Monthly Archives: June 2010

It’s All About The Coconut!

Frosted cupcakes piled high with coconut chips.  Yes, coconut chips!!  I came across them at a food show and thought they would make a beautiful complement to chocolate cupcakes frosted with vanilla buttercream.

We shot this cupcake at the studio one day, and it has become one of our all-time favorite shots. To make a more dramatic presentation, I used a  Texas-size cupcake pan lined with extra-large paper liners.  (A standard cake mix will make  10 to 12 cupcakes.) I frosted the cupcakes with a rich vanilla buttercream.  To give the coconut a hint of color and to bring out its flavor, I  very lightly toasted the coconut chips. (Place them in single layer on a baking sheet, and toast in 275° oven for about 5 minutes.)

The best coconut chips are just pure dried coconut—organic, unsweetened and sulfite-free.  You can eat them straight from the package, add them to your favorite trail mix, stir them into a fruit salad—be creative! Coconut chips may be a little harder to find than shredded coconut, but they are certainly worth the search.  I found them at Trader Joes, and they are also available at natural food markets. Or, you can order them online.  Here are a few online resources: Tropical Traditions,  Nuts Online, or Melissa’s.

as photographed by our team, alacartepartners

Cathy

4 Comments

Filed under Chocolate, Cupcakes, Dessert

Luscious Limoncello

Last week, I enjoyed an unforgettable dinner at Sonny’s on the Avenue, an Italian ristorante in Verona, New Jersey owned by Tommy Malanga and his wife Alyssa Alia, a food stylist, chef, and all-around wonderful person. The meal was amazing from start (those eggplant meatballs!) to the finish (that silky ricotta cake!)

photo courtesy of Eugene Knowles Photography

 

At the end of the meal, when I thought I could not possibly consume even one more small sip or bite, Alyssa presented our table with a basket of fresh biscotti and a frosty bottle of her prized Limoncello. Unable to resist, our table dutifully dipped the biscotti in our glasses of Limoncello. Ah, la dolce vita!

The always gracious Alyssa was kind enough to share her recipe with me so I could post it. Limoncello needs time to age, so get started soon!

Alyssa’s Limoncello

Limoncello is an Italian liqueur made from lemons native to the Amalfi Coast (Capri, Sorrento and Liguria). Limoncello is always served ice cold from the freezer after dinner.

45 large lemons (scrubbed and washed)
2 (750ml) bottles grain alcohol, such as Everclear (151 proof)*
1 (1.75 liters) or 2 (750ml) 80-proof good quality vodka
6 cups bottled or distilled water
8 cups sugar
Large gallon glass jar (such as a Sun-tea jar)

*Due to its high alcohol content, grain alcohol can be hard to find in many areas, and may be illegal in your state. If so, it’s fine to substitute vodka for the grain alcohol.

1. Pour all alcohol in jar.

2. Using vegetable peeler or paring knife, carefully peel off just the yellow skin of the lemons. (It is very important that you do not have any white part left underneath the lemon peels, as this will make the mixture bitter). Try and make the peels as large as you can; this will make it easier to strain the mixture later.

3. Place peels in alcohol.

4. Cover jar tightly and place in a cool (not cold) dark place.

5. Allow mixture to sit for a minimum of 3 weeks or up to 3 months. Stir gently every few days. The longer the lemon peels sit the better the color and flavor. A good readiness test is to take one lemon peel and see if it snaps when you bend it. If it does, it is ready.

6. In large saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Let cool completely.

7. Strain lemon mixture into another glass container, using a large fine mesh strainer and paper coffee filters. (Note: this takes time and is a little messy). Repeat the straining process back into the original glass jar.

8. Add cooled syrup and watch your Limoncello come to life! Return jar to a cool dry place for at least another 2 weeks.   After 2 weeks, pour Limoncello into small bottles and store in refrigerator or freezer for up to 3 months.

9. Limoncello should be served ice cold from the freezer. It’s terrific as a cordial after dinner, and great on vanilla ice-cream.


Tips

– I make a double batch (90 lemons at time—a case of lemons usually has around 90 lemons) and usually start my batches in the summer to give out at Xmas time.

– Limoncello makes a perfect gift. Start saving decorative bottles from inexpensive stores such as Home Goods, Marshals, Target, the Container Store, or the Christmas Tree Shop. Make sure tops are airtight—you can even wax the corks to make sure they are well sealed.

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Filed under Drinks, Entertaining, Restaurants, Reviews

Grilled Pizza ALACARTE !

As you might imagine, lunchtime at a food shoot is an event. We have a stash of take-out menus for every imaginable cuisine, and where to place the lunch order is always a lively debate. But, since we all love home-cooked food, we often enjoy our own creations. At the carriage house studio, we are fortunate to have access to a gas grill, so we’ve become quite expert at grilling pizzas for lunch. Try this, and you’ll never make a pizza by pre-heating your oven to 500° again!

Here’s the Recipe:

Makes 4 servings

1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 teaspoon sugar
olive oil
1 package (16 ounces) prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
½ cup marinara sauce
3 small plum tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, optional
fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

– In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onions in butter, stirring often. When onions have softened, stir in sugar. Cook and stir until golden. Set aside.

– Preheat gas grill to medium high.

– Lightly brush baking sheet with olive oil. On lightly floured board, divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Using your hands, stretch each piece into rounds, approximately 7 inches in diameter. Transfer to baking sheet, and brush with olive oil.

