Tag Archives: Lemon

Day 40: Homemade Limoncello for the Holidays

Can you believe we are already at the 40-day mark of the Homemade Limoncello making process?  Today I added some simple syrup (see note below) and more vodka, and then it will sit for another 40 days.  My post for Day 1 was on August 16th, and the lemon peels and 100-proof vodka have since been happily mingling inside a gallon jar. I was excited about the Day 1 post not only because I was able to share a recipe that my Mom has fostered for many years, but the chef who created the recipe, Joanne Weir, read AND commented on my post! Needless to say, I was thrilled that one of my favorite chefs took the time to acknowledge my blog.  In case you missed Day 1, limoncello is enjoyed after dinner and served ice cold – it has a strong, bright lemon flavor steeped in smooth vodka.  It’s an honor to be offered a glass of someone’s homemade limoncello – a sign that you are a welcome guest who will be invited back again.

Note: You probably noticed that my limoncello has an amber color; that’s from the type of sugar I used, which is organic and has a blonde color to it.  The flavor isn’t affected, but it doesn’t produce the golden, clear color you are looking for in limoncello; I would therefore recommend using a white sugar for the proper color.  Every day is a learning experience in the kitchen!  The perfectionist in me is reeling from this silly mistake, but I must move on.

I have again included Joanne Weir’s recipe below, but here is another quick break-down of the 80-day process:

Day 1: August 16, 2012
Add lemon peels and vodka to a covered jar, let sit for 40 days in a cool, dark place

Save the lemon juice for later use; after peeling, cut the lemons in half and juice, pour juice into ice cube tray, freeze and store cubes in freezer bag or container.
Yields about 12 ice cubes; one regular ice cube = 2 tablespoons

Need some ideas for using fresh lemon juice ice cubes? Add to water pitcher for instant flavor, add to sauces, or defrost and use when baking or making vinaigrettes.

Day 40: September 24, 2012
Add simple syrup and more vodka to jar, let sit again for 40 days in a cool, dark place

Day 80: November 3, 2012
Strain, pour into clean bottles and keep in freezer (yields 3 quarts/12 cups)

Good News: If you haven’t started your Limoncello for the Holidays, it’s not too late.

In November, I’ll share the final product with you, when our limoncello will be ready to drink – just in time for David’s birthday, too! Are you planning to give some limoncello as gifts? Stay tuned – I’ll also share some resources for decorative bottles.

Eat well and share the love!

Homemade Limoncello, by Joanne Weir (print recipe)
Limoncello must steep for 80 days
Yields 3 quarts

Ingredients:
15 thick-skinned lemons
2 750-ml bottles 100-proof vodka
4 cups sugar

5 cups water

Directions:
Day 1: Wash the lemons well with a vegetable brush and hot water; pat dry. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemon in long, wide strips. Scrape away any of the bitter white pith from the lemon peel with a paring knife.

Combine the lemon peels and one of the bottles of vodka in a large (at least 4 quarts) glass jar with a lid. Cover the jar and store it at room temperature in a dark cabinet or cupboard for 40 days. As the vodka sits, it will slowly take on the bright yellow color of the lemon zest.

Day 40: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and let the syrup boil for 5 minutes. Let the syrup cool, then add it to the limoncello mixture, along with the remaining bottle of vodka. Cover the jar and return it to the cupboard for another 40 days.

Day 80: Strain the limoncello into bottles and discard the lemon zest.

A nice surprise………..Last week I discovered an aspen tree sapling has rooted itself in my flower pot! I have always wanted my own aspen grove (I love the sound when the leaves rustle in the breeze) but never planted any in our yard. Perhaps now we can.

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Homemade Limoncello For The Holidays

I know it’s only mid-August but now is the time to start planning for some Holiday sipping and gifts with Homemade Limoncello. Yes, that’s right, I mentioned the word Holiday!  This recipe is from one of my favorite chefs, Joanne Weir – it was her cooking class in Tucson that introduced me to the finer points of food, and started me on this path. Her limoncello recipe was featured in Fine Cooking magazine (March, 1997) and is still a winner today.  Limoncello comes to us from the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy and is served ice cold as an after dinner drink or aperitif.  The color comes from lemon peels and the flavor is pure lemon steeped in smooth alcohol.  It’s a special treat to be offered a sip of someone’s homemade limoncello after a meal.  Mom makes this recipe often and thankfully she shares her bounty with us, complete with handwritten labels for a personal touch.  The recipe is super simple to make with only 4 ingredients: Lemon peel, good quality 100-proof vodka, sugar and water (simple syrup).  But you will need to wait for 80 days to let the flavors steep, that’s why you need to plan – or at least start thinking about it – now.

