Category Archives: Fruit Dishes

Strawberry-Limoncello Granita with Vanilla-Basil Whipped Cream

2 - Serving of Strawberry-Limoncello GranitaStrawberry-Limoncello Granita with Vanilla-Basil Whipped Cream

The official last weekend of summer is here already. I was out walking with a friend today, doing errands and catching up on the last few months’ activities. “The summer has just flown by,” she said. I nodded in agreement. Hopefully, whipping up this recipe for Strawberry-Limoncello Granita with Vanilla-Basil Whipped Cream will let you hang onto those warm, sunny days for just a little bit longer.

3 - Limoncello shots for recipeA shot of limoncello seems about right

With the end of the second strawberry season for this year approaching, it’s also the time to try to hang on to as much of their flavor as possible. I’m not much of a strawberry jam fan, but having found a bottle of limoncello hanging out in my freezer (it does help to clean it out from time to time, I know), I knew that it would be perfect to go with the berries, adding a dash of sunshine and a reminder of vacations in Italy (where, sadly, I didn’t get to travel to this year).

1 - Greenmarket StrawberriesStrawberries from the Greenmarket

The strawberries were a little bit past their prime by the time I got around to making this recipe, so they weren’t as gorgeous as in this photo. As they were cooked down and puréed, that didn’t matter so much. Their sweet-tart flavor came through in the final dish, as did their bright, vibrant color.

6 - IngredientsUses just a few ingredients

 The basil-vanilla whipped cream adds a layer of richness, making the granita seem almost ice cream-like. The herbaciousness and licorice notes in the basil compliment the sweetness in the strawberry-lemon mixture with the vanilla wrapping around all these tastes to make a fragrant bouquet. This dish is a glorious way to celebrate the end of summertime.

Strawberry-Limoncello Granita with Vanilla-Basil Whipped Cream

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: one 8x8-inch pan of granita

Strawberry-Limoncello Granita with Vanilla-Basil Whipped Cream

Ingredients

3/4 c. Water

1/2 c. White Sugar

1 pt. Strawberries, hulled (green stems removed) and cut in half

2 Tbsp. Limoncello

1/2 c. Whipped Cream

2 tsp. Powdered Sugar

1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

2 tsp. Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped finely

Extra small Fresh Basil Leaves for garnish

Assembly

Pour water into a saucepan and add sugar. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, about five minutes. Add strawberries to the sugar-water mixture and let them cook for 5-10 minutes until the berries are soft and have given up some of their juices.

Remove the berry mixture from the heat and puree all of it together with a hand blender or in a food processor until completely smooth with no lumps of fruit. Pour the mixture into a bowl and place the bowl over an ice bath (ice + water) to cool, stirring occasionally. Once it has cooled down, add the limoncello.

Pour the strawberry-limoncello mixture into the 8x8" pan and place it in the freezer. About every 30 minutes or so, check on the granita and, with a fork, scrape across the mixture to break up the ice crystals.

Repeat the scraping technique over several hours until the mixture is completely frozen. Because of the alcohol in the mixture, it will take a bit longer than with a traditional granita recipe for the mixture to reach a mostly frozen state, and it will not freeze solid. Keep the mixture in the freezer until ready to serve.

Just before getting ready to dish up the granita, make the whipped cream. I usually like to make it by hand, but you can do so with a hand or stand mixer, if you prefer. Place the cream in a bowl and whip it to semi-firm peaks. Add the sugar and vanilla and whip to incorporate into the cream. Taste the mixture and add more sugar and vanilla, if necessary. The cream shouldn't been too sweet or vanilla-y. Fold in the chopped basil.

Place a scoop of the strawberry-limoncello granita in the bottom of a serving dish. You can add a dollop of the basil-vanilla whipped cream on top of that; however, it will freeze slightly. Add another scoop of the strawberry-limoncello granita and then top it with a large scoop of the whipped cream on top. Garnish with a few small basil leaves, if desired. Eat immediately.

http://www.theexperimentalgourmand.com/2013/08/31/strawberry-limoncello-granita-with-vanilla-basil-whipped-cream/

Buon appetito!

