Limoncello

(VERY EASY TO MAKE)

My favorite summertime after-dinner digestivo is the limoncello made from the lemon trees in my mother’s yard in Calabria. You can purchase limoncello in many locations in Italy and the US, but the pre-packaged bottles are never as good as the ones made from those homegrown, freshly-picked Calabrian lemons.

I’ve found that I can make a great limoncello using organic lemons from the supermarket. Of course, they aren’t quite as great as those collected in the warm sunlight of my mother’s garden, but they still make something delicious.

Even the process of making limoncello is a pleasure, because you breath in the aroma of the fresh lemon zest as you prepare it. The only problem with this recipe is that you have to steep the lemon zest in alcohol for a week – or up to three weeks (depends on the point of view). I say 1 week is all is that is needed before you finish the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 20 organic lemons, preferably less-mature lemons with a very thick skin
  • 750 ML rectified spirit, or ethyl alcohol, such as Everclear (I do not recommend the use of vodka as a substitute, that is a terrible idea)
  • ½ KG superfine sugar
  • Water (purified or bottled)

 

Additional Supplies

  • A serrated vegetable peeler – One of the most important things about this recipe is that you need to use the lemon peel, avoiding the pith as much as possible. The pith gives the drink a bitter taste. Peeling the lemons “just so” used to be quite difficult, but my good friends Teresa and Carlo found a serrated vegetable peeler by OXO (it’s called the OXO Good Grips Serrated peeler, available in many stores as well as online). It makes the job easy.
  • A large glass jar with a cover. The jar needs to be able to hold at least 1 liter of liquid (more if you choose to double or triple this recipe).
  • Another large glass jar that you use for the filtration process.
  • Aluminum foil to cover the jar as the limoncello steeps in the rectified spirit.
  • Glass bottles for the finished limoncello. You will need 2 1-liter bottles for this recipe.
  • A store-bought permanent coffee filter.
  • One or two #4 paper coffee filters.

 

How to make this recipe

  • Wash and dry the lemons.
  • Peel the lemons, making sure that you avoid including the pith.
  • Chop the lemon zest, just a little bit.
  • Pour the 750 ml of the rectified spirits into the clean glass jar, then add the lemon zest.
  • Place the lid on the jar, then wrap it with aluminum foil or a cloth. The reason you cover it with aluminum foil is that the process is photo-sensitive. Therefore, you want to avoid exposing it to light during the one- to three-week steeping process.
  • Shake the jar, then place it in a cool, dry, and dark place. Some people say that it’s best to shake the bottle each day; others say just leave it alone. My mother leaves the bottle alone with a towel around it for at least one week, so I suggest you do it her way (moms know best)!
  • After the one-to-three week steeping period, you’re ready for the next steps.
  • In a very clean saucepan, heat 1 liter of purified water. Add, slowly, ½ kilogram of superfine sugar to the pan and stir it until the liquid is clear, meaning that the sugar has dissolved completely, creating a supersaturated sugar mixture.
  • Allow the sugar-water to cool in a glass container.
  • Strain the steeped limoncello mixture. Don’t squeeze or try to push the saturated lemon zest in order to extract a few extra ml of limoncello.
  • Once the limoncello spirits have been filtered, mix 1:1 with the sugar-water.
  • Decant the limoncello into your clean glass bottles, cap them, and put them in the freezer.
  • Enjoy after dinner in a shot glass. Remember that this is a highly alcoholic drink, so sip it.
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4 Mediterranean Recipes with Health In Mind

One of the world’s most palatable styles of food is Mediterranean cuisine. With a historic trinity of basic ingredients in olive, wheat, and tomato, the foundation for this approach to cooking has greatly expanded throughout the years, while still remaining true to its culinary roots. Below are just a few Mediterranean recipes for the health-conscious. The key to these recipes is using good-quality extra-virgin olive oil (preferably from Italy), Italian plum tomatoes (Pomì is a brand easily available in most supermarkets), and fresh ingredients whenever possible.

