Cooking with Limoncello

May 25, 2011 Appetizer, Dessert No Comments

Out with the old, and in with the new. Not only is that my motto for New Years resolutions and spring cleaning, it also applies to my annual limoncello bottling! Every year at this time I start the bottling process of my home made ‘cello (fondly called Domenicello) that has been sitting in a large mason jar, infusing in a dark basement cabinet for the better part of three months. Not that any of last year’s batch goes to waste. It’s all good to the last drop! But with the new annual batch ready to be poured (this year I went with orangecello), I tend to look for ways to help use up whatever is left of the previous year’s batch…and, of course to help make room in the freezer for the newbies.

Limoncello (or whatever other flavor ‘cello that you prefer) is traditionally used as either a palate cleanser before your meal or as an after dinner digestivo to help your system digest your meals. It has also become a key ingredient in trendy cocktails as of late. But did you know that you can also include limoncello in many different food recipes? From appetizer to dessert, limoncello can be incorporated in recipes that traditionally use lemon juice.

When using limoncello in a recipe, the first steps that you need to figure out is how you plan to use it and to what crowd you are serving it. Limoncello is, of course, an alcohol-based liqueur. Serving it straight up, preferably chilled, over vanilla ice cream or chopped fruits will add a nice lemony zing, but keep in mind that these dishes should only be served to grown-ups. If you’re looking to incorporate it in a chilled dish for a mixed crowd, you can first simmer the ‘cello in a sauce pan to burn off the alcohol until it reduces into a syrup. You can then drizzle the chilled (but not frozen) syrup over fruits and berries or incorporate it in a cake or as a drizzled icing. Both the straight and reduced versions make for great additions to seafood and chicken marinades (again, depending on your crowd). If you are heating limoncello, say in a sauce or as a demi-glace, the alcohol will burn off.

While doing my research, I found some really interesting recipes that use limoncello, such as risotto, gelato, tiramisu, and various cakes and cookies (many of the recipes and all other things limoncello-related can be found at limoncelloquest.com). I’ve decided to try two dishes this week that will use limoncello as an ingredient.

First up is Limoncello Shrimp. I had the idea in mind as an appetizer and found what looks to be the perfect recipe at crostiniandchianti.blogspot.com. It incorporates all of the key ingredients that I would use, so why re-invent the wheel? Well, I gotta tell you…this recipe blew me away. It was very easy, quick and made one of the tastiest shrimp dishes that I ever had. This definitely ranks as one of my all time favorite appetizers.

Limoncello Shrimp
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon thyme, you could use any green herb that isn’t real strong flavored
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup Limoncello
1 tsp butter
In a saute pan heat oil. While oil is heating mix the garlic, lemon zest and thyme together. When oil is hot but not shimmering add the garlic mix. Let it heat up until it becomes aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp. Toss the shrimp to coat with garlic mixture. Cook until shrimp is cooked 3 to 4 minutes depending on size. Remove shrimp from pan. Wipe out any burned garlic. Add Limoncello to pan and let it reduce to about 1/2 the original amount. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Drizzle this over the shrimp. The sauce will be very sweet but when it is added to the shrimp the flavors will balance out.

Next up is a Limoncello Mascarpone Berry Trifle for dessert. I started this recipe by combining mascarpone and confectioners sugar in to a fluffy cream that can be served as a dip along with fruits (this is a traditional Italian treat). I added limoncello to the mix as well. The limoncello was reduced to burn off the alcohol (you can use the limoncello straight up if you wish). I then took the cream, classic yellow cake and berries and built them up as layers to make a trifle. If you want to just serve the mascarpone cream (with or without the limoncello) along with fruit for dipping, I suggest you cut the following measurements in half, as this recipe will give you a good amount of mascarpone cream. Also, the addition of the cool whip, or fresh whipped cream, gives it more of a fluffy texture and cuts back on the limoncello taste. Try it first without the cool whip, then add as needed or desired.
Limoncello Mascarpone Berry Trifle
1 17oz. container Mascarpone Cheese
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1/2 cup limoncello
Up to 1/2 cup cool whip (or fresh whipped cream)
1 package frozen strawberries with natural syrup, thawed
1 box classic yellow cake mix, baked into two 9 inch pans
fresh berries (your choice of raspberries, strawberries or blueberries)
Bake cake in two 9 inch pans according to box directions, let completely cool. Mix together the mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar and limoncello. Taste to see if you like the texture as is. If you want it to be more light and fluffy, fold in up to 1/2 cup cool whip or fresh whipped cream. In a trifle bowl, place one of the baked cakes. Add mascarpone mixture, then add the thawed strawberries and syrup. Add the second cake, topped with more mascarpone mixture, then top with fresh berries. You can also add fresh lemon zest as well.

