Saturday, February 17, 2007

When life gives you lemons, grab some tequila and salt!

“Huge lemons, cut in slices, would sink like setting suns into the dusky sea, softly illuminating it with their radiating membranes, and its clear, smooth surface aquiver from the rising bitter essence.” - Rainer Maria Rilke

The Barefoot Contessa and I are on the same length when it comes to our palates. In addition to her extreme dislike of cilantro (or, as I call it, soaplantro), on one episode she confessed that she would take a lemon dessert over a chocolate one any day.

I am sure Ina Garten then asks the same question I do: Who wouldn't?!?

My love of the lemon is infinite. In any shape or form, I languish in its light and refreshing taste. I love lemon drop martini cocktails, limoncello liquor, and lemonade. I love flavoring my foods with lemon, including a lemon spaghetti to go along with shrimp fra diavlo. My micro plane for zesting lemon is constantly being used; I even love the way the lemon zest clumps together on the plane before I place it into a mixture. I love lemon soup, Greek style, and I love making lemon chicken in the oven.

Still, lemon desserts are my Achilles' heel when it comes to the genre of lemons! One of my favorite desserts was at Batali and Bastianich's OTTO: a sweet corn gelato with blueberries and lemon curd.

There are two desserts that I enjoy making. Both are simple and not exactly "gourmet", but the flavors are refreshing and delightful, and both are somewhat figure friendly!

Notes: I first made the lemonade layer cake five years ago when I was a guest at my best friend's supper club gathering. Make sure you cool the frosting first! I made the pink lemonade pie for the first time a year ago for a pot luck, and it was a big hit. It is so easy to make and perfect for hot summer nights.

If anyone has some great lemon dessert recipes he/she would like to share, please send them along this way in the comments section! Thank you!

Lemonade Layer Cake (courtesy of Cooking Light Magazine)

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons thawed lemonade concentrate
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups fat-free buttermilk
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons thawed lemonade concentrate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare cake, place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; stir well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat well after each addition.
Pour batter into 2 (9-inch) round cake pans coated with cooking spray; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
To prepare frosting, place 2 tablespoons butter and the next 4 ingredients (2 tablespoons butter through cream cheese) in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, and beat at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat). Chill 1 hour.
Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Store cake loosely covered in the refrigerator.

Pink Lemonade Pie

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham crackers (20 squares)
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
3 tablespoons sugar

1 quart (4 cups) vanilla frozen yogurt, softened
1/2 can (12-oz size) frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 container (4 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed
Red food color, if desired
Lemon peel
Heat oven to 350°F. In medium bowl, mix all crust ingredients until well blended. Press in bottom and up side of 9-inch glass pie plate. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown; cool.
In large bowl, mix ice cream, lemonade concentrate, whipped topping and a few drops food color. Spoon and spread ice-cream mixture into cooled crust.
Freeze until firm, about 4 hours. Let stand at room temperature a few minutes before cutting. Garnish with lemon peel.

Monday, February 12, 2007

SOUP - Recipe Exchange

New York is finally getting a good amount of snow this week, so I thought the perfect post would be a recipe exchange for soups! I am normally not a fan of tomato soup, but I love making this recipe over and over again. Trust me, this kicked up version of classic tomato soup will warm you up in this ten degree weather! If you want to make a grilled cheese sandwich, I suggest using provolone cheese on some of the extra rye bread. The pancetta adds a great flavor and can be purchased at any Italian butcher shop! If you don't have one by you, use regular bacon.

I look forward to reading your soup recipe in the comment section! Cheers!

TOMATO AND PANCETTA SOUP (courtesty of Giada De Laurentiis)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 (3/4-inch-thick) slices rustic rye bread (each about 5 3/4 by 3 3/4 inches), cubed
6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup sour cream

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the bread and toss to coat with the pan drippings. Saute until the bread is crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 10 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.
Stir the mascarpone and sour cream in a small bowl to blend. Ladle the soup into bowls. Spoon a dollop of the mascarpone mixture atop the soup and serve!

Epicurean Escapades Commences

I think it was only a matter of time before I realized I needed a blog just for culinary adventures! I decided to dedicate this first post to epicurean essentials on the web that I often read or use! Cheers!

RECIPES (general)