Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Bourbon Cocktail for Late Fall

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Before the winter solstice and the holidays are upon us, here is a simple cocktail with bourbon, apple cider syrup and fresh orange juice. A measure of lemon juice adds the just right amount of zing. By the fire, inside or outside, this drink is bound to be a hit.

Let's begin by making the apple cider syrup

Apple Cider Syrup

4 cups fresh apple cider
2 strips orange zest

In a medium non-reactive saucepan, bring the apple cider and orange zest to boil over high heat. Boil until reduced to one cup. Strain and chill before using.

The Cocktail
Makes 2 drinks
3 shots Bourbon, 4-1/2 ounces
2 shots apple cider syrup, 3 ounces (recipe above)
1 shot orange juice , 1-1/2 ounces
1 shot lemon juice, 1-1/2 ounces
2 strips orange zest, for garnish

Add all ingredients to a shaker, except the orange zest. Add ice and shake for about 15 seconds. Strain the mixture over ice or strain and serve neat. Garnish with the strips of orange zest.

Adapted from Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails by Eric Prum and Josh Williams

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Monday, December 03, 2018

Stem Ginger Ice Cream and Ginger Cake

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Although the stem ginger ice cream plays the starring role in the post, the gingerbread cake is not to be dismissed. Together they are as good as it gets for a sublime dessert. Thin slices of fresh ginger steeped in whole milk gives the finished ice cream a refreshing zing throughout while for the ginger cake, finely ground fresh ginger root, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper adds extra layers of intense flavor. Chopped stem ginger is folded in the ice cream after freezing the mixture in an ice cream maker.  No ice cream maker-no problem!  Here are 6 Ways to Make Ice Cream Without an Ice Cream Machine from The The Kitchen.

On my last visit to England, I bought a jar of stem ginger which thankfully wrapped well survived the trip in my checked luggage. I'm sure I could have ordered it from Amazon or visited the many supermarkets to find it, but somehow having bought it on a trip to England gave the stem ginger special status. From reading about stem ginger, I find that it seems very simple to make. Sarah James from the The Kitchen Shed has a very informative post on making stem ginger. 

Fresh Ginger Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop
There is an updated version of this book here

3 ounces (85 grams) unpeeled fresh ginger
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
3/4 cup (150grams) sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
Chopped Stem ginger or crystallized ginger to fold in after freezing in an ice cream maker

Cut ginger into thin slices. In a saucepan, add ginger slices and enough water to cover by 1/2-inch. Bring ginger and water to a boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Drain the ginger, discarding the liquid.

Return the blanched ginger slices to the saucepan, then add the whole milk, 1 cup of the cream, sugar and salt. Warm the mixture, cover and remove from the heat. Let steep for 1 hour. Again, rewarm the mixture. Using a slotted spoon, remove the ginger slices and discard. Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over the bowl.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, then slowly pour the warmed mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the pan, stirring constantly over medium heat, scraping the bottom as you stir. Mixture should thicken and coat a spatula. Pour the custard through the mesh strainer and stir in the cream. Cool over an ice bath, stirring occasionally.

Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze in an ice cream maker according the manufacturer's instruction for your machine. Stir in 4 tablespoons chopped stem ginger.

Ginger Cake
Adapted from Ready For Dessert-My Best Recipes
David Lebovitz
Cake serves 10-12

4 ounces (115grams) fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced thin
1 cup mild-flavored molasses
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (250ml) water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan or a 9-inch round cake pan at least 2-inches deep. Line with a round of parchment paper.

Chop the ginger very fine, using either a food processor fitted with a metal blade or with a chef's knife. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the molasses, sugar and oil. In another bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and freshly ground black pepper.

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, then stir in the baking soda. Whisk this mixture into the molasses one, then add the chopped ginger. Gradually add the flour mixture over the molasses mixture, whisking to combine. Add the eggs and whisk until thoroughly blended.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top of the cake springs back or a thin knife or toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool completely.

To remove cake from pan, run a knife around the sides to help loosen it from the pan. Invert onto a plate, peel off parchment paper and re-invert on a serving plate. Cut into desired pieces and top with the ginger ice cream.