Lemon-Lime Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Blueberry Compote

Lemon-Lime Tarts with BlueberriesLemon-Lime Tartlets with Blueberries

A couple of weeks ago, I hosted a networking gathering and cocktails event for PYSIS, founded by one of my entrepreneurship classmates who was holding an IndieGoGo fundraiser for her business.  It was a chance to introduce some cool businesswomen to each other and to practice some dishes on a group of willing subjects.  I had taken the filling and dough from the Lemon-Lime-Coconut Tart that I made for #PiePartyGE last fall and turned it into tartlets, suitable for party-style finger food.  Then, this weekend, I wondered how the same filling might work in cheesecake form.

Lemon-Lime-Cheesecake-Blueberry-CompoteLemon-Lime Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust & Blueberry Compote

I decided to turn convert this recipe into Lemon-Lime Cheesecakes, making a few tweaks, adding a Gingersnap Crust, and serving it with a Blueberry Compote.  I had a few of the ingredients left from the original batch, so I mixed up enough to give me about a cup or so of the filling (about 1/2 of the recipe).  I have a couple of 6-inch springform pans, which I thought would be the perfect size for experimenting with this recipe.

Crushing gingersnapsSmashing up gingersnaps – the plastic bag and rolling pin are my standard method

I really enjoy the sharpness of ginger and think it is a great partner with fruit, so I used gingersnaps as the base for the crust.  If you aren’t a big fan of ginger (the flavor can be very strong in an all-gingersnap crust), you can also make the crust out of a combination of gingersnaps and your favorite butter cookies or graham crackers, if you prefer.  I do think that the ginger flavor is a key component of this dessert, so I don’t recommend leaving it out altogether, but you can tame it a bit by using the other crumbs in the base of the cake.

Fresh BlueberriesFresh Blueberries

Blueberries have been all over the local farmers’ market these past few weeks, and I had some still in my fridge from that same gathering.  Although a few of them might be past their prime for eating right out of the container, I thought they’d be perfect to make into a compote.  The tartness of the blueberries, cooked in a little water, sugar, and lemon juice, cut through the richness of the cheesecake and complements the spiciness of the ginger in the crust.  This dessert can be made in advance to be served at a weeknight dinner, making the evening a bit more special.

Lemon-Lime Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust & Blueberry Compote

Prep time: 2 hours (including baking time and cooling time)

Serving size: 2 6-inch cheesecakes

Ingredients:

Butter to grease pans

4 Tbsp. Salted Butter, melted

1 c. Gingersnaps, crushed into fine crumbs

4 0z. Cream Cheese, softened

1/4 c. Sour Cream

1 oz. Heavy Cream

1 Egg

1/3 c. White Sugar

Juice and Zest of one Lemon

Juice and Zest of one Lime

Assembly:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrentheit.  Lightly grease two 6-inch springform pans with butter.  Mix together melted butter with crushed gingersnaps.  Divide the butter-gingersnap mixture between the two pans and press it into the bottom and sides of the pans to form a thin crust.

Crust in panCrust pressed into pans

A a bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, and heavy cream into a smooth paste.  Add egg, sugar, lemon and lime zest, and lemon and lime juice and whisk together until there are no lumps.

Cheesecake filling

Tart Cherries in Brandy and Spiced Syrup for Big Summer Potluck

Tart Cherries at the Union Square Greenmarket

Wednesday afternoon, I was passing through the Union Square Greenmarket, heading back uptown after having attended a lunch meeting at WeCreate NYC that was put together by a fellow blogger friend Emily Hanhan of Nominvorous, when these beautiful, shiny crimson orbs caught my eye.  I had actually thought that cherry season had passed me by for this year, so I was a bit surprised to see them.  I picked up a pint, not even knowing yet what I was going to do with them, their deep, ruby color just calling to me to make something special.

