Limoncello

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beverages / fruit / In the Bar / In the Kitchen / liqueurs

I always have a citrus-cello project in the works. It is the final resting place for all the excess citrus…we grow and gather. Limoncello is an Italian digestivo, that is most popular on the Island of Capri…but can be found all over Italy, and now the States as well. It is a delicious lemon liqueur, and has so many uses beyond drinking. Although making this takes passive time, it’s really easy…and makes a wonderful gift. Start now for the holidays.

You need lots of lemons, mostly the peel, but also some juice.

Waste not, want not; so her are some ideas for the rest of the lemon:
Cut in half, pour some salt on it and tame your elbows (Barbra Streisand does it and so should we).
Juice the lemons and make the required sugar syrup in advance (but keep it in the freezer, so it doesn’t get weird).
Make lemon curd…better yet, make lemon chicken…ooh what about lemon bars? Those are my fave.

Back to the recipe. Wash and dry about 10-15 lemons. The lemons should be unwaxed. Remove the peels. Now, this is very important…you do not want the pith. That is the white stuff that hugs the peel like a preschooler hugs his mom on the first day of school. Remove it all…you only want the yellow part. The pith is bitter and is not good for your end result. Place all the peels in a large glass or ceramic jar with a tight fitting lid. Pour 1 bottle of vodka or grain alcohol over it. You do not need expensive vodka for this, you want the alcohol content, but the theory is that you will be changing the flavor of it, so don’t break the bank on this one.
Put the top on the jar, date it, and put it away in a cool dark place for a minimum of 2 weeks but as long as 3 or 4 months. I tend to steep mine for a long time; mostly because I forget.
When you see that all of the lemon peels have lost their color and/or it’s been at least 2 weeks you can move onto the next step.

In a heavy saucepan place 3 cups of water, 1/2 cup of strained lemon juice, 3 cups sugar and 3 Tbs honey. Boil over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and mixture is clear. Don’t let it go too long and get thick and gooey. Let cool.

Pour the syrup into your glass jar with the lemon peels and vodka. Cover and let steep for another week (or longer if you have the time). When you are ready to bottle your limoncello, strand the liquid using cheese cloth or fine sieve. Squeeze all that you can from the peels and then throw away (or roll in sugar and dehydrate for a sweet and boozy garnish). Bottle the liquid in clean jars and seal tightly.

Like revenge, this is best served cold…store it in the freezer.

Gingerbread Marshmallows

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candy & chocolate / desserts & sweets / In the Kitchen

Roasting marshmallows is a year-round sport in my house. Sometimes, I just turn on the stove burner, load a fork, and fire away. Normally, eating ‘mallows out of hand is not my thing…I like a charred exterior and molten center. I do make an exception with these, as they are so good au natural, lightly toasted and dipped in chocolate, or as a float on your favorite hot beverage {even tea…especially tea}.

Gingerbread Marshmallows
3/4 oz gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbs molasses
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground clove
2 egg whites
Put sugars in a saucepan. Add 1/4 cup water to make a mixture that looks and feels like wet sand. What is most important is that all sugar has the same amount of moisture. Add molasses, salt, ginger, cinnamon and clove, and place over low heat. Cook until it becomes a sugar syrup of 235-240 degrees. It should have the consistency of corn syrup.

Meanwhile…place 2 room temperature egg whites into the bowl of your mixer. Add the salt .
Prepare gelatin. Place 1/2 cup water in a bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water. Let bloom.

Once the sugar syrup is ready, turn off heat and let sit for a couple of minutes…not too long. Start your mixer on low and get the whites to foamy. Mix the gelatin into the sugar syrup and stir until melted completely. Bring the saucepan over to the mixer and turn it to high. Slowly pour the sugar syrup into the bowl, careful not to hit the whisk attachment. Leave on high and mix until the mixture is warm, but full volume and comes to a peak. While it is still warm, pour into tin or pan. Sift powdered sugar on top. Cut into squares and store in airtight container.
These are yummy tossed into a cup of hot cocoa and a real grown up treat when toasted and sandwiched into a s’more.

Artichoke Stuffed Artichokes

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In the Kitchen / rice & grain / vegetables

When it starts to warm up, and spring is in full swing, we dine alfresco. Our tiny house doesn’t have a dining room, and our “table for two” is never large enough for the number of people eating on any given day. So we take it outside.

Eating outside is wonderful but has some drawbacks; like keeping hot things hot. This is why I shift my cooking to things that are best served at ambient temperature. Unless we have cocktails prior to dinner; because if we have cocktails, then no one really notices that the steak is a bit cold.

One of my favorite dishes is this artichoke stuffed artichoke salad. It is very simple, and is a wonderful way to use up those half-full jars of pickled and marinated veggies in your fridge.

-Wash and trim artichokes and place them in either a steamer or a pan/pot of water with a lemon or two squeezed in it. Don’t fully immerse the artichokes, but use enough water that it won’t evaporate completely before the artichokes are cooked. Place on medium heat and cook covered until you can easily pull a leaf off. Remove from heat, drain and let cool.
-Cut the artichoke in half and use a spoon to remove and discard the chokee {the part that has those hairy bits}. Lay the artichoke halves on a platter face up {or alternatively, you can brush with oil and char on the grill, then place on a platter}. Dress with a bit of your favorite vinegar and olive oil. Set aside

-In a large bowl combine your salad ingredients. I like to use, canned artichoke hearts, tomatoes, roasted peppers,red onion, celery, olives, fresh bell peppers, and any cooked rice or barley or grain I have in the fridge. You can use virtually anything you have hanging in the fridge or pantry. Toss together with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and place a generous scoop into each artichoke half.

-Serve cold or room temperature