This is my contribution to Menu lib (e)ro, Dessert and Ice Cream, hosted by Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything Once who prepares a very delicious hazelnut gelato to serve on cake. This event is open until December 6, 2018. 

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Friday, November 09, 2018

Austrian Plum Cake (Zwetschenkuchen)

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This cake is a lighter version of the yeast leavened and somewhat heavier Austrian cake enjoyed at the Cafe Bazar in Salzburg by writer and founder of Milk Street Magazine, Christopher Kimball. Kimball wanted more of a summer dessert so his recipe developer, Erica Bruce, switched out the yeast for baking powder, increased the butter and the amount of plums and came up with a lovely cake that showcased the beautiful plums. Also, using a reverse creaming technique in which the flour is coated with room temperature butter before adding the eggs helps the the cake lighter. I have made this Austrian Plum Cake twice and know this recipes give great results.

Ripe firm plums that hold their shape work best in the recipe. Soft plums like the Santa Rosa variety would not be suitable as the juiciness of these types of plums will make the cake too soggy. Red plums are used here, but black plums, pluots and Italian prune plums would work as well.  For a double plum hit, try my Wild Plum Ice Cream!

Today, I am chef for Menu Lib (e) ro! I am looking forward to seeing your lovely cakes and semi-frozen desserts. When published, please add a comments on this blog post by December 20, 2018.

  1. Every 2 week, on Friday, one of us will play the role of Chef and will propose you a dish taken from a book, referring the source, and publishing the photo of the book as well as of the dish (the list and the calendar are reported below).
  2. All the other participants may participate as chef's assistant and present a different recipe, taken from a book, photographing both the book and the dish. Only one recipe from each blog will be accepted.
  3. Recipes already published are not allowed.
  4. Duplicated are not admitted (i.e., same book and same recipe). In case the recipe is the same but from a different book, it is mandatory to specify in the title the name of the author of the book (e.g., “Quiche Lorraine by Alfred” and “Quiche Lorraine by Bernard”).
  5. Once published, the link of the recipe has to be put as a comment in the Chef's blog.
  6. All the recipes will be collected in http://abcincucina.blogspot.comand a pdf will be prepared step by step and it will be available at the end of the project.
Austrian Plum Cake by Milk Street Magazine

Austrian Plum Cake
Serves 8
Adapted from Milk Street Magazine-July-August 2018
Recipe by Erica Bruce


1 cup all purpose flour (130 grams), plus extra for pan
1/2 cup (107 grams) granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons to sprinkle on top before baking
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (8 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 8 pieces, room temperature)
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/4 pounds ripe but firm medium plums, halved, cut into 3/4-inch wedges and pitted
Powdered sugar to serve


Preheat oven to 325° F (165°C). Spray lightly with cooking spray a 9-inch springform pan, then dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together until combined the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. With the mixer running, add the room temperature butter 1 piece at a time. After adding all the  butter, continue mixing just until mixture resembles wet sand-about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla extract. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl as needed.

Transfer the batter to the prepared springform pan and spread in an even layer. Batter is thick and I found that using a wet spatula helps smooth the batter equally. Arrange the plum wedges in 2 concentric circles, placing pieces on their cut sides. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 1- 1-1/4 hours. Make sure there are no moist crumbs adhering to the skewer. Don't under bake the cake as the plums give off juice and will make the cake soggy. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Orange Glazed Carnival Squash

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These orange glazed carnival squash would make a great side dish for your holiday meal. A citrus spice reduction is brushed over the slices before baking and again at the end. The dried cranberries are a nice complement to the dish and a fresh thyme leaves garnish finishes it off.

A cross between an acorn squash and a sweet dumpling squash, the carnival squash has a mellow sweet flesh which works well with this dish , but feel free to substitute acorn or butternut squash.

Orange-glazed Carnival Squash & Cranberries
Adapted from Kitchen Garden Cookbook
Makes 4-6 servings

1/4 cup (60 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra to grease pan
1-1/4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (310ml)
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon coarsely crushed coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon allspice or pumpkin pie spice
1 large Carnival or 2 acorn squash
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (45grams) dried cranberries
fresh thyme leaves for garnish


Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C), Butter a large rimmed baking sheet.