 

 

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Easter Treats, Part 3: Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

May 25, 2011 Menu No Comments
With just a few days left before the big Easter weekend, we’re going to spend a little Kitchen Time with Emma! This week, Emma is sharing a great recipe that will put those dyed Easter eggs to good use!

Since Easter is right around the corner, I wanted to share a recipe for an appetizer that is delicious, yet easy, and tastes elegant – Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs. If you have kids, you will most likely be making hard boiled eggs in order to dye them anyway. So why not put them to good use? (If you are worried about whether or not it is okay to eat eggs that have been dyed, here is a link about doing it safely.)  http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food/cooking/easter-egg-food-safety
Before I go on any further, I have to admit that as much as I love to cook, I used to struggle with hard boiling eggs. Sometimes they would crack during cooking, and I would never be able to peel the shell off without taking huge pieces of the egg white off along with it. And I would always get the timing all wrong. Just in case you are anything like I was, I am going to share a few tips that I have found helpful.
1) Bring your eggs to room temperature by leaving them out for about an hour before cooking. In case you’ve forgotten to do this, I’ve read that you can place cold eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes in order bring their temperature up.
2) Place the eggs in a pot large enough to hold all the eggs in a single layer and fill with enough cold water to cover the eggs by about an inch.
3) Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and let it cook for about 10 to12 minutes, depending on their size. (I usually use large eggs.)
4) Place the eggs in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.
There are many variations for boiling eggs, but this is the method that I have found to work the best.
SMOKED SALMON DEVILED EGGS
Recipe by Fine Cooking
Ingredients
6 large hard-cooked eggs
4 oz. cold-smoked salmon, very finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs. minced red onion
2 Tbs. capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. packed finely grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
Directions
Peel and halve the eggs lengthwise. Remove the yolks and crumble them into a medium bowl. Add the salmon, 3 Tbs. of the chives, the mayonnaise, onion, capers, lemon juice, zest, and 1/8 tsp. pepper and mix. Mound the filling into the egg whites. Garnish with the remaining 1 Tbs. chives and several grinds of black pepper.
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Easter Treats, Part 2: Italian Love Cake

May 25, 2011 Dessert No Comments

Last week I shared with you a recipe for Strata, which is an excellent idea for Easter breakfast. This week, we’re going the sweet dessert route! Easter is of course known for it’s rich and filling egg and cheese based pies in the Italian American household. My Mom has always been famous for her Easter cheesecakes. She would often make two or three different varieties. My personal favorite is her Italian Love Cake. Although this isn’t her original recipe, it’s one that is always in high demand from family and friends (the recipe is fairly easy to find online, and most versions are almost identical).

There was always something magical about this cake. Aside from the perfect, decadent combination of chocolate cake and ricotta filling, it was the assembly that mystified me. The first layer that you add to your baking pan is the cake batter, then topped with the ricotta filling. But during the baking process, the cheese actually drops to the bottom of the pan, and lifting the cake portion to the top. Magic!  And I’m sure you’ll find the taste of Italian Love Cake to be magical as well.

Enjoy and Buona Pasqua!

1 (18.25 ounce) package chocolate cake mix (Mom recommends Duncan Hines cake mix)

1 2lb container part-skim ricotta cheese

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix

1 cup milk

1 (12 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

 

Prepare cake mix as directed on box. Pour batter into 9 x 13 x 2 inch greased baking dish. Set aside. Combine ricotta cheese, sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Blend well. Spread mixture evenly over the top of the cake batter. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 75 minutes if using a glass baking dish, 90 minutes if using a metal pan. Blend pudding mix and milk until thickened. Blend in whipped topping. Spread over cooled cake.

 

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