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
- 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.
Serve generous slices of the pound cake with the Limoncello yogurt sauce to the side.
Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix is as American as apple pie. It is just one of those staples that everyone has turned to in a pinch at onetime or another. Myself included during my art school days when cooking was limited to quick serviceable meals that had nothing to do with cuisine. That was to came along later in my life.
That said, Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix is a staple created by Mabel White Holmes back in 1930. The Holmes family still owns the company and he original cheerful blue and yellow packaging has remained mostly unchanged ever since. Whenever I see a box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix on the shelf I just can’t resist picking one up! Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix has been a dependable partner for countless quick yummy corn muffin hacks I’ve whipped up over the years.
Summer is after all about grilled meals and corn muffins are always a perfect comfort food accompaniment! The recipe that follows is a tried and true favorite of mine that requires very little time to make and these muffins are always a huge hit.
Corn Muffins with grilled corn, jalapenos, and cheddar cheese.
Makes 8 muffins
Grease a muffin tin with melted butter
preheat oven to 450 f / 245 c
- 1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin mix
- 1large organic egg
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cultured buttermilk
- a pinch of salt
- 1 cup grilled corn kernels
- 1or 2 grilled jalapenos, skin and seeds removed, and minced
- ¾ cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese, divided
Place the corn muffin mix in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg and whisk briefly. Then whisk in the buttermilk and salt. Fold the ingredients together just until they come together using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.
Add the corn and jalapenos and fold them into the batter without over mixing. A few lumps are fine.
Then fold in ½ cup of the cheddar cheese and set the batter aside to rest for 15 minutes.
Fill each muffin cup ¾ full and top off with the remaining cheddar.
Bake for 15 or 20 minutes until the muffins are lightly golden brown.
Serve warm, with pats of butter (optional)
An abundance of freshly picked sweet corn always reminds me of several opportunities I have had to indulge in savoring one on Mexico’s most unusual delicacies, huitlacoche.
Huitlacoche is the Aztec name for a fungus that grows on maturing corn during the wet season in central Mexico and parts of north America.
Anyone who has wandered into a corn filed in mid summer would more than likely encounter a spongy foamy fungus in various shades of gray on some ears of corn. This is called corn smut in the US and huitlachoche in Mexico. Corn smut is not a particularly enticing descriptive, but putting that aside, think of huitlacoche as Mexico’s truffle with a unique delicate earthy mushroom like flavor with an umami note. Huitlacoche has been prized in indigenous cultures in the American southwest and Latin America from ce pre-columbian times.
Fresh huitlacoche may be available when in season in some select Latin American markets. It is also available in jars and cans from various sources online, though the flavor is altered in processing and really not worth purchasing.
With that in mind I came up with a huilacoche alternative years ago that has satisfied my own cravings for those sublime flavors savored while in Mexico. Rest assured, all the ingredients required for my recipe are readily available in your local supermarket.
Drawing from recollections, my favorite huitlacoche dish would have to be a grilled corn omlette filled with huitlacoche set atop a mild fresh milk cheese and garnished with a few fresh cilantro sprigs and a picante salsa verde. It was perfection!
My huitlaoche alternative
Makes enough for 3 servings
A little multi tasking before you get started requires grilling or broiling the mushrooms and corn before you proceeding with the recipe.
- 2 tablespoon sunflower oil, divided
- 4 ears fresh sweet corn, husk and silk removed
- 2 largish portobello mushrooms / 6 oz/ 70 g
- 1 plump garlic clove, peeled and finely grated
- 6 oz/ 70 g baby spinach leaves, well rinsed
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce
- ¼ teaspoon epazote or oregano
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
Fire up grill grill or preheat your oven broiler. Brush the portobello mushrooms and corn lightly with oil. Place on the grill or on a baking tray and grill or broil all, turning both the mushrooms and the corn until nicely browned. The mushrooms will require less cooking time so keep an eye on them. Remove them when they have softened and are giving up their moisture and set aside to cool.
