Homemade Amaretto

amarettoI have a recipe on my all things wine website, californiagirlsgonewine.com that calls for Amaretto in it.  I know that you can make homemade Coffee and Irish Creme liqueur, and a little internet sleuthing led to the discovery that you can easily make homemade Amaretto too!

Amaretto

  • 1 Cup Distilled Water
  • 1 Cup Superfine (I use C & H Baker’s) Sugar
  • 1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar (packed)
  • 2 Cups Vodka (Any Vodka is fine)
  • 2 TBLS Almond Extract
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  1. Combine water and sugars in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Heat until the mixture is boiling, and all of the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Cook at a low boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool for 10 minutes.
  5. Stir vodka, almond extract and vanilla extract into the mixture.
  6. Store in a well sealed bottle.

Perfect for mixing or sipping straight as an apéritif.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Seared Scallops with Pan Sauce

Seared-Scallops-with-Pan-Sauce-2-113016

Scallops are one of the most delicious seafood dishes when prepared properly.

In a November 2016 posting, Mark Bittman of epicurious.com shared some of his tips and tricks for making a foolproof seared scallop dinner.   This #FastAndEasy recipe will make anyone you’re serving them to think you slaved all day!

Seared Scallops with Pan Sauce (Serves 4)

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or water, or more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  1. Cut 2 tablespoons of the butter into pea-sized pieces, put it on a small plate, and stick it in the freezer. Heat a large skillet over medium-heat high for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the olive oil and wait for the butter to melt.
  2. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels, add them to the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper; work in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the skillet. Cook, turning once, until they are well browned on both sides but not quite cooked through, 2 minutes per side (less if the scallops are under 1 inch across; more if they’re over). Transfer the scallops to a plate.
  3. Stir in the garlic, lemon juice, and wine and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the skillet with a spatula. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the liquid in the skillet thickens, a minute or two, then whisk in the butter you chilled in the freezer, one bit at a time, to make a creamy sauce, adding another tablespoon or two of liquid if necessary.
  4. Return the scallops to the skillet and add the chives. Adjust the heat so the sauce bubbles gently and toss to coat the scallops with the sauce. To serve, transfer the scallops to a platter and spoon the sauce over all.

Variation:

  1. Seared Scallops With Cherry Tomatoes and Basil: Skip the lemon juice. Cut 1 pint cherry tomatoes in half. Add the tomatoes with the garlic and wine and cook until they wrinkle a bit and release their juice, 2 or 3 minutes. Use chopped fresh basil leaves instead of chives.

Cooks’ Notes

  1. Releasing From The Pan: The scallops will offer no resistance when they’re ready to turn. Press down gently while the scallops cook to encourage full contact with the pan, then listen for a hiss: That’s moisture heating and evaporating.
  2. Getting A Good Sear: The idea is to brown the scallops well on both sides without overcooking them, so keep the heat as high as you can without creating too much smoke.
  3. Building Sauce With Butter: After you add the liquid and deglaze the pan, the addition of butter develops fantastic creaminess and richness.
  4. Finishing The Dish: As soon as the scallops are cooked through completely and coated with the sauce, remove the pan from the heat; they will continue to cook. Nick-and-peek into one if you need to check for doneness.
Tips**
  • Make sure you pat the scallops dry with a paper towel.  Only a dry scallop will sear properly.  A perfectly seared scallop should be nicely browned on the outside and buttery in the middle.
  • A paring knife should slide in and out with almost no resistance, but as always, the best way to check it is to make a small slice into one and look (or taste).   The inside should remain translucent.   High-quality scallops are delicious raw and tend to dry out quickly: It’s better to undercook than overcook.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble

This isn’t your grandma’s banana pudding and it certainly isn’t the “off the back of the Nilla Wafer box” banana pudding recipe either!  Thumbing through the pages of the October 2009 Food & Wine Magazine, I found this different, may I even say elegant, spin on a truly classic Southern comfort food!

vanillapudding

Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons banana liqueur (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter plus 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup vanilla wafer cookies (about 15), coarsely ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 bananas, coarsely chopped
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 325°.
  2. In a bowl, combine the wafers, cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of sugar and a pinch of salt.
  3. Stir in the melted butter.
  4. Spread the crumble on the prepared baking sheet; bake for 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool.
  5. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the cornstarch, the 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
  6. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.
  7. Gradually whisk the milk into the egg yolks until smooth.
  8. Transfer the pudding mixture to the saucepan and add the banana liqueur.
  9. Cook over moderate heat, whisking, until the pudding is thick, about 3 minutes.
  10. Scrape the pudding into a bowl and whisk in the cold butter and vanilla.
  11. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 4 hours.
  12. Spoon the chopped bananas into bowls.
  13. Top with the pudding, sprinkle with the crumble and serve right away.

