Dark Cherry Semifreddo

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Remember when I blogged about Ferragosto and heading to the beach? Well, I did just that. Except I didn’t walk down my street to the beach. Instead, I flew 2,521 miles to the east coast, where I met my family in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Because we are all scattered around the country, we decided to pick a vacation spot where none of us live and none of us had been to before. The only other prerequisites for the location were beach/pool access and multiple golf courses for my dad. We also got to discover Charleston during our stay. As much as I love the west coast, the South has a certain charm. During the whole trip I was soaking in the history, the architecture, and the countryside. You can’t help but stand in awe of the hundred year old live oak trees with resurrection ferns turning bright green after an afternoon rain shower.

SouthCarolina

Of course, South Carolina has a lot to offer with its southern coastal cuisine as well. We feasted on all you can eat crab legs, shrimp and grits, amazing fried chicken, and ribs with vinegar based BBQ sauce. Not to mention I drank sweet tea every day. We were all definitely on vacation diets, which is to say that we weren’t on any sort of diet at all. And even though I was stuffed to the gills after dinner every night, I still found room to have a little ice cream before bed. So while there are a variety of Southern recipes I could have picked for this post, I thought ice cream was the most representative of my trip.

ingredients

chopped

Ice cream, like Southern food, is comforting. It is also a nice, cool treat for the hot, humid weather. A couple of years ago I made these popsicles, recounting how I used to eat gelato twice a day in Italy during the summer. This time we are going to explore semifreddo, the perfect cure for your homemade ice cream craving if you don’t have an ice cream maker. Semifreddo translates from Italian as “half-cold”. It is a combination of equal parts ice cream and whipped cream that is semi-frozen. The result is cross between frozen mousse and ice cream. It’s fluffy, creamy, and easy.

folding

Semifreddo is a great dish for a gathering of family or friends. Because you make it in a loaf pan, it presents as a pretty ice cream cake that you can slice. You can also just scoop it out of the pan like we did (after I took my pictures of course). The base of the recipe is simple and you can add any toppings you like. I chose cherries for the end of summer, even though they were already on their way out of season. The grocery store I went to didn’t have fresh cherries, so I got frozen ones. This ended up being a blessing in disguise because I didn’t have to pit them and they tasted great. Especially when they were combined with slightly salted, roasted pistachios and semi-sweet chocolate. This is the perfect way to celebrate the end of summer and beginning of fall.
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Dark Cherry Semifreddo, serves 6-8

  • ¾ cup granulated white sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract or amaretto
  • 1 1/2 cups dark cherries, pitted and halved
  • 1 cup roasted, salted pistachios, chopped
  • 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped

Line a 9×5 loaf pan two times with plastic wrap, letting the excess hang over from the sides. In a double boiler, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until the sugar dissolves and the yolks triple in size – about 6-8 minutes. Be careful not to scramble the eggs. Take the egg mixture bowl and place it into an ice bath to cool.

Using a stand mixer or by hand, whip the heavy cream until it forms medium peaks. Carefully fold half of the egg mixture into the whipped cream, making sure not to deflate the whipped cream too much. Fold in the remaining egg mixture. Gently stir in the almond extract.

In the loaf pan, place 1/3 of the cherries, pistachios, and chocolate on the bottom. Scoop 1/2 of the cream mixture on top of the mixings.  Add another 1/3 of the mixings to create a middle layer. Then, place the remaining cream mixture in the pan. Reserve the remaining mixings for toppings after the cream is frozen. Fold over the excess plastic wrap directly on the cream so a skin does not form. Place the pan in the freezer. Freeze for at least 4-6 hours.

When you are ready to serve, invert the pan onto a plate and remove the plastic wrap. Top the semifreddo with the remaining mixings. Slice (or scoop) and enjoy!

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.

