Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

THE BURRATA BURGER

Posted: November 2, 2020 in Uncategorized

Some of my favorite recipes happen when I’ve got a few leftover ingredients in the fridge that I really want to use up. The challenge is to make them work together.

Burgers are easy solutions to this dilemma, because, let’s face it: just about anything can go on a burger!

My thoughts behind this recipe went to a combination of things: a little garlic bread, a little Caprese salad, and, of course, a burger.

I had some burrata in the fridge. If you thought you couldn’t improve on mozzarella cheese, get yourself some burrata. The outer shell of the burrata is mozzarella, while the inside generally contains stracciatella and cream. It can be made from milk, or if it’s really decadent: Italian buffalo milk.

I use burrata instead of mozzarella when I make my Caprese salads…a combination of the cheese, fresh basil, and ripe tomatoes, drizzle with a high-quality balsamic vinegar.

I had kaiser rolls in the freezer. I wanted to go one step further, so I slathered them with my garlic bread smear, and toasted them.

And my burgers are always grass-fed beef, seasoned with salt and pepper, and pan-seared before finishing them in the oven.

I started with the garlic bread spread first.

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1 large clove garlic, squeezed through a press
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon parsley

I combined these ingredients in a bowl, mixing well, then smeared them on my kaiser roll halves, toasting them in the oven.

I got a pan very hot on the stovetop (cast iron is always best) and added a little fat. I use bacon grease if I have it. Otherwise I go with a high smoke point oil like avocado oil.

I seasoned the burger with salt and pepper, and placed it in the hot pan, searing it on one side, then flipping it to the other. I just want to sear the meat. I don’t want to cook the burger in the pan or it will overcook when I place it in the oven to finish.

I cut the burrata in half (it gets a little messy), and placed half of it (cut-side-down) onto the burger.

I placed the pan in the oven to finish cooking the burger and to melt the cheese. (If your pan isn’t oven-proof, get a tray that is, and just move the burger onto it and into the oven.)

I cooked the burger until it was medium-rare and the cheese had melted.

I placed the burger on the toasted roll and added a nice slice of farm-fresh heirloom tomato.(Fresh basil is optional.) And I drizzled over the top with some good balsamic.

That took a cheeseburger to a whole new level!

This is a story about something that is near and dear to my heart…and liver.

I’ve been making Krupnikas for over 40 years. (And no, I won’t be posting my secret recipe here.) It’s a honey-based liqueur that is popular in eastern Europe, especially in countries like Lithuania, where my parents were born. Though most of the Krupnikas that I’ve tasted is similar, no two recipes are exactly alike…and that’s where the arguments begin!

I have many friends that make Krupnikas. Some use a leaner approach (like me)…others go for the everything-in-one-basket approach. I’m not sure that more is necessarily better. Some friends claim that it isn’t real Krupnikas if you don’t use black pepper. But I’ve been to many pubs and restaurants in Lithuania and have never been served Krupnikas with black pepper in it. Other recipes include ginger, turmeric, and saffron. I don’t include any of these ingredients in my recipe.

krupnikas

If you Google “Krupnikas,” you’ll find many different recipes…some pretty good, some incredibly awful…(but none as good as mine!) I use grain alcohol…there’s no distilling involved. There were times in the last 40 years when grain alcohol was not readily available to me, and my Krupnikas production came to a screeching halt for a while. But these days, I find it easily. (Here in New England, it’s sold in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.) Desperate times without grain alcohol forced me to try vodka instead, but I never liked the final result.

There’s a version of Krupnikas that dates back to the early 1900’s in the coal region of northeastern and east central Pennsylvania, where Lithuanian immigrants created their own version, using moonshine as a base. They named it “Boilo,” and many people make this recipe every year during the Christmas holidays even today. But it’s more like a cousin of Krupnikas, if there can be such a thing.

Traditional Krupnikas uses a variety of unusual spices, none of which have their origins in Lithuania, so it’s interesting to hear how these exotic ingredients made their way via various trade routes to eastern Europe.

The story goes that Krupnikas was created by Benedictine monks in the 1500’s, and that it became popular in both Lithuania and Poland for celebrations like birthdays, weddings, and holidays. But when the Soviets shut down all Krupnikas production, the recipes went “underground,” passed down from generation to generation through closely guarded family recipes. That’s why everyone thinks their family recipe is the best!

One pot for honey, one pot for the various spices I use…to be combined later.

