Fried Pickle Chips

Fried pickles! Be prepared for a special treat. If you are going to fry something try these fried pickles with a beer batter (the best – Tasting Table versus Hooter’s) – your guests will be hanging out in your kitchen and gobbling them up just as fast as you can fry them. Thank you Bernell Austin who popularized these fried dills back in 1963 to draw in more customers to his Duchess Drive-In, in Atkins, Arkansas.

As I was making Chili Cheese Dogs with all the works for some family recently I decided that fried pickle chips with a few dipping sauces would be a good side. Heck, they could even put them in their hot dogs! So, along with pulled pork sandwiches, Fritos and Tiramisu cupcakes we had a very nice lunch thanks to these yummy pickle chips.

As often is the case I poured over different recipes trying to decide which ones sounded the best. After saying “no” to recipes from Chefs Emeril and Guy and others,  I came up with two: Hooters because of the spices and buttermilk and one from the Tasting Table because of the beer batter which was unanimously the best.

Many versions are available as to the liquid used: milk, buttermilk, beer – even adding some pickle juice; the dry ingredients such as flour, cornmeal or breadcrumbs; then there are the spices. Personally, I knew I wanted these pickles to have a little bite to them. I used Mrs. Klein’s crinkle cut sliced dills  but they are hard to find. Some recipes even use spears; just use any sliced dill chips you can find – Heinz is a good substitute.

The dipping sauces can be your favorites, either homemade or bottled, or use my recipes below – Cajun is really good.

My family’s recommendation: Make the Tasting Table Fried Pickle Chips and the Cajun and Ranch Dipping Sauces.

Fried Pickle Chips

HOOTER’S FRIED PICKLE CHIPS, ADAPTED:

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 dashes Tabasco or any hot sauce
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper or Black n’ Bleusy a favorite Cajun/blue cheese seasoning
  • neutral oil for frying such as grape, vegetable or canola
  • dill pickle chips – I used Mrs. Klein; Heinz would be a good substitute

Drain the pickle chips in a colander and then dry them very well between paper towels. I probably changed the paper towels 3 or 4 times.

Preheat a few inches of oil in a heavy skillet to 375°F.  Place a rack over a paper towel lined tray for the chips to drain after frying.

Combine the buttermilk, egg and hot sauce. Add dried pickles to mixture to coat completely.

Whisk together the flour, paprika, garlic powder and cayenne/Cajun blue cheese seasoning in a separate bowl. Now dip the pickle chips in this mixture to coat; shake off any excess. Drop up to 10 pickle chips at a time into the oil depending on the size of your skillet. You do not want the temperature to drop and you also want to maintain a 350° to 375°F temperature. Don’t let the oil get too hot or they will burn! Fry the pickles until golden brown, around  5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined tray.

These were very good too with a light, spicy batter that covered the pickle chips. A comment was made that you could taste more of the pickle.

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

Linking to Fiesta Friday.

The picture below shows the two pickle chips I made. The chip in the upper left is from the Tasting Table and the other three are from the Hooter’s recipe. Once my guests started to eat them they all agreed the beer batter version was the best and I quit using Hooter’s batter! The four of us just about finished a 32 oz. jar of pickle chips, they were that good!

Fried Pickle Chips

TASTING TABLE FRIED PICKLE CHIPS, ADAPTED:

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • pinch of cayenne or I used Black n’ Bleusy, a Cajun and blue cheese seasoning
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-1/2 cups lager beer (I used Miller Lite)
  • neutral oil for frying such as grape, vegetable or canola
  • dill pickle chips (I used Mrs. Klein – Heinz would be good too)

Drain the pickle chips in a colander. Then dry between paper towels – I probably changed the towels 3-4 times.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, coriander and cayenne. Mix in the egg then the beer to form a smooth batter.

Heat a few inches of oil in a heavy skillet to 375°F. Place a rack over a paper towel lined tray for the chips to drain after frying.

Work in batches, up to 10 at a time and dip the pickle chips into the batter; slowly drop into the hot oil. Cook until golden brown 3-5 minutes. Season with kosher salt if desired. Serve with any of the following dipping sauces or a sauce of your choice. The Cajun and Ranch were the favorites!

These pickle chips puffed up real nice from the beer batter and were the best out of the two, at least with this part of the family.