Charlotte Malakoff

This past Wednesday would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday. I had been thinking about making tiramisu for my last post of the summer (and sadly, probably for the next school year), but when I heard about Julia’s birthday I knew I had to make one of her recipes that day. I searched my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking for a similar dessert and came across the recipe for Charlotte Malakoff. It still requires ladyfingers (which incidentally are French, not Italian) and is made mostly of delicious cream, like tiramisu. But it also uses almonds, orange liquor, and strawberries. I was sold.

It was a bonus to find a recipe similar to the dish I had originally planned, and I was excited to try something new. But really I was most happy to cook one of Julia’s recipes and write about her. Obviously this is nothing new in the blogosphere, but I think the fact that people continue writing and talking about her is a testament to what an inspirational woman she was. More than anything, I am struck by how much love she put into what she did. Whether or not you like cooking, we should all aspire to find so much joy in life. It just so happens that I find it in cooking, just like Julia. I will miss posting on here during school, but rest assured I will still be in the kitchen. And I’m sure I will be back next summer. Thank you for reading and happy cooking!

Charlotte Malakoff Aux Fraises, Almond Cream with Fresh Strawberries

  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, rinsed and sliced
  • 2/3 cup and 1/2 cup orange liquor
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • 48 single ladyfingers*
  • 1/2 lb. softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (plus 1/2 cup for sauce)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/3 cups pulverized almonds**
  • 2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
  • Juice of one lemon

*Julia’s original recipe calls for “24 single ladyfingers, 4 inches long and about 2 inches wide” for a 2-quart cylindrical mold (4 in. high and 7 in. diameter). I think the ladyfingers I had were about the same size but I used double that amount with a 2-quart mold. I would buy some extra ladyfingers just in case.

**Pulverized almonds: in a food processor, combine 1 1/2 cups of almonds and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Process until the almonds are a fine grain.

Line the bottom of the mold with a round of wax or parchment paper. In a medium bowl, mix 2/3 cup of orange liquor and 1 1/3 cups of water. Place the ladyfingers, one by one, on a cake rack. Using a basting brush, lightly coat each ladyfinger with the orange liquor/water mix. The key is to not get them too soggy. For the bottom of the mold, arrange the ladyfingers like a f lower (see illustration above). You will have to cut the ladyfingers to create the fan shape. Next, line the sides of the mold. Reserve remaining ladyfingers for an inside layer and topping.

In a large bowl, mix the butter and 1 cup sugar until creamy and f luffy. Add 1/2 cup orange liquor and almond extract. Continue mixing and stir in the pulverized almonds. In a food processor (or a large bowl with a whisk) whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the almond butter mixture. Spoon 1/3 of the almond cream into the mold. Arrange a layer of strawberries on top of the cream, followed by a layer of ladyfingers. Repeat with another layer of almond cream and strawberries. You will probably have extra almond cream. Arrange the remaining ladyfingers like a f lower again to top the mold. Cover the mold with another round of wax or parchment paper. Set a small saucer on top of the paper and place weight on top of it (see picture above: cookbook and box of vegetable broth). Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.

Finally, remove the paper on top of the mold. Run a knife around the inside of the mold and reverse the dessert on a large plate. Remove the remaining paper. Refrigerate the dessert until ready to serve. Meanwhile, I made a strawberry sauce by blending together the remaining strawberries (approximately 1/2 quart), 1/2 cup of sugar, and juice from one lemon. Decorate the dessert with sauce, whipped cream, or sliced strawberries. Bon appetit!

Piña Coladas

For a while my dad was really into mojitos. So into them that for Christmas one year I gave him a muddler, lime squeezer, and a mint plant. He was convinced he had the best recipe for a mojito, and whenever we would go out to eat he would give very specific instructions to the waiter about how to prepare them. But now my dad has moved on, and it’s all about piña coladas. Once again he is sure he has the best recipe, never-mind that it is on the back of the Coco Lopez can. He excitedly suggested that we make them for the blog, and not being one to argue with tropical drinks, I obliged. My only condition was that we use real pineapple juice, not the canned stuff. We were both wowed by the outcome.

