Thursday, March 31, 2011

Limoncello Part Deux

I loved the creamy limoncello so much, we decided to make regular limoncello. This time we actually bought Everclear and I added an orange to the mix. So back to the zesting! Oh! We changed the amount of simple syrup we added because Everclear is so much stronger than vodka. If you are using vodka, use the creamy limoncello recipe on this site and substitute water for the milk/cream in the simple syrup.


The Zest of 12 Lemons
The Zest of 1 Orange
One Bottle of Everclear

I washed and scrubbed the fruit before zesting
Zest those lemons. Be sure to only get the yellow part and not the white pith. Zest the orange same thing. Place the zest in a container with the Everclear. Place in a dark cool place and wait. Shake every other day. We waited three weeks.

Wow look at all that zest

The zested fruit
I just added the Everclear and it is already yellow!
Simple Syrup

5 Cups of Water
4 Cups of Sugar

Combine and heat until combined. Cool and strain the Everclear lemon mixture into the simple syrup.

The first thing we made with our limoncello - a basil limoncello martini. Yum!

Basil limoncello martini

The bottom line: will I make this again? Yes, I will. I am surprised that I like the Everclear so much in this recipe but I do. Who knew?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Smoked Trout Dip with a Bite

Smoked trout dip with pita bread.
I gave my husband a gift certificate for a grilling/smoking class one year for Father's Day. That class moved his grilling and smoking ability to the next level. He does an excellent job smoking fish. It is also nice every once in a while to have a night off from cooking (and still have great food).
My favorite is smoked trout. As much as I like it right out of the smoker, there is nothing like a smoked trout dip. I love it on pita bread, rye bread, and in the morning on toasted bagels. It is simple to make (at least for me); when we smoke trout, we just smoke an extra trout or two and let it chill in foil in the refrigerator. The next day, we have smoked trout for our dip.
I like horseradish so I developed a dip that has a bite to it from the horseradish. If you don't like horseradish, eliminate it and substitute lemon juice. I like a smooth trout dip (e.g., no pieces of trout). If you like pieces of fish in your dip, just reserve 1/2 of the trout, roughly chop it, and add it with the dill and onion. The dip is supposed to  chill in the refrigerator for the flavors to mingle (insert your version of a Far Side cartoon here), but I start eating it right away.

Smoked Trout Spread with a Bite

8-10 oz (227g to 283 g) of Smoke Trout
8 oz. (227 g) of Cream Cheese, Softened
1/2 Cup (121 g) of Sour Cream
2 Tbsp of Prepared Horseradish
3 Tbsp of Fresh Dill (3 Tsp of Dried Dill)
1/4 Cup (48 g) of Red Onion, Finely Chopped

In a food processor combine cream cheese, sour cream, and horseradish.

Add trout and puree.

Fold in the dill and onion and serve!

Bottom line: Will I make this again? Yes, I will. I really like the bite that the horseradish provides. I use lower fat cream cheese and sour cream; so there is all the flavor and less guilt.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Limoncello Pound Cake

I have been craving lemon lately. Actually, I have been craving lemon since we made the limoncello. I decided to combine my love of lemons with my love of cake. And if I was going to make a cake, shouldn't I go all out and add liquor to the mix? Yes, yes I should. I guess I may have gone a little overboard adding limoncello to the cake, the glaze, and the whipped cream. But I can always make more limoncello. Actually, come to think of it, I am in the process of making more.

This pound cake has a light taste of lemon and is totally addictive. It is super rich and is better the second day. 

Limoncello Pound Cake

3 Cups (375 g) of Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 Tsp of Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp of Salt
1 Cup (227 g) of Unsalted Butter
3 Cups (675 g) of Granulated Sugar
6 Large Eggs
Lemon Zest from One Large Lemon
1/4 Cup (60 ml) of Limoncello (Creamy or Regular)
1 Cup (250 ml) of Buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 325F/165C/Gas Mark 3. Grease a 9 or 10 Cup Tube Pan (3 L Tube Pan).
Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl beat together butter and sugar.

