On a Joyous Zest

Regardless of the good feeling one gets from using a bar of Zest while bathing, this post isn’t about soap – nor is it about Zesta saltine crackers. I’m also not passing on an inspirational message for a zest for life. Since, I’m running out of options, maybe citrus zest – but no – well, at least in terms of food.

Alright – it’s the holiday season – and even nonChristians participate in some form of a season of giving – so here’s an idea for using zest for your holiday zeal.

Limoncello is an Italian liqueur – and yes, lemon zest is an important ingredient in producing this wonderful treat. It’s primarily produced, but not limited to, the Naples and Amalfi areas of Italy. This sipping drink is lemony, sweet, and potent – although I wonder if serving limoncello in a small glass simply is for ease of refills. For those wanting to know more history, here’s a link.

Now the holiday connection. Large bottles of limoncello typically sell for $25-35 per bottle (wine bottle size, 750 ml). For a not that many more dollars, it’s easy to make about three times as much – and then by putting it in small bottles makes a nice gift friends.

Below is my recipe, which makes about a gallon (4 quarts).

Equipment

  • Zester (I prefer the type with the small prongs that removes the zest in small ribbons. Rasping type is fine, but it’s more work & requires better filtering)
  • Large jar with screw-top lid. (Inexpensive is fine. My jar is about 9″ tall, 7″ wide, with a 4.5″ lid.) (about 1 gal capacity)
  • 7-8 small glass bottles with a screw cap (for bottling) or 3 standard wine bottles
  • Strainer (fine)
  • Cheesecloth

Ingredients

  • 8-12 lemons (limes or oranges are substitute)
  • 2 bottles (750 mL) of spirits (either 2 vodka, 2 grain alcohol, or one of each – I prefer the latter)
  • 4.5 cups sugar (Stage 2)
  • 5 cups of water (Stage 2)

Instructions: Stage 1

  1. Wash the lemons
  2. Remove the peel (or use the zester), and then place the zest in the jar. (Note: the white pith behind the zest is bitter, thus don’t want)
  3. Add 1 bottle of spirit. (Note: If using my suggestion of alcohol and vodka, add ONLY the grain alcohol)
  4. Cover the jar, shake to mix, then put it to rest in a dark place as a cabinet or closest
  5. Occasionally shake the jar during the next 7-10 days

Instructions: Stage 2

  1. In a large pan over high heat, boil the water.
  2. Add the sugar, and then stir until all is dissolve.
  3. Boil together for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let simple syrup cool to room temperature.
  5. Add simple syrup to the jar.
  6. Add the remaining bottle of spirit to the jar.
  7. Close the lid, shake, and return to the dark place.
  8. Occasionally shake during the next 7-10 days.

Instructions: Stage 3 (Bottling)
Note: This stage involves 2 key processes: straining & bottling. Failing to remove the fine particles will create sediment & floaters in the bottles.

  • Pour the limoncello through a fine strainer. Note: Depending on the jar, it is possible to keep most of the zest in the jar.
  • Strain again through 5-8 layers of cheesecloth. Additional straining may be necessary.
  • Pour into individual bottles and store in refrigerator. Serve chilled. Note: Small bottles are great as gifts.

On the Gift from the Vine

Music is the wine which inspires one to new generative processes, and I am Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for mankind and makes them spiritually drunken.
~Ludwig van Beethoven

Interestingly, Beethoven turned 240 last week (December 17th). Coincidently, Meesh (who – like I, appreciates wine) gave me this quote, which actually inspired this post.

I love wine and view it as a gift. Every year Wine Spectator precedes the holiday season by publishing its top 100. For your holiday pleasure, here are wines on the list, but priced at less than $20. White wine drinkers, sorry the list all red because that is what I enjoy the most and know most about; but, upon special request, I’ll see what I can discover for you.

  • Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserve 2005 (Spain)
  • Columbia Crest Merlot Horse Heaven Hills H3 2007 (Washington)
  • Chateau de Lascaux 2008 (France, Langeudoc)
  • Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Reserve (Spain)
  • Yelands Pinto Noir 2008 (New Zealand, Marborough)
  • D’Arenberg The Stump Jump Red 2008 (Australia)
  • Bodegas LAN Rioja Crianza (Spain)
  • Peter Lehmann Clancy’s Barossa 2007 (Australia)
  • Tamarack Firehouse Red Columbia Valley 2008 (Washington)

As a bonus, here are some of my value favorites.

  • Peter Lehman Shiraz (Australia)
  • Il Conte Rosso (Italy) – the best value on the planet if you can find it
  • Marietta Old Vine Red Lot 53 (California)
  • Rosenblum Vintner’s Cuvee Zinfandel XXXII (or any other Roman numeral) (California)
  • Various malbecs from Argentina or primotivos from southern Italy (Puglia)

Need a red wine for the holiday to serve to those who don’t like heavy reds? Try a Dolcetto (Italy) or a Beujalois Village (France) by George DuBuoef or Louis Jadot.

Need an easy sparkling wine for New Years’ that is easy on the palate and budget? Consider Saint Hillaire (France), a prosecco from Italy or a cava from Spain … but so many love sweetness of Asti Spumante (Italy). Wine Spectator values include Korbel Chardonnay California Champagne NV ($12) and Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Columbia Valley NV.

Need a dessert? Try this fabulous Chocolate-Red Wine Cake … and drink it with some ruby port. The pair is simply heavenly! For ruby port values, try Fonseca Port Bin No. 27 or Warre Port Warrior.

If you are a daring wine buyer, remember the online site Wine Till Sold Out (www.wtso.com). They only post one wine at a time, so if see something you want, don’t wait.

A few more wine quotes.

  • “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” (Ben Franklin)
  • “Wine is bottled poetry.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)
  • “He who loves not wine, women and song remains a fool his whole life long.” (Martin Luther)
  • “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.” (Louis Pasteur)

For those desiring more, here is a page with 101 wine quotes. Please share any wine recommendations too!

So far, the gift bag delivered holiday humor (Monday), images (Tuesday), and wine (today). What will tomorrow bring?

On Argentine Chili

Everybody knows Texas Chili, which looks and tastes completely different from Midwestern chili. Some say that Cincinnati chili isn’t chili at all, but don’t tell that to Cincinnatians who swear by their four or five-way delights.

Earlier this spring (for lunch), I attended an international food event. Being that I appreciate different cultures, this event was awesome. Although other sights and sounds were also associated with the event, food was front and center.

A chili-like soup from Argentina (properly called Locro) caught my attention. Fortunately, I had only a one-person separation with one of the Argentines – so I got a recipe. Unfortunately, the recipe could serve a neighborhood party, but the wonders of the Internet allowed me to track down some portions to substitute for “add seasonings to taste.”

Our church has a long-running wine-tasting group. With Argentina and Chile the theme, the event gave me an excellent opportunity to try this Argentine Chili. (Did you get the play on words?) I will say that it was a hit as the group of 25 polished off the entire crockpot! So, here’s my gift to you.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 6 slices of bacon (chopped)
  • ½ to ¾ lb. stew meat (thinly sliced, cubes)
  • 2 links of chorizo sausage (substitute: hot Italian sausage)
  • 2 medium onions (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 can hominy
  • 2 cans cannellini beans (or Great Northern)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 med-to-lg sweet potato (cut in small cubes)
  • 1 ½ cups yellow squash (sliced)

Directions

  1. In a stewpot, add the olive oil and sauté the meats until brown on med-high heat.
  2. Add onions and the garlic.
  3. Continue sautéing until onions are translucent.
  4. Add the hominy, bean (including juices), and the spices.
  5. Stir, lower heat, and cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Add sweet potatoes and the squash.
  7. Add 2 cups of water, and mix.
  8. Bring to boil, and then reduce heat to low for simmering.
  9. Simmer for 90 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid sticking.
  10. With a potato masher, apply 3-4 mashes to breakup some of the vegetables.
  11. Simmer for 30 minutes (or more) to thicken.
  12. Serve hot and enjoy!

