Sunday, August 30, 2009

Adult Lemonade

On a vacation in San Francisco a few years ago, some friends who lived there took us to a wonderful Italian restaurant in the North Beach area. My former co-worker use to be a deputy fire chief in the the city and he and his wife obviously knew where to find the good restaurants. We had a delicious dinner and the waiter fawned all over us. At the end of the meal he brought us glasses of chilled limoncello, a delicious lemon liqueur. I had never tasted anything so refreshing after a big meal. It was the perfect ending.Recently I spotted some colorful bottles of limoncello in the local "pop shop" (my father's name for the liquor store) so I picked up a bottle. Coincidentally, later in the week while watching Michael Chiarello on the Food Network, he whipped up a drink utilizing limoncello. It couldn't be simpler and it is a very light aperitif.

Limoncello Spritzer

1 part limoncello
1 part seltzer water

Fill your glass with the limoncello and seltzer water and fill with ice. Garnish with a slice of lemon and sip away.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Holy Cow

I mean Holy Cow in the literal sense. The cow is a holy beast for producing such wonderful things such as milk and cream. I am sharing with you today the most creamy, chocolatey, divine ice cream I have ever tasted. And to think it all started with some milk and cream. Oh yeah, and some chocolate, sugar, eggs and vanilla.

I'm not going to say this was the simplest ice cream I've ever made, because it wasn't. The vanilla ice milk I make for The Husband would fit into that category as it involves no cooking whatsoever. But this...... it was worth every one of the bowls, pans, and measuring cups I had to use to make it. I'm not trying to dissuade you from trying it dear readers. Just know that if you do, you must start it the day before you want to serve it as the custard base must chill overnight to be most effective. So go dust your ice cream freezer off from the top shelf, stick it in the freezer overnight and make the custard and put it in the fridge until tomorrow. Then throw it in the ice cream maker and in 20-30 minutes you will be licking the dasher like a five year old as I was and enjoying every minute of it!

Chocolate Ice Cream
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

2 cups heavy cream, divided
3 Tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
5 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place a medium saucepan over low heat. Add 1 cup of the cream and the cocoa powder into the pan. Whisk mixture briskly to combine, and bring to a boil. Once liquid is boiling immediately reduce the heat to a steady simmer, and whisk constantly for about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and remove pan from the burner. Add the chopped chocolate into the liquid and stir until it is melted and smooth. Next, add in the remaining 1 cup of cream and stir to combine. Transfer all of the liquid into a medium bowl, and place a fine mesh strainer on top of the bowl. Set bowl aside and make the custard.

Return the medium saucepan to the stove over low heat. Add the milk, sugar, and salt into the saucepan. Heat gently until the mixture begins to steam but not bubble. While the liquid is warming, in a separate medium bowl whisk the egg yolks together. Once the liquid is warmed, slowly pour it into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Once the liquid and eggs are well combined, scrape the mixture back into the pan. Place the pan over a medium heat, and stir constantly. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan while you stir. Once the custard has thickened to the point that it coats the back of your spoon, remove it from the heat.Pour the custard through the strainer into the medium bowl of chocolate liquid. When fully combined, stir well and add in the vanilla. Place the medium bowl of liquid in a larger bowl partially filled with ice water to cool quickly. Stir occasionally until the mixture has cooled enough to be transferred into the fridge. Press a layer of plastic wrap on top of the liquid to cover and prevent a skin from forming on the top of the custard. Place the bowl in the fridge and chill for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Once the mixture is chilled, transfer to your ice cream maker. If you find that the custard is too thick to pour, give it a stiff whisk or two to thin it out and then place it in the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Meatball Stroganoff

A few weeks ago I posted about my favorite baked meatball recipe and spoke about their versatility and ease of preparation. Today I will share with you my favorite of all meatball recipes, Meatball Stroganoff.

This was a standard dinner recipe my dear mother would make and I don't know about my two sisters and two brothers, but it was one of my absolute favorite meals. When I was out on my own and starting exploring recipes, I tried beef stroganoff using the sirloin steak with wine and shallots and various other additions but nothing ever tasted as good as this version. It's one of those childhood comfort food/memory kind of things.This dish doesn't make the most attractive photograph, but not to worry, the taste will win you over. My recipe written in my own hand is well worn and includes meatball instructions. As mentioned above though, I use my baked meatballs and then follow the rest of the recipe for the sauce. This can be served over noodles as is traditional for stroganoff, but my mom always served it over white rice (Minute Rice in the day!) and I always serve it over basmati rice. The other tweeks I make to the recipe are that I always put a cup full of frozen peas in at the end and since I've been married, I never add mushrooms or I couldn't get The Husband to touch it with a ten foot pole. Enjoy!Meatball Stroganoff


1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Make meatballs into about 1 inch size and saute in 2 Tbsp. of butter until cooked. Remove from pan.

3/4 cup minced onion
1/2 lb. sliced button mushrooms.

Saute onions and mushrooms in same pan adding more butter if needed.

3/4 tsp paprika
2 Tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Sprinkle flour and spices over the sauteed onions and mushrooms and cook for 1-2 minutes to cook the flour.

