Sunday, February 27, 2011

Meyer Limoncello Sorbet

My husband is the real gardener in this family.  He's the one who gets his hands full of soil, and who nurtures our garden flowers, tomatoes and citrus trees.  Four years ago, my husband planted a dwarf Meyer lemon tree in a container.  He has hung Christmas lights on it to keep it warm during winter chilly nights, and he's been known to cover it up to protect it from frost.  For the last three years, our tree has coughed up four or five lemons.  This year, our tree finally came through for us with dozens of lemons.  Craig's work paid off!

If you haven't experienced Meyer lemons, they are much sweeter than the more common Eureka lemon, and they have notes of orange.  I've been busy baking with these, but my first treat I wanted to make was a Meyer Lemon Sorbet.  I realize that for some folks that any kind of frozen treat doesn't ring their bell at a time of year when it's freezing cold.   Eating frozen treats is fine by us, year-round.  I enjoy making sorbets because they are quick to make, and you don't necessarily need an ice cream maker.  

Begin with one cup of Meyer lemon juice (about 3-4 lemons).  Our lemons aren't quite as large as the supermarket's, so I used about 6-7. (If you only have Eureka lemons on hand, that's fine. I'd use half the juice, as I think the sorbet would be a bit too tart.) Zest some of the lemons, until you have about 2-3 Tablespoons, then squeeze the lemons.   Whenever I make sorbets, I like to add alcohol because it tends to act like an anti-freeze. 

I decided that 1/3 cup of limoncello would be perfect!  You can substitute vodka, if you'd like. (Of course, you can leave out the alcohol and your sorbet might freeze more solid. Simply thaw it a bit before scooping.)

I poured the lemon juice through a fine sieve, to remove any pulp or seeds. You also need one cup of white sugar and one cup of water, to make a simple syrup. Let's make sorbet!

Place water, zest and sugar into small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let boil for one minute and then remove from heat. Allow it to cool.You can add the limoncello and lemon juice into an ice bath, which I started to do. Then I decided to just mix the lemon juice and the lemon simple sugar together and I chilled it for a couple of hours, in the fridge.

I do have an ice cream maker, so I poured turned the machine on for about 30 minutes.  The sorbet was slightly thin, and I poured it into a 1-Quarter container and froze it for a couple more hours.

I had made a delicious new recipe for Bolognese sauce, that I served with fresh pasta.  (Recipe coming soon.)  For dessert, the Limoncello Sorbet was a perfect "palate cleanser" and very refreshing.

So far, I have made Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit Sorbet and Strawberry Sorbet with great success.  This sorbet will be on my regular rotation.  I had hoped to serve these in hollowed our lemons, for a more dramatic presentation-- but I decided that would happen another time.  

TASTING NOTES:  The recipes I saw called for as much as 2 cups of lemon juice.  With just one cup of juice, this sorbet packed plenty of citrus punch.  The texture was almost solid frozen, but not quite.  I think the limoncello kicked up the lemon flavor just right.  

A printable recipe card is at the bottom of this post.  Recipes I have yet to share, as soon as I can carve out enough time-- Short ribs and Polenta, Meyer Lemon Pound Cake, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes, Seafood Bisque, Glazed Doughnuts and Slow-Cooker Bolognese.  I'll share these with you as soon as I can!   For now, I'm catching part of the Academy Awards and getting ready for an early work wake-up call!

PS: It snowed here, for the first time in 15 years!  (Like for about 3 minutes and it melted just as fast.)

Cheers from chilly California,


Meyer Lemon Limoncello Sorbet


lemon, ice cream, sorbet, sugar


        See Meyer Lemon Limoncello Sorbet on Key Ingredient.     


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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pork with Paprika, Mushrooms & Sour Cream

California is getting it's fair share of rain, and I'm very happy about it.  I think about our local grower's and how much I'm looking forward to my local fresh Salinas Valley produce.  I'm longing to bite into fresh strawberries, peaches and cantaloupe. But, I know that we still need a lot of water for our crops to be bountiful-- and we've had a couple weeks of 70 degree weather, and that's been lovely.  Given that my friend in Rhode Island is shivering from the heavy snowfall they've had, I don't complain when the skies turn dark and I can  hear the pitter-patter of steady rain.  We're on day two of a four day holiday weekend, and since it's been steadily raining, I want to bake....

