Limoncello and A Few Other Homemade Gift Ideas

limoncello and cream

When my grandmother was alive, I learned to be careful with my words, especially when paying any compliments.

If I told her I liked her raincoat, five minutes later she would have snuck it into the trunk of my car. If I admired her olive bowl, I would later find it wrapped in paper tucked in my suitcase. If I spent too long thumbing through one of her cookbooks, it soon would be mine.

I was reminded of this feeling earlier this month when Ben and I spent the morning at our friend Jim’s mother’s house learning how to make prosciutto. Before we began, Antonietta showed us the cold room of her basement, where prosciutto, capicola and week-old sausages hung from the ceiling, homemade wine aging in carboys lined the perimeter, and mason jars of homemade tomato sauce, roasted peppers and pickled vegetables filled a closet floor to ceiling.

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Holly’s Challah

round challah

This fall, a quest to make apple cider challah had me reducing cider by the gallon, watching video after video on youtube, making French toast every other morning.

I had a post nearly ready to publish, but in the end, I just wasn’t satisfied. The loaves looked pretty and tasted good, too, but the final product didn’t warrant the work or cost involved in reducing the cider. So I took a break from all of my challah making, stashed the loaves in the freezer, and returned to eating my apple cider donuts without thinking about any other apple cider offspring.

But about a month ago, the subject of challah came up with my friend Holly, who told me she had a great recipe, one she learned from her friend, (a wife of a rabbi), and she offered to show me how if I were interested. Umm, yes, please.

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Grand Marnier Chocolate Truffles

grand marnier chocolate truffles

After serving a delectable Thanksgiving Eve dinner of cedar-plank grilled arctic char and roasted Brussels sprouts, my mother and aunt poured coffee and passed around plates of these Grand Marnier chocolate truffles, a party trick they learned from their mother, something they always have on hand this time of year.

A cup of coffee, a boozy bite of chocolate — is there a better way to end (start?) the day? This time of year especially, when there never seems to be enough time, having a stash of truffles in the cupboard has been known, in our family at least, to save the day. Truffles make a simple dessert, an elegant homemade gift, a festive treat to break out at impromptu gatherings. One batch, which yields at least 3 dozen, can be made days in advance and stored in the fridge. Just be sure to bring them to room temperature before serving.

Easy to make and pretty to boot, what’s not to love? My gramma taught her daughters well. [Read more…]

Butternut Squash Lasagna | Thanksgiving in VT

slice of lasagna

Snow, dogs, a constant fire — I couldn’t have asked for anything more of Thanksgiving in Vermont.

But, as always, all of the VT treats — the Jasper Hill Farm cheeses, the Dakin Farm ham (with the ham sauce!), Uncle Wade’s waffles with Vermont maple syrup, Shed beer — did make we want to pack up and stay forever. I left dreaming about all of my aunt and mother’s cooking, from biscotti and koulourakia to grilled artic char and coconut-milk marinated cauliflower steaks.

Punch and paté (following this recipe to a T) were a hit but hands down, the hit of all hits was this butternut squash lasagna, a dish brought to Thanksgiving dinner by a vegetarian friend of my aunt and uncle’s. Having taken a peak inside the insulated carry tote (which is the coolest thing…Santa, take note), I had to ask for some details immediately. Kris, the friend, kindly obliged and described the basic process, brushing it all off as an old recipe from Gourmet, just something she and her mother had been making for years.

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A Few Gift Ideas From Food52’s Provisions // Plus A Giveaway: Hedley & Bennett Apron

Hedley and Bennet Apron

Hi Friends,

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I write today with a few gift ideas from the beautiful kitchen and home shop, Provisions by Food52. If any of you have visited the Provisions shop you’ve likely struggled to pull yourself away, to stay focused, to resist buying just a teensy tiny something.

From vintage pie servers to letterpress coasters to fluted stoneware tart pans, every item is striking in both form and function, screaming: You need me in your kitchen. Immediately.

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Making Pie Dough? Watch This Video. // Also, Two-Month Free Membership to Salted

just-baked chess pie

A few weeks ago I received an email from the founder of Salted, a recently launched online cooking school designed for home cooks, comprised of videos from over 50 master chefs across the country.