My own Krupnikas making story started with my uncle, who would make large batches of the stuff in his tiny Richmond Hill, Queens, NY, kitchen. Because I am the godfather of my cousin, his son, I received a bottle as a gift from my uncle every Christmas. By New Year’s, that bottle would be gone. It wasn’t long before I got very tired of waiting 51 weeks for another bottle and I asked my uncle if he would share his recipe with me. He never did that exactly, but he did let me sit in on a brewing session and take notes in a cramped corner of his kitchen.

I took my notes home from my uncle’s house and tried to decipher what I wrote. Since there was no such thing as the internet back then (what we call “the dark ages,” kids), I drove all over New York City in search of some of the more exotic spices used in making my uncle’s Krupnikas recipe. I became a regular at several Asian and Indian stores, where, at first, they looked at this tall, geeky white dude somewhat suspiciously as I brought my spices to the counter for purchase.

Over the decades, through trial and error, I changed my uncle’s original recipe to the one that I proudly call my own today. You can’t buy it in a store, but if you have tons of money and want to go into business with me, I’m sure we can work something out! Or become my best friend and you’ll get a bottle at the end of every year…and then you’ll be the one waiting 51 weeks for another!

krup glasses

Versions of Krupnikas are available in liquor stores: Old Krupnik is a Polish liqueur, and the German brand Barenjager is another. And many whiskies, like Dewar’s and Jack Daniels, now have honey-flavored spirits as well.

Though quite different from my own recipe, there are two authentic Lithuanian-style Krupnikas liqueurs made in the United States by acquaintances of mine.

Based out of Durham, North Carolina, the Brothers Vilgalys Spirits Company (www.brothersvilgalys.com) has a pepperier version that uses local North Carolina wildflower honey. President of the company, Rim Vilgalys, the son of my good childhood friend from New York, has done what I never got around to do: make this fabulous elixir available to the public. You’ll find it at ABC stores throughout the state of North Carolina.

bvsco-krupnikas

The second brand, made by a childhood friend, is made and sold in the New York area and goes by the name of KAS Krupnikas. (www.kasspirits.com)

kas_krupnikas_new

Both are pretty darn good. But are they as good as mine? I think you already know my answer to that question!

Sveiks! (Cheers!)

My daughter and I love any foods that are heavy on the garlic, so this is a special treat we make when diets don’t matter! It’s buttery, it’s garlicky, it’s carby, and it’s absolutely delicious!

I use 2 kinds of garlic in my garlic bread: fresh and granulated. I think it adds a richer flavor than either one alone. And passing the fresh garlic through a press ensures that it will cook quickly and not leave you with that raw garlic taste in your mouth.

Although I love French baguettes, they’re too thin and crisp for garlic bread. I buy that long, soft, Italian loaf you can find in just about any supermarket bakery. When it bakes, the outside edges have a crisp bite to them, while the inside of the loaf stays soft…exactly what you want! The Italian loaf is big, so not only do I cut it lengthwise, I then cut each piece in half. This will make enough for us to enjoy one evening, and still store some in the freezer for a future craving.

This recipe makes enough for 1 garlic bread, 1 cheesy garlic bread, and also the bread you’ll be putting in the freezer for another time.

The delicious final product…but I digress…

2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter
2 large cloves garlic, squeezed through a press
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon parsley
grated mozzarella cheese…a few ounces

In a bowl, let the butter soften to room temperature. Once it’s soft, squeeze the fresh garlic cloves through a garlic press and add them to the butter. Then add the granulated garlic, salt, oregano and parsley. Using a fork, mix the ingredients really well until you have a beautiful garlic and herb butter. (Once it’s mixed, I find it’s easier to spread with a spatula.)

Spread the garlic butter evenly on all 4 pieces of bread you’ve cut. Use it all up! Going thin on the butter serves no purpose here!

Place one of the loaves on a baking sheet. Add the grated mozzarella to one of the other loaves, and place it on the baking sheet as well.

Regular garlic bread on the left, cheesy garlic bread on the right…ready to go into the oven.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

With the other two pieces of bread, I simply put them together…with cheese inside or not…

…and wrap them in aluminum foil. I place that in a freezer bag and keep it frozen until we have another craving. When it’s time to cook, I pre-heat the oven to 350, and bake the loaf in the foil for about 25 minutes. I take it out of the foil at the very end and bake another 5 minutes to get it to crisp up.

Ready to be devoured!

With the oven at 400, I bake my garlic bread and cheesy garlic bread for about 10 minutes, or until the edges of the bread start to turn a golden brown and the cheese on the cheesy side starts to melt.