...I'm honing my Artisan bread skills.

..I finally took the plunge and learned how to make doughnuts. Yes, they're fried. They're also very good, and I am proud of my will power that I didn't eat more than 1 and half of my another...

I ate mine with cinnamon-sugar.  It was tender and reminded me of churros. It will cost me ten extra laps in the pool, but it was worth it!

I haven't left my house in two days, and I'm fine with that!  Not wanting to go grocery shopping, I scoured my freezer and found a package of pork chops that I had forgotten about.  Then, I remembered a recipe I had bookmarked from "Kalyn's Kitchen".   I've made Chicken Paprikash, ages ago, but it never occurred to me that pork and sour cream would go very well together.   As luck would have it, I had all the ingredients I needed to make a dinner that would be warm, and hearty on a rainy night.  After noshing on a sweet doughnut, I was ready for a good meal-- and I wanted a one-pot meal, since I'd done three loads of pots, pans and tools.

Because I had spent a great deal of  too much time in the kitchen, photographing the bread and doughnut recipe (and I will post those later on) I decided not to photograph how I made this recipe.  Kalyn's photos are so lovely, that I will send you over there if you'd like to see all the steps involved.  Trust me, this is a very simple dish to prepare. 

TASTING NOTES:  I made only two minor changes to the original recipe.  I added a little bit of flour to the seasoned pork, before searing.  I think it helps the sauce to thicken a bit.  I also added a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, in addition to the diced tomatoes.  I didn't have petite diced tomatoes, so you can see them in the sauce, more than Kalyn's version.  I love the richness of tomato paste-- the rest of the recipe, I followed to a "T".   The sauce was rich, with notes of sweet paprika and I like the flavor of caraway seeds.  I used cremini mushrooms and light sour cream.  This dish reminds me of a cross between beef stroganoff and my Austrian Goulash.  I think that pork tenderloin would be the best choice in making this dish, as the pork chops were a teensie tough in texture.  The flavor made up for that, though.  I loved the combination of paprika and sour cream. Oh, so good!

Thank you, "Kalyn's Kitchen" for sharing this recipe.  It's comfort food made simple.  A printable recipe is at the bottom of this post, or go visit Kalyn to see her lovely photos. 

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Cranberry Almond Pound Cake

For as long as I can remember, I've had a love affair with desserts that are flavored with almond.   It might be my German roots, but I have a particular weakness fondness for marzipan.  Whenever I see a recipe that pairs cherries and almond, I usually bookmark it for when that almond craving hits.  I also learned to appreciate that cranberries and almond are another tasty combination, when I found a family favorite recipe for Cranberry-Almond Granola.

Shortly after Christmas, I had set aside the remaining half of a bar of almond paste that I used to make an Easy German Stollen-- I was waiting for an excuse to use it.  I had  good fortune, when one of my favorite blogs that I follow, "2 Stews",  posted a recipe for a Cranberry Almond Pound Cake.   As I began to read the ingredients list, I was pleased to know that I had frozen cranberries (I always keep a few bags of fresh cranberries in our freezer, since they're a seasonal item).  I also saw that this recipe uses Amaretto liqueur, which is a staple in my pantry.   I started to feel my pulse race, when I saw that sour cream is used in the batter, because I love the subtle tang and moisture that it gives to cake recipes. I could almost taste a winning combination of ingredients, and I made the decision to shut down my laptop and bake this-- pronto!  I had everything I needed:

(A printable recipe is at the bottom of this post.)  I measured unbleached all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder.

The first step I took was to measure 1/2 cup of dried cranberries and 2 Tablespoons Amaretto. I heated the Amaretto and dried cranberries in a small saucepan. I let it cool, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has soaked up all of the liquid.

NOTE: The original recipe says to do this 2 hours in advance, I found that the cranberries cooled quite well, in the 20 minutes it took to prepare the cake batter:

Preheat the oven to 325F and prepare your pan with Baker's Joy Non-Stick Spray. Of course you can use good old flour and shortening, but I've never had a bundt cake disaster, ever since I stocked up on this fantastic baking product.

Next: Using my food processor (or you can use a mixer and paddle), I combined the  almond paste, almond extract and sugar until the mixture looked like wet sand.  I like to use LorAnn Almond Bakery Emulsion, because the flavors aren't lost in the baking.  (I also use LorAnn Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor in most of my cakes... I love them!) Of course, you can use pure almond oil-- and if you don't like almond, then use vanilla.

