In Wild Lemon Groves Cookbook: Limoncello

Welcome, paisans, to the final installment of the In Wild Lemon Groves Cookbook series. There’s a reason the word “lemon” is in the title of my M/M contemporary romance, and that’s because the one thing you cannot escape when you visit the Amalfi Coast are the lemon groves. There are lemons, lemons everywhere, from the orchards to the food to the patterns on everything from ceramic plates, linens, clothes, and other decorations. Most hotel rooms with greet you with a bowl of lemons on the counter. And, of course, the first thing most restaurants will offer you as a digestivo after your meal is a shot of limoncello.

But beware! That ambrosia-like elixir is potent, and too many shots might inspire a wild night of dancing in the streets, as my protagonist Seb discovers, much to his embarrassment the morning after. But nothing says summer or Italy like a limoncello cocktail, so here are a few recipes sure to brighten up any party you throw in this, the fairest of seasons.

Homemade Limoncello

Limoncello is ridiculously easy to make at home. Your local lemons might not be the fist-sized ones you get in Italy, but this recipe from Vincenzo’s nonna packs the same punch. If this doesn’t work for you, there are hundreds of others online to choose from.

 

Limoncello Crema

If you want a less intense and creamier version of limoncello, especially good for making ice creams and sauces, consider making crema di limoncello instead. This also makes an excellent holiday gift. Here’s Joe with his version of the recipe.

 

Limoncello Cocktails

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Once you’ve made your limoncello and you’ve sampled it au naturel, it’s time to spritz it up. Limoncello pairs exceptionally well with bubbly or berry liqueurs, or something dry, like gin. Here are a few recipes to sample at your next Italian feast.

Raspberry Limoncello with Prosecco

Lemon Drop Martini with Limoncello

Limoncello Collins

Limoncello Fizz

I hope you’ve enjoyed these In Wild Lemon Groves Cookbook posts as much as I have, and that you’re inspired to try your hand at some cuisine from the breathtaking Amalfi Coast! And if you can’t afford a trip, my M/M contemporary romance In Wild Lemon Groves will take you right there.

Arrivederci!

In Wild Lemon Groves is available in ebook and print formats:

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In Wild Lemon Groves Cookbook: Secondi

In Italian restaurant, the main course is often divided in two. We covered Primi, the main pasta course, in my last cookbook post. Now we come to Secondi, better known as the meat course, i.e. the one a lot of people skip because they are already too full from the appetizers and pasta. But you really shouldn’t, since the simple but flavorful cooking techniques (baking, grilling) and the ripeness of the ingredients used on the Amalfi Coast is worth savoring.

Most of the big meals in my M/M contemporary romance, In Wild Lemon Groves, are inspired by dishes that I actually ate while in Amalfi, Italy. One such memorable evening is directly reproduced in the book. I’ll set the scene…

Two bottles of vino rosso and three sumptuous courses later, the laughter continued. Ceri had led them through a maze of back alleys to a picturesque square, with a small gated chapel at one end and a wood-faced trattoria at the other. Tables sprouted like toadstools in the center, corralled on three sides by ivy-woven trellises. Garlands of fairy lights competed with the glinting stars and the fat harvest moon above. Seb wouldn’t have been surprised if the waiter had twirled a wand and poofed their dinner into existence.

            He stifled a belch, scanned the detritus with a scavenger’s eye. The last spoonful of the lemon soufflé beckoned him like the arms of a new lover; even sated, he still craved more. From the luscious caprese salad to the fluffy paccheri stuffed with black truffles and burrata with seafood sauce to the grilled lamb with balsamic reduction, pillowy potatoes, and garlicky rapini, their orgy of food had ridden him hard and put him away wet.

Grilled Lamb with Balsamic Reduction

Roasted Lamb Chops on balsamic Sauce

Three marvelous ladies who I met on the trip brought me to the exact location described above, a hidden square behind a chapel with one amazing trattoria. We feasted on the most gorgeous lamb I’ve ever eaten, one of the three Secondi recipes I urge you to make for yourself to enjoy a taste of Italy. You can find a version of it here.

Baccala alla Napoletana

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I was familiar with baccala (cod) because my sister’s in-laws always serve it at Christmas. But their version is fried in a batter, calimari-style, which is the one I included in the book. Since writing In Wild Lemon Groves, I’ve discovered that the Amalfi version is a bit more like a seafood stew, and I think this enhances the fish beautifully. You can find an authentic recipe here.

Salt-Baked Fish

salt baked fish

One of the major feasts in In Wild Lemon Groves is when Andrea invites Seb and his three lady friends to his mother’s house for traditional Sunday night dinner. The showcase dish of that meal is a salt-crusted, baked sea bass–although you can use this application for many other kinds of fish. It’s quite the showstopper, and Andrea is rewarded with a romantic dance under the starlight and a tryst in the lemon groves. You can find a basic recipe here.

