Homemade Limoncello… so easy… start a batch now for Spring!

I am taking a brief unplanned diversion from my pizza series (I’ll do my third pizza post next week).  I recently posted a couple of pictures on Facebook of me starting a batch of Limoncello.  I got so many people asking for the recipe that I thought I better post it to avoid a rebellion.  I also mentioned a couple of dessert (dolce!) recipes made from the Limoncello.  I will post those soon.

About Limoncello:

Limoncello is a lemon liqueur which is primarily produced in the southern coastal areas of Italy, such as the gulf of Naples and the Amalfi Coast.  It is made from fresh lemon peel, alcohol, water and sugar.  Traditionally it is served chilled (from the freezer) as an after dinner digestivo.

Limoncello is super easy to make; however it needs time to steep properly (weeks or even a month or two).  So start your batch soon so you can enjoy it when the weather warms up!

Recipes I’ve worked with vary widely in how long to steep the lemons in the alcohol, and then again after the simple syrup (of sugar and water) is added.  Essentially, the longer it steeps, the better it will be; yet you hit a point of diminishing return, where the differences are so subtle it is hard to even differentiate.  Here is a tip for you… if you want to speed up the process, you can always add more lemon peels than what the recipe calls for.  Just don’t go crazy or the lemon flavor might overwhelm.

What you will need:

In addition to the ingredients listed you will need a large glass jar, such as you would use to make sun tea. You will also need enough clear, sealable glass bottles to accommodate nearly 8 cups (about 1800 ml) of finished Limoncello. In my experience, World Market is a good place to find both the glass jar and the small bottles.  You will also need a veggie peeler (see note further down).

How to make it:

Unless you are using organic lemons, wash them with produce wash or soap to remove any residue of pesticides or wax.  Dry with a clean towel before proceeding.

The next step will be to remove the peel from the lemons in long strips using a vegetable peeler.  You want to avoid getting an excessive amount of the white pith, which will lend bitterness.  In the past I used an standard vegetable peeler and had a fair amount of the white pith, which I then tried to trim off with a pairing knife… a bit of a pain.  This time I used a Titan peeler (see photo left) and it was fabulous!  I was able to get clean strips of peel with almost no white pith!  So, I highly recommend buying one, though be careful, they are super sharp.  I cut my finger with it once so was a little intimidated.  But if you hold it properly and don’t peel toward your fingers, you’ll be fine.

 

After peeling the lemons, save what remains for another use (such as making fresh squeezed lemonade).

The next steps are to steep the lemon peels in alcohol and then later create a simple syrup which you combine with that, and then steep a bit longer.  I’ll refer you to the recipe for the rest of the information.  Be sure to read the Frankie’s Tips on page 2 of the recipe before proceeding.

Buon appetito!

Download PDF Recipe or Click on Recipe below

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My new outdoor kitchen

Frankie and his new Italian Pizza Oven

I have just fulfilled a decades long dream!  I recently completed the addition of a beautiful outdoor kitchen at my home in Redmond, Washington.  I am a happy camper as they say.

My new kitchen includes an Italian wood-burning pizza oven made by Fontana Forni, a beautiful new Delta Heat grill made right here in the good old USA, a Blaze double ring power burner (that will boil a huge pan of pasta water in just minutes), and I built in a spot for old favorite stand-by… my wood charcoal burning Big Green Egg which I’ve had for about a decade (to which I added a rotisserie).  We also installed an outdoor heater to keep the covered portion warm and useable all winter.

Humble beginnings

The process started last spring.  I researched pre-fabricated islands and talked to others about building some or all of it for me, but when all was said and done I decided the only way to get what I wanted, in a timeframe I wanted, and at a price I could afford, was to build it myself.  Luckily I am now semi-retired so was able to devote a lot of time to it.

Siding begun

Forms for countertop complete

 

 

 

 

 

 

So last May I began to do just that.  It took a little convincing with my wife, who didn’t want to deal with a torn-up patio all summer, but I promised to keep the mess to a minimum (which I managed to do except when doing stonework), and get the project done as quickly as possible.

My original goal was to complete it before going on vacation in early July.  I wasn’t quite there but did manage to have it mostly complete and useable by the end of July.  There were finishing touches which took a few additional weeks but now it’s complete and I am extremely happy with the results.  AND, I managed to hit my budget!  It still was not cheap but I’m certain I would have spent at least twice what I did if I’d have had a contractor do the work.