For the batter: Add softened unsalted butter and  mix at medium speed until very fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl with rubber spatula. Add the eggs, one by one, beating until blended. On low speed add ⅓ dry ingredients and ⅓ sour cream; scrape bowl with a spatula. Repeat twice more. Finally beat for 20 seconds, until smooth. 

 Fold in all berries. Fold the batter into prepared pan. Level the top with spatula and tap pan gently to evenly distribute batter into the pan.

 I found that I had extra batter, so I made two small tea loaves, to give to friends.

There is a glaze recipe, but I decided to simply use powdered sugar. 

I toted this cake off to the cooking class that I taught-- sort of an "Amuse Bouche" intro to my students... well, I also didn't want to be tempted to eat more than a slice, as I've lost 20 pounds and plan to keep it that way!

TASTING NOTES:   This is an easy recipe, though there are a couple of steps in hydrating the dried cranberries with the Amaretto and making the almond paste-sugar.  The batter comes together very quickly.
The cake is very moist, and just a little dense-- but not over-the-top.  The flavor of the almonds, I think, could be increased by adding more almond extract. But remember, I'm a lover of anything almond.  I think dried cherries could be used, or really any kind of fruit.  Would I make this again? You bet! My family and friends approved of this recipe. I think you will, too.

Like most of you, I subscribe to a lot of foodie magazines, and I buy more than my fair share of cookbooks. I just love it when I find a recipe that a fellow food blogger has shared, and it delivers as promised.  Thanks, 2 Stews, for sharing this delectable cake!

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day Menu: Sole Almondine, Lemon-Smashed Potatoes & Parmesan Roasted Green Beans

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Tyler Florence.  Yeah, yeah-- he's cute.  But, so is my husband.  That's all that matters, right?  I've hung on to these unposted photos of last year's Valentine's Dinner that I made for Craig for a year!  Why didn't I post these sooner? I meant to.  Alas, I found myself not being happy with the photos of the plated dinner.  I rushed the shots, because...well, it was Valentine's Day and we were hungry.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.   I decided to get over myself, because this dinner was memorably delicious-- and it's time to share the photos whether I like them or not! The real story behind this dinner menu was seeing Tyler Florence make this on one of his Ultimate shows on Food Network.   I was so impressed with the simplicity of all three recipes, that I decided to make this for my man, last Valentine's Day.  As I edited the photos, my taste buds remembered how delicious this dinner was-- and I am definitely going to make this again.  This is easy enough for beginners, and it will impress anyone if you make this:

You want fresh filet of sole. In my case, I used tilapia, because fresh sole wasn't available.  You want white wine-- but I favor Dry Vermouth for cooking.  You also want slivered almonds, fresh lemon, fresh Italian parsley and shallots.  First, I'll show you how to make Tyler's Lemon Smashed Potatoes.

Unlike the tradition way of making mashed potatoes, you use Yukon Gold potatoes. No peeling, no cutting-- put them into a pot, whole and add cream and milk (I used 2% milk). Bring to a boil over medium heat, then add 1 teaspoon of salt. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. NOTE: Cooking times vary-- mine took more like 40 minutes to cook.  Easy!

Remove about 2 cups of the liquid and reserve. Add the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Use a potato masher to break up the potatoes while adding about 1 cup of the reserved liquid, to just 'wet’ the potatoes.Add more, for desired creaminess. Spoon the potatoes into a serving bowl and serve immediately.  NOTE: You can keep the potatoes warm, on very low heat. The extra milk/cream can be added right before serving. Works beautifully!

 After starting the potatoes boiling, I'd move on  to prepping the green beans:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Trim off the tough end of the beans and arrange the beans on a nonstick cookie sheet.Drizzle with olive oil season with salt and pepper, to taste.Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and bake until the cheese melts and forms a crisp shell over the beans, about 10 minutes.Let the beans sit a few minutes for the cheese to cool slightly. Lift the beans out onto a platter and serve.

Back to the fish:

Set a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add the almonds and toast until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and set aside.

Return the pan to medium heat (if you have 2 pans you can work simultaneously at this point, i.e. 2 fillets per pan) and add a 2-count of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to each pan.  Put the flour in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper, to taste. In another shallow dish, whisk together the eggs and milk and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Dredge the fillets in the seasoned flour, then dip them into the egg mixture. Allow some of the excess egg to drain off, then add them to the hot pan.