Next week, the final installment of the In Wild Lemon Groves Cookbook showcases Amalfi’s biggest food export, limoncello!

In Wild Lemon Groves is available in ebook and print formats:

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In Wild Lemon Groves Cookbook – Pasta

Even though pasta was first invented by the Chinese and brought to Italy by Marco Polo, it has become the country’s signature dish. Each region in Italy has their own iconic type of pasta and sauce. It’s definitely a bucket list ambition of mine to try them all, and I certainly ticked a few off the list on my trip to Amalfi and the surrounding islands.

Here are a few that get mentioned in my new contemporary M/M romance, In Wild Lemon Groves, since the characters, as they say, live to eat. In this second instalment of the ‘cookbook’ series of blog posts, I’m sharing a couple of my favorites. None of these are particularly challenging to make–indeed, that’s one of the attractions of pasta to a novice cook. It’s almost impossible to get it wrong!

 

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Seafood Spaghetti

First off is the classic seafood pasta, which Seb enjoys a few times in the book, most notably on his melancholy day in Positano before one of the big turning points in his Italian adventure. Here’s a classic version by Anna Barnett.

 

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Linguine with Lemon Cream Sauce

In an attempt to move on from his grief at losing husband Henry and ignore his growing attraction to Andrea, Seb spends the day at a swank hotel beach, where him and his lady friends enjoy linguine with lemon cream sauce with zucchini and bell peppers by the pool. One of the truly unique pasta experiences to be had in Amalfi because of their incredible lemon groves, this recipe from Delicious Italy may not taste exactly the same with your local lemons, but it’s still hella delicious. Don’t be shy to add extra veg to spice up the dish.

 

Genovese

Rigatoni Genovese

One of the first mentions of pasta in In Wild Lemon Groves comes on that first fateful car ride from the airport, where Seb meets Andrea for the first time. Inspired by the chauffeur who took me on the same wild ride–but who was no Andrea Sorrentino–Seb is given cards to the best local restaurants and told to try the pasta Genovese.

There are actually two kinds of Genovese, a pesto-based version native to Genoa and one they do in Naples, a beef and onion ragu. Here’s a recipe for the second version, from the blog Memori di Angelina.

So if you’re ever in the mood, enjoy a glass of Italian red, carb-load on one of these pastas, and read In Wild Lemon Groves, a romance that transports you to picturesque Amalfi, Italy!

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In Wild Lemon Groves Cookbook – Dolce

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Italy? The food, of course! When I was on my birthday trip to Amalfi that inspired my contemporary M/M romance In Wild Lemon Groves, I indulged to the max: pasta, pizza, gelato, and, of course, my beloved granita limone every day (sometimes twice).

To celebrate the recent release of In Wild Lemon Groves, and because there are so many food scenes in the book, I thought it would be fun to share some recipes based on the delectable meals that Seb eats alone, or shares with bello Andrea. If I could have made the book a scratch-and-sniff experience, or somehow had a box of Italian treats delivered with it, I would have, because everyone should get to experience authentic Italian cuisine at least once in their lives.

This is, fingers crossed, the next best thing, and I hope it inspires you to either get in the kitchen or seek out your local Italian bakery. And because Amalfi’s resident hunky chauffeur Andrea Sorrentino is a pretty sweet guy, we’re going to start with dessert!

Sfogliatelle

Sfogliatelle

Anyone who’s read In Wild Lemon Groves knows that one of the first things Seb samples–and fall in love with–in Amalfi is the sfogliatelle. A shell-like pastry filled with ricotta cream with a hint of orange or lemon, these babies are crunchy, creamy, perfect. Especially with an espresso.

You can find a recipe for sfogliatelle by the great Salvatore Elefante here.

torta-caprese

Torta Caprese

This delectable chocolate cake made from almond flour is Seb’s reward for working at Fabiana’s on the island Capri, a restaurant owned and operated by Andrea’s aunt. It also happens to be the cake I ask for every year for my birthday. Delizioso!

Here’s a video of the great Lidia Bastianich demonstrating how to make her version:

Gelato

What would a discussion of Italian desserts be without gelato? Omnipresent in Italy, I made a point of having one every day of my trip. My favorite was the torta caprese-flavored one–I mean, talk about decadent, smashing a cake into ice cream! Here is a photo of the double-scoop gelato I had on my last day…

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I was laughing as I was eating it because it looks like the Montreal Just for Laughs festival mascot Victor.

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Just me?

Feel like a food vacation of your own, but can’t afford a flight to Amalfi? Try out some of these recipes, or live vicariously by reading about Seb and Andrea’s adventures in In Wild Lemon Groves. 

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Next week – Pasta!

Put up your zucs!!

After all the book promo, I thought we could all do with a little palate-cleanser (and my brain a little down time after writing all those blog posts!). It’s been a while since I posted some recipes, and