I cut each piece in half so my daughter and I share in the 2 breads. There’s never any leftovers!

Some people don’t like cooking with veal because of the way the animals are treated, and I completely understand because I’m one of those. But…I’m fortunate that I can buy my veal from a nearby dairy farm, Sweet & Salty Farm in Little Compton, RI, where the animals are grass-fed and raised humanely. That makes for happier animals and incredibly flavorful meat…and no guilt about using it.

If you can’t get humanely raised veal, pork and beef work, too.

I also buy veal bones from Sweet & Salty Farm, roasting them on a sheet pan in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, then placing them in a large pot of water. I take some chopped carrots, onions, and celery, toss them in a little olive oil, and place them on a sheet pan, roasting them in the oven until they’ve caramelized, then add them to the pot with the veal bones. The secret to a great veal bone broth is to boil the bones and veggies for as long a time as possible. Restaurants will do this for days, replacing the water in the pot as needed. At home, I’ll start the broth in the morning and finish it by evening, straining out the veggies and bones at the very end of the cooking time.

The subtle flavor of veal can get lost with heavy seasonings, so I keep it simple. The addition of veal bone broth amplifies the flavor and keeps the meatballs from drying out.

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1 lb. ground veal
1 cup toasted breadcrumbs (I use Udi’s bread to make it gluten-free)
2 teaspoons parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1 egg
extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. pasta, cooked firmer than al dente
2 cups veal bone broth or beef stock
salt and pepper for seasoning
2 tablespoons half-and-half
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup of frozen organic peas

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the meatballs: In a bowl, combine the veal, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, garlic, onion and egg, mixing the ingredients thoroughly. Don’t over-mix.

Form the meatballs one by one, about golf ball size, and place them in an ovenproof pan. I line the pan with non-stick aluminum foil for easy clean up. Cook the meatballs for about 10 minutes. Don’t overcook them! (Even if you’re using pork, 10 minutes is OK because you will be cooking them longer. )

In a saucepan, heat the veal bone broth or beef broth. Once the meatballs have cooked in the oven, transfer them to the pot of broth and cover it with a lid, keeping the heat on low. If the broth doesn’t cover the meatballs, turn them every once in a while to keep them moist on all sides. Simmer the meatballs in the broth for about 30 minutes, then transfer them to a large sauté pan.

Turn the saucepan with the veal broth on high and reduce it to about 1/2 cup. Season it with salt and pepper.

In a large pot, cook the pasta to a bit firmer than al dente in well-salted water. Drain it and set it aside.

In the large sauté pan with the meatballs, add the butter and the half-and-half. Add the reduced veal broth, the pasta, and the peas.

Gently mix the ingredients in the pan until the peas have warmed through and the sauce clings to the pasta. Serve immediately.

With the ever-increasing popularity of bourbon, a new article comes out every few months explaining what rules need to be followed in order to have a whiskey classified as “bourbon.” But there are also differences in whiskies. I try to explain all of it as best I can in this blog. 
There seems to be a lot of confusion about the spelling of whiskey and/or whisky, but the use of the letter “e” (or the lack thereof) is not random. Here’s the best explanation I’ve found…
whiskeywhisky
The spelling whisky (plural whiskies) is generally used for those distilled in Scotland , Wales , Canada , and Japan. Whiskey (with an e; plural whiskeys) is used for the spirits distilled in Ireland and in the United States. The BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) in 1968 specified “whisky” as the official U.S. spelling, but allowed labeling as “whiskey” in deference to tradition.  Most U.S. producers still use the “whiskey” spelling, though as you can see, Maker’s Mark chooses not to.
International law reserves the term “Scotch whisky” to those whiskies produced in Scotland. Scottish law specifies that the whisky must be aged for a minimum of three years, in oak casks. Whiskies produced in other countries in the Scotch style must use another name. Similar conventions exist for “Irish whiskey,” “Canadian whisky,” and “Bourbon whiskey.” In North America, as well as in Continental Europe, the abbreviated term “Scotch” is usually used for “Scotch Whisky.” In England, Scotland, and Wales, the term “whisky” almost always refers to “Scotch Whisky”, and the term “Scotch” is rarely used by itself.
So what is bourbon?
Bourbon is a type of whiskey.
According to federal law, bourbon must be at least 51% corn, distilled at less than 160 proof, and aged for at least two years in new, charred oak barrels. (There are some other requirements, but those are the main ones.) Bourbon also must be made within the United States. In other words, a foreign product that meets all the other requirements still cannot be sold in the U.S. as bourbon.
Contrary to popular belief, there has never been a legal requirement that bourbon be made in Kentucky, which is why most Kentucky producers call their product “Kentucky Bourbon.” 
Still confused? My advice is to sit back with your favorite glass of whisky, whiskey or bourbon…and just enjoy. Cheers!