Cook 2 pieces at a time. Fry for 1½ to 2 minutes, then carefully turn the fish over to cook the other side.With a spoon, baste the fillets with the butter sauce. Repeat basting to ensure the fish remains moist. Once the other side is cooked (about 30 seconds) carefully remove the fillets from the pan to a serving platter.

Once the fillets have been removed the pan, add the chopped shallots and gently saute over low heat until translucent, about 1 minute.Deglaze the pan with the white wine and finish with the lemon juice. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the parsley and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

 To serve, spoon the sauce over the top of the fillets and sprinkle generously with the toasted almonds. (I did this step backwards, but it all turned out fine.)

Serve with chilled white wine and candlelight...

TASTING NOTES:  This menu is one of several of Tyler's Ultimate success in my own kitchen.  Truly, this menu is so easy to make, that you can do this on a work night.  It's pretty fool-proof, and much cheaper than going out on a very busy night on February 14th.   As for the potatoes, they are creamy and delicious!
The lemon zest works well in the potatoes, and as a side dish with fish. I've used this technique to make galric smashed potatoes by adding  whole garlic cloves to the milk and omitting the lemon zest. So good!

 The green beans...  while I didn't get a decent photo of them, they were excellent. C'mon, melted cheese on anything is good!

All three printable recipes are at the bottom of this post.  Tyler Florence-- yes, he's one of my favorite Food Network chefs. 

Made with love by,


Sole Almondine (Tyler Florence)

        <p>This dish is very simple to make, and it&#8217;s a classic dish of quickly sauteed filet of sole (or Tilapia works well) that has been dipped in seasoned flour and egg.  A quick pan sauce made with white wine and shallots is poured on top and ...    

        See Sole Almondine (Tyler Florence) on Key Ingredient.    



Lemon Smashed Potatoes (Tyler Florence)

        <p>A large part of what makes this recipe so good is that you cook the potatoes whole&#8212; no peeling, no slicing.<br />The spuds are cooked in whole milk and heavy creamy, with added fresh lemon zest.  They are creamy and a delicious side dish to ...    

        See Lemon Smashed Potatoes (Tyler Florence) on Key Ingredient.    



Parmesan-Roasted Green Beans

        <p>The photo doesn&#8217;t do this dish justice.  Roasted green beans with lots of melted Parmigiano-Reggiano makes a delicious side dish. We love it served with Sole Almondine and Lemon Smashed Potatoes.</p>    

        See Parmesan-Roasted Green Beans on Key Ingredient.    


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Friday, February 11, 2011

Succulent Scallops in a Carrot, Orange and Cardamom Sauce-- with a Shaved Asaragus Salad

Before I share with you how to make this colorful and delectable scallop dish, I'd like to introduce you to Chef Todd Fisher-- who is the creator of this recipe.

Just look at that smile!  Chef Todd and I share the same home turf-- the beautiful Monterey Peninsula (California). Todd and I have crossed paths over the last decade via our church, friends, local food events and I've been a frequent customer at his restaurants over the years.  He's a genuinely friendly kind of family man, with a fun and outgoing personality...

...and, he loves to be photographed!  Chef Todd was one of the presenters for "Fresh Express" at the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco.  He uses local and fresh ingredients from our Salinas Valley and the Monterey area. Here, he is giving a generous serving of an Herb Salad with Toasted Quinoa and Smoked Pecans in a Cranberry Vinaigrette.   I'm a fan of  Todd's culinary creations, because he really thinks outside the box.   What really stands out about Todd is that he has both passion and a talent for cooking--which is why he is quickly gaining celebrity status in the culinary world.   After a long and successful run as a partner in a local restaurant, Chef Todd has moved into a new direction-- while keeping busy with food events all over the country, and balancing time with his wife and children.  In a quiet little Monterey Peninsula seaside community called 'Sand City', Todd has opened his newest venture called "The Kitchen".

Upstairs, there's a loft with a dining area where customers hire Chef Todd to cater their dinner parties.  He also hosts dinner parties with a prix fixe menu, that anyone can attend.  He's a very busy man, but he also sets time aside to offer cooking classes to aspiring home chefs (like me).   When Todd announced that he would be teaching a 'Valentine's Tribute, Sensual Dinner Three-Hour Cooking Class'-- and I saw Lobster Bisque and Succulent Scallops on the menu-- I quickly paid my $75.00 and I charged my camera battery.