You’ll also need a 4-quart/gallon glass container with a lid for this homemade limoncello recipe. Joanne Weir’s recipe is listed below, but here is a quick break-down of the 80-day process:

Day 1: August 16, 2012
Add lemon peels and vodka to a covered jar, let sit for 40 days in a cool, dark place
(Save the juice for later use: after peeling, juice the lemons, transfer juice to ice cube tray, freeze and store cubes in freezer bag or container)

Day 40: September 24, 2012
Add simple syrup and more vodka to jar, let sit again for 40 days in a cool, dark place

Day 80: November 3, 2012
Strain, pour into clean bottles and keep in freezer (yields 3 quarts/12 cups)

I will share my progress with you around the 40-day mark, and remind you that there still may be time to make a batch for the Holidays!   

For a vacation-inspiring post about limoncello, read this Rick Steves’ Europe article; the author’s closing paragraph sums up limoncello with finesse: “Take a sip of limoncello. Smell the aroma of the lemon and see the vibrant color in your glass. Close your eyes and you will be transported back to Italy. Hear the rustling of the leaves of the lemon trees as the breeze comes in from the Bay of Naples. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Take another taste and feel the cold liqueur cool your taste buds. Remember how it was such a welcoming finale to your Italian meal. As you drink in the memories and drink in the liqueur, you will find yourself dreaming of your next sojourn to Italy.”

Eat well and share the love!

Homemade Limoncello, by Joanne Weir
Limoncello must steep for 80 days
Yields 3 quarts

Ingredients:
15 thick-skinned lemons
2 750-ml bottles 100-proof vodka
4 cups sugar

5 cups water

Directions:
Day 1: Wash the lemons well with a vegetable brush and hot water; pat dry. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemon in long, wide strips. Scrape away any of the bitter white pith from the lemon peel with a paring knife.

Combine the lemon peels and one of the bottles of vodka in a large (at least 4 quarts) glass jar with a lid. Cover the jar and store it at room temperature in a dark cabinet or cupboard for 40 days. As the vodka sits, it will slowly take on the bright yellow color of the lemon zest.

Day 40: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and let the syrup boil for 5 minutes. Let the syrup cool, then add it to the limoncello mixture, along with the remaining bottle of vodka. Cover the jar and return it to the cupboard for another 40 days.

Day 80: Strain the limoncello into bottles and discard the lemon zest.

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A note of remembrance: Yesterday would have been Julia’s Child’s 100th birthday, a pioneer in the culinary field. She left her mark on the world with her groundbreaking talents, passion for enjoying and understanding food, by introducing (and demystifying) French cooking techniques to Americans, and with her cookbooks and TV shows. Now that’s a woman I would have loved to share a dinner table with! Here is a funny, endearing re-mix music video that PBS put together in her honor:

Treat Yourself: Drink Lots of Water

I have been depriving myself for no good reason, that’s what I realized the other day.  Adding fruit to my water is something that’s usually reserved for summertime and I am declaring it should be a winter ritual as well.  It may seem ordinary to talk about drinking some water, but why not make it fun since we need 8 glasses for the recommended daily amount?   When we drink enough water we feel better, our skin looks more radiant and we are deeply nourished.  The simple act of adding some thinly sliced cucumber or even a lemon wedge to my water glass makes me happy.  It somehow feels like I am drinking something special and I usually go for refills.  A bonus: the fruit offers some minerals and vitamins and gives you a small nutritional boost.  For a simple treat, make a pitcher of water with sliced fruit – see my favorites below – and keep it in the refrigerator to quench your thirst all day long.  Or if you are hosting a party, set out a large pitcher along with plenty of glasses so your guests can help themselves.

Here are some favorite ways to dress up my water glass any time of the year.  For best flavor, give the citrus slices a gentle squeeze over the water and drop them in:

Cucumber:  Make the slices interesting by running a zester or vegetable peeler (cut 4 strips) about an inch down the sides before cutting.  (Actually a fruit – source of Potassium, Calcium, Iron, Zinc and Vitamins A, C, E & K)

Grapefruit: not your usual suspect for water – imparts a refreshing citrus flavor. (Source of Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium and Vitamins A, B6, C & E)

Orange & Lemon: Bright, citrus flavors – not to mention a beautiful combination of colors.   (Oranges – source of Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc and Vitamins A, B6 & C)

Lemon & Mint: a classic, refreshing combination – make the day of, if left overnight the lemons can become overpowering and tangy.  (Lemons – source of Potassium and Vitamins B6, C & E)

All nutritional information from USDA website – national nutrient database for standard reference

How do you make your water routine more interesting?

Eat well and share the love!


Trevi Fountain – Rome, Italy: A close up of the water surface, with coins at the bottom.