Concrete work

I did hire out two things.  I had an electrician friend wire the outlets and the electric heater.  And I hired someone to do the concrete counter top, for which I built the forms.  I did the rest myself, including drawing up the plans, the framing, siding, stonework, tile, and cooking equipment installation (well I did hire my teenage grandson and his buddy to carry that big pizza oven).

Coming along

The remarkable part is that I was not experienced at much of what I did.  I’ve done some framing but had never done any stonework.  That’s where having good friends comes in.  I picked the brains of three contractor friends (and found out there are multiple ways to skin a cat!).  I received guidance from another friend who had done stonework (and borrowed his stonecutter).  And I utilized YouTube videos to fill in some gaps.  It’s amazing what you can learn on-line these days!

Joetisserie added to my Big Green Egg

Using my power burner

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you enjoy seeing these pictures of the job in progress, and a few of the meals we’ve been preparing.  I had a great time with this project and it was very rewarding.  The only thing better is the fun of cooking with all of my new toys!

Fontana Forni Pizza Oven

 

 

 

 

Celebrating with family. My son Chris.

Family fun. My sons Noah and Chris making pizza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPCOMING:  With this job complete I am ready to get back to some regular food blogging.  My ambition is to do a series on pizza making.  Look for the first post soon.

 

Finally! A successful Gelato recipe… Pistachio!

I love gelato!  At least I adore the gelato I have in Italy.  I have a strict personal policy… when in Italy, I must eat gelato every day!  And if I miss a day, I must have it twice the next day.  Now that is a rule I can live by.

I’ve always desired to have great gelato here at home, but until now I’d never had any as good as what I have had in Italy.  I’ve wondered if it is the magic of the place that makes it so good?  This may be partly true.  But I’ve also become convinced that nobody in my part of the world makes it as good.  This was true across the board… whether I purchased in a gelato shop, a grocery store, or an attempt to make it at home.  I’ve tried making gelato a few times and it never came out like the wonderful stuff I’ve had in Italy… until now! YES!

I took this recipe from a couple of different sources.  The custard base was adapted from the Best Recipe Italian Classics cookbook published by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  These people always test their recipes thoroughly.  The pistachio cream recipe I got elsewhere, and when I put the two together, well it was like magic happened.

This base has be cooked ahead of time and thoroughly chilled before churning.  It takes a little time but is well worth the effort. There was a lot of science and testing behind the procedures and temperatures for cooking the custard.  I cannot explain all of those here but please follow them as carefully as you can.

A gelato maker would be ideal for churning this, but I used my Cuisinart ice cream maker and was very satisfied with the results. What is the difference you ask?  Well a gelato maker only mixes in about half as much air as an ice cream maker, giving a denser consistency.  I don’t yet have a gelato maker.  I hope to one of these days, but they cost over $200 so its hard to justify unless I know I’m going to use it frequently.

Gelato is often viewed as a healthy alternative to ice cream due to it’s lower calorie content. This is because gelato is generally made with whole milk, or even 2% milk rather than cream. The lower butterfat is one reason it has more flavor, partly because the flavors are not coated over by fat.

Gelato also has a greater density and therefore you can eat less quantity and still be satisfied. So for those who are watching their waistlines, take heart, gelato may soon become your new midnight snack!

The other thing about gelato is the intensity of it’s flavors.  This recipe calls for making your own Pistachio Cream.  You can buy Pistachio Cream in some specialty grocery stores but this was easy to make.  It would not have been easy if I’d have had to shell all of the pistachios, but luckily I found raw, unsalted, shelled pistachios at my local Trader Joe’s.  With those in hand, it was easy.  I made mine in my blender, but I think it would be easier in a food processor.  I’ll find out next time.  Either way, get the cream as smooth as you can.  Then if you like you can add a few pistachios on top of the gelato when serving.

A few additional tips:

I highly recommend that you use an Instant Read Thermometer to keep track of
the temperature during the custard making.

Also, gelato is typically served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream. It is best served either right from the ice cream/gelato maker, or frozen for up to a few hours prior to serving. If you freeze it overnight, I suggest pulling it out a little while before serving.