Continue grilling or broiling the corn until the kernels are well browned on all sides. Remove and set them aside to cool. Save any pan juices if you have used the broiler to use later.
When the mushrooms are cool slice and dice them and place then in a non-reactive bowl. Add any reserved pan juices and cover.
When th corn is cool slice the kernels off the cobs, place them in a mixing bowl and set aside until you ready to make the omelettes.
To finish the huitlache mixture add the remaining oil to a skillet set over medium low heat and add the garlic. Saute 30 seconds and add the spinach and saute until wilted. Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing until the spinach is very soft. Add the salt, tamari, fish sauce, epazote or oregano, and the cream if using. Lower the heat and continue to saute until all the ingredients are very soft, and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the mixture warm while you make the omlettes.
Grilled Corn omlettes
For each omlette:
- 3 organic eggs
- pinch of salt
- a splash of water
- 1 teaspoon salted butter
- 1/3 cup grilled corn kernels
- 4 thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
- salsa verde (see recipe here)
- sprigs of fresh cilantro
- Crack the eggs in a bow and add salt and a splash of water and whisk vigorously until foamy.
Place a large non stick skillet, or my preference, a 10 inch nonstick crepe pan, over medium low heat. Add the butter to the pan and swirl to distribute evenly. Add the corn and saute for a minute or two and the spread the corn evenly over the surface. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the surface and tilt the pan so the egg mixture covers the entire surface of the pan. As the eggs begin to cook and firm up tilt the pan so any remaining liquid mixture fills in any gaps.
Place slices of fresh mozzarella over the surface and then spread warm huitlacoche mixture across the center of the omlette. Once the omlette is firm, using a silicone spatula, gently nudge the omlette away from the sides of the pan and fold it away from you over the huitlacoche filling. You can then nudge the omlette over the remaining exposed omlettete and slide the omlette onto a plate for serving.
Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and salsa verde to one side and serve.
Berry season has arrived with bounteous displays of fresh blueberries wherever you turn that are ripe for baking up all those favorite blueberry cobblers, muffins, or tarts.
The muffin recipe that follows is a favorite of mine, adapted from a recipe in Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the Labrea Bakery cookbook, 2000. Light and fluffy muffins busting with blueberries are guaranteed! This is also a reliable master recipe for other fresh berries as well as peaches, pears, or nectarines throughout the summer.
Blueberry Muffins with Almonds, Pecans, or Walnuts
Makes 12 muffins
- ½ cup (3 ounces) whole almonds pecans or walnuts
- 1 cup sugar 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest
- 1 tablespoon pus 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 2½ cups blueberries, divided
For the topping:
- 1 tablespoon egg white
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
- pinch of ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds, or pecan or walnut pieces
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 f / 165 c
Prepare a ½ cup capacity muffin tin, lightly coated with melted butter.
Spread the whole almonds or pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 15 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through to ensure that the nuts are evenly toasted. Remove from the oven and sat aside to cool.
Turn the oven temperature up to 350 f / 175 c
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the almonds, pecans, or walnuts with half of the sugar and process until it’s the consistency of fine meal.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, orange zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low for 2 to 3 minutes, until softened. Add the remaining sugar and ground nut mixture, and mix on medium for 3 or 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing well between each addition. Slowly pour in the buttermilk and mix on medium, just to combine.
Add the flour in 3 batches, turning the mixer off before each addition and mixing on low until just combined.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in 2 cups of the blueberries.
To prepare the topping: in a small bowl whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the almonds, pecan, or walnut pieces.
Fill the muffin tin with batter to the rim. Push the remaining ½ cup of blueberries onto the tops of the muffins. Then spoon about a tablespoon of the topping over each muffin, concentrating the nuts on top of each muffin.
Bake for about 20 to 35 minutes, until the to topping is nicely browned and the muffins are firm to the touch. If the batter has cracked through the topping, gently press it downward with your fingertips to deflate.