Tart cherries washed and ready to pit

It didn’t take long for me to figure out what to fix using the cherries.  For the past week or so, in person and on line, many folks in the blogger community have been discussing what they would be bringing to contribute to this year’s Big Summer Potluck, which starts tonight.  I’ve never been to this gathering, and with so many fantastic food folks and amazing cooks as my fellow attendees, I knew I wanted to make something that showcases what my website and food philosophy are about.  After doing a little research about recipes, I decided that whipping up a batch of Tart Cherries in Brandy and Spiced Syrup would be just the thing to add to the mix.  This recipe turned out so well, in fact, that I’ve decided to enter these into the Oxo Cherry Recipe Contest.

Pitted cherries – only a tiny mess created

After pitting a pint of cherries over the sink, so as to minimize staining, I threw together a simple sugar syrup combined with a bunch of spices that I had in my kitchen that I thought might add an exotic twist to the mixture.  Then, I spiked it with brandy, added a bit of lemon peel for some freshness and kick, and dumped in the cherries to cook.  They released their gorgeous red color and cooked down to become mouth-puckeringly tart on the inside and smoothly sweet on the outside.  I have no idea how we’ll consume them during the weekend, but I can see these as an ideal garnish for refreshing summer beverages, folded into ice cream, ladled over waffles or pancakes, or as part of a cheese platter for an alfresco meal.  Now that I write this, I wonder if I should have made a few more batches just to hang onto for myself rather than giving them all away this weekend.

Brandied Spiced CherriesTart Cherries in Brandy and Spiced Syrup

Prep Time: an hour or so

Serving Size: 3/4 of a Mason jar full

Ingredients:
1 c. organic Cane Sugar
1 c. Water
6 whole Allspice Berries
8 whole Black Peppercorns
2 whole Anise Stars
3 whole Cloves
1/4 c. Brandy
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 Lemon’s worth of strips of Lemon Peel
1 quart Tart Cherries, pitted*

Assembly:

Starting sugar syrup

Put first 6 ingredients into a large saucepan over low to medium heat and boil the mixture until makes a thick syrup. All the sugar should be dissolved and the liquid should reduce by 1/3. This will take about 10 minutes.

Syrup ready for cherries

Remove the pan from the heat and turn off the flame. Pour in the brandy and the vanilla extract. Add the strips of lemon peel. Stir to combine.

Cherries added to the syrup

Then, add the cherries, making sure to immerse them as best as you can in the syrup. At first, there will be some of them bobbing up on top of the liquid, but as they cook down and release their juices, all of the cherries will slowly melt into the syrup.

Cherries cooked down in syrup

Place over a low flame to boil for at least 45-50 minutes, until cherries start to break down and the sauce reduces by almost 2/3 to become a very thick liquid.

Jarring the cherries

Ladle the cherries into a jar and then pour the syrup over top of the cherries. Close the jar and keep it refrigerated until being used. These are not preserved cherries, so they should be eaten within a week or so.  I also removed the lemon peel and the whole spices from the syrup as I found them as I didn’t want the syrup to become overly-dominated by those tastes.

Tart Cherries in Brandy and Spiced Syrup

Buon appetito!

*Kitchen Witch Tip:

This Oxo cherry pitter was in our goodie bags at Eat, Write, Retreat this year. I hung onto it thinking I that maybe, possibly, I might use it if I made a pie or something. It is fantastic! It made pitting the cherries so neat and only minorly messy, as you can see from the photo of the pitted cherries further above. If you are looking for a hand-held pitter, I recommend trying this one out to see if you like it.  

Mixed-Berry Crostata for Pie Party Live

Do you ever commit yourself to a last-minute cooking or baking project and they realize, “Whoops!  I actually need to deliver on this and do it well.”  This has happened to me more than a few times which is why I try to keep some no-fail, sure-fire, crowd-pleasers in my recipe file.  One of these is a a project I whipped up today, after offering at 8:30 a.m. this morning to join Pie Party Live, hosted by The Diva that Ate New York.  Good thing that I’ve made this Mixed-Berry Crostata about fifty or so times before.