Mix in the eggs one at a time. If you are using a mixer, mix the remaining ingredients by hand. Stir in the lemon zest and limoncello. Gently stir in the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk.

Once combined, pour into the tube pan and bake in the oven for about 90 minutes.

Do not open the oven for the first 60 minutes but start checking the cake after 60 minutes of baking. The cake is ready when the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Let cool 10 minutes, take a knife around the edges, and remove from pan.  At this point glaze the cake.


1 Cup (113 g) of Powdered Sugar
1/4 Cup (60 ml) of Limoncello, Creamy or Regular
2 Tbsp of Fresh Lemon Juice

Mix the ingredients together and pour over still warm cake.

Limoncello Whipped Cream

If you really want to take this up another notch, top with limoncello whipped cream.

1 Cup (250 ml) of Heavy Cream
2 Tbsp Powdered Sugar
2 Tbsp of Limoncello, Creamy or Regular

In a large bowl, beat together until fluffy.

The bottom line: Will I make this again? Yes, yes I will. Probably not until this summer. Well, not until the next bottle of limoncello is ready. Well, the next bottle is almost ready. I predict I will make another one before the end of April.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Smoked Trout

I love smoked trout for oh so many reasons. One of the biggest reasons - this is my husband's dish. He does the prep work and the smoking and all I do it enjoy. His trout has gotten better over the years. Brining the fish adds a lot to the final dish. We brine in different liquids; a water, sugar and salt brine is a good brine to start with. We also use different wood chips and seasoning and herbs. What doesn't change is using a brine, chunk charcoal and indirect heat. It makes a difference.

Trout Brine

Whole Trout
Water to Cover the Trout
1/4 Cup of Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup of Sugar

Brine trout for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. The longer you brine the fish, the better. 

Trout Prep

4 Sprigs of Thyme Per Fish
Lemon Pepper

Use toothpicks to hold trout open. Sprinkle with lemon pepper and stuff with thyme sprigs.

Smoking trout
Indirect heat is best for smoking trout

Grill Trout

Soak wood chips in warm water for 20-30 minutes. Light charcoal chucks and allow to get red hot (e.g., build a solid bed of coals). Place trout flesh side down on grill. Put soaked wood chips in smoker and close grill. Smoke trout for 45 minutes to an hour depending on the heat of the fire and proximity of fish to the fire. Once the trout is done, either remove skin and bones and eat or wrap in foil and allow to cool in the refrigerator.
Finished smoked trout
Bottom line: Will I (well actually Steven) make this again? Yes, yes he will. This dish is enough to make me want to grab my fishing pole and go fishing. We are looking for people out there who want to trade fresh caught (cleaned) fish for smoked fish.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Seared Ahi Tuna

Seared Ahi
 This is a quick last minute meal. The tuna takes less than a minute to sear on each side. Served with a salad, it makes a mice meal. The critical piece to this recipe is fresh sashimi grade ahi. I like to go to Whole Foods to get my ahi. I justify the cost of this dish by looking at what it would cost if we ordered it out. Like most of the dishes I make, this can be easily changed by switching the bread crumbs with a different seasoning. Or marinating the ahi in a mixture of oil (vegetable, sesame, or peanut), soy sauce, and rice vinegar.

Seared Ahi 

1 Pound (454 g) of Ahi Tuna (Sashimi Grade)
Salt and Pepper, To Taste
3/4 Cup (42 g) of Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs or Panko
3 Tbsp of Vegetable or Canola Oil

Cut the ahi tuna into two pieces and salt and pepper the pieces. Place bread crumbs in a bowl and dredge the tuna in the bread crumbs.