Pasta with Tuna Sauce

Ingredients

  • Pomi crushed tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Canned tuna, preferably with olive oil
  • Black olives, chopped
  • Grated Pecorino cheese
  • Basil leaves, to taste
  • Salt, red and black pepper, to taste
  • Pasta (your choice of style)

Preparation

Coat the bottom of a large saucepan with olive oil and heat on low to medium. Add roughly half of a box of Pomi tomatoes, sauteing them for about 4-5 minutes. Then, add the tuna, salt, and pepper and cook on medium heat for 5-7 minutes. After that, turn off the heat and add the chopped black olives and basil leaves.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta of your choice in a boiling pot. Once that is ready, add the sugo and mix. Then add the grated Pecorino cheese to taste.

 

Bell Peppers Dish

Ingredients

  • 10 mixed bell peppers, red, green, yellow, and orange
  • Dried Italian oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Black olives, chopped (preferably not canned)
  • ½-1 cup parmigiano cheese, grated (high quality product, from Whole Foods or Italian importer)
  • Capers (optional)
  • Italian plum tomatoes, chopped (Pomi tomatoes preferred)

Preparation

Start by washing and deseeding the bell peppers, remove the pits, and cut them into chunky pieces. As they dry, pour Italian extra-virgin olive oil into a large, heavy pan, and heat on low. Add the garlic to the pan and saute gently until golden, then use a fork to remove the garlic clove. Once that is done, add the bell peppers to the pan and toss, making sure they are evenly coated. Partially cover the pan and cook on low until the peppers are soft, which should take 45 minutes to an hour. After that, remove the cover and turn the heat up to medium high. Be careful not to evaporate all the water in the pan. Add about ½ a container of Pomi chopped tomatoes along with a few tablespoons of dried Italian/Mediterranean oregano, salt, and pepper to taste. Continue cooking for about 10-15 minutes uncovered at medium high heat.

Once the mixture is to your liking, add as many chopped black olives as you prefer. Only cook for a few more minutes to avoid having the olives become bitter, and add a few teaspoons of capers (optional). Now that it’s finished, add the grated parmigiano cheese, stir, and taste for flavor. Remember, the parmigiano adds saltiness to the dish, so you may want to reduce the amount of salt initially used.

 

Skillet Bruschetta with Beans and Greens

Recipe from bonappetit.com

Ingredients

  • 8 ¾-inch thick slices crusty bread
  • 6 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 15oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1 bunch kale or mustard greens, ribs removed, leaves cut into bite-size pieces
  • ½ cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Preparation

Brush the pieces of bread on both sides with 4 tablespoons of oil total, and place in a large preheated skillet over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, cook the bread, pressing occasionally to enhance the crispiness until golden brown, which should take about 3 minutes per side. Season the toasted pieces of bread with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Now, increase the heat to medium-high and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same skillet. Add the thinly sliced garlic and red pepper flakes, and stir until fragrant. Then, add the cannellini beans, stirring occasionally, until they begin to blister, which should take about 3 minutes. Using a spoon, lightly mash half of the beans, and add kale and broth, tossing frequently until the kale has been wilted. Add lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Serve the now finished beans and greens mixture over the toasted bread.

 

Roasted Sea Bass with Potatoes, Olives, and Tomatoes

Recipe from foodandwine.com

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and slices ½-inch thick
  • 1 lb. tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • ¾ cup pitted green olives
  • ¼ cup torn basil leaves
  • ½ cup plus 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 3lb. Sea bass, cleaned
  • ½ cup pine nuts

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a very large roasting pan, toss the potatoes, tomatoes, olives, and basil with ½ cup of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Next, make 3 shallow slashes in both sides of each fish, and rub both with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, seasoning them with salt and pepper. Place the fish in the roasting pan, nestling them within the vegetables. Roast for about 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender, and both fish are cooked through.