Mixing the wet ingredients into the dry

The recipe comes from an issue of Bon Appetit magazine from May 1995 dedicated to Mediterranean cookery.  Remember when they used to do a whole issue devoted to the cuisine of one region or country?  I really wish they did those again.  I’ve saved all the ones that I could get my hands on, as that was during the time I was living overseas, and the magazine wasn’t easy to find where I lived.  These are priceless resources for my cooking library, and all the dishes I’ve tried to make from them have worked really well.  One of these is the Grandmother’s Tart (or Torta alla Nonna), from which I made the crostata.

Crostata dough

I’ve baked this dessert in several countries and cities, using metric, imperial, and American measures and pans, so here’s my tips for making it.  Many of these are low-tech, as something I’ve never really discussed on this site is that I really do love to get my hands messy when I cook.  I have no problem mixing pastry dough by hand or mixing up the stuff for meatballs and then shaping them between my palms.  Cooking, for me, is a tactile experience, as much in the eating as in the preparation.  This is also where the extra ingredient of care gets added in, and that isn’t listed in any recipe card, on-line instructions or cookbook that I’ve ever found.  It also lets you know when you need to adjust the composition of a dish to add liquids or solids to make it come together.

Thank goodness I found this during my emergency jam run this a.m. when I realized I had didn’t have enough of it in my fridge!  Sarabeth’s is in my neighborhood.*

Although the instructions call for using a food processor, truthfully, you can easily use a pastry cutter or a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients.  After I add the eggs, I use a wooden spoon to incorporate everything.  Then, when the egg is mostly mixed in and there is no longer any visible liquid, I put the spoon aside, roll up my sleeves, and mix all the rest of it by hand.  The moisture and heat from my palms helps to bring those last bits together, and then I knead it for about a couple of turns just to make sure that there are no clumps of butter hanging out in the dough.  This isn’t bread, so you don’t need to knead it more than a few times (personally, I don’t think I’ve ever kneaded it for a minute like it says in the instructions).

Crostata base with filling

Then, you press the dough into the removable-bottom tart pan.  This dough is very forgiving so you can shape it and patch up holes as you go.  In the U.S., I use about a 9-inch pan.  Overseas, look for one that is about 23 cm in width.   The original recipe calls for cherry or apricot-pineapple preserves.  I say, use what you like and what you’ll eat.  Cherry is a favorite of mine, but today, I decided to use Mixed-Berry (or frutti di bosco).  In Italy, I have seen crostate at bakeries with either plum (prugna), cherry (ciliega), or apricot (albicocca).   It is possible to make the dough in advance and press it into the pan without adding the jam.  Then, put it into the refrigerator, covered in plastic, with the ball of dough for the lattice top also covered in plastic and placed in the fridge.  Take it out about 15 minutes before filling it with jam and creating the lattice.

Lattice top added

The trickiest part of making this is really to roll out the cross pieces for the lattice without them breaking apart.  I think I’ve only managed to do this successfully about once or twice.  The positive side is that it definitely looks rustic (rustico) and handmade (fatto a mano) if they aren’t perfect or don’t break in the middle during baking, which mine usually do, as you’ll see in the results below.  Don’t fret over this at all!  The only advice I have is again that this dough is so forgiving.  If a piece breaks before you’ve laid down the lattice slat, stick it back together and roll it out again.  Also the recipe calls for 12 equal pieces.  I’ve done 6, 8, 10.  It doesn’t matter as along as they criss-cross.

Mixed-Berry Crostata

Here is what the end result looks like.  Lemon-perfumed, shortbread-like crispy crust with melty, sweet, gooey fruit all cooked together.  This is perfect for an impromptu supper or tea or as a potluck contribution, and the leftovers, if there are any, make a delicious next-day breakfast or snack (not that I’m speaking from any kind of personal experience on that, mind you), and you can take all the credit for making it yourself, which is sure to impress your guests.