Dipping Sauces:

Cajun: Combine 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tbsp. prepared horseradish, 2 tsp. ketchup and 1/4 tsp. Black n’Bleusy Cajun seasoning or use cayenne. This was the groups’ favorite sauce!!!

Ranch: 1 cup buttermilk, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 3-5 tbsp. sour cream (maybe more to get the right thickness), minced fresh parsley and chives, 3 tsp. white wine vinegar, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1-2 tsp. sugar (maybe more – add to taste). My homemade ranch was a close second to the Cajun sauce!

Blue Cheese:  1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup crumbled Maytag blue cheese, 2 tbsp. milk, minced chives, 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth; add more sour cream for thickness. This sauce placed third!

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

 

 

 

Tiramisu Cupcakes With Amaretto Mascarpone Frosting

“Tiramisu” just rings of something good to eat and these cupcakes sure do demonstrate that. I have been promising a sister, who happens to love this dessert, that I would make tiramisu for her birthday – some day! Well, that day finally came.  After pouring over all of the recipes I have collected I decided on a cupcake version of this classic Italian treat.

King Arthur Flour came to my rescue once again and provided the recipe for this special dessert. A vanilla cupcake with lots of butter and eggs, a coffee liqueur soak, and then best of all a light Amaretto mascarpone frosting. How good does that sound?

Tiramisu Cupcakes With Amaretto Mascarpone Frosting

Cupcakes:

  • 1-3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp. vanilla
  • 2-3/4 cups flour
  • 2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat together the sugar and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until each one is incorporated; add the vanilla.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Alternate adding the dry ingredients to the egg mixture with the milk until combined.

Spoon the batter into greased, cupcake liners placed in a muffin pan. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or when the cake springs back when lightly touched.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the wells and finish cooling.

Soak:

  • 3 tbsp. Amaretto
  • 2 tbsp. espresso powder
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 3/4 cup hot water

Heat the water in a small saucepan and whisk in the first three ingredients.  Use a large two-tinned fork or a fat cookie pop stick/lollipop stick (this works the best as a fork tends to stick) to poke holes. I used a small fork and the soak did not penetrate enough, so they were a tad dry. Brush a small amount over each cupcake and allow it to soak in. From the comments made on KAF’s website it is best to use all of the soak which will require about 4 passes to all 24 cupcakes.

Frosting:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tsp. Instant ClearJel; acts like cornstarch as a thickener (you can find this at King Arthur Flour)
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup Amaretto liqueur (use the good stuff – Disaronno)
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese

Beat the whipping cream until medium peaks form. I sifted the confectioners’ sugar and Instant Clear Jel together and slowly added this to the whipped cream along with the 1/2 cup Amaretto liqueur.

Gently whisk in the Mascarpone until the frosting is thick and creamy. Don’t overmix or the frosting will get grainy.

Pipe the frosting over the cupcakes, then dust with cocoa. Chill until ready to serve.

Makes 24 cupcakes

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

Linking to Fiesta Friday.

   

Happy Birthday Sis!

Grilled Chicken with Traverse City Cherry Barbecue Sauce

It is cherry season in Michigan which is one of our best fruit crops that we all look forward to every year. The season is short and this year I planned ahead and I  froze a bunch of pitted sweet cherries to use for pies and such at a later time.

Place the pitted cherries on wax paper lined baking sheets and freeze until frozen. Package in freezer bags.

I love to grill many different things such as veggies, beef, fish, pork and chicken. Did you know there is a difference between grilling and barbecuing? I’ve always used the terms interchangeably not really thinking about a difference.

Barbecuing is cooking meat such as ribs, pork shoulder or brisket long and slow resulting in tender juicy meat. For these type of meats to be tender they need to cook at a very low temperature. The cooking time is often 2 hours or up to 20 hours which allows the smoke and heat produced from the burning of wood or coal to penetrate the meat which tends to be tougher because of the fat and connective tissue in them.

Grilling is a hot and fast technique used when cooking hamburgers, fish, boneless chicken breasts or even vegetables. It’s usually the direct method and the cooking time is usually an hour or less. This is my preferred way to cook outdoors now.  There was a time when we had a smoker and we enjoyed barbecuing a big piece of meat, usually for a crowd.

Now that you know the difference, let’s get onto the recipe.