On Spaghetti Sauce

spaghettiSome people like their spaghetti sauce meaty, others meatless. Some rich with tomato chunks, others want smooth. Ever thought about crunching? Not like nuts, but as in vegetables.

Here’s my own spaghetti sauce recipe that is a bit different than most. The Notes section provides tips and options.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 slice of bacon, chopped (optional)
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • ½ fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves (depending on your taste, sliced, minced, or chopped)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup crisp, white wine (as sauvignon blanc)
  • 1 16-oz can San Marzano tomatoes (with juices, broken by hand)
  • ½ tsp thyme powder
  • ½ carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt & pepper (to taste, 1/8-1/4 tsp of each)

Notes

  • For those desiring more tomatoes, use 28 oz can (photographed)
  • Another option, add an 8 oz can of tomato sauce to the 16 oz can
  • In place of finely chopping, consider using a food processor
  • I use a potato masher to break the tomatoes once added
  • Notice the wine is added in increments. If the mixture needs additional fluid, add a splash of the wine

Directions

  1. With medium heat, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan.
    Add onion, fennel, garlic, and bacon. Cook until light brown (7-8 min)
  2. Add tomato paste. Stir and simmer (1 min)
  3. Add 1/3 cup of white wine. Simmer (2 min)
  4. Add thyme & carrots. Simmer (1-2 min)
  5. Add 1/3 cup of white wine. Stir. Simmer (2-3 min)
  6. Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper, and remaining 1/3 cup of white wine; and then mix
  7. Lower heat, and simmer 30-40 min, occasionally stirring

“Battle Cranberry” Sausage Spaghetti

Back in 2006 (I believe), the Food Network used Iron Chef to pit Giada DeLaurentis and Bobby Flay against Rachael Ray and Mario Batali. Since the episode aired many times, I can assume many viewers watched. Well, last night I checked Food Network and, lo’ and behold, it’s back for another run.

Foodies know that Food Network’s site is a treasure trove of recipes for recipes shown on the air; however, Iron Chef’s creations are not there. We were so intrigued with Rachael’s Cranberry-Sausage Spaghetti, we watched the episode several times to take notes with hopes of creating a similar version. Let me simply say this is one delish dish!

In the spirit of holiday giving, A Frank Angle provides our home’s version of this unique combination of two unlikely partners.

If you eat like us, this recipe is for two-three bountiful servings. Otherwise, four small servings are possible.

Ingredients
1 link sweet Italian sausage (casing removed)
1 link hot Italian sausage (casing removed)
2 cloves garlic (chopped or sliced)
1 onion (chopped)
Nutmeg
1 bunch Swiss chard (strip from stalk, then chop leaves)
1/2 c dried cranberries
16-24 oz unsweetened cranberry juice (won’t use all)
1 tbsp butter
Salt
Feta cheese
(Optional) Parsley – chopped, enough to sprinkle on serving

Note: Organic unsweetened cranberry use is too tart, thus recommend using a “regular” unsweetened (which is sweetened by another juice instead of a sugar/sweetener).

Directions
* Time cooking the spaghetti with the end of the sauce preparation.

  1. In a large frying pan, brown the sausage, onions, & garlic. Break the sausage apart while cooking (8-10 minutes).
  2. Add the cranberries.
  3. Add enough cranberry juice (about 2 cups) to simmer. (Total simmering time 15 min.)
  4. Bring to boil and reduce. (A good time to prep the chard)
  5. Continue adding juice as fluid reduces. (Start the water for the spaghetti).
  6. Add the chard to the mixture.
  7. Sprinkle mixture with nutmeg.
  8. Salt to taste.
  9. Continue simmering (10-12 min.) and add juice when necessary.
  10. Add butter to the mixture near the end of the cooking. Stir to melt.
  11. Add cooked spaghetti into the pan. Stir to coat.
  12. Plate, then top with feta cheese & parsley.

For the holiday season, this Iron Chef episode is reaired on Thursday, December 18 at 9:00 pm.