Sunday, November 6, 2016

Lemon Vodka à la Polska

I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Poland. The occasion was a mini-reunion of cooking school compatriots. It was the 30-year anniversary of our graduation from La Varenne in Paris, and three of my fellow alums and I met up in Warsaw to celebrate. Our friend Catherine lives there, so it was a good excuse to visit a country we hadn’t been to before (and take advantage of Catherine's very gracious 

hospitality). I fell in love with the wonderful, generous and extremely resilient Polish people, the vibrant cities of Warsaw and Krakow and the amazing food. And drink. The Poles take their vodka seriously, and the best is seriously good. As we happily discovered, a common after-dinner treat is a shot of Lemon Vodka, served ice-cold. The traditional toast is na zdrowie (pronounced 'naz-dro-v-yeh'), which means 'to 

health'. We toasted, then tasted quite a bit of this libation on our trip, and here's my interpretation based on our -- ahem -- research. I hope to return to beautiful Poland some day, but until then I'll have some wonderful memories and an occasional shot of exceptionally good lemon vodka to comfort me. Na zdrowie!

Lemon Vodka

 Makes about 1 quart

3 organic lemons
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 cups top-notch Polish vodka (Belvedere or Chopin)

1. Rinse and dry the lemons, then zest and juice them. Combine the zest, juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally just to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and cool completely.
2. Combine the lemon syrup with the vodka in a Mason jar or other lidded glass container and seal (save the vodka bottle if it’s empty to store the finished product). Allow to infuse in a cabinet or other dark spot for 1 to 2 weeks. Give the jar a shake every day, or when you can remember to.
3. Strain the vodka through a funnel or sieve that is lined with cheesecloth into another glass container (I use the original vodka bottle) and seal. Freeze the bottle until ice-cold, or until ready to serve (I just store mine in the freezer). Freeze some shot glasses to serve the vodka in, too.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Lemon  Blueberry Buttermilk Tart

Blueberry season is here. What to make? Another blueberry crumb cake or muffin? A juicy blueberry pie? As wonderful as these desserts are, sometimes it’s nice to try something new. Sooooo, here’s my contribution: a riff on a Southern American classic, the buttermilk pie. A variation on a recipe in my book Flavorful

this buttermilk tart has a filling that is very similar to cheesecake in flavor, though its texture is much less dense. I added buttermilk to the tart dough, too, which makes the resulting crust very tender and slightly tangy. Serve this dessert at room temperature, not chilled, and preferably on the day you make it. That shouldn’t be a problem.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Love-Struck Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Coconut Filling

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and, as we know, one can never start planning too early for these Hallmark holidays! So I decided to mark this particular holiday’s impending arrival with one of my favorite cakes: Love-Struck Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Coconut Filling. The recipe is from my latest book, Flavorful 

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), and it’s the best Valentine’s Day dessert I can think of – two layers of moist, fudgy chocolate cake filled with a white chocolate coconut whipped ganache and covered in a dark chocolate glaze. (Make sure to prep the pan as directed, or you might just end up with a broken heart, which would be 

terribly sad.) If you’re not a coconut fan (as my own true love is not, though he did somehow manage to choke down a slice of this particular cake in record time), simply leave it out. You can substitute shaved chocolate or finely chopped nuts for the coconut as garnish on the outside of the cake. Finally, please do use a good 

quality white chocolate for the filling—nothing worse than a cheap white chocolate, I say. Green & Black’s, Lindt, Valrhona or Guittard are excellent brands, in my book. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Brown Sugar Buttermilk Pound Cake with Salted Caramel Nut Topping

I haven’t posted in a while (holiday frenzy and all), so I thought I’d start the new year off with a simple recipe that’s one of my new favorites. I’m a sucker for anything caramel, particularly salted caramel, as long as it’s the real deal. Can’t stand 

fake-tasting caramel, and there’s no reason for it, as caramel is pretty darned easy to make, as long as you’re paying attention to it as it cooks. So here it is, my brown sugar pound cake, flavored with a splash of dark rum and baked in the Nordic Ware 

Heritage Bundt pan (which is perfect for capturing pools of the delicious caramel-nut topping). If you prefer, you can serve the caramel topping as a sauce on the side with some nuts on top and a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Possibly not in line with any of your New Year’s resolutions, but, hey, you’re likely to break them as some point anyway, right? Now’s as good a time as ever!