1 can beef bouillon or beef consomme
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Add soup and Worcestershire sauce to the flour mixture and stir to combine with onions and mushrooms. Add meatballs back in to sauce and cover and cook at a low simmer for 10 minutes.

At the end, add 3/4 cup sour cream and 1 cup of frozen peas and combine and cook just until heated thoroughly. Serve over wide egg noodles or rice.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Black Box Wines

I'm always so thrilled when I am the recipient of yet another free sample as a benefit of being a member of the Foodbuzz food bloggers community. Today when I got home I found a big box awaiting me with what I found to be the most humorous labeling, as noted below. I love the part about not leaving the box with intoxicated persons. Is our mailman suppose to knock on our front door and do a breathalyzer test before he leaves this package? Well lucky for me, I wasn't home when it was delivered as I was down at the local bar pounding back a few (just kidding, of course!)I have previously purchased Black Box wines and really have enjoyed the Merlot but have never tried any of their white wines so I was looking forward to sampling. And sample I will, as this box is the equivalent of four 750ml bottles of Sauvignon Blanc. As I had my first taste, I noted it to be very light and crisp, and I would say it's on the dry side with a nice fruity flavor but I can't really identify a particular fruit. This is a perfect wine to sip by itself or I think it would be lovely with a light chicken dish or seafood.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Peach of A Dessert

Local peaches are now available at the farmers markets around the area so I grabbed a few today and came home wondering what to do with them. Personally, I think there is nothing better than just slicing them and sprinkling a bit of powdered sugar over them and eating as is. Recently though, I found a recipe I've wanted to try for a skillet cake topped with peaches and a streusel topping that looked great. I'm sure nectarines or any type of plum would work for this recipe as well. This dessert only took about 15 minutes to throw together and it turned out very nicely. It is like a coffee cake only not quite as dense. I think this worked very well in my 8 inch cast iron skillet which is my all time favorite pan in my kitchen.

Peach Skillet Cake

4 Tbsp softened butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease well a heavy 8 or 9 inch skillet. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Sift together the dry ingredients. Beat half into the creamed butter mixture; beat in half of the milk, add the rest of the flour then add the rest of the milk and beat until well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet and spread the batter to the edges of the pan. The batter is very thick so this step took some coaxing. Arrange the peach slices on the top of the batter. Bake for 25 minutes.Topping

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp softened butter

Cut the butter, sugar and cinnamon with a fork until crumbly. After the cake has baked for 25 minutes, open oven and quickly crumble topping over the peaches. Bake for another 8 minutes or until cake is firm and pulls away from edges of the skillet. Serve warm, accompanied by whipped or ice cream.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Perfect Specimens

The first tomatoes from our garden are perfect specimens. They are nearly flawless and such a beautiful color. These ones are called Carolina Golds. I happened to be reading Martha Stewart's blog (I'm helplessly devoted to her), and she posted this yesterday regarding her tomato plants at her New York estate. Now I know Mother Nature has total control over things like blight, but I think The Husband's green thumb is what makes our crop so successful.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Our First Blueberry Crop

Over the last few weeks I have been harvesting blueberries from the two bushes we planted in May. What a surprise to get at least 2 pints from them, when we thought this first year there would be no harvest all. The berries are big, plumb, blue jewels and I'm looking forward to many years of blueberries in the freezer to utilize in new recipes.An old favorite I made this morning was blueberry muffins. This is a tried and true recipe I have been using for years and it never fails to make delicious, moist muffins. I like to get the dry ingredients together the night before as well as the wet ingredients which I stick in the fridge. The following morning I just have to give it all a quick stir up, throw in the blueberries and as fast as you can say "Easy as a Sunday morning", there you have a dozen hot muffins coming out of the oven.Blueberry Muffins
(makes 1 dozen standard size muffins)

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup blueberries (frozen ones work best)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease 12 muffin tin cups. Sift together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a medium size mixing bowl. To that stir in the blueberries and coat with the dry ingredients.

Combine the milk, oil and egg together and pour into the dry ingredients. Mix until combined but do not overmix. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, fill the muffin tins. Sprinkle a small amount of granulated sugar over the top of each muffin. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool at least 5-6 minutes before removing muffins from tins.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Cocktail of Another Kind

On a hot summer day, of which we have many looming ahead of us, there is nothing better than a cold seafood cocktail for dinner. Accompanied by a hard boiled egg, some olives and a piece of french bread, you have a perfect light dinner. My choice for a cocktail sauce is to make my own. I will share with you a delicious easy to make sauce that just takes a couple of minutes to put together and will make whatever seafood you choose extra special.Seafood Cocktail Sauce

1/2 cup catsup
1/2 cup chili sauce
1 tsp. hot sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp. prepared horseradish (less or more according to how hot you like)
2 tsp. lemon juice

Mix all of the ingredients together and let the sauce sit in the fridge for an hour or sauce to ensure all the flavors marry together. Serve with cold seafood such as shrimp, prawns, crab or scallops.