Strawberry Limoncello Popsicles

01I can’t believe summer is coming to an end. It seems like it just began, but everything around me suggests otherwise. Football is starting up, shops are advertising “back to school” deals, and some people are already planning their Halloween costumes (yes, I’m talking about you Michelle). Who really wants to think about buying sweaters during the hottest part of the summer? I say, embrace these last weeks and do something quintessentially summer – make popsicles!

02When I was deciding what flavor to make my popsicles, I thought about my first trip to Europe. I went on D. Smith’s famous senior class trip after graduating high school, and I think I ate gelato every day I was in Italy. During that trip, my long-time best friend Ashley introduced me to the amazing combination of strawberry and lemon gelato. I knew those flavors would be perfect in a popsicle. Then I thought about when I studied abroad in college, and I couldn’t help but think about when my roommates and I went on a limoncello sampling spree up and down the streets of Sorrento. That’s when the light bulb in my head went off – strawberry and limoncello popsicles!

03Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur, originating from Southern Italy. It is traditionally served chilled as an after dinner drink, but it is also especially delicious over vanilla ice cream. Thus, I decided to incorporate the limoncello with a creamy Greek yogurt mixture for the popsicles. I also cooked the strawberries in a little limoncello to tie everything together. I bought my limoncello from my favorite Italian grocery store, but it is also available at Trader Joe’s. If you are feeling especially motivated, you can even make it yourself. You won’t regret having a little extra around!

Strawberry Limoncello Popsicles, makes 10 popsicles*

  • 2 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided in half
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons limoncello

*Special thanks to my friend Shradha for loaning me this nifty popsicle mold.

Place lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar into a small saucepan. Cook on medium-low heat until the sugar begins to dissolve. Gradually whisk in the heavy whipping cream and half & half. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of limoncello. Let the cream mixture cool completely. Meanwhile, combine strawberries, 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons of limoncello in another saucepan. Cook on medium heat until the strawberries are reduced (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool.

Once the cream mixture has cooled, whisk in the Greek yogurt. Alternating between the limoncello cream and the strawberry syrup, add the mixtures to the popsicle mold. In order to achieve a marbled effect, stick a skewer or something similar in the molds, slightly mixing the layers. Freeze for 8-10 hours. To remove the popsicles, carefully run the popsicle mold under warm water.

Torta di Frittate

05It has been brought to my attention that for being a lover of breakfast, I have seriously underrepresented my favorite meal of the day. My friend David aptly mentioned this to me, since he and I share a fondness for all things breakfast. Shortly after I moved to California I met David, who informed me that San Diego is “breakfast-town.” Skeptical of this stranger’s claim, I told him to prove it. Ever since then, we have been trying different breakfast, not brunch, restaurants in town. Recently an article was published naming the iconic diners in the city, and I am proud to say that we have been to half of them together for breakfast in addition to many other delicious restaurants. After two years of waking up early on the weekends, I can tell you that San Diego is serious about breakfast.

01This brings me to today’s recipe – torta di frittate or frittata cake. Last year for David’s birthday I made him breakfast, so this year I decided to continue the tradition and blog about what I made. I wanted to make some sort of egg dish, and when I found an egg recipe that described itself as a cake, I thought, “What could be better than a breakfast egg birthday cake?” Especially when it has Fontina cheese, roasted eggplant, Parmesan cheese, roasted red bell pepper, and MORE Fontina cheese. As if that wasn’t enough, I topped it with some spicy arugula pesto. Yeah, I went there.

09So if you are not excited by the same old birthday cake every year or if you just feel like making a special breakfast, this recipe is a piece of a cake (sorry I couldn’t help myself). You can substitute the ingredients with anything you have on hand, like potatoes, onions, or cheddar cheese. And as with all recipes, this frittata is best enjoyed in the company of good friends. Thanks for putting up with the picture-taking David and Taylor!

08Torta di Frittate, serves 6

  • 6 eggs
  • Half of a medium eggplant, sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 3 1/2 ounces Fontina cheese, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and turn on the broiler. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and broil the eggplant slices until soft and golden. Meanwhile roast the bell pepper in the oven or directly on a burner until blackened and charred. Transfer the pepper to a plastic bag, seal the bag, and let cool. When cool enough to handle, peel and seed the pepper. Cut the pepper into strips and set aside with the eggplant. Increase the oven temperature to 475 degrees.