Jeff Appelbaum, the founder, wondered if I or you, my Readers, might find this type of content helpful, and last week, after watching just a handful of tutorials, I emailed him back immediately: yes, absolutely, who wouldn’t want to watch Roy Choi of Kogi Truck fame make a stir-fried rice-and-beef bowl? or the pastry chef of Gramercy Tavern make apple crisp and cream biscuits? or Daniel Holzman make meatballs?

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Ronnie Hollingsworth’s Most Excellent Squash Pie // A Few Ideas for Thanksgiving

butternut squash pie

May through September, it never crosses my mind to open a can of fruit to make a pie. But as soon as October rolls around, it never crosses my mind not to open a can to make my favorite pies and quick breads and muffins. Is this odd?

I hadn’t thought about it till last week, and the truth is that I had no intention of mastering pumpkin pie from scratch — using canned pumpkin never bothered me. Besides, last Thanksgiving I made Ina Garten’s pumpkin pie from Foolproof, and everyone, high on punch or otherwise, raved.

And I would have made it again had I not read The Dirty Life and been directed by one of you (thank you, Laurie!) to Ronnie Hollingsworth’s Most Excellent Squash Pie, one of four recipes printed at the back of the book. In the preface to the recipe, Kristin Kimball sold me: “Pumpkin shmumpkin, winter squash has more flavor and better texture.” She likes butternut best.

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Homemade Fluff, Bruléed or Not

hot cocoa with bruléed fluff

Upon returning from NYC, I headed straight to Lowe’s to purchase a blowtorch and a one-pound tank of propane gas. On my way home, I stopped at the Co-op for Fluff and a pint of dulce de leche ice cream.

Lest you worry I’m embarking on some sort of dark, emotional journey, let me remind you about that sundae my friend and I split at Ichabod’s a few weeks ago: homemade vanilla ice cream, pretzel bits, salted caramel, bruléed marshmallow. The bruléed marshmallow, it turns out, was Fluff, which got torched just before serving.

As you might imagine, I felt a little tormented purchasing the Fluff. I avoided looking at the ingredient list for days, choosing an ignorance-is-bliss approach to enjoying my daily -Fluff topped hot cocoa and ice cream sundae. [Read more…]

Nigella Lawson’s Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake with Booze and Coffee, Plus Two Fair Trade Giveaways

Nigella Lawson's dense chocolate loaf cake with brandy and coffee

Nigella Lawson’s recipe for dense chocolate loaf cafe, well traversed in the blogosphere, needs no tinkering. Moist, rich, tender, chocolatey — what’s to improve?

Well, when my box of Fair Trade treats arrived, and I saw the bag of coffee and chocolate nestled together, I couldn’t help think that coffee, known to heighten the flavor of chocolate without imparting much coffee flavor at all, might make a subtle difference. And because a splash of booze is often a nice addition to quick breads/loaf cakes, what would be the harm in replacing the final two tablespoons of water with brandy? And because every cake needs a pinch of salt, a pinch of salt would be added, too.

The result? Intense chocolate, subtle coffee and booze, perfect sweetness, complete deliciousness. This cake gets better by the day and is as impossible to resist with morning coffee as with postprandial cordials. Coffee, booze, salt — somehow I think you (and Nigella) would approve. [Read more…]

Buttermilk Biscuits with Maple & Sea Salt | Also, Tips from Joanne Chang on Biscuit Making

just-baked buttermilk biscuits

Last month I traveled to a wedding in Boston via a Greyhound bus, which dropped me off with hours to spare before the big event (so considerately deciding not to break down till the trip home), affording me the chance to have lunch at Flour Bakery.

I arrived just as the last sticky bun got snatched up, which in hindsight was a blessing, because had it still been around, I never would have discovered the best BLT in the world — seriously, the best — and I most likely wouldn’t have grabbed a brown butter rice krispie treat (also incredibly delicious) on the way out the door. I’ve read about Joanne Chang in blogs and magazines for years, watched her beat Bobby Flay in a sticky bun throwdown, drooled over both of her cookbooks at the library, but for reasons I can’t explain had never made any of her recipes until a few days ago.

The recipe, buttermilk biscuits with maple and black pepper, is in Dana Cowin’s new cookbook, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen. Many of you likely know Dana as the Editor in Chief of Food and Wine magazine, as someone who knows food better than anyone, as someone who wouldn’t make too many mistakes in the kitchen, or who would be an unlikely person to admit to them.

Well, the secret’s out: [Read more…]