Grilled Chicken with Traverse City Cherry Barbecue Sauce

Grilled Chicken:

  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded thin
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp. garlic, finely minced per 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Combine the above ingredients and marinate for 30-60 minutes, turning once. Remove, dab the chicken with scott towels and brush on cherry barbecue sauce. Heat your grill to high, reduce the heat and cook chicken on medium high for 5-10 minutes per side depending on the thickness of the chicken. The internal temperature should reach 165°F.

Serve with the following Cherry Barbecue Sauce or use your favorite recipe.

Traverse City Barbecue Sauce by Mario Batali:

This is an excellent sauce, not too sweet or spicy and  very simple. I did not change any ingredients…

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed (use dark if you want more of a molasses taste)
  • 1 cup fresh sweet cherries, pitted

Cook the onion in a medium saucepan until they soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook another minute. Add the tomatoes, orange juice, ketchup, brown sugar and cherries and cook an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Once the mixture has cooled, transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze.

Mario particularly likes his sauce with pork but we enjoyed it with chicken as well. Did you know he has a lakefront summer home in Traverse City?

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

A cherry pitter is a must when pitting a bunch of cherries. The one below is by Oxo Good Grips and has a splatter shield which is really a nice feature. You know how messy fresh cherries can be! Another tidbit; wear gloves if you do not like stained fingers! Also, occasionally a pit will get stuck, just poke it out with a knife. Be sure the nuts have come out and you can easily tell by squeezing the cherries.

You can use a sharp knife but this gadget makes a clean hole in each cherry. With a knife it’s very easy to destroy the cherries as you cut each nut out or cut your finger(s).

Linking to Fiesta Friday.

Ingredients for the sauce, and the sauce is cooking…

After blending in my food processor…

Marinating in a simple olive oil/garlic mixture and grilling…

Perfectly cooked and tasty chicken along with Grilled Parmesan Potatoes.

Ina’s Fruit Salad with Limoncello

Fruit in some form is frequently a part of every meal I serve, especially when entertaining. I might just have a bowl of fresh fruit such as apples, grapes or oranges; serve fruit as a salad over greens or have something a little fancier such as these summer berries topped with a yogurt seasoned with lemon curd and limoncello. A very light dessert and a perfect finish to any meal…

Ina's Fruit Salad with Limoncello, Adapted

  • 7 oz. Greek yogurt (I used Chobani Vanilla Greek Yogurt}
  • 1/3 cup lemon curd (you can make your own or buy it)
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup raspberries (do not marinate as they tend to fall apart; add right before you top the berries with yogurt)
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 3 tbsp. Limoncello liqueur
  • 1 banana, sliced (oops! I forgot to add)
  • mint sprigs for garnish

Combine the first 4 ingredients and set aside. Toss the strawberries, blueberries, sugar and limoncello and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Gently add the banana slices and raspberries.

Serve the fruit on small plates or bowls with a dollop of lemon yogurt on top. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig.

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

Sharing this simple but elegant dessert with Fiesta Friday.

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies and a White Russian

This is the best chocolate chip cookie you will ever have the pleasure of eating, if you have some patience. Why? Because you need to brown the butter and make the dough the day before and refrigerate it. This allows the dough to fully hydrate and prevents the cookies from spreading too much. I have never smelled or tasted a better dough than this one – it must be the browned butter! Beware all you cookie dough lovers as this dough is really, really good! Then of course, wait until you try the cookies.

I am saying goodbye to my Toll House bag of chocolate chips recipe which was shared by Ruth Graves Wakefield back in the 1930’s – a favorite for many years.

This recipe appeared in a recent issue of “Baking From Scratch”. I realized I have the cookbook too – I think I bought it because of its title and bright cover “Butter & Scotch” which is a combined bar and bakery in Brooklyn, New York.

The two owners, Allison Kave and Keavy Landreth came up with a very unique and more importantly “fun” idea by combining special desserts  with creative cocktails. This is a place where one can go after dinner and enjoy dessert and a cocktail. This recipe is just one of their many creations and it is a good one! Making cocktails is similar to baking as they both require practice, precision and lots of creativity.

According to Allison and Keavy after making many variations before deciding this cookie was the one “We nailed it: crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, a hefty amount of browned butter and dark chocolate and a nice crunch of salt on top.”