There were twelve students, and I came with my own knife and a very hungry appetite.  Today, I'm going to share with you Todd's recipe for Succulent Scallops and a shaved asparagus salad.  Todd printed this recipe in our local newspaper, so I figured he wouldn't mind if I share this with my blog readers. 

As we arrived for the class, we were warmly greeted and presented with mimosas.  We began by making the seafood bisque (that I will present on a later post)-- the class was very much a "hands on" experience.  

We had three hours to learn how to prepare six dishes, so Todd jumped in and prepared the shaved asparagus salad.  I'm a big fan of roasted asparagus, but I never thought to shave uncooked asparagus, with a vegetable peeler, and to serve it with a vinaigrette! 

The vinaigrette was made with champagne vinegar, a shallot, orange zest, Dijon mustard, sea salt, black pepper, Italian parsley and olive oil-- very simple, very delicious.  He set that aside...

Next, Todd made the Carrot, Orange & Cardamon Sauce.

(A printable recipe card is at the very bottom of this post.)  In a medium saucepan, he combined carrot juice, ¼ cup vermouth, orange juice, lemon juice, shallot and salt, bringing it to a boil over high heat-- then reducing  the heat just enough to maintain a steady boil. The sauce was then cooked until slightly thickened  and reduced to about ½ cup. Last, we whisked in butter one piece at a time, waiting until each piece was melted and incorporated before adding another. (The sauce should be thickened enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon.) Last,  the sauce was reduced to a simmer, whisking constantly, and the ground cardamom was added and removed from heat.  Todd admitted that he recently developed an allergy to shellfish, but that didn't stop him from sharing the secret to perfectly prepared scallops. For some of the students, they were delighted to learn why their past attempts yielded tough and rubbery scallops-- which is, that they were overcooking them. I was once guilty of that until I made this recipe.

Todd showed how important it is to dry the scallops really well, (he seasoned them with just salt and pepper)-- and to get the pan really hot; next he adds olive oil and a pat of butter.  In a matter of about 3 minutes, he had a platter of these gorgeous scallops:

I greedily selfishly wished that everyone had an allergy to these, so I could more. I adore scallops. I truly do. So, now it's time to taste. Chef Todd shows us how the pro's do it-- Begin with two scallops...

...spoon some of that beautiful carrot, orange, cardamon sauce. Do I hear an "ooooh"?  Now top it with some of the shaved asparagus salad.  Do I hear an "ahhhhhhhhhh"?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you perfectly succulent scallops, ala Chef Todd Fisher.  They are tender.  They are so good! Besides the sauce being such a beautiful color, it's light-- the balance of orange and cardamon is perfect with the carrot juice.  This gets about 10 O-M-G's.  I would have never thought of piling the asparagus salad on top, but it works.  There's a gentle bite from the vinaigrette, that balances out the sweetness of the scallops and the carrot-orange-cardamon sauce.  This is so simple to make and  I plan to replicate this for a romantic dinner with my husband, this weekend.  I definitely got my money's worth from this class-- and I even got to go home with extra portions to take home! What a deal!

Other recipes we learned:  Lobster (in this case, shrimp) bisque, sweet potato gnocchi with a divine sauce and perfectly seared and roasted pork tenderloin.  I'll be sharing these very soon....

If you live within a couple hours of the Monterey Peninsula-- or you plan to visit my piece of paradise that I call "home", you might want to check out Chef Todd Fisher's class schedule.   He makes cooking fun!  Believe me, I came home with a very happy and very fully belly of delicious recipes that he served us very generously.  (Psssssssssssst... and he keeps a bottomless glass of wine going for his students, so bring a designated driver.)

Here's the recipe:

Happy Valentine's Day!


Succulent Scallops in a Carrot, Orange and Cardamom Sauce

        <p>Located in Sand City, California, I took a cooking class at &#8220;The Kitchen&#8221; with Chef Todd Fisher.  This colorful and flavorful dish was very easy to prepare, and makes a beautiful &#8220;ta-da&#8221; presentation at the dinner table. The ...    

        See Succulent Scallops in a Carrot, Orange and Cardamom Sauce on Key Ingredient.    


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