Limoncello

Limoncello and lemons

Everybody knows what Limoncello is. Not everybody knows how it should taste. I don’t. I haven’t been to Italy and didn’t have a chance to get a sip of “as good as Nonna’s” Limoncello. Nevertheless, there is an ideal flavor I am looking for every time I buy a promising bottle of this authentic, imported from Southern Italy liqueur. So far, it’s always been a disappointment. Maybe an authentic Limoncello is about lemon zest, not a lemon? Maybe our local lemons are not good enough?

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Maslenitsa | Crepe Week, Day 3 | Crespelle ai frutti di mare

Crespelle ai frutti di mare | Crepes with Assorted Seafood (Salmon, Bay Scalops, Sea Bass, Prawns), Bechamel, and Asiago Cheese

Crepes — a type of very thin pastry — exist in the majority of world cuisines. Nevertheless, when I discovered Italian crespelle, it was a surprise for me. Italian cuisine is associated with pasta and pizza in my mind, so I assumed Italians would rather use flour for those. While going through many crespelle recipes, it became clear that crepes in Italy are mostly used as a quick version of stuffed pasta. When stuffed, rolled, and baked covered with sauce and grated cheese, they relate to cannelloni. When stuffed, folded into triangles (fazzoletti di crespelle or “crepe handkerchiefs”), and baked with a sauce and grated cheese, they are a shortcut for lasagna, aren’t they?

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Porcini Risotto

Porcini Risotto

Risotto is a quick (25 minutes!) meal to make at home. With mastered cooking method, you can easily make different kinds of healthy and delicious restaurant-quality risotto in a comfort of your own kitchen. Make sure you have the right ingredients! This recipe features whole frozen porcini mushrooms and Italian Superfino Arborio rice. They are available at our local Astin foods stores: Central Market has the rice, and Borderless European Market (BEM) — the mushrooms. The BEM porcini mushrooms are foraged in Lithuania and distributed by AmbeRye (AmbeRye Boletus Mushrooms, packaged 300 g / 10.58 oz).

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Italian Antipasti: Artichokes with Seafood and Mozzarella

Baby Artichokes with Seafood and Mozzarella

Antipasti, or little cold and hot appetizers used to be served before the main course with the intention to whet an appetite. Modern eating habits have changed. A variety of small plates often replaces a complete meal. This warm artichoke and seafood salad with melted cheese is an example of how versatile this traditional combination of ingredients is. Slight preparation modifications and you can serve it as a warm salad or appetizer, or with pasta, or on pizza. No herbs, spices, or other strongly aromatic ingredients overpower the delicate flavors of artichokes and seafood. Moderate seasoning and good extra virgin olive oil are all we need to make this dish shine.

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Rum Baba | Babà al Rhum

Rum Baba

This recipe is based on my Italian friend’s story about Neapolitan Babà al Rhum.

Rum baba is brioche-like rich cake soaked in rum flavored syrup. It can be a large cake or individually portioned little cakes, served with whipped cream and tart fruit. The cake itself is less sweet than brioche, taking into account it needs to absorb a lot of syrup. It is a perfect canvas for artistically balanced flavors the soaking liquid brings into the dessert. That’s why it is important to use high-quality rum for good results.

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Salt Roasted Stuffed Onions

Salt Roasted Onions

In the original recipe, whole onions are salt roasted first. Than, their cooked inner layers are scooped out, chopped, seasoned, and mixed with béchamel (flour, butter and milk) for stuffing. Finally, stuffed onions are baked in salt for the second time for serving.

I experimented with a few different thickening ingredients to replace béchamel — nuts (roasted and salted pistachios and marcona almonds), egg yolk, cheese, and corn starch. Proportions for other thickeners per 1 cup of puree were the following: 1 egg yolk (large egg), or 1 oz of grated cheese, or 1 tsp of corn starch. Each of them slightly affected the taste and texture of the stuffing, and all of them were really good. They turned cooked onion puree into a delicacy comparable with foie gras — sweet onion foie gras.

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4-Pies Pizza

4-pies pizza

I saw this video on Facebook about 4 months ago. It shows this kind of pizza is made at Trattoria Pizzeria La Bufala: it is cross cut at the center, filled with some buffalo ricotta and black truffles, garnished with arugula, cherry tomatoes, and fresh buffalo mozzarella. I liked the idea so much, it had to be recreated in my kitchen! Obviously, in my home kitchen and with the ingredients available in Central Texas, I could only utilize the presentation idea. I refer to this idea as 4-pies pizza, thus the name.

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