Yum! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

 

Fluffy Peach Cobbler with White Wine Whipped Cream

Peach Cobbler with Maple Cream Sauce

Summer fruit season is at it’s glorious peak and the produce department at my grocery store is overflowing with bins of fresh apricots, nectarines, plums, and luscious ripe peaches!  With this bounty of  rich, sweet fruit available, I love nothing more than to peel a pile and bake a juicy, lip-smacking cobbler.

Few things go as well together as a crisp white wine and stone fruits.  Wine Enthusiast recommends a Picpoul de Pinet from Languedoc-Roussillon, France like: Gerard Bertrand Terroir Picpoul de Pinet 2016.  Total Wine or BevMo should be able to point you in the right direction for a wine that’s similar if they don’t carry this $18 bottle.

Another option is to enter the search term “Picpoul de Pinet” into your google search, hit enter, and then select [Shopping] beneath the search box after your selections come up. Locations where you can buy it will come up.

This recipe for peach cobbler combines the two flavors beautifully and, bonus, it doesn’t need to be baked in the oven, so no heating the house up!

Fluffy Peach Cobbler with White Wine Whipped Cream

  • 10 Ripe Peaches – peeled, pitted & sliced into quarters – It’s OK if they’re a little squishy.picpouldepinet
  • 2 Cups Dry White Wine (like a Picpoul de Pinet)
  • 1/2 Cup Orange Juice
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 3 tsp Cornstarch
  • 3 tsp Cold Water
  1. Set your electric Pressure Cooker (like your Instant Pot) to the Brown or Sauté setting.
  2. Combine wine, juice, brown sugar, and cinnamon in Instant Pot then add peaches.
  3. Sauté 3 to 5 minutes, or until softened.
  4. Combine cornstarch and cold water.  Stir into peach mixture in Instant Pot.

Prepare Batter:

  • 4 TBLS Butter Softened
  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 Vanilla Bean, Scraped
  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  1. In bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until completely incorporated.
  2. Add heavy cream and vanilla bean.
  3. Fold in combined flour and baking soda a little at a time until ragged, sticky batter forms.
  4. Place spoonfuls of batter over peaches, but don’t cover top completely.  Push dough balls down into peaches.
  5. Secure lid and close pressure valve. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
  6. When done, let pressure drop naturally for 5–10 minutes. Release remaining pressure, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Prepare Whipped Topping:

  • 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream, Chilled
  • 1 tsp Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Vanilla Bean, Scraped
  • 1 tsp White Wine, Chilled
  1. In mixing bowl, whip heavy cream, sugar, vanilla and white wine until light and fluffy.
  2. It should double in volume and clump into whisk. Don’t over whip, or it will turn to butter. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Wine Enthusiast Magazine has some of the best #CookingWithWine dessert recipes and is my go-to when I’m looking for something new & different to make for dessert!  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Frozen Margarita Pie

This dreamy pie comes from the magicians at Bon Appétit.  It’s easy and boozy!  My favorite dessert combination. 😉  It’s not a pie you can make at the last minute though.  You need to allow for at least 8 hours freezing time so the consistency is right, so plan ahead if you’re making this.

The Tequila you use matters – don’t just pour any old tequila in or you could ruin this pie.  Food & Wine Magazine recently published a list of 10 Top Blanco Tequilas and any of these would be great in this pie:

  • Espolon Blanco $26  100% agave tequilas, with a silky texture and a spicy kick
  • Tapatio Blanco $36  Smoky & complex, w/anise and classic herbaceous agave notes
  • Astral $39  Potent, floral tequila, agave juice ferments w/the pulp—a long-abandoned traditional approach
  • Casa Noble Crystal $40C  Certified Organic; Vegetal and funky (in a good way)
  • Siempra Valles Blanco $40  Earthy Agave from the Jalisco lowlands
  • Pasote Blanco $45  This subtle tequila from master distiller Felipe Camarena heads toward the lighter, greener side of agave, with grass and mint
  • Fortaleza Blanco $50  Guillermo Sauza started Fortaleza almost 30 years after his family sold its namesake brand. All of his tequilas—including this minty, unaged version—are superb
  • Expresiones del Corazóne Artisianal Edition Blanco $60  Agave at two different sugar levels is distilled and blended for this flavorful blanco—think eucalyptus, black pepper and plantain
  • Roca Patrón Silver $69  Emphatically agave-scented, this is made with the traditional tahona method, using a two-ton volcanic rock to crush the roasted piñas
  • Casa Dragones Blanco $75  This one is smooth w/lime peel and pine needle notes

 

frozen-margarita-pie-2

Frozen Margarita Pie

  • 6 TBSP Unsalted Butter
  • 10 graham crackers
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt. divided
  • ¾ cup chilled heavy cream
  • 5 limes, divided
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 Tbsp. tequila blanco

Melt 6 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Let cool slightly.

