Tag Archives: Simple Syrup

Homemade Limoncello with Pistachio Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

There’s reason for celebration because my batch of homemade limoncello is ready, just in time for David’s birthday! I started the limoncello on August 16th and it was ready last Saturday (November 3). The recipe is from Joanne Weir and takes 80 days to cure. Made from lemon peels, 2 bottles of 100-proof vodka and some simple syrup, this limoncello recipe is easy to make, yielding crisp and bright flavors. My Mom has been making it for years so it was fun to carry on the tradition with my first batch here. An Italian classic, limoncello is served ice cold and sipped after dinner. I made pistachio chocolate chip shortbread cookies for something decadent and sweet. They offer a buttery, rich texture and pair well with the lemony, smooth alcohol. The shortbread cookie recipe is from Martha Stewart, with an added 1/3 cup each of the nuts and 60% cacao chocolate chips, both chopped. Be sure to roll the cookie sides in sugar (used turbinado for texture).

Speaking of sugar, you may remember from the Day 40 post that I used organic sugar in the simple syrup, which changed the color from the usual light golden (as shown here with Mom’s May vintage) to a tea color. Thankfully the color lightened considerably, but it is still darker than normal. I’m happy to report that the flavor is uncompromised.

The recipe yields 12 cups of lemony goodness. To make the bottle filing easier, ladle the limoncello into a measuring cup with a spout, place a medium funnel in the bottle and pour slowly, leaving an inch of space at the top. I found the long neck (small and large) limoncello bottles with red-capped corks at World Market; they also sell bottles with a clamp stopper, shown here.  Pier1 has some vintage-looking bottles with corks, and Amazon sells the clamp stopper bottles, plus more.
Store the bottled limoncello in the freezer.

Aside from waiting, the only labor involved is peeling all the lemons on Day 1. To recap from my earlier posts, here’s the abbreviated 80-day limoncello process (click on links for blog posts and recipe):
· Day 1: Add peels from 15 lemons to a 1-gallon jar, add 100-proof vodka
· Day 40: Add simple syrup and more 100-proof vodka
· Day 80: Strain mixture and bottle. Store in freezer and serve ice cold in small glasses

You can buy pre-made tags for your limoncello bottles, or quickly make your own:
o    Use beige heavy card stock, cut strips then pieces of the desired size
o    Cut the edges with wavy lines instead of straight 
o    Hole punch the top, use a highlighter to color the outer edge
o    Make horizontal lines inside the color and add a line around the inside edge
o    Finish it off with some interesting yarn (alpaca/wool yarn shown here), ribbon or colored raffia and if desired, make it long enough to tie a bow at the end knot

Done! Bottle tags are ready for use.

I believe a few friends have made a batch of limoncello after I posted and would love to hear how theirs turned out – friends, are you listening? Always love it when you share. How about you, did you start a batch, or have you made some before? Not just for the holidays, limoncello is wonderful on Valentine’s Day, for birthdays (including yours!) or just because.  Do make some, and please share.

Cheers, and Happy Birthday to my man!

Eat well and share the love!

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Memorial Day Dessert: Strawberry Granita with Whipped Cream

Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend – it’s time to start thinking about a menu and isn’t dessert the logical place to start?  We are always full after eating the barbecued and homemade treats during the weekend so I wanted to try something light and refreshing for dessert.  Strawberry Mint Granita with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream is the perfect finish.  It is very simple to make with just a few steps.  Your freezer does most of the work which means you can spend more time outdoors having fun.  This is a surprisingly decadent combination.  When you add the whipped cream to the granita, the whipped cream’s texture becomes like a soft ice cream because it gets slightly frozen!  It’s almost like eating fresh strawberry ice cream but with lots more strawberry flavor.

There are only four ingredients that you’ll need for the Strawberry Mint Granita: water, sugar, strawberries and mint.  I let the strawberries soften in the warm syrup (see below) for about fifteen minutes on very low heat.  Then I puréed it in the blender and strained it through a fine sieve to remove any seeds and large pieces.  That was most of the work and the freezer did the rest.  The recipe is versatile because almost any of your favorite fruit can be used in place of strawberries.  Try experimenting with flavors, like blueberry/thyme, peach/basil or mango/orange.

Granita is just frozen flavored ice and similar to sorbet.  The fruit and simple syrup mixture is frozen in a shallow pan and scraped with a fork to form large ice crystals.  There are many recipe variations and flavors, and I decided to go with the original recipe in my head – make a simple syrup, add fresh fruit, purée, strain, freeze and scrape every few hours.  It was that easy.  I of course had to add a twist to the simple syrup and infuse it with mint.  It is super easy to make.  After lightly heating the water and sugar, I added two mint sprigs and lightly mashed them with the back of spoon to release the oils and then let it steep off the heat for about ten minutes.  The mint added another layer of flavor that was just a hint in the background, which I am so fond of. 

At first you may question whipped cream with granita.  I had seen a photo of a fruit granita with this combination and was intrigued about how it would taste.  I was so pleasantly surprised at how rich, creamy and decadent it makes every bite.  I love using fresh vanilla beans for cream dishes, not only for the authentic, fresh flavor they impart but also for the wonderful little black flecks they leave throughout.  The flecks are a wonderful visual reminder of the flavors yet to come.  I didn’t want the vanilla flavor to be too dominant in this recipe so I only used half the bean.  The fresh vanilla bean paste is perfect to use in fresh whipped cream because the pure flavor stands up to the rich, fluffy goodness. 

Here’s to many sweet treats for your Memorial Day Weekend!

Strawberry & Mint Granita with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies, plus extras (makes about 3 cups granita)

Ingredients:
Mint-Infused Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
¾ cups sugar
2 mint sprigs
1 pound strawberries, stems removed and cut into thin slices
Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Half of one vanilla bean
1 tablespoon sugar
Garnish:
Strawberry slices
Fresh mint

Directions:
Mint-Infused Simple Syrup:
Add water and sugar to a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  When sugar is dissolved, turn off heat and add the whole sprigs of mint.  With the back of a spoon, lightly mash the mint leaves to release the oils.  Let steep for 10 minutes.  Return heat to medium-low and add the sliced strawberries.  Stir well and let steep for 15 minutes.

Remove the mint sprigs and transfer the mixture to a blender; purée mixture until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Pour through a fine sieve into a 13 x 9 glass dish.  Press most of the fruit through the sieve with the back of a spoon until just solids are left (be sure to also scrape the bottom of the sieve – where all the good stuff is) and stir to combine.

Cover dish with plastic wrap and freeze mixture for 6 to 8 hours, or overnight.  Scrape with a fork every few hours to form crystals (otherwise it will be a frozen block). 

Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
Add the whipped cream, vanilla bean paste and sugar to a large glass bowl and mix with a hand-mixer on low until soft peaks form, about 1 ½ minutes.  Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.  Can be made one day ahead.

Assemble:
Place some granita in the bottom of a parfait glass and add a good dollop of whipped cream.  Add another scoop of granita and finish with a small dollop of whipped cream.  Garnish with a slice of strawberry and fresh mint.