Hope you enjoy!  Buon appetito!                 Pistachio Gelato recipe

 

Pizza Rustica (AKA Torta Rustica, AKA Easter Pie)

Is it a pizza?  No, not really.

Ciao amici!  With Easter coming early this year I wanted to post this in time for you to consider making it for your Easter brunch or dinner.  It is well worth the effort involved.

This is not really a pizza in the traditional sense. It is often referred to as a torta, which I think is more accurate. In Naples and southern Italy it is traditionally served on Ash Wednesday and again on Easter so it is also known as Easter Pie.

 

This dish is very unique in that it combines a sweet, tender, egg pastry dough (what the Italians call pasta frolla) with savory fillings such as prosciutto, salami, eggs, and a blend of cheeses. The sweet-savory combination comes alive in your mouth. It is one of my personal favorites.

If you are having a party or an Easter brunch, and don’t mind going to a little trouble—this delightful, unusual dish will impress your guests like few others. It looks gorgeous. It’s delicious. And it tastes unlike anything they’ve ever had before. We made it for one of our Frankie’s wine dinners and it was one of the most popular dishes we’ve ever served. It may be served hot or at room temperature.

Buon appetito!

Pizza Rustica Recipe PDF

 

 

A great time for Tuscan Clam Sauce

Ciao friends!

If you are like me you sometimes think of summer as seafood season. But clams are best in the winter.  This recipe was published in my cookbook, Frankie at Home in the Kitchen, still available online as an eBook.

I really love traditional clam sauce, but this Tuscan variation with the addition of some crushed tomatoes is really amazing.  This recipe is best with fresh clams, but for a simple, and still delicious weeknight dinner, you can make it with canned clams.  You could make this with spaghetti or another long pasta if you prefer but I really like the linguine.  It holds the sauce better and has more body to it.

Nobody likes eating sand with their clams so be sure to read my Frankie’s Tips on how to purge the sand from fresh clams.  

One other Frankie’s Tip… this one for Food Safety.  Be sure to discard any clams which do not open up when you cook them!  This means those clams were not alive to begin with and may be contaminated with bacteria or toxins.

Buon appetito!  Frankie

Recipe for Linguine with Tuscan Clam Sauce

 

 

 

Frankie’s Chicken Marsala… perfect for a special dinner

This recipe is is my cook book, but for those who do not have a copy I wanted to post it here. This would be a great recipe for Christmas Eve or New Year’s or any time you want to impress your friends or family. And it really is fairly easy to prepare. No special skills needed!

I tried many different recipes before developing this one. I took the best from each and developed my own recipe which I think tops them all.

Marsala is a fortified wine from the Island of Sicily.  It comes in a “sweet” or “dry” version. The recipe calls for Sweet Marsala but I’ve used Dry and liked it just as well. It is just slightly less sweet.

Hope you enjoy!  Buon appetito e buon Natale!

Chicken Marsala Recipe

Panforte… better than fruitcake!

Panforte.  A wonderful Christmas recipe!

I grew up eating fruitcake.  And I actually like the stuff.  Not sure what that says about me… but yes, I’ve been accused of being one. My Mom would make fruitcakes and place them in the refrigerator, and cover them with a Brandy soaked cloth.  When I was young that was a bit strong for me but as I grew up I came to like it more and more.

Well the people of the ancient city of Siena in Tuscany have a dessert called Panforte. Though sometimes called an Italian fruitcake, it shares little resemblance to the version of fruit cake so many of you despise. I first made it when doing my cookbook and it was sooo good that of course it made the cut.

Panforte is a traditional dessert–really more of a gooey confectionary–originating from the ancient city of Siena many centuries ago, but now popular all over Italy. Panforte’s main ingredients are honey, sugar, almonds, hazelnuts, candied citrus peel. Some versions have dried (not candied) fruits. It also has many of the spices you would find in a traditional spice cake. I’ve made this for the holidays. Its so rich that its hard to eat a lot at once, but I couldn’t keep from snacking on it several times per day.

A fun option is to make a number of mini Panforte to give away as gifts. To do so, double the recipe and cook in a 9×13 baking pan. Then using an oiled circular cutter, cut into mini Panforte.  Wrap each in wax paper and tie with colored string. You then have all the yummy leftover scraps to eat yourself.

Buon appetito!  And an early Buon Natale!

Panforte Recipe