Buon appetito!

*Kitchen Witch Tip:

For this version of the crostata I used Sarabeth’s Spreadable Fruit.  I like it in this recipe as spreadable fruit is less sweet and more of the fruit flavor is present.  The down side is that it can also sometimes be more liquidy.  To use it here, measure out the amount that you need for the filling and let it it drain for 10-15 minutes in a fine-mesh sieve before spreading over the crostata base.  That way, you will not have all the liquid seeping into the crust to make it soggy.

Guest Post from And Baby Cakes Three – Grandmother’s Broiled Grapefruit

While The Experimental Gourmand is off in her old stomping grounds of Bologna, Italy trying to learn the secrets behind making really delicious pasta by hand, Nicole of And Baby Cakes Three, a delicious blog about food with beautiful photos and recipes, is guest posting about food and memories. 

Food plays a great role in our lives and also our childhoods. Through food we discover flavor, texture, temperature, aroma, and taste. Through food we are nourished and sustained. Some people have bad memories of overcooked vegetables or being forced to sit at the table staring at a plate of liver and onions, being told there would be no leaving the table until it was all gone. Thankfully, I was not subjected to that kind of torture. I always asked for seconds (and thirds) as I was a particularly hungry, growing girl.

My first food memory is one that I’ve played over many times throughout the years. In the image, I am 5 or 6 years old sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen with my sister in Amityville, NY. I remember the deep red of the faux-brick linoleum floor and the hand-crank wooden coffee grinder. My grandmother placed a bowl in front of me containing a nice round grapefruit half. She gave me a funny spoon with teeth at the edge that felt strange against my tongue.

This was no ordinary grapefruit. My grandmother had lovingly segmented and broiled it with a bit of brown sugar to warm it through and take off that sour edge. It was a little touch that made breakfast cozy — as if breakfast in a grandmother’s kitchen could be any cozier. When my sister and I announced we were done, she took our spoons and helped us scrape out the rest of the pulp. Good to the last spoonful.

My grandmother passed away when I was in third grade, so I’ve clung to the few moments we shared in life. That’s why over childhood birthday parties with pizza and cupcakes it’s the memory of a grapefruit that I keep replaying. Proof that somebody loved me deeply, was happy to have me in their home that morning, and took extra care to show me that.

Broiled grapefruit

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Serving size: 2 portions

Ingredients:

1 Grapefruit

4 tsp. Brown Sugar

pinch of ground Cinnamon or ground Ginger (optional)

Assembly:

Preheat broiler setting on oven.  Cut grapefruit in half and cut away the sections from the membrane.  Sprinkle each half with 2 tsp. of the brown sugar (and cinnamon and/or ginger, if using).

Place each half underneath the broiler for 5 minutes until the sugar has melted and the top has begun to turn brown.  Check halfway through so as not to burn the grapefruit.  Let cool for a few seconds before eating it.

Buon appetito!

Shortbread, Strawberries, and Cream for Tea

“The best ideas always arrive after a glass of wine or two …”

This was said to me in response to an email that I’d sent to a friend in England, after telling him that I’d made my first-ever batch of shortbread.  Last night, I’d met up with another friend who used to live in the city for a glass of wine and mezze at a Greek restaurant near where she’d been at a networking conference.  She now lives in New Jersey.  When she’s in town for a meeting we usually try to see if we can squeeze in a massive catch-up session.

As we were parting ways after said eats and drinks, I invited her for tea today, as we still had more to talk about, which was the idea I’d shared with my English friend.  The crazier part of this story is that I also had a former roommate coming in for a visit this afternoon.  On top of that, I’m trying to get ready to head down to Virginia tomorrow for a family birthday barbecue.  At least I was already cleaning up my apartment and trying to get it knocked into some kind of order, but what would I serve everyone?