Birthday Epiphany & Chicken Piccata

As you all know, food plays a dominant role in my life memories.  This one is especially important to me because it helped shape my future and become the foodie that I am today.  One year I got a crazy idea and decided to fly out for my sister’s birthday to help her celebrate in person.  Never having tried this for someone else (except David), I thought: I’ll cook Cheryl a meal!  I had just figured out Chicken Piccata at home and deemed it a perfect meal to pull off in someone else’s kitchen.  It was in her kitchen where I realized what a true joy it was for me to cook and share the love with others; a life-changing epiphany that significantly influenced my career path.  I can remember standing in front of the stove while sautéing the chicken, listening to the comforting chatter of family around me and being overcome with a strong joy and happiness in my heart.  I had discovered my passion!  And I was making a meal to show how much I cared about someone, an ultimate expression for me.  It goes straight to my food soul.  While I can’t be there this year to cook Cheryl a meal, this post is in honor of her birthday today.  I am happy to share it with you: Chicken Piccata with Roasted Smashed Potatoes.

For those not familiar with Chicken Piccata, it’s made with tender, thin cutlets of chicken sautéed golden brown and served with a pan sauce made with wine, lemon, capers and butter.  The flavors are rich, silky and bright.  An Italian classic, piccata is traditionally made with veal cutlets; using chicken cutlets appears to be an American adaptation.  The term piccata translates to pounded thin and the traditional cooking method is to dredge the meat in seasoned flour, sauté it in olive oil and make a light sauce from the pan drippings.  I’m a sauce girl so I add chicken broth for more liquid.  And to make it easy to dredge the chicken, I use a small paper bag.   For the two of us, I use one large chicken breast (about .60 lb), cut into four cutlets and pounded thin. 

Capers have a pleasant tartness to them and are fun to cook with.  They are flower buds, usually from the caper plant, and either pickled or salted to use as a garnish or seasoning.  There are four classifications based on size, ranging from 7mm to 14+mm.  The most popular are the smallest buds called non-pareil.  Interestingly, the organic capers that I picked up from the store (pictured here) are from the juniper bush, as listed on the manufacturer’s website.  Using either kind, these little guys are also incredible when fried.  They become crispy, salty morsels that are perfect for garnishing salads and fish.

I saw a recipe for roasted smashed potatoes a few years ago that called for small round potatoes.  They looked scrumptious and just my style but I didn’t have the potatoes, so I filed it away mentally.  While grocery shopping recently I came across small red potatoes labeled as a one-bite variety (about an inch round) and thought they would be a fun side dish for this meal since Cheryl loves roasted potatoes.  Plus, it gave me an excuse to try something new.  Remember how I love anything fried, especially potatoes?  Well, these fit right in; the outside is crispy and crunchy with a slightly sweet, tender middle.  I roasted them in a 375 degree oven (with olive oil, salt & pepper) until tender and smashed them with a sturdy coffee cup (first tried a wide, large spatula and they popped out of the pan), and put them back in a 425 degree oven until they were golden and crispy.  Fabulous!  Garnish with fresh parsley, pepper and sea salt (parmesan would be wonderful as well). They are also the perfect side to serve with breakfast.

Often, our passions are fed when we are happily and completely engaged in doing something we love.  I am glad I was listening to my heart that evening at Cheryl’s because it’s why I’m here today, obsessing about food and sharing my stories with you. In honor of that, Happy Birthday to Cheryl!   Thanks for being my big sister, helping me dream and always encouraging me.

Eat well and share the love…..and follow your dreams.

Chicken Piccata
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two    (April 2011)

Serves two foodies

Ingredients:
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut in four pieces lengthwise and pounded thin)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon each: salt, pepper, dry mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 lemon slices, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons capers
¼ cup white wine
½ cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons flat-leaf parsley
Salt and Pepper

Directions:
Heat the oven to 250 degrees and place an oven-proof serving platter on rack (to keep chicken cutlets warm while making sauce).  In a small paper bag add the flour and spices, mix together.

In a medium skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ tablespoon butter and heat over medium-high heat.  Dredge chicken cutlets individually in flour mixture in paper bag.  Shake off the excess flour and add to the hot pan; sauté the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown and turn over.  Add a drizzle of olive oil around the edge and middle of pan along with ½ tablespoon butter; sauté another 3 minutes until golden brown.  Turn heat off and transfer cutlets to a plate in the warm oven while making the sauce.

Return skillet to medium heat and add the wine and chicken stock to deglaze the pan; cook for 3 to 4 minutes until reduced.  Add capers, 1 tablespoon butter, lemon slices, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Let cook for 2 minutes or until butter is melted, stir through.  Remove serving platter and chicken from oven and pour sauce over chicken cutlets.  Serve immediately.