Pour oil into skillet and heat on high. Once the oil is hot, sear the ahi for 45 seconds on each side. Bottom line: Will I make this again? Yes, I will but I will marinate it first. I think the marinate adds a level of flavor that was missing.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Birthdays are a big deal in our family. One of the perks: the birthday person gets to pick his or her cake. Well, it's my birthday and my turn. The problem? I could not figure out what I wanted. Last night, I still hadn't figured it out. I was learning towards something lemony. This morning I woke up and the house smelled like Lucky Charms baking (have I ever smelled them baking? No. But this is how I think they would smell). My first thought was oh no- what is Katie making? My second thought was - I want a mint chocolate chip ice cream chocolate cake.  Why not go all out and cover it with a chocolate ganache? The big debate I had was whether or not to add peppermint schnapps to the ganache. I decided to throw caution to the wind and add the schnapps. What can I say? I live life on the edge.
Thankfully, Katie was only making kettle corn microwave popcorn (it smells way better than it tastes). After telling everyone good morning and receiving birthday wishes, I was off to the grocery to get all of the ingredients for my cake. (Yes, I make my own cake; that way I get the cake I want).  In a mad rush I made the two round cakes, because the cakes needs to cool completely before I add the ice cream layer.
I decided to cut a couple of steps out by using  a dark chocolate fudge cake mix for the basis of the cake. I quickly oiled and floured the pans and I was ready to go! Note to self, don't flour the pans in front of an open window when it is windy outside. Now there is a nice coating of flour on the counter tops.

Chocolate Cake

1 18.25 oz. (517 g) Box of Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
1 3.9 oz (110 g) Box of Instant Chocolate Pudding
4 Large Eggs
1 Cup (242 g) of Sour Cream
1/2 Cup (125 ml) of Warm Water
1/2 Cup  (125 ml) of Vegetable Oil
1 1/2 Cups (240 g) of Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 325F/165 C/Gas Mark 3. Oil and flour two 9 inch cake pans.

Place all of the ingredients (except chocolate chips) into a mixing bowl and blend for 1 minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl and blend for 2 more minutes. You want the batter to be thick and completed blended.
Gently fold in chocolate chips.

Place into prepared pans and bake for 30 to 33 minutes.  The cakes are done when they start to pull away from the sides and the center of the cake springs back when you press on it with your finger.
Let cakes cool in pans for approximately 20 minutes and run a knife around the edge. Carefully remove from pan by inverting. Completely cool cakes.

Ice Cream Layer

1 Qt. (.95 L) Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Melt ice cream in microwave in 30 second increments until it is easy to work with. Spread an ice cream layer on the top of one of the layers and then cover with the second layer.

Place in freezer and freeze solid. This should take at least two hours (or more).

Note- If I had had more time, I would have made the ice cream layer by placing a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the cake pan and covering with a thick layer of ice cream (using the entire quart) and freezing it solid (at least 6 hours). I would then remove the ice cream layer from the pan and removed the parchment paper.  Volia! A perfect ice cream layer. But I didn't have that kind of time.

Peppermint Schnapps Chocolate Ganache

3/4 Cup (185 ml) of Heavy Cream
8 oz. (226 g) Semisweet Chocolate, chopped
2 Tablespoons of Peppermint Schnapps

Heat cream in a saucepan (do not boil). Place chopped chocolate in a medium size bowl.
Pour hot cream over chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted (don't worry- it will get thicker).

Pour in schnapps. As it cools it will get thick enough to spread. Let the ganache stand at room temperature or chill (if you are in a hurry) until it is spreadable. Guess what? I am in a hurry so in the refrigerator it goes!

The last step is to take the cake out of the freezer and cover in ganache. It is now ready to cut and serve!

The bottom line: Will I make this again? Oh yes, yes I will. Katie is already dreaming up the flavor combinations that she wants for her birthday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto
It took me years before I made risotto; I was intimidated. Once I made it, I wanted to kick myself for not trying it earlier. It is easy to make. There are a couple tricks to good risotto: (1) use the correct kind of rice: Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano; (2) slowly add heated broth to the rice; and (3) quickly saute rice before adding the broth. I do not stir my risotto constantly and it still comes out creamy and wonderful. When I made this for dinner, we ate it as our entire meal. Later, I felt guilty for not serving it with a vegetable or at least a salad. Well, there is always next time.