In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine the butter, orange juice, zest and spices. Bring to a boil and reduce liquid to 3/4 cups, about 5 minutes or so. Remove from heat.

Trim ends of squash, cut in half lengthwise, then into 1 inch thick slices. Arrange decoratively on the prepared baking sheet and brush with the reduced orange juice mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss gently to coat with the orange juice mixture.

Bake the squash slices until just tender when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Turn squash slices and brush again with the orange juice mixture. Scatter the dried cranberries over the squash slices and bake until the slices are lightly glazed, about 4-5 minutes longer. Transfer to platter and garnish with fresh thyme leaves. 

The orange-glazed carnival squash recipe is my contribution as a side dish for the collection of recipes for Menu-Lib(e) ro, this edition hosted by Alessandro whose beautiful Glazed Carrots make a perfect addition to the collection. Thanks to Marta and Aiu for the idea and implementation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Spicy Pumpkin Chutney

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Why is it that most of us don't make pumpkin recipes any other time of the year, but in the Fall? It must have something to do with the brilliant reds, oranges and yellow that we see on the trees and the lovely displays of winter squash and pumpkins that aren't evident any other time of the year? Fall is my time of the year, especially after the brutal heat and humidity that we experience here in coastal Georgia. Let the pumpkin recipes begin with this sweet hot pumpkin chutney from Donna Hay Magazine #69

From the Greek word, pepõn, meaning a large melon, the term pumpkin dates back to 1547. The Native American Indians dried the pumpkin in strips to weave into mats for trading purposes and also, dried it for food for months when other foods were scarce. Carving pumpkins as jack o' lanterns came from Irish immigrants who carved faces on turnips, but in America pumpkins were plentiful, thus the tradition around Halloween. Source

Donna Hay's pumpkin chutney recipe calls for a Kent pumpkin, also called a Japanese pumpkin which has greenish skin with orange speckles, but I found that butternut squash is a perfect substitute.   Peeling a butternut squash can be quite a challenge, but I found a link from Simply Recipes which goes into detail regarding peeling and cutting a butternut squash.

Spicy Pumpkin Chutney
Makes 3 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
1/4 (60ml) cup fresh orange juice
1 medium size butternut squash, about 2 lbs, peeled and chopped
5 Bay leaves
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried, crushed Chipotle peppers
1 cup apple cider vinegar
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
8 slices walnut or other country style bread, toasted. I used bite size slices of French bread, toasted
Shave Pecorino or Parmesan cheese and thyme leaves, for serving

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the orange rind and juice, the butternut squash, bay leaves, crushed Chipotle peppers, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes or until thickened. Allow to cool. Top the toasted  bread with the chutney, Pecorino or Parmesan and thyme leaves to serve. Serves 4 as a side or 6-8 as an appetizer. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Spicy Pumpkin Chutney is my contribution to a second course vegetarian as a chef assistant to Menu Lib (e) ro hosted this session by Rosa Maria Tenore and who posts a lovely Frufella made with a combination of fresh greens. Menu Lib (e) ro is Marta's brilliant idea and is perfectly executed by Aiu'.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Pollo al Forno Con Limone - Chicken Baked with Lemon

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This is a great chicken dish for entertaining friends and family-it's easy, lemony and the pre-salting technique with  an aromatic salt guarantees a rich and flavorful dish. With garlic, lemon zest, fresh rosemary leaves, pepper and bay leaf added to a base of kosher salt, the aromatic salt will keep for about three months in the refrigerator. Sprinkle it on almost any savory foods to enhance the flavors. 

While researching aromatic salts, I found a great article on pre-salting versus brining which really resonated with me. I often brine my turkey for our Thanksgiving meal, but it takes at least 3 days or more and takes up so much space in my refrigerator. The method of pre-salting takes less time and the results are the same, if not better. A minimum of 6 hours is recommended, but preferably 1-4 days in advance of cooking. It is well known that meat or poultry  shouldn't be salted right before you put it in the oven as the salting will draw the juices out of it and make it tough. But if salted beforehand, the opposite occurs. This recipe from Italian Country Cooking, The Secrets of Cucina Provera suggests seasoning the chicken with the aromatic salt at least 2 hours or overnight, refrigerating in the interim. If pressed for time, go with the 2 hours, if not, try overnight.