This is a story about my Mom’s dad, my grandfather. Born in Lithuania, he came here during WWII. He was a short man, barely 5’5″ tall, but he was the strongest man I ever knew. As a kid, I watched him crush walnuts, and even hazelnuts, in his bare hands. He would go out into the water at Rockaway Beach, and the waves would hit him head-on, but never knock him down. He had little or no formal education, but he could fix or build anything, from concrete driveways to dog houses. And no matter what chore he took on, he wore a white shirt and tie with a vest while he did it. He never became a US citizen because he had a hard time with the English language, but he maintained his legal alien status, and spoke enough English to work in the kitchens of several high-end restaurants in Queens, NY.

My grandfather, Vaclovas Lukosevicius. A helluva name and a helluva guy. Now I know where I got my receding hairline!

I smoked my first cigarette with him when I was 12, and we had a good talk about it after my face returned to a lighter shade of blue-green. We would walk to his favorite bar on Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill, the Triangle Hofbrau (it’s still there) and they let me sit at the bar, snacking on pretzels with a 7-Up while he enjoyed a beer. My Mom was an only child, so I was the only grandson, and nobody made me feel more special than he did.

One of my grandfather’s passions was horseradish…homegrown, homemade horseradish.

It’s been almost 50 years since I watched my grandfather dig the long, dirty, gnarled horseradish roots out of his garden with a sharp spade, lunging at the ground with all of his strength to cut through the thick fibers of the plant.

After harvesting a large piece, he would wash the dirt from it and then peel it, leaving behind a beautifully smooth white root.

He had a large bowl set under a grater, and he would hand grate the horseradish root with incredible speed. But no matter how fast he went, the potent vapors released by the root would make their way to his eyes, and he was forced to stop several times to wipe the tears away with his old handkerchief and regain his composure before returning to grate the root again.

Onions were child’s play compared to horseradish, and I understood why he did all the preparation just outside of the kitchen door of his Queens, NY home.

Once grated, he would add some water, vinegar, and salt, and his prepared horseradish was complete. He’d store it in tightly sealed glass jars in the fridge, and when it was time to sample the goods, he would carefully open a jar, poke his knife in, and spread the prepared horseradish over beef, beets, twice-smoked bacon, or anything else he desired.
I’d watch his face slowly turn red, small beads of perspiration developing on his forehead, and he’d turn and smile at me and tell me in Lithuanian: “Labai skanu!” (Very tasty!)

At the age of 10, I couldn’t figure out what he saw in horseradish, but it didn’t take long before I was hooked myself, as it was a staple at every family dinner table.

Opting for the stuff that came in a jar in the supermarket, I never made my own prepared horseradish until almost 50 years later.

I’ve had a huge horseradish plant growing in my garden for years, and I just never got around to doing anything with it. But the other night, as I was preparing my cocktail sauce recipe and I realized that I was out of prepared horseradish, it became clear that the time of reckoning had arrived. It was time, in the finest tradition of my grandfather, to make my own prepared horseradish.

Freshly harvested horseradish roots
Freshly harvested horseradish roots

I went out to the yard with a sharp shovel and lunged at the horseradish plant, splitting a few roots off of the main crown. I pulled them out of the ground, detached the long leaves, and headed back to the kitchen.
Today’s kitchen technology gave me a distinct advantage over my grandfather, and after washing and peeling the root, I chopped it into smaller pieces and tossed them into a food processor. No hand grating necessary!
The processor pulverized the root in no time, and I added water, vinegar and salt as my grandfather did, being very careful not to stick my face too close to the opening of the processor where the vapors were their most powerful.
A small taste on my tongue just about had my eyeballs shoot out of my head, and I muttered silently to myself: “Labai skanu!”

My grandfather would be proud.

Horseradish is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes mustard, cabbage, wasabi, and broccoli. The horseradish root itself hardly has any aroma. But when you crush it, enzymes from the broken plant cells produce mustard oil, which irritates the mucous membranes of the sinuses and eyes. To keep the horseradish from losing its pungency and freshness, vinegar must be added immediately.