Beat two eggs in one bowl and two eggs in another bowl. Season both with salt and pepper and divide the parsley between them. Beat the remaining two eggs in a third bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Heat the butter and a little olive oil in a medium skillet. Pour in one bowl of the egg and parsley mixture and cook until set on one side, but still a little runny on the other. Slide the frittata out of the skillet and cook two more using the remaining egg mixtures.

Line a cake pan with parchment paper and place one of the parsley frittatas, soft side up, in it. Cover with the eggplant and half of the Fontina. Place the Parmesan frittata on top, soft side up, and cover with bell pepper strips and the remaining Fontina cheese. Finally, place the second parsley frittata on top, soft side down. Bake for 10 minutes. Serve hot or cold with spicy arugula pesto. I made this recipe, but left out the Asiago cheese.

Squid Ink Spaghetti

5cSometimes you just need a girls night (sorry guys). A night to relax, catch up, and drink something girly. Obviously delicious food is required. I love throwing dinner parties, and what better reason to have one than to give my girl friends a break from studying for the Bar. Plus, I got the idea for this recipe when I had dinner with these girls at one of my favorite Italian restaurants in San Diego. If you need a place to take a date, family, or you just want to treat yourself, go to Bencotto. I have dreams about their squid ink pasta with spicy shrimp sauce. But, if you are not in San Diego or you want to make something equally as delicious and easy, this is the recipe for you.

2I also made a few other dishes that I want to briefly share with you all. If anyone is trying to come up with a menu for a summer dinner party, these recipes worked really well together, and I didn’t have to spend all day in the kitchen to get all the food ready. For cocktails, I made clementine and red wine spritzers, thanks to Joy the Baker and the Hotel San Jose in Austin, Texas. For an appetizer, I made caprese salad with two large heirloom tomatoes, one large ball of mozzarella, and a handful of fresh basil leaves. I also reduced some balsamic vinegar and drizzled that on the salad along with olive oil. For dessert, I made cherry and plum bruschetta, which I found the recipe for in Bon Appétit. I was lucky enough to have the plums for dessert and the zucchini for the pasta, growing in my backyard. But most of these ingredients are in season and at the store right now anyway, so it’s the perfect time to try these recipes!

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1Squid Ink Spaghetti, adapted from The Silver Spoon, serves 6

  • 1 lb squid ink spaghetti (available at Italian grocery stores)
  • 2 lbs clams (or 3 clams per person)
  • 1 large or 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Good extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat and add the zucchini. Season with the salt and pepper and cook until the zucchini is tender, continuously turning the pieces so that they brown but don’t burn. Remove the zucchini with a slotted spoon, reserving the olive oil. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente and drain.

About 2-3 minutes before the pasta is cooked, add another tablespoon of olive oil to the saucepan and heat until it just begins to smoke. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds before adding the clams and white wine. Cover and cook until all the clams have opened and the sauce has reduced. Take the pan off of the heat and remove the clams, reserving the sauce. Add the spaghetti and zucchini to the sauce and combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add more olive oil if desired. Serve immediately with parsley and clams on top of the spaghetti.

Falafel Sliders

Falafel1When I think of all the places I ate in Italy, I don’t just think about all the great Italian food.  It wasn’t until I lived in Florence that I really started trying Middle Eastern food, including falafel. As anyone who has visited Italy can attest, for every two enotecas in a city, there is a kebab shop, filled with Italians and tourists alike. I even learned how to make falafel and hummus in my cooking class in Florence. After seeing a beautiful post for baked falafel, I decided it was time to revisit my class’s falafel recipe.

Falafel2Some say the Egyptians were the first to make falafel, which was a replacement for meat during Lent.  Traditionally, the recipe calls for fava beans, which I used in my cooking class. However, I decided to use chickpeas, which are commonly used as well. I read many blog posts and reader comments about whether canned chickpeas work as well as dried chickpeas that have been soaked for 24 hours. After trying the recipe both ways I can definitively tell you that canned chickpeas DO NOT WORK. You will end up with fried patties of a hummus-like paste, if you are even lucky enough to get the patties to stay together. Soaking chickpeas for 24 hours may seem like a hassle, but it is worth it to get the fluffy falafel that everyone loves.

