I’ve been cooking, a lot. My husband encourages this by opening the wine or mixing a cocktail for me while we concoct our dishes. Recently though, he’s taken on a little mixologist hobby – Limoncello!! We have a great affection for this sweet, syrupy, flavorful liqueur since being given a generous bottle the night we got engaged in Italy at a restaurant called Le Grotte in Rome, near the Spanish Steps about a decade ago. Our waiter was so excited about the event that he let us sit there with our Limoncello well after the restaurant closed – how we got back to our hotel is still a bit of a mystery.
The making of the Limoncello is not a stealth process. First the procurement of ten organic (a must) lemons. Then to find olive leaves (we found these on Amazon – shocking, I know). Then the pure alcohol (see picture below) in Florida we could only find 75% alcohol but in NYC we were able to find 95%. Note that the proof is half the alcohol content.
First to peel the lemons. We have a super sharp peeler that we bought in Germany, it grabs just the top yellow rind and not the bitter white pith which you want to avoid. The peel and olive leaves (about 10) now marinate in the fridge in 25 ounces of the alcohol for 30 days. We do this in a 132 ounce Mason jar. After 30 days we add a cooled simple syrup (2lbs of sugar and 1.5 quarts of water-now you know why we use such a large mason jar). It again rests for another 30 days before being strained via a sieve into whatever bottles you choose (see our cool bottles below).
Limoncello makes for a great gift when visiting friends or for a finishing touch after a great dinner or just because it’s 2020!
We’ve recently tried the same recipe with oranges and tangerines (and we added fresh vanilla beans to make an adult creamsicle…) it was de-lish!
Sometimes you just need a steak. Simply grilled, with a rich porcini sauce on the side – to make it just a little fancy. My hubby won the on going battle of filet mignon vs. ribeye tonight, so this tender little beauty was prepared by him with the porcini recipe from a great chef we know. Pro-tip – bring steak (and any other meat you’re preparing) to room temperature before cooking. This will result in more even cooking and a juicier end product, I promise!
Ingredients for Porcini Sauce: 1/2 tablespoon of rehydrated porcini mushrooms 1 teaspoon of truffle oil (liquid gold!) 1/2 cup heavy cream Sale & pepe!
In food processor pulse rehydrated mushrooms (dried porcini soaked in hot water for about 15 minutes then removed from water) until you have a mushy consistency. Add porcini and other ingredients to saucepan and heat through on low flame, careful to not burn. You can add/subtract ingredients to your liking (I love to “tweak” a recipe!)
One good thing to come from spending the pandemic in Clearwater has been a resurgence in my affinity for gardening. As life changed for me over the last two decades, I went from a big house to a smaller house to a big apartment to a pied-à-terre in Queens. Appropriately my garden shrunk to accommodate these spaces. Our cozy beach condo allows for a patio garden and tons of indoor plants (according to some people, I may be morphing into the “crazy plant lady”). Regardless, I have daily access to fresh herbs steps away from the kitchen and I love it. I encourage you to have at least one herb plant, maybe on a windowsill – I promise it will spark some creativity and maybe even nudge you towards cooking something unplanned and delicious. Pesto? Sage Butter? Mint Jelly?
My favorite trip of all time was visiting Rome. It had been my “bucket list” trip and it exceeded unrealistically high expectations by leaps and bounds. Only better than the food, scenery and people was getting engaged to the love of my life a few doors from the Spanish Steps. To say we ate our way through Italy would be a gross understatement. The pasta, the roman artichokes, the gelato…For now all we can do is sit and wait for 2020 to be over and hopefully we can start exploring again. In the meantime, I dream of the food in Italy and try to recreate some of it. Presenting you with homemade sundried tomatoes alla Sacco.
Ingredients: 1 pound ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and cut in half. Then slice each half into 3 slices. 2 whole, crushed cloves of garlic (just because) Kosher salt Fresh cracked black pepper Good quality EVOO (enough to cover all the goodies once in a jar)
How To: Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Put prepared tomatoes onto a wire rack and place rack on baking sheet. Sprinkle salt & pepper over tomatoes. Bake tomatoes for about 4 hours. Remove from oven and let cool. Put tomatoes and garlic in jar, top off with EVOO. Let sit for about a week and then mangia!
With everything slowing down there’s tons of time for recipes that need tons of time. And what better example than pickling! I received this recipe from a colleague and have tweaked it along the way. I’ve tried pickling a few different things based on what I can find fresh at the local farmer’s market. The most popular are the pickled cucumbers, super crunchy and tasty. You can up the amounts of garlic, onion and dill to taste – you’ll figure it out along the way. The peppers make a great addition to a charcuterie alongside some cheese and prosciutto. I use the largest bell jar I can find, the seal keeps the pickles from getting mushy.
Ingredients for Brine: 4 cups water 2 cups white vinegar 2 tablespoons of kosher salt A huge bunch of dill coarsely chopped 1 teaspoon of sugar or sugar substitute Put all ingredients in pan, stir together, bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let brine cool to room temperature.
Goodness for the Jar: Mini cucumbers – I like to slice in half, but you can quarter or make discs A bunch of garlic (to taste) skins removed and crushed (like 2020) 1 white onion sliced A handful of black peppercorns
Fill jar with brine after all ingredients are packed in there. Let it sit in fridge for 10-14 days before eating every single one!
The battery on my watch died on March 8, 2020, the day before I was heading to Chicago for our first conference of what was supposed to be a jam packed, busy, great year. It was that evening that my phone rang (setting the stage: it’s a Sunday night, it’s already dark, bags are packed and I’m ready to go) it was senior management, calling everyone on my team, informing us that our conference which was to kick off on Wednesday would be cancelled due to COVID fears. What would follow would be the cancellation of all of our events, travel, gatherings (like everyone else in the world). So, with much more time on my hands, and no travel for the foreseeable future, I took to the kitchen.
I’ll use this blog, which has been dormant for quite a while to share some recipes, pictures and cooking advise.
Let’s start with my abundant bounty of basil. Apparently basil does not love the super hot temperatures of Florida. So my spoiled little plants come in and live in my bright, air conditioned kitchen. Now, before I share my “recipe” know that I never measure, always use whatever good, fresh ingredients I have on hand. That said, here’s how you can make a great pesto.
4 cups of Fresh Basil (to see how to properly harvest your basil, I recommend this link: https://youtu.be/Kn0Y4xoMApU) 1 cup Shredded Parmigiana Cheese 2 cups High quality EVVO 1 Cup Nuts (Pine nuts are preferred if you can find them, but you can use walnuts or pistachios) Garlic (use as much or as little as you like) Salt & Pepper to taste
How to pull this together:
In a food processor blend up garlic and nuts – pulse until very fine
Add basil, cheese, EVOO, salt, pepper – Pulse until consistency is loose, add oil as needed
Taste final product and season with additional salt, pepper or garlic as needed. If mixture is too thick add additional EVOO
I like to use small (4 ounce) mason jars that I freeze. I can pull out just the right amount or you can freeze even smaller portions in ice cube trays and freeze (just pop out what you need)