Crumble 10 graham crackers into the bowl of a food processor. Add 3 Tbsp. sugar¼ tsp. salt, and melted butter to bowl and process until mixture resembles wet sand.

Transfer graham cracker mixture to a shallow 9″ pie pan. Using a measuring cup, press firmly into bottom and up sides of dish. Freeze 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk ¾ cup heavy cream in a medium bowl until cream begins to thicken to the point you see ripples and stiff peaks begin to form, 3–5 minutes.

Cut 4 limes in half and juice into a fine-mesh sieve set over a glass measuring cup (you should have about ½ cup juice). Pour lime juice into another medium bowl and whisk in 14 oz. condensed milk3 Tbsp. tequila, and remaining ¼ tsp. salt until smooth.

Fold half of whipped cream into lime juice mixture, carefully folding under and over while turning the bowl. Add remaining whipped cream and continue to fold until no streaks remain.

Remove pie pan from freezer and pour in filling. Using the back of a spoon, gently spread filling to edge of crust.

Using a microplane, zest half of the remaining lime over pie.

Freeze pie at least 8 hours, or preferably overnight.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Italian Sausage Burgers with Garlicky Spinach

Italian-Sausage Burgers with Garlicky Spinach

I love a big, juicy cheeseburger but they can get boring after a while.  This recipe is one that will definitely take away the boredom and might even be one that I can whip out at a tailgate this football season to change it up a bit!

Italian Sausage Burgers with Garlicky Spinach

  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
  • Salt
  • 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausages (or a combination of both), casings removed
  • 4 slices of provolone cheese
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried-tomato pesto
  • 4 round ciabatta rolls, split and toasted

In a large skillet, bring 1/4 inch of water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 1 minute; drain and press out as much water as possible. Wipe out the skillet.

In the same skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and cook over high heat, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the spinach, season with salt and stir just until coated, about 10 seconds.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Using slightly moistened hands, form the sausage meat into four 4-inch patties, about 3/4 inch thick. Brush the burgers with oil and grill over moderate heat until browned and crusty on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip the burgers. Top with the cheese and grill until the burgers are cooked through and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes longer. Spread the pesto on the rolls. Top with the burgers and spinach and serve.

These burgers would be great paired with a fruit forward zinfandel like a 2015 Sextant Zinfandel Holystone out of Paso Robles, CA or an Artezin 2016 Old Vine Family Farmed Sustainable Zinfandel out of Mendocino County, CA.   #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Lowcountry Shrimp & Grits

I am a Southern girl at heart.  My dad’s family is from Alabama and just about everything I love leans that direction, food & otherwise.  If you want to make this girl smile, the word “grits” is one sure way to do it!

Lowcountry shrimp and grits

Shrimp and Grits is a tried and true dish that is hard to screw up as long as you remember a few simple things:

  1. Your shrimp should be firm and unblemished with no fishy odors;
  2. Keep your shrimp chilled in their shells until just before they hit the pan;
  3. NEVER use instant grits – the real thing take only a few more minutes to boil and the end result makes all the difference to your dish;
  4. Grits love salt, pepper, and butter, so season them well;
  5. Make sure the grits are ready to serve and that all of the ingredients are prepped and ready to go before you start the shrimp topping, which takes only 3 minutes from start to finish.

This recipe is from Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina and was featured in an article in Coastal Living Magazine.

CHEESE GRITS

  • 4 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup stoneground grits
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste

SHRIMP

  • 3 bacon strips, chopped
  • Peanut oil, as needed
  • 1 pound extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 ounces sliced mushroom (1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, plus more for garnish

Prepare the Grits: Bring 4 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Whisk in the grits and salt, reduce heat to low, and cook at a gently simmer for 35 to 40 minutes or until the grits are thick, stirring occasionally. Stir more often as the grits thicken. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cheddar, Parmesan, butter, pepper, and Tabasco, and stir until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Keep warm over very low heat.

Shrimp: In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon for 6 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Transfer with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels and leave the fat in the skillet. If there is less than 1 1/2 tablespoons of bacon fat, make up the difference with peanut oil.

Toss the shrimp with the flour until lightly coated, shaking off any excess. In the skillet with the reserved fat, cook the shrimp over medium-high heat for 1 minute or until they begin to turn pink. Add the mushrooms and bacon and cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds (do not let the garlic brown). Stir in the hot sauce, lemon juice, and scallions and remove from the heat. Divide the grits among 4 shallow bowls and top with the shrimp mixture. Garnish with additional scallions and serve at once.

Serve alongside an ice cold beer and with some crusty bread! #ThisGirlLovesToEat