Prepared Horseradish

6 oz. fresh horseradish root, peeled
6 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3 pinches of salt

Chop the horseradish root into small pieces and add water, vinegar and salt. Process until proper consistency is reached.
Careful! Use proper ventilation or the vapors will blow your eyeballs and sinuses out!

It may be October, but it’s also #NationalPorkMonth! Time to get piggish!

Few slabs of meat are as amazing as a pork butt or shoulder, rubbed with a special dry rub, then slow-smoked for 8 hours (or more), pulled and slathered with amazing barbecue sauce. It takes time, but it’s not really that hard to do.

My electric smoker allows me to set the time and temp and walk away.

Here’s how I do it…

First, I get a hunka pork. The kind of pig I get matters to me, so I buy a heritage breed, like Berkshire (also known as Kurobuta), from a farm that raises them humanely. I’m willing to pay the extra bucks.

But going to a supermarket or butcher shop for pork is what most people do. The names of the cuts of meat can be a bit confusing. Despite its name, pork butt is not from the back-end of the pig.  (The term “butt” referred to the barrel the meat was stored in when the only method of preservation was salting the meat and storing it in barrels.)

The pork butt is actually the shoulder of the pig. The pork shoulder picnic is a lower cut of the same area. These cuts can also go by the names: Boston shoulder roast, Boston butt, Boston roast, shoulder butt, pork shoulder picnic, and shoulder-blade roast. Whatever the name, these are all nicely marbled hunks of meat that usually weigh in anywhere from 6 to 8 lbs, and are easy to find. Barbecue fanatics claim the bone-in pork butt is more flavorful, but boneless is all you can find, that’ll work, too.

Once I’ve got my slab of pork, I remove the skin if it has any. I want my pork rub to make contact directly with the meat, so I always remove the tough skin. No skin? No problem.

Now I need to season it. I’ve found that a simple rub is the best way to go for the sauce I’m going to use later.

After 8 hours in the smoker, the rub makes a crust on the meat that is just fantastic!

BASIC DRY RUB

1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup paprika
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder

Place all the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake it up to blend.

Once I’ve made the rub, I generously sprinkle it all over the pork, and rub it in really well. I have a digital smoker at home, which allows me to set the temperature to cook and smoke my pork butt. I place the pork butt on a rack, put a drip pan with water underneath it to catch the grease, and set the smoker for 250 degrees. I cook the pork at 250 for 8 tp 10 hours, depending on the size of the meat, adding hickory chips to the smoker every few hours. The marbled fat in the pork butt slowly melts over time and the pork becomes incredibly tender and flavorful.

I remove the pork butt from the smoker and let it rest, covered with aluminum foil, for at least 20 minutes before pulling it apart with a couple of forks, or chopping it up with a cleaver.

While the pork is cooking and smoking, there’s plenty of time to make two other very important parts of this recipe: a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, and the cole slaw.

Slaw on the side or on the sandwich…up to you!

BARBECUE SAUCE

2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool it to room temp. If you store it in an airtight container in the fridge, it’ll stay good for several weeks.

COLE SLAW

My unusual cole slaw recipe uses an interesting ingredient: pickle juice! Just a splash of juice from your favorite jar of pickles is all you need.

1 package of cole slaw veggies
splash of pickle juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise (more to taste)
teaspoon celery seed (not salt)
salt and pepper

There are no real specific measurements for cole slaw, because I’ve found that some people like it dry, others wet…some peppery, some not. Play around with it and make it your own. I prefer a more mayonnaise-y cole slaw, and usually err on the wet side.

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover it with plastic wrap and chill. When ready to use, re-mix it, and taste for seasoning before using.

OK…time to make that sandwich!

You can either go Carolina style and place the cole slaw right on top of the pulled pork in the bun, or simply serve the slaw on the side. No rules!

Whether you go through all these steps yourself or not, it’s nice to appreciate a labor of love that is worth every bit of time and trouble invested in it.

It takes a few weeks for this limoncello recipe to be ready, but, hey…we’ve got nothing but time!

 

It starts with beautiful lemons…

 

Many years ago, my wife and I visited the Amalfi coast, and we spent several nights on the beautiful island of Capri. On our last night, we dined at the historic Grand Hotel Quisisana, and our meal ended with a glass of the most delicious limoncello I ever had.

I asked the waiter if it was possible to get the recipe of the limoncello, and he made a big deal about the recipe being a “secret.” Though disappointed, I understood, and I left Capri thinking that I would never taste it again.

 

Sure, you can buy limoncello from Capri in a bottle, but what fun is that?