Mushroom Risotto

4 Tbsp of Olive Oil
5 Cloves of Garlic, Sliced
3 Leeks (135 g) Thinly Sliced
Salt and Pepper, to Taste
8 oz. (225 g) Fresh Mushrooms, Sliced
1 Cup (250 ml) of Whole Milk
1/4 Cup (60 ml) of Heavy Cream
4 Cups (1 L) of Vegetable Stock
1/4 Cup (29 g) of Grated Parmesan Cheese

Leeks and mushrooms

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Sauté leeks and garlic in olive oil until the leeks are tender and the garlic is starting to brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add mushrooms and reduce heat to low and cook until mushrooms are tender. Increase heat to medium-high and add rice, sauté for one minute.

In a separate saucepan heat vegetable broth.
Pour the milk and cream into the skillet with the mushrooms and leeks and heat to a simmer.

Stir the heated vegetable stock into the skillet one cup at a time.

Wait until the stock is absorbed before you add another cup. When the rice is tender, serve hot, topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

The bottom line: will I make this again? Yes, I will. It probably won't be exactly the same risotto, and that is what is wonderful about risotto, its flexibility. This time I used baby portabellas; next time I might use shiitake, button, or cremini mushrooms (most likely whatever looks good). I can add 1/2 cup of wine (and decrease the broth or eliminate the cream). I can use chicken broth instead of vegetable broth. This summer, I will probably add a couple of tablespoons of fresh herbs after I take it off the heat and before I top it with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Corned Beef Hash

What do with the leftover corned beef and potato pancakes from your St. Patrick's Day dinner? That's easy- corned beef hash. What's different about this hash is the corned beef is in chunks and not ground. I don't like the texture of ground up corned beef. I also don't like corned beef from a can. I do, however, like this corned beef.

Corned Beef Hash

2 Tbsp of Vegetable or Canola Oil
Cooked Potato Pancakes Cut into Pieces
Cooked Corned Beef Cut into Small Cubes
1/4 Cup (60 ml) of Heavy Cream
One Large Egg per Person

Pour oil into a skillet and heat on medium-high heat. Add potatoes to skillet and fry until browned.

Meanwhile fry one egg per person. I like mine well done.
Once potatoes are browned, add corned beef and fry until heated through. Lower heat and add cream. Cook one minute. Put hash into a bowl and top with egg.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Corned Beef and Cabbage Cooked in Beer

My St. Patrick's Day dinner
I love corned beef and cabbage. This is an easy recipe that make a flavorful broth. It does take some time because corned beef is a tough cut of meat. When I researched this dish, I was surprised that it is not a traditional Irish dish. It is a traditional Irish-American dish. It certainly is a tradition for my family.
The corned beef is cooked for hours in beer. So the beer you chose is critical. I really like the seasonal Irish Ales for this dish. The flavors in the Irish Ales really go with the corned beef pickling spices. Not to mention your house will smell divine!

I used Samuel Adam's Irish Red. I also recommend:  Boulevard's Irish Ale, Conway's Irish Ale, Brian Boru Old Irish Red, Casco Bay Riptide Red Ale, Diamond Bear Brewing Company's Irish Red (year round), and McIlhenney's Irish Red Ale (year round). If I left off a beer you think would work well in this recipe, please let me know in the comments.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

2-3 Pounds (1-1.5 kg) of Corned Beef
36 oz. (a little over 1L) of Irish Ale
1 Tsp of Dry Mustard
3 Sprigs of Thyme
3 Carrots (105 g), Peeled and Chopped in Large Pieces
2 Potatoes (400g), Peeled and Cut in Quarters
4 Cabbage Quarters

Place corned beef (rubbed with spice packet), in a large pot and pour in beer.

Add the dry mustard and sprigs of thyme and  water so that the corned beef is covered in liquid. Simmer for 90 minutes.

Add carrots and potatoes and cook for 30 minutes.

Add cabbage, cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes until the cabbage is tender.

Once the cabbage is tender, remove the corned beef and slice. Serve with cabbage, potatoes and carrots. Serve with mustard and horseradish, if desired.

Bottom line: Will I make this again? Yes, I think the beer makes an incredible broth. Next time I am going to brine the corned beef myself.