sorento, the Amalfi coast, Calabria and Sicily.

Happily, the region’s spectacularly lemony flavored limoncello is exported and most likely available at your local spirits shop. Otherwise you could make your own. All that’s need is a bottle of 100 proof vodka and the zest from 12 organic or California meyer lemons. Combine both in a jar, seal, and set aside for about a month to infuse the vodka with an intense lemon flavor. A simple sugar syrup is then added to sweeten the limoncello to your liking.

O course, as a cook, limoncello also inspires all sorts of other applications.

The Limoncello Pound Cake recipe that follows is a versatile summer delight personified. Serve it with coffee in the morning, sliced and toasted and topped with fresh seasonal fruits for a picnic, or a leisurely alfresco lunch, or as a zesty sweet finale for a supper under the stars.

Limoncello Pound Cake

Makes one 10” loaf or a 9” & a 6” loaf

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup  full fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup limoncello
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons slivered almonds

For Limoncello Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 ½ cups full fat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup limoncello

Preheat the oven to 350 f /180 c

Prepare a 10 inch” loaf pan or an 8 “ & and a 6”loaf pan, lined with parchment and buttered.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt n a bowl.  Whisk until evenly combined, and set aside.

In another bowl combine the Greek yogurt and limoncello. Stir until smooth and set aside.

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed until fluffy. Then add the sugar in three additions while continuing to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Add the eggs in three additions while you beat on medium sped until the mixture is nearly smooth.

Reduce the speed to low and begin adding the dry ingredients and the Greek yogurt mixture alternately. Continue until the batter is relatively smooth and evenly mixed. Then mix in the lemon zest until combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pans. Gently shake the pan to even out the surface. Scatter the sliced almonds evenly over the surface.
Place the cakes in the center of the oven and bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the cakes after 25 minutes.

The cakes are done when they are nicely browned. Test by inserting a toothpick or skewer into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean with a few crumbs the cake is done. If the cake requires more time return it to the oven for five minute intervals until the cake test done.

Transfer the cakes to a rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the yogurt limoncello sauce. Combine the yogurt and the limoncello and whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the pound cake.

Once the cake are cool enough to handle, inspect the rim of the cake and remove any excess cake that may have spread over the edges of the cake pans. Gently run a knife around the edges of the cake pan and tip the pan onto a cutting board to release the cake. Turn cake upright and set aside until you are ready to serve.
Serving:


Serve generous slices of the pound cake with the Limoncello yogurt sauce to the side.

 

Butterscotch Budino

 

Here is a recipe for an Italian butterscotch budino that I came across years ago in Nancy Silverton’s The Mozza Cookbook. Of course we Americans remember those Jello butterscotch puddings our mothers whipped up when we were kids. They seemed good enough at the time, though once you have tasted a rich and creamy homemade butterscotch budino you will discover a butterscotch pudding like none other. As a cook this is a butterscotch pudding you can rely upon to elicit oohs and aahs whenever you serve it, and reaffirms the old adage that there is indeed proof in the pudding!

 

Butterscotch Budino

makes 6 servings

  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • ¾ cups whole milk
  • 2 extra large egg yolks
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon whiskey or brandy
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds browned in butter

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set a smaller bowl inside. Set a fine-mesh strainer in the smaller bowl.

Stir the cream and the milk together in a medium bowl and set aside.

In another medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, egg, and cornstarch together and set aside.

Combine the brown sugar, salt, and ¾ cup of water in a large heavy bottomed saucepan set over medium high heat. Cook the sugar without stirring, instead swirling the pan occasionally for even cooking. Don’t be alarmed: the sugar will become foamy and lava like with slow-bursting bubbles as it cooks. Once the sugar is caramelized, nearly smoking, nutty smelling, and dark caramel color, about 10 to 12 minutes, promptly pull the pan off the heat!

Immediately add the cream milk mixture in a thin steady stream, stirring with a whisk as you add it. This stops the cooking process and prevents the sugar from burning. This will cause the sugar to seize up and harden. Return the pan to the heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the seized sugar has dissolved and the mixture is liquid again, 5 to 7 minutes.

Turn off the heat and ladle out about one cup of the hot cream and sugar mixture and gradually add it to the bowl with the eggs, whisking constantly to prevent the cream mixture from cooking the eggs. Continue adding the cream to the eggs until you have added half the cream. Then gradually add the contents of the bowl to the saucepan with the remaining caramel, stirring constantly with a whisk, and cook the custard over medium heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not overheat the custard to avoid lumps in the custard.

Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the butter and whiskey or brandy until combined and smooth.

If there are any lumps in the custard pas the custard through the strainer into the bowl set in the ice water.

ladle the budino into dessert bowls and set a side to cool until the custard has set. Then and decorate the centers of the budinos with the slivered almonds.

Let the budinos cool to room temperature. Then cover each bowl with cling film and refrigerate.

Serving:

Remove the budinos from the refrigerator about an hour before serving to bring them to room temperature before serving .

 

Zucchini is the very essence of summer for me. The shades of deep to light greens along with tinges of yellows tease your memories of endless summer meals gone by where zucchini’s presence on the table defined the taste of unforgettable midsummer meals with family and friends.

Preparation of zucchini is a lesson in less is more. A recipe is hardy required, but keep in mind, a lightness of touch and just a scent of fresh herbs is all that is needed.