 

Two weeks later, back at home, I was reading the latest issue of Conde Nast Traveler, and there in black and white, was the Quisisana limoncello recipe! WTF?

After making many batches of this limoncello, I started experimenting with other citrus, and the most successful by far was with grapefruit. Now I make a batch of each: lemon and grapefruit. It’s important to use 100-proof vodka in this recipe. Most vodka is 80-proof, so you’ll need to go to a liquor store with a better selection to find it. Absolut makes a good one, as does Stoli.

Four ingredients, easy to make. The toughest part is waiting for it to mellow a bit.

 

4 lbs. of lemons, but you only use the zest!

 

4 lbs. lemons, zest only
2 750-ml bottles 100 proof vodka
5 1/2 cups sugar
6 cups filtered water

Just the zest!

 

Peel the zest off all the lemons, trying not to get any of the white pith that could make the limoncello bitter. (There will always be some…that’s OK.) Place all the zest in the bottom of a one-gallon glass jar with a lid.

Pour the vodka on top of the lemon zest pieces, seal the jar, and keep it at room temperature for a week, swirling the jar around gently once a day.

 

Vodka and zest.

 

On the sixth day, combine the sugar and water in a pot over medium-high heat, and stir until all the sugar completely dissolves. Remove it from the heat, cover it, and let it thoroughly cool to room temperature (overnight is best.)

On day seven, strain the lemon zest, pouring the infused vodka into a clean glass jar. Discard the lemon zest.

Pour the sugar/water mixture into the vodka and mix it well.

At this point, you can pour the finished product into bottles. I like to let it mellow for about a month before drinking. (It’s worth the wait…although nobody says you can’t take a few “cheating sips” every now and then!)

I keep my limoncello refrigerated.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of many gluten-free desserts or snacks, because they claim to be healthy by avoiding wheat, then compensate for the lack of flavor and texture by overloading with bad fats, salt and sugar. These brownies, which have more of a cake texture than a brownie, are the exception.

 

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9 oz. ground hazelnuts
5 1/2 oz. (2/3 cup) sugar
8 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 eggs
1 oz. cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder

 

If you’re using whole hazelnuts, pour them into the food processor and grind them into a powder. Pour the ground hazelnuts into a separate bowl.

Back in the food processor bowl, add the sugar and butter and pulse until combined.  Crack the eggs in a separate bowl, and add them slowly to the sugar and butter, pulsing to mix in between each addition.

Pour the ground hazelnuts into the mixture a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. Add the cocoa powder, straining  through a sieve to keep out lumps, and pulse again. Add the baking powder and pulse again. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and give it all one last mix.

Pour the batter into a buttered pan and cook at 350 for 30 minutes. Use a deeper pan so that the brownies don’t overflow as they rise while baking.

 

 

Though it may sound Japanese, the word “saganaki” refers to a small frying pan used in Greek cooking. The most famous of these dishes, simply called saganaki, is a fried cheese, often flamed at the end with a little ouzo.

Shrimp saganaki is one of my favorite Greek dishes, and it usually involves cooking shrimp in a tomato-based sauce with plenty of feta cheese sprinkled in. It’s simple yet fantastic if the ingredients are fresh. Doesn’t hurt to be sitting in a taverna on the beautiful island of Santorini while eating it, either!

 

You can find Graviera cheese in most supermarkets.

 

I found a slab of Graviera cheese at a local supermarket, and decided to recreate shrimp saganaki using that instead of feta. It was pretty darn amazing.

I like using peeled and deveined 24–30 shrimp, because larger shrimp don’t always cook through. These smaller shrimp will be bite-sized and delicious.

 

Melty, gooey, delicious!

Melty, gooey, delicious!

 

200g package (7 oz.) grated Graviera cheese
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes
1 lb. (about 24) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium onion, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, through a press
pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons Ouzo
salt and pepper

 

Peel and devein the shrimp (or you can buy them that way already.) Place them in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of  1/2 of a lemon on to the shrimp and toss. Set them aside.

In a large pan, saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds more.

Crush or puree the tomatoes and add them to the pan. Add the red pepper flakes, dill and oregano, and salt and pepper. Add the Ouzo.

Let this sauce cook down for a bit until all the flavors have blended together.

Pour a layer of the sauce on the bottom of a metal broiler-proof pan. Lay the raw shrimp in a single layer into the sauce. Cover the shrimp with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle the grated Graviera on top.

Place the pan in a pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly and the shrimp have cooked through. I like to finish it under the broiler for a few minutes to get the cheese brown and melty.

 

shrimp saganaki