Then of course there is the cocktail to go with these cookies and what better choice than a White Russian, or an adult milk drink. I like this idea don’t you? I cut back on the vodka in their recipe and added more Kahlua.

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1-1/2 cups unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup cold water, divided
  • 1-2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla
  • 6 cups flour
  • 2-3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate morsels
  • Maldon sea salt flakes for garnish

Bring butter to a boil over medium-high heat in a saucepan, stirring occasionally. The butter will foam and gradually turn from a lemony-yellow to a golden-tan and finally a toasty-brown. Allow to cool slightly and then whisk in 1/2 cup cold water. This procedure does take some time and patience. You need to be careful as once it is close to the toasty-brown color the butter can quickly burn – just keep your eye on it.

In a large bowl mix together the two sugars and whisk in the browned butter. In a smaller bowl combine the egg yolks, oil, vanilla and remaining 1/3 cup cold water. Whisk this mixture into the sugar/butter  mixture.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in another bowl and then add to the wet ingredients in 2 additions until completely mixed.  Fold in the chocolate morsels.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. The dough will thicken as the wet and dry ingredients come together.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare  baking sheets with parchment paper or use a nonstick baking mat. Using a 1/2 cup scoop, scoop the dough onto the baking sheets. (You can freeze the dough if desired, up to 1 month.) Press down with the palm of your hand to flatten a little; sprinkle with a little fleur de sel.

Bake the cookies, rotating pans once halfway through, until cookies are golden around the edges and light in the center. Be sure to allow enough space between cookies.Baking time averages around 10 minutes according to the authors. However, they took 15 minutes in my oven. Refrigerate the dough while 1 tray is baking.

Allow to cool and serve this favorite cookie with a White Russian for the adults and a glass of milk for the kids. Yes, you are allowed to dip your cookies!

The recipe makes (30) 4-inch cookies – the dough balls can be frozen for up to 1 month.

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

White Russian

  • 1-1/2 oz. of your favorite vodka (I used a local vodka “Our Detroit”)
  • 1-1/2 oz. coffee liqueur such as Kahlua or Caffe Borghetti
  • ice cubes
  • 2 oz. whole milk

Combine vodka and coffee liqueur in a rocks glass. Add some ice, top with milk and stir.

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

I’m sharing this yummy cookie recipe and an adult “milk” drink with Fiesta Friday.

Roasted Cauliflower With Apple and Dill

Cauliflower is a favorite veggie and complemented with dill makes for a delicious side dish. Add some red onion and a good baking apple and your ordinary side dish becomes something special.

This recipe comes from Chef Jerry Traunfeld of the Herbfarm Restaurant, located in the heart of wine country in Woodinville, Washington where he was executive chef from 1990 – 2007. This was Jerry’s second cookbook “The Herbal Kitchen – Cooking With Fragrance and Flavor“.

I had the opportunity to visit the Herbfarm but unfortunately when we were there the restaurant was booked well in advance – months they told us. They offer a 9 course dinner, served with 5 matching wines and the menu always showcases the exceptional foods and wines of the Pacific Northwest.

In 2017 they received the AAA-5 Diamond Award, only 1 of 51 in America, so you know this restaurant will be an unforgettable experience with lots of great food. So, if you live in the area or are planning a vacation to the Seattle area think about a trip to Woodinville.

We did enjoy their herb gardens as that was why we went there.

Roasted Cauliflower With Apple and Dill, Adapted

  • cauliflower, about 1-1/2 lbs., core removed and separated into florets
  • 1/2 of a large red onion, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 large unpeeled apple, cored and coarsely diced (I used a Honeycrisp – a favorite)
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp. dried currants
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. dill weed, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Combine the cauliflower, onion, apple, olive oil and salt in a large shallow baking dish. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring once, until you see some brown color on the edges of the cauliflower. Add the currants and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Stir in the fresh dill and serve.

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

Linking to Fiesta Friday.

Potato-Chorizo Sopes With Avocado Crema

Sopes are a traditional Mexican dish found throughout  Mexico and there are  thousands of regional favorites. Sopes are  like thick tortillas  made with masa harina and  have pinched sides. These savory tarts are often served for dinner but can also be made smaller and  served as appetizers.

The best part is the various toppings you can add.  This filling is full of flavor with spicy chorizo, onions and potatoes. It would be good in tacos, tostados or gorditas as well. All I can say is this topping was fantastic – I did spread some of the shells with refried beans first  and they were delicious too!