Serving this roasted zucchini with a creamy polenta is a match made in heaven! (click here for polenta)

 

 

Roasted Zucchini with a Lemon Vinaigrette

Roasted Zucchini with a Lemon Vinaigrette

 

Roasted Zucchini with a Lemon Vinaigrette     serves 4

Needed: large shallow oven baking tray

Preheat oven to 375 f/ 190 c Have oven rack placed in the middle position.

  • 3 or 4 plump garden fresh zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into ½ inch thick wedges
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon thyme leaves
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

 

Place the wedges of zucchini in a large bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the zucchini and toss to coat the wedges evenly.

Add the lemon thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper and toss until well combined.

Place the zucchini wedges in the baking tray in a single layer. Transfer the tray to the oven and roast for 6 to 8 minutes. Then reverse the tray and roast another 6 to 8 minutes. The zucchini should be very lightly colored and softened, but still firm around the edges.

If you like you can place the try under the broiler for a couple of minutes for added color.

Transfer the tray from the oven to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.

 

Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 garlic clove, whole, peeled and pressed
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of sugar (optional)
  • freshly grated Parmigiano (optional)

In a non reactive bowl combine the shallots, garlic clove, lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk until all the ingredients are combined.

Combine both oils in a pitcher. While whisking slowly begin adding the olive oils in a thin slow and steady stream while continuing to whisk vigorously. Once all the oil has been added and the vinaigrette has emulsified, taste the vinaigrette and add additional salt as needed. Adding just a pinch of sugar is optional. Cover and refrigerate the vinaigrette until you are ready to serve.

Serving:

Place the roasted zucchini in a bowl and lightly drizzle the lemon vinaigrette over the zucchini, toss, and serve.

As suggested above, serve roasted zucchini along with creamy polenta is a perfect summer meal in itself.

Dusting with Zucchini and polenta with Parmigiano is optional, but a nice compliment.

Mediterranean Mussels Stew

Mediterranean Mussels Stew

 

I was in my kitchen the other day admiring a gorgeous pile of succulent New Zealand green lipped mussels and some plump shrimp that I had purchased earlier in the day. As I gazed, an ad hok seafood stew was formulating in my mind using some Mediterranean ingredients that I already had on hand. Some pancetta to saute along with some onions, garlic, carrots and celery would beautifully flavor a sofrito  base for the broth. Adding to that the water reserved after steaming the mussels to the stew broth would introduce the briny flavors of the sea. A flourish of  chile flakes and Spanish smoked paprika would add a nice spicy heat and a rustic earthy flavor to the stew.  A final splash of a fruity Italian olive oil and a spritz of crisp lemon juice just before serving would really bring this robust mussel stew to life.

New Zealand green lipped mussels are more available than other varieties of mussels here in Thailand. They are the largest mussels available and perfect for a mixed seafood soup or stew. Their flesh is plump, succulent, and juicy. The shells are quite large so usually not included in the dish like the smaller mussel shells you would find in a French bouillabaisse, an Italian zuppa de cozze , or a Catalan zaruela de mariscos. New Zealand green lipped mussels are shipped across the globe. That said, shells or no shells in the stew, any variety of mussels available to you are suitable for this recipe.

This is an easy seafood stew to prepare, it looks spectacular, and is sure to WOW a crowd!

 

New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels

New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels

 

Mediterranean Mussel Stew     serves 6

  • 1 kilo/2.2 pounds New Zealand green lipped mussels, or another available variety
  • 500g / 1 pound medium size shrimp, shells removed, deveined, tails attached 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 4 thin slices pancetta, finely chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 stalks celery with leaves, finely diced, leaves thinly sliced, and whole leaves reserved for garnish
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
  • 1 1/2   liters/ 1 1/4    quarts fish or chicken stock, preheated
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
  • 6 medium sized yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾ inch chunks
  • finishing quality olive oil
  •  fresh lemon wedges

Soak the mussels in cold water and then scrub the shells to remove any dirt or seaweed that may be attached.

Place a steaming rack in a stock pot and add about 2 cups of water  below the rack. Place the mussels on the rack and bring the water to a boil. Lower to a simmer and place a lid on the pot. Steam the mussels for about 6 minutes or until the mussels have opened. Remove the mussels from the pot and set aside in a bowl to cool. Any mussels that have not opened should be discarded.. Transfer the steaming water left in the pot to a container and set aside to use later.

Place the same pot over medium low heat. When hot add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the pancetta and saute while stirring continuously until the fat has melted. Then add the onions, stir to coat with the oil, and saute until the onions are translucent, about 6 or 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Then add the wine and cook until the wine has been completely absorbed.

Stir in the carrots and celery and saute until  soft, about 6 minutes. Add the bay leaves and marjoram and stir to combine.. Add the reserved broth from steaming the mussels and the preheated stock. Stir until all the ingredients are combined.

Once the stew is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Then stir in salt, pepper, chile flakes, and smoked paprika and stir until combined. Then stir in the potatoes and continue to simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.

While the stew is simmering, if you are using New Zealand mussels you will want to remove the mussels from their shells and discard the shells. If you are using other smaller mussels you can leave them in tact.

Once the potatoes are fully cooked you can add the mussels and shrimp to the broth. Simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes. Taste the broth and season with more salt to taste.

Serving:

Serve the stew in shallow individual soup plates with 4 or 5 mussels per portion and plenty of broth. Sparingly drizzle each serving with a finishing olive oil and garnish with a few celery leaves and a slice of fresh lemon.

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