– Place rounds directly on grill; close lid. Cook for 2 minutes, then, using tongs, flip. Immediately spread each pizza with 2 tablespoons marinara sauce. Top with tomatoes and the caramelized onions. Sprinkle with cheese and Italian seasoning. Close lid. Cook 2 minutes longer or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

– Sprinkle with sliced fresh basil.

Tips

– If you can’t find fresh pizza dough, try your local pizza place. They may sell you a ball of dough.

– An alternative to fresh pizza dough is 1 can (13.8 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated classic pizza crust. Remove crust from can; cut crosswise into 4 pieces. Continue with directions above for stretching each piece into 7-inch rounds.

– Use different cheeses, such as shredded provolone, cheddar, or Monterey Jack.

– Top with your favorite grilled veggies.

– For a Mexican version, substitute salsa for marinara sauce; pepper jack cheese for the mozzarella; cilantro for basil.

Heather, Joe, Cathy



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Filed under BBQ, Pizza

Back, by POP-ular demand!

Back in April, we ran a post, Pop ‘Til You Drop, that featured a recipe for an addictive snack recipe, Popcorn con Pesto. That post generated so much interest that we thought we should introduce you to another studio favorite from our December shoot for the Popcorn Board. This spicy-hot recipe for Cajun Corn is just perfect for casual summer gatherings where a little southwestern flavor is just the ticket. Serve this with a few frosty Margaritas by the pool… yes, that’s happy snacking!

Recipe courtesy of the Popcorn Board….

Cajun Corn

Makes 2 1/2 quarts

  • 2 1/2 quarts popped popcorn
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  1. Pour butter over warm popcorn.
  2. Combine remaining seasonings and sprinkle over popcorn; toss to mix.
  3. For crispy popcorn, bake in 300° oven for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring once.

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Filed under Entertaining, Healthy, Popcorn, Snacks

Double the Chocolate Strawberries

I can’t think of an easier dessert that yields as many “oohs” and “ahhs” as chocolate dipped strawberries. Perfect on their own, and truly elegant when garnishing a plate of cookies or brownies, these berries are a hit every time. As easy as they are to make, there are a couple of secrets for success: 1) use the freshest ripe berries you can find (local is best!) 2) do not burn the chocolate and 3) always make more berries than you need or keep them hidden until guests arrive! So, here, in honor of strawberry season, we give you:

Double the Chocolate Strawberries
Makes 12 dipped strawberries

1 dozen medium-size fresh strawberries, rinsed and patted dry
4 squares (4 ounces) semi-sweet baking chocolate
2 squares (2 ounces) white chocolate

– Line a baking sheet with wax paper. In small glass bowl, microwave chocolate on HIGH (100%) power for 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. (If, after stirring well, there is still some unmelted chocolate,  microwave for another 10 seconds, then stir until melted).

– Hold strawberry by stem and dip into the melted chocolate, covering about 3/4 of the berry. Gently shake off excess chocolate and  place on wax paper-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.

– In small glass bowl, microwave white chocolate on MEDIUM (50%) power for 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Carefully transfer melted chocolate to a zipper-style plastic sandwich bag. Squeeze out excess air and seal bag.

– Using scissors, snip a tiny corner of the bag. Squeeze chocolate from bag onto the dipped berries, using a random pattern. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes. Transfer berries to serving platter. Leftovers (ha!) may be stored in the refrigerator overnight.

Tips

– Recipe can easily be doubled, tripled and more!!!!

– Triple Chocolate? I like the way you think! Using dark (bittersweet) chocolate, follow the same procedure for the white chocolate. Pipe or drizzle in a criss-cross pattern over the white chocolate. Pretty!

– I am a big fan of Baker’s Chocolate Baking Squares, and you can find them in any supermarket.

– Think outside the strawberry! Try dipping kiwi slices, banana halves, pineapple chunks, and more. The trick is to pat the fruit dry before dipping.

Heather

2 Comments

Filed under Berries, Chocolate, Dessert, Entertaining, Sweets

Refreshing Raspberry Mojito

Fresh mint is super abundant this time of year. The crop in my garden is already a bit out of control, and it’s only May! I use mint all summer long in iced tea, fruit salads, tabbouleh, and more. But, hands-down, the best use for fresh mint is for making an icy-cold Mojito on a hot summer evening.

The Mojito is a traditional Cuban cocktail made with lime juice, sugar, sparkling water, white rum, and of course, fresh mint. There are a variety of variations to the basic recipe involving all kinds of ingredients—ginger, pomegranate, mango, blood orange, coconut, even chili lime! Basically, the Mojito is only limited by your imagination. Recently, Cathy made this gorgeous Mojito with some beautiful fresh raspberries. It was delicious—and so pretty we had to shoot it!

as photographed by our team, à la Carte Partners

Raspberry Mojito
Makes 1 serving

8 fresh mint leaves
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
2 ounces white rum
2-3 ounces seltzer
4-6 fresh raspberries

– Place mint leaves, lime juice and sugar in a highball glass (something tall and narrow is perfect). Using the straight end of a wooden spoon, gently press on  leaves to release flavor (“muddle” is the official term).

– Fill glass with ice cubes. Pour in rum. Top off with seltzer. Drop in raspberries, and sip!

Heather

29 Comments

Filed under Berries, Drinks, Entertaining