This was a recipe I hoped to post in late April in time for Cinco de Mayo which was May 5th of this year. Obviously, I did not get to make it then. Did I mention I was downsizing, packing, moving and unpacking at the time? What a whirlwind for a couple of months!

Unfortunately, I ended up making these when the weather was very hot – I already thawed the meat and I did not know what the temperature was going to be as it has been on the cool side.

I chose this filling version from seriouseats.com (Lauren Rothman) as the ingredients are favorites, especially chorizo. I did add refried beans to the recipe, changed some of the ingredients and some of the directions.

I also used her  masa dough (which makes a lot) and made my own Avocado Crema.

 

In addition you can use refried black beans, cheese, shredded chicken, onions, red or green sauce and many other options are available; just add them to your taste.

Potato-Chorizo Sopes With Avocado Crema, Adapted

  • 2 cups of Red Bliss potatoes (unpeeled) which have been cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 lb. fresh Mexican chorizo
  • 1-1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • refried beans (I added)
  • masa dough (see below)
  • vegetable oil for frying (you can bake them also)
  • Avocado Crema (below) to garnish
  • cilantro leaves, chopped for serving (like Ina I do not care for cilantro so I often substitute parsley, especially if it is used mainly for garnish)

Cover the potato cubes with water in a saucepan and add 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 8-10 minutes or until tender; drain.

Add the chorizo to a large cast iron skillet and cook over medium-high heat, breaking it up into small pieces until fat begins to render, about 1 minute. Add onion and continue cooking until chorizo is cooked through, about 12 minutes. Add drained potatoes and smash them down and toss until filling is browned about 10 minutes.

Make the Avocado Crema below and refrigerate.

Divide masa into 15 balls; lightly dust each ball with cornmeal (to prevent sticking) or place between two pieces of wax paper. Press each ball into a disk 3-1/2 – 4-inches wide and 1/4-inch thick. The sides should be about 3/4-inch. You can use a tortilla press or simply the bottom of a glass pie plate. Then I like to smooth out the disks using the side of my hand. Finally, with your fingertips form a lip around the edge of each disk. Transfer the sopes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

A suggestion from America’s Test Kitchen: parcook the shells in a large, straight-sided dry skillet before frying for about 5 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown. Use a paper towel to press lightly in center of each sope to ensure contact with the pan. According to ATK this step will help keep the outside crispy and the inside tender.

Then heat an inch of oil in this same saucepan to 350°F. Fry the sope shells flat side down, turning after 2-1/2 minutes and cook for another 2-1/2 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet and continue. Adjust the heat to maintain the temperature.

Arrange the sope shells on a platter and spread some refried beans on the shells. Then  add 3 tbsp. chorizo filling on each. Drizzle with avocado crema and garnish with cilantro/parsley.

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

Masa Dough

Masa Dough:

  • 3-1/2 cups masa harina
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup melted shortening (vegetable oil or lard )
  • 2-1/4 cups warm water

Combine the masa, flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Drizzle your choice of shortening over the dry ingredients and stir until pea-sized balls form. Add the water and mix to combine. Knead dough briefly until it comes together in a smooth ball, about 2 minutes. Cover the bowl and let rest for 15 minutes.

These sope shells freeze well; just place on a baking sheet, freeze and transfer to a zip-lock bag for up to 3 months.

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

Avocado Crema

  • 1 avocado, seeded, peeled and mashed
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Combine above ingredients and use as a garnish for the sopes.

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

 

Linking to Fiesta Friday.

Limoncello Cookies of Sorrento

Lemons, and lots of them, are used to make up the Italian liqueur and digestive, Limoncello. But only the freshly peeled lemon rinds are used. This liqueur is unique to Campania and several areas claim parentage including Sorrento and the beautiful Amalfi Coast.

I recently purchased a cookbook called  NAPLES and the Amalfi Coast, fourth title in The Silver Spoon’s regional series. It’s a lovely book with scenic pictures and reflects one of Italy’s most unique regions for food. It goes through the five different areas of Campania giving local recipes characteristic of the area as well as information about the countryside.

Lemons of course were mentioned but a recipe for lemon salad did not sound too appealing.  I knew I could not get the sweet Sorrento lemons that are often eaten; fruit, skin and all with just a dusting of sugar.