Fortunately, I’d picked up some of these gorgeous beauties at the Greenmarket on Wednesday.  We have a couple of strawberry seasons in the markets in New York, if we are lucky.  The first batch are large and sweet and can sometimes be lighter in berry flavor.  The second crop comes in more towards the end of the summer and are smaller and have a sweet-tart taste that can make your mouth pucker.

These need minimal dressing up before serving them.  All I did was sprinkle them with a little bit of Grand Marnier liqueur and a very small amount of sugar to draw out some of their moisture and create a syrup, to macerate them. This technique is especially helpful if you have under ripe fruit and are trying to give it some extra flavor and juiciness.  As I mentioned, these didn’t really need much extra attention, so I prepared these right before my guests arrived, serving them with a healthy helping of freshly whipped cream.

The  soft, sweet, juicy strawberries and silken cream partnered perfectly with the buttery, crumbly shortbread.  A few of the edges of the shortbread were baked to a darker, golden color which gave them a more caramel-like flavor.  Not surprisingly, those were my favorite ones, and I tried to position the plate so that they were closest to me.  It was very much like having a deconstructed strawberry shortcake with all the milky, berry, and biscuit-like flavors melting in my mouth at the same time.  As an afternoon snack, at the table with friends, sunlight streaming into my apartment on a cool day, this was an ideal summertime treat.

Strawberries and Cream

Serving size: Depends upon how much your friends like berries (o.k., so about 4 folks)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups Strawberries

1 tsp. Grand Marnier or other liqueur

1 /4 tsp. White Sugar or Cane Sugar

1/2 c. heavy (whipping) Cream (not ultra-pasterized if you can find it)

Assembly:

Put bowl in which you will be whipping the cream and the beaters you will be using to whip the cream into the freezer.  Hull the strawberries, i.e., cut off the stem and the hard bit attached to it, and slice the strawberries crosswise into about 1-inch pieces.  Place in a serving bowl.

Sprinkle the strawberries with the liqueur and the sugar.  Stir to coat the berries.  Set aside in the refrigerator.  This can be done up to an hour or so in advance.  Extra time will allow for more syrup to develop, but if your berries are very ripe, it can also make them get mushy.

Remove bowl and beaters from the freezer.  Pour cream into bowl and whip with beaters/mixer until the cream has thickened and has developed soft peaks.  You can whip a little bit longer to develop stiff peaks, if you prefer, but be careful not to overwhip the cream.  Gently pour whipped cream into a serving bowl.  Remove strawberries from the refrigerator and serve with the whipped cream.

British Classic Shortbread

Here is the link to a version of the recipe that I used.  It is originally from BBC Good Food from September of 2000 and was put together by Angela Nilsen.  For the American audience, I’ll write down the proportions that I used.  There is also another slight change to this recipe in that you will want an extra little bit of sugar to sprinkle over the top of the shortbread after you take it out of the oven.

Serving size: 8 pieces

Prep time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

6 oz. white Flour (3/4 c.)

4 oz. lightly salted Butter, at room temperature (1 stick butter)

2 oz. golden caster Sugar (unrefined superfine sugar), plus extra for sprinkling on top (1/4 c.)

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  After combining the ingredients and forming the mixture into a ball, per the recipe link, put the dough onto an ungreased baking tray.  Roll it out into a circle on the tray, and then mark 8 slices on the dough with a knife (don’t cut all the way through).  With a fork, press lightly around the outside to make a fan pattern at the edge.

Put baking tray into oven and bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown.  The shortbread will still be soft.  Sprinkle the top with extra golden caster sugar or regular unrefined sugar (just about 1/4 tsp. or less).  Press the sugar lightly into the shortbread.  With a knife, cut through the shortbread in the same place where you made the light cuts prior to baking.  Allow to cool before serving so that the shortbread turns crisp  and crumbly.

Buon appetito!