Summertime Sangria

Red Sangria

I have no issues leaving family behind for most holidays, traveling to far-flung destinations (Christmas in London anyone?), but there are two holidays that keep me home each year. The first is Halloween, which guarantees a few hundred local kids banging on my door, screaming “trick or treat” through the screen. It gives me instant flashbacks to my own unsupervised childhood wilding nights of All Hallows Eve a few decades ago.

The second is July 4th, a day and night punctuated with a cacophony of illegal fireworks that makes neighboring Disneyland’s nightly display both superfluous and ineffective. It’s a surround sound and visual extravaganza that reminds one of a middle-East war zone.

This 4th, I combined forces with my neighbors for a street party BBQ. For libations, Don and Carlos brought 4 flavors of homemade limoncello, Susie made white sangria and I brought out my go-to red version packed with oranges, lemons, apples and strawberries.


Summertime Sangria

  • Servings: 12-14 glasses
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During the warmer months, this is my fruity and refreshing go-to alcoholic beverage to quench a thirsty crowd.


Ingredients

  • 1 – 1 ½ oranges, cut into ¼ inch slices and then cut crosswise into chunks
  • 1 lemon, cut into ¼ inch slices and then cut crosswise into chunks
  • 1 apple, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup fresh orange juice
  • ½ cup Triple Sec or Cointreau
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • 2 bottles red wine
  • 1 ½ cups frozen strawberries
  • 1-2 cups lemon-lime soda (7-up or Sprite)

Directions

  1. Combine orange, lemon, apple, sugar, orange juice, Triple Sec and Brandy in a large container. Stir for a few minutes until sugar is completely dissolved. Add red wine and refrigerate for at least six hours and up to 12.
  2. Add frozen strawberries (to act as ice cubes) and lemon-lime soda and serve over additional ice, if needed.

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Chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons

A plate of chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons

From L.A. to Costa Rica to Hawaii to Huntington Beach to Napa to San Francisco to The Bahamas. I’ve been missing my own bed – and my kitchen – these past two months. Now that I’m back, I’m content to sleep under a duvet I know, putter in my familiar kitchen and lazily read a book curled up on a fur-covered couch with the kitties. This is home.

These macaroons, baked this morning, are a relatively straightforward recipe for me – not my usual over-complication. They travel well and, with special recipients in mind, I thought they would survive the journey unscathed.


Chocolate-dipped Coconut Macaroons

Chewy coconut kisses dipped in dark chocolate.


Ingredients

  • 1 ⅓ cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons almond flour, toasted**
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-3 oz. dark chocolate, broken into small pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine coconut, sugar, toasted almond flour, all-purpose flour and salt. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg whites with vanilla and stir into coconut mixture until combined.
  2. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a silicon baking sheet. Measure rounded 1-Tablespoon mounds of coconut mixture onto sheet pan and bake about 20 minutes, or until macaroons are golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and let cool on sheet pan slightly. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
  3. Melt ¾ of the chocolate in a small bowl placed in the microwave in 30-second bursts, ideally heating the chocolate to 122⁰ F. Add the remaining ¼ chocolate and stir until slightly thickened, ideally cooling to 90⁰ F. (This process is called tempering and should ensure shiny chocolate that sets quickly). Dip the bottom of each macaroon in the chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. Flip upside down and let set until chocolate sets, about 15 minutes.
  4. ** The almond flour is optional. If you don’t have any on hand, omit and increase flour to 2 Tablespoons. I toast my almond flour to bring out the flavor by cooking it in a small pan over a medium-low heat until fragrant.


Italian Summer Pudding

An Italian Summer Pudding decorated with whipped cream and berries

The first time I prepared a British summer pudding, the final result was…well, I guess it came out resembling exactly what it was – white sandwich bread, made florescent pink and soggy with fruit juice and mushy berries.

The result was underwhelming. It was just…um…bad.

The recipe went in the trash bin and I didn’t think upon summer pudding again. Thanks, but no thanks.

These last few weeks, I’ve been staring at a package of Italian savoiardi cookies left over from my limoncello tiramisu recipe. I’ve been trying to decide how to best use them (soak them in rum syrup and use them in place of Nilla wafers in banana pudding? Yes please!), when I remembered summer pudding. Savoiardi’s, or ladyfingers’, sole purpose, in my opinion, is to soak up liquid and, lord knows, they taste a hell of a lot better than crust-less Wonder bread. Perhaps this is what was needed to elevate the pud to something worthwhile. And with that idea, and eight cups of summer berries, Italian Summer Pudding was born.


Italian Summer Pudding

A refreshing use of Summer’s bounty of fresh berries.