In my new neighborhood there is a large, well-stocked grocery store called Cantoro’s Italian Market. Here I was able to buy a Sorrento liqueur called Villa Massa Piano Di Sorrento – Italia, all natural Limoncello liqueur. Throughout Italy growing agriculture-based products follows strict guidelines. The lemons from Sorrento follow the rules for the Limone di Sorrento IGP (Indicazione Geographica Protetta – origin for foods produced in specific areas).

On the back of the liqueur is the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) which protects and promotes names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs.

I have very fond memories of a trip with Gene to this area.  We stayed in Sorrento at the Grand Hotel Ambasciatori built into a cliff which overlooked the Bay of Naples with a private pool and beach. This was our last stop on a driving trip through Italy and what a finale – even though the hotel did not have power for a few days. It was a long hike down to the water (the elevator was not working) and even more fun coming back up. I was younger then…

Not that I enjoyed these amenities that much as I was taking tours to Naples and the surrounding area and visiting museums while Gene worked. How fortunate to have a conference in such a pretty part of the world! Word of advice; be sure you sit on the side of the bus not overlooking the cliffs. The bus driver just zipped down the winding road and scared me terribly! I was a lot smarter with other trips.

I do remember the many lemon trees along the road trip from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast but not the Limoncello. Back then the liqueur was not so popular as it is now – the second favorite drink in Italy next to Campari.

As May was our “anniversary month” I wanted to make something Gene would love and also reflect this special vacation we shared. So, cookies it is; a dessert with lots of lemon flavor.

When life gives you lemons make limoncello. You can make your own liqueur but it will not compare to the “real thing”; they suggest you use Meyer lemons. If you can find this liqueur by all means get yourself a bottle or two.

These cookies can be made to your taste – depending on how strong a lemon flavor you would like. I was very pleased with the ingredients below…

Limoncello Cookies of Sorrento

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest, freshly grated (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tsp. Limoncello
  • 2 cups flour

Beat the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, vanilla, zest and limoncello and beat until combined. Add the flour gradually until a soft dough forms.

Divide the dough in half and shape into 2 logs, each 1-1/2-inches wide. Wrap the logs in waxed paper and refrigerate overnight. Cut the logs into 1/4-inch thick slices and place on prepared baking sheets.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. They do not spread very much and are perfect, hard cookies with a nice lemon twist.

You can either ice the cookies or just drizzle with a little glaze which is what I did.

Glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp. Limoncello
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest, freshly grated
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Whisk together the sugar, limoncello, lemon zest and lemon juice. Ice the cookies and allow to set about 15 minutes before storing or serving.

Glaze for Drizzling:

  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tsp. Limoncello

Combine the ingredients and once the cookies have cooled, drizzle the glaze over the top and garnish with a lemon zest if desired.

Yum, are these cookies delicious 🙂

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

 

Linking to Fiesta Friday.

Custard Filling for Mini Tart Shells

This is one of my good ole standbys for quick, easy and delicious desserts that can be made ahead of time. I love these little bite-size treats and they are perfect for any kind of gathering. This version was originally in Tart Shell Fillings Eight Ways but the post needed some better pictures.  So I decided to repost it and give it a special place on its own. Custard and cream fillings – so rich but always good, especially when topped with fresh fruit or a piece of chocolate. Not too hard on the diet if you only have one or two. Look out for munchkins who “steal” the fruit 🙂

In addition to the above post check out Raspberry-Cream Shortbread Tartlets using pudding and a no-cook Baklava Tart Filling.

The tarts above I purchased but you can make your own. See Tart Shell Doughs Five Ways which includes pastry dough, chocolate cups and graham cracker crust. “Fill and serve” makes this dessert really easy.

Also, I have been absent from the blogging world since my last post on April 12th of this year. I not only moved but I downsized. My previous moves were always into a bigger house – thus more room to store things, especially kitchen items. But moving from a house to a condo is going to take some great organizational skills!

How does one fit a large kitchen into a much smaller one?  I may have downsized furniture wise but my kitchen gadgets are not easy to part with. How could I decide what I wanted to keep – you know how it goes, as soon as you get rid of something you wish you hadn’t!  I am making slow progress and hope to be organized soon. Thankfully I do have a large basement and 2 car garage for kitchen overflow. Even for this post I could not find my chocolate leaf molds to add to the tarts. I did, however, make chocolate tarts so that took care of the chocolate issue.