Making piña coladas is super easy (and drinking them is even easier). All you need is a good blender, pineapple juice, Coco Lopez, and ice. And some rum doesn’t hurt. To make the pineapple juice we cut up a whole pineapple into chunks and pureed it in the blender. The liquid was thicker than it would have been if we had used a juicer, but we did not have one. It tasted just as good as it was, and we have made this recipe a second time already. So I suggest you make this ASAP. Plop a maraschino cherry in the middle, stick a fancy umbrella on the side, and call it a day.

Piña Coladas, serves 8-10

  • 1 whole pineapple, cut into pieces and pureed
  • 1 15 oz. can Coco Lopez
  • 12 oz. light rum
  • 8 cups ice

For visual instructions on how to cut a pineapple I found this website to be handy. Once you have cut the pineapple into small pieces put them in a blender and process until pureed. Transfer the liquid to a large measuring glass. There should be at least 16 oz. of juice. Set aside the extra. Combine the Coco Lopez, rum, 16 oz. of pineapple juice, and ice in a blender. If you have a small blender you may need to add the ice in smaller batches as it blends. Blend until smooth. Traditionally piña coladas are served in a collins glass, garnished with a maraschino cherry and a slice of pineapple. However you serve it, you will love it.

Blueberry Pie

Last week I promised to post a patriotic recipe for the 4th of July, and what dish is more “All-American” than pie? Just think about it, we eat pumpkin and pecan pies for Thanksgiving and we eat fruit pies to celebrate Independence Day. When I was planning the recipes I wanted to share this summer, a pie just seemed so obvious. Even as write this I have an image of a family cooking out in a backyard, the table set with red and white checked napkins, and a fresh pie ready for desert. Maybe that is a Norman Rockwell painting or a Coca-Cola ad. I digress…

Let’s talk about blueberries. They’re awesome, they’re in season, and they’re blue. As in the red, white and blue. And if that isn’t enough Americana for you, there is a star spangled pie crust. Boo ya. If you are intimidated by making your own pie crust and topping, don’t be. This is ridiculously easy. And it looks and tastes amazing. All you need now is a scoop of vanilla ice cream, Bluebell of course.

Blueberry Pie, adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, serves 8

Pie Crust:
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4-1/2 cup ice water
Blueberry Filling:
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries, washed and picked through
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
Egg Wash:
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon cream (I used 1% milk and it was fine)
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar crystals

Place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse until well mixed. Add the butter and process until the mixture looks like crumbs. In a steady, slow stream pour the water and process until the dough just starts to stick together. This should not take longer than 30 seconds. Remove the dough and divide in half. Flatten the dough into disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 days.

When the dough is chilled, remove one half from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry into an approximately 12 inch circle, being sure to keep the thickness even throughout. Transfer to a 9 inch pie pan and crimp along the edges. Cover with plastic and refrigerate again for 30 minutes.

Remove the second half of dough from the refrigerator and roll out as before. Using a small star cookie cutter, cut about 20 stars. If you don’t get enough stars the first time, combine the excess pastry and roll out again. Place the stars on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the blueberries in a large bowl and in a small bowl mix together the sugar, corn starch, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add the sugar mixture to the blueberries and toss gently. When the pie crust is ready pour the blueberry filling into the shell. Then, in a small bowl combine the egg yolk and cream. Remove the pastry stars from the refrigerator and lightly brush with the egg wash. Also brush the rim of the pie crust. Sprinkle the stars with coarse sugar. Place the stars on the pie in a circular pattern, starting at the outside edge. Overlap the tips of the stars slightly. Once you have assembled the pie refrigerate for 30 minutes (last time, I promise!)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. When the pie is ready place it on a parchment lined baking sheet to catch any juices that bubble over. Place the baking sheet on the lower rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 35-45 minutes. After the first 20 minutes I found the edges were sufficiently browned, so I lightly covered the outside with foil. The crust should be a golden and the juices should be bubbling in the end. Cool on a wire rack for several hours so the filling will set. The pie will keep for 2-3 days at room temperature.