Ingredients

  • 8 cups mixed fresh berries (sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 T. orange liqueur (such as Triple Sec)
  • 20-24 ladyfinger cookies (Savoiardi)
  • Freshly whipped cream

Directions

  1. Cook berries, sugar and zest in large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until berries release their juice and sugar has dissolved, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in orange liqueur. Drain fruit, reserving juice and fruit separately and cool slightly.
  2. While berries are cooling, line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap. Briefly soak ladyfingers in berry juice and tightly line loaf pan with a single layer, trimming them to fit, if needed.
  3. Spread ½ of cooked berries on ladyfingers. Repeat with another layer of soaked ladyfingers, berries, and ladyfingers (when you’re done, you should have 3 layers of ladyfingers and 2 layers of berries). Drizzle a few spoonfuls of remaining juice over top layer to ensure everything is well soaked, cover with plastic wrap, and weigh with a plate or dish and heavy cans. Refrigerate at least 8 and up to 48 hours.
  4. Remove weights and plastic wrap. To unmold, invert onto serving platter. Lift off loaf pan and remove plastic wrap. Garnish with freshly whipped cream and serve.

Sweet Cornbread Mini-Muffins

A pile of sweet cornbread mini-muffins

I’ve long been enamored by the quaint Chinese legend called the “Red Thread of Fate.”  According to the myth, the matchmaker god, Yuè Lǎo, ties an invisible red thread around the left little finger of couples who are destined for one another, regardless of time, place or circumstances. This magical string may stretch or tangle, but never, ever breaks.

I sometimes imagine my red thread tied to my own Fate, a lifetime away from me – a tangled web of knots dotting this thin cord between us, this frayed thread snagging on craggy rocks and endlessly entangled around gnarled tree trunks, as we go about our separate lives.  My Fate, entwined into a snarled mess.  Sometimes, this thread tugs away from me so fiercely, so determinedly, my pinky dislocates from the effort.

I find comfort, as always, in a poultice of butter, flour and sugar. This is my go-to cornbread recipe, adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and definitely on the sweeter side of the sweet vs. savory cornbread spectrum. If you like moist, sweet cornbread, this is the one – perfect paired with a bowl of smoky chili.


Cornbread Mini-Muffins

  • Servings: 36 mini-muffins
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If you like moist, sweet cornbread muffins, these are the ones for you.


Ingredients

  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup canola oil
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and add oil, butter, eggs and milk. Stir until just combined. Pour into mini-muffin tins and bake 12-15 minutes until just brown around the edges and a toothpick comes out clean. Gently remove muffins from tin. The recipe can also be made in a 8×8” square pan baked for 35 minutes.

Limoncello Tiramisu

a tray of limoncello Tiramisu dotted with fresh raspberries
She types ‘goodbye’ on the keyboard.  The word, its meaning so resolute, looks ambiguous on her screen.  She’s written that word before – not once, not twice, but by her tally, there’s been six of these goodbyes over the years.  She’s weary of it.  Like a smoker saying ‘I quit’ yet again, she wonders if this time it will stick.

She grabs a few lemons from the basket on the counter.  What she needs now is a distraction, a recipe to cure.

This recipe was adapted from Lidia Bastianich’s Tiramisu Al Limoncello.


Limoncello Tiramisu

A refreshingly tart tiramisu studded with fresh raspberries makes an elegant finish to an Italian dinner.


Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 6 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup sugar, divided
  • ¾ cup limoncello liqueur, divided
  • ½ cup water
  • 8 oz. mascarpone, room temperature
  • 24 Italian savioardi (lady’s fingers), or more if needed
  • Fresh raspberries

Directions

  1. Make zabaglione: Separate the eggs and place the yolks in the top of a double-boiler. Add 2 Tablespoons sugar and ¼ cup limoncello. Simmer water in bottom of double-boiler while whisking yolk mixture constantly for about 8 minutes or until it thickens enough to form a ribbon on the top of the zabaglione. Remove top pan from double boiler and cool.
  2. Make soaking syrup: In a small saucepan, combine 1 teaspoon lemon zest, all the lemon juice, ¼ cup sugar, ½ cup limoncello, and water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Set syrup aside.
  3. Make mascarpone layer: In a large bowl, stir together mascarpone and remaining lemon zest until light and fluffy.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip egg whites, adding remaining 2 Tablespoons sugar slowly until whites hold moderately stiff peaks.
  5. Fold cooled zabaglione into mascarpone in 3 additions, keeping as much air in the zabaglione as possible. Similarly, add the egg whites in 3 additions, keeping as much air in the whites as possible.
  6. Assemble: Pour the cooled soaking syrup in a shallow pan. Briefly roll the savioardi in the syrup and place in the bottom of an 8×8” square pan. Arrange ladyfingers in tight rows, filling the bottom of the pan completely. You may need to trim the ladyfingers to fit. You should be able to fit about 12 cookies in the bottom of the pan.
  7. Scoop half the mascarpone cream onto the ladyfingers and smooth. Dip and arrange a second layer of ladyfingers on top of the mascarpone cream and cover with another layer of mascarpone cream.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to two days to allow flavors to meld and tiramisu to firm up. Decorate with fresh raspberries and serve.