Also, I have missed stopping by and commenting on  a number of favorite bloggers and plan to get back into the groove. Moving is stressful, but downsizing makes it ten times worse!

Custard Filling For Mini Tart Shells

  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup suga
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • fresh fruit such as sliced strawberries, blueberries and blackberries
  • chocolate leaves

Beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Then add the sour cream until smooth and set aside.

In a saucepan add the cornstarch and sugar; stir in the milk until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat and cook an additional 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Stir a small amount of the hot mixture into the egg yolks and return to the pan. Do this carefully as you do not want the eggs to curdle. This happened to me a long time ago but only once as I learned my lesson! Bring to a gentle boil and cook while stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla and sour cream mixture. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

  

Linking to Fiesta Friday.

Smacked Cucumber With A Sweet Sour Sauce

Do you ever “smack” your food? You can tenderize meat or massage greens but I never imagined myself “smacking” a cucumber. Yes, in this recipe you use a blade of a cleaver or a rolling pin and smack a whole cucumber hard a few times. This encourages the cucumber to loosen its flesh and absorb the flavors of this spicy and sweet dressing. Be warned – not too hard though!

Are you looking for a sweet and spicy side dish with crunchy  cucumbers and great flavor? Then this appetizer which is common in the Hunan Province of China is just the recipe. I almost ate the entire cucumber it was that good. My lips were tingling and the sweetness of the sauce paired with the heat of the chilies was perfect.

I would recommend using the flat blade of a cleaver as it gently splits the skin of the cucumber. However, when I used a rolling pin I killed the cucumber and smashed it to smithereens!

This recipe was inspired by “Every Grain of Rice” by Fuchsia Dunlop. It is a quick and easy Sichuanese dish that I have slightly adapted. The sauce can also be used to dress broad beans, sliced pork or dumplings and wontons.

Smacked Cucumber with a Sweet Sour Sauce, Adapted

  • 1 regular cucumber (not English), 11 oz. should be firm and a nice size (I removed the seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. fresh garlic, finely chopped (add to taste)
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. light soy sauce ( I did use dark)
  • 2 tsp. Chinkiang vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. chili oil (see recipe below if you want to make homemade as well as instructions on how to grind your own chilies) add this to taste as it depends on the heat of your chilies

Place the cucumber on a chopping board and “smack” it hard a few times with the flat side of a cleaver. I found a rolling pin was too forceful and kind of destroyed the cucumber. The cucumber will slightly split and then cut it lengthwise, into 4 pieces. Then cut it on the diagonal into 1/8-3/8 inch slices. Place in a bowl, add the salt and let sit for 10 minutes; drain.

Combine the rest of the ingredients and pour over the cucumber. Stir and serve immediately.

Smacked Cucumber in Garlicky Sauce:

  • 1 cucumber as above
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. finely minced garlic (add to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. light soy sauce (can use dark)
  • 1/2 tsp. Chinkiang vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. chili oil (add to taste)
  • pinch or two of ground roasted Sichuan pepper (optional)

Follow the directions above with the sweet and sour version.

How to Grind Chilies:

Cut the chilies in sections so you can remove as many seeds as possible and discard. Add the chilies to a dry pan over a low heat until you can smell their fragrance and are crisp. Mine did not really get crisp like I thought they would.

Add a very small amount of oil and continue to stir until they become darker (see pictures below). A mortar and pestle did not work for me (no patience to use a mortar and pestle on that many peppers) so I used one of my electric grinders. You want to end up with flakes and not a powder. I carried the grinding a little too far but the flavor of the oil was spicy and the color was beautiful too!

Chili Oil:

  • 2 cups oil plus 2 tbsp. (I used peanut oil – any cooking oil is fine)
  • 4 oz. ground chilies
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds
  • small piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled and crushed

Heat the oil over a hot flame to 400°F (a thermometer is really needed). Remove from heat and allow to cool to 275°F, about 10 minutes.

Add the ground chilies, sesame seeds and ginger to a heatproof bowl. When the oil has cooled to 275°F pour a little onto the chilies. The aroma was rich and smelled wonderful but it did not fizz as mentioned in the recipe. You want a deep, ruby red color but try not to burn it.

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com