Falafel3The process of frying may be intimidating (it was to me!) but it really was simple with the right tools. I used a cast iron dutch oven and a liquid thermometer. The thermometer is crucial, so you can tell when the oil has heated to 350 degrees. If anyone tries this recipe baked, I would love to hear the results. Click on the link to the falafel post I mentioned above for baking instructions. Also, I (perhaps foolishly) decided to remove the skins from the chickpeas after they soaked. I won’t lie this took a long time, but after failing the recipe with canned chickpeas, I was determined to make the perfect falafel. If chickpeas with the skin on work just as well for you, please leave me a comment!

Falafel4As a final thought, I wanted to mention an article I read a while ago about an Italian law banning new ethnic food restaurants in the Tuscan town Lucca. I don’t know what happened to this law and I am not trying to get political. I was just thinking that while Italian food is my favorite cuisine, I can’t imagine a world without a variety of foods reflecting cultures all over the world. So many recipes incorporate and merge ideas from different cuisines. That’s how this recipe can be called falafel and a slider. I don’t think the Egyptians knew what a slider was 1,000 years ago. And they certainly did not know what a McFalafel was.

Falafel Sliders, makes around 20 falafel

The Patties

  • 1 3/4 cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 cup parsley or cilantro (I used both)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Bottle of canola oil

The Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste

Extras

  • Mini pita pockets (I got mine from Trader Joe’s)
  • Cucumber slices
  • Roma tomato slices

Put the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches. They will triple in volume. Soak for 24 hours, adding water if needed to keep beans submerged. Drain chickpeas and transfer to a food processor. Add remaining ingredients except onion and oil. Pulse until minced, but not pureed, scraping sides of bowl down occasionally. The key is to not over-process the mixture and keep the amount of water to a minimum. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the onion. Taste, adding salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Let mixture rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile combine all yogurt sauce ingredients. Blend well and refrigerate.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter and shape into balls. Let patties rest for 15 minutes to preserve their shape. Heat the oil in a deep pan so that the patties can be submerged. Turn heat to medium-high and heat oil to about 350 degrees. Fry in batches, without crowding, until golden brown. Total cooking time will be less than 5 minutes. Place falafel on a plate covered with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve with mini pita pockets, a big dollop of yogurt sauce, cucumber and tomato slices.

Panzanella

1It’s summer time! Well, I guess technically the first day of summer is June 21st, but surely I am not alone in thinking that summer is the very first minute after your last exam in school. However you want to look at it, school is out and the blog is back. Even during school, I was thinking about everything I want to make this summer, and, in case you have not noticed, I redesigned the blog. When I was thinking about potential recipes, I knew I wanted panzanella to be my first post. Panzanella is a Florentine salad that centers around tomatoes and bread. What could be better a better way to start summer?

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The key to Panzanella is to use the freshest ingredients, except for the bread. This is the perfect opportunity to use your day-old bread. Other than that, I suggest going to your local farmer’s market or grocery store and picking the best looking tomatoes and veggies. Originally, I was going to buy two big tomatoes, but then I found baby heirloom tomatoes … I couldn’t resist! They were the perfect bite size when cut in half. In the salad, I used pink peppercorn salt I recently bought from one of my latest foodie addictions. But this salad doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, the simpler the better. Let the ingredients shine and enjoy!

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Panzanella, serves 12

  • 1 small loaf or boule of crusty day-old French bread, cut into 1 in. cubes (6 cups)
  • 1 lb baby heirloom tomatoes, cut in half (or 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1 in. cubes)
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and sliced 1/2 in. thick
  • 2 bell peppers (I used red & yellow), seeded and cut into 1 in. cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • Bunch of basil, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and season with salt and pepper. Cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. I put the bread on a baking sheet and threw it in the oven at 300 degrees for another 10 minutes, just to get them evenly toasted. Meanwhile, in small bowl, add the vinegar, red onion, and garlic. Let sit while the bread toasts, so the onion is pickled. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, basil, and capers. Later toss in the red onion and vinegar. Just before serving, add the bread cubes (you want them to absorb the flavors, but not get too soggy). Drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.