Aromatic Salt 

1 cup Kosher or coarse salt (not table salt)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Zest of 2 lemons, finely chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 fresh bay leaf

Place the coarse salt in the container of a food processor, finely chop 2 of the garlic cloves and reserve the 3rd one along with the fresh bay leaf. Place the chopped garlic, the lemon zest, the rosemary and the black pepper in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse just until the salt is slightly ground. Place the mixture is an airtight jar, bury the 3rd garlic clove and the bay leaf in the salt mixture and refrigerate. Will keep for up to 3 months.

Chicken Baked with Lemon
Serves 4-6
For the Baked Chicken

6 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
1 lemon, thinly sliced, plus 1 lemon squeezed (See Note)
1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup water

Season chicken with the aromatic salt, arrange on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hour minimum or overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place the sliced lemon in an ovenproof dish. (See Note) Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat. Add the oil, then the chicken, skin side down. Brown well on both sides, about 6 minutes. Arrange the chicken over the lemon slices in the dish, skin side up.

Add the lemon juice with the water to the pan the chicken was browned in and boil until reduced to a coating consistency, scraping up brown bits, about 4 minutes. Pour over the chicken. Place in the oven and bake 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is tender and the juices run clear. Place on platter, cover loosely with foil and let stand 5 minutes to allow juices to retreat back into the chicken thighs.

Note-I found that cooking the chicken laid on top of the lemon slices rendered a bitter sauce. Try zesting both the lemons, using the juice of both in making the sauce. Then when the chicken is done, sprinkle the zest over the tops of the chicken thighs.
This recipe comes from Italian Country Cooking-The Secrets of Cucina Provera and is my contribution to Menu Lib-e-ro as a second course-meat dish adding to the building collections of courses, an idea by Marta and acted upon by Aiu with contributions by a host of Italian bloggers and myself, the lone Anglo American blogger. The second meat course host is Teresa from Crumpets and Co. Her slow cooker Italian Beef Casserole served with mash potatoes is awesome!

More posts with recipes from Italian Country Cooking:

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Grilled Salmon with Cucumber Sour Cream Sauce

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Salmon and cucumbers have a classic affinity-throw some dill in the mix and you have a harmonious dish that is mouthwatering, especially if the salmon is grilled and the cucumbers and dill are combined with sour cream to make a delicious cooling salad. 

This Scandinavian inspired dish can be a light lunch or a main course with perhaps a rice or pasta side dish. For a colorful summer meal, serve this gazpacho. The cucumber salad can be made a few hours ahead and the salmon takes minutes to grill.  The salting and draining of the cucumber is crucial as the salad will become watery otherwise.

Grilled Salmon Fillets with Cucumber-Dill Salad
Serves 4

For the Salad

2 large cucumbers, scored, seeds scraped out and thinly sliced
1/4 medium red onion thinly sliced
5-6 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper

For the Salmon
4- 5- 6 ounce salmon fillets
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the sliced cucumbers in a colander and toss with 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand over a bowl for 30-45 minutes until several tablespoons of juice has drained. Pat cucumbers dry and place in a medium bowl. Add the red onion, saving a few slices for garnish, the sour cream, vinegar, dill and pepper to taste. Toss lightly to coat. Refrigerate while you prepare the salmon.

About a half hour before serving, heat gas grill on high for 10-15 minutes. Clean the grill grate, then using tongs to wipe an olive oil soaked paper towel over the grill rack to prevent sticking. Careful not to set the paper towel on fire. Close the lid and return to the high temperature.

Using the olive oil, brush both sides of the salmon liberally, then season with salt and pepper. Grill about 3 minutes a side, until just opaque. Serve hot or warm. Plate the salmon and spoon the cucumber sauce alongside the salmon.

From a favorite book byPam Anderson, a second recipe for Menu-Lib-e-ro, 

Carla Emilia is host for second course fish dish from Menu Lib-e-ro, when completed with be a compilation of various courses to mix and match. A brilliant idea from my Italian blogger friends Marta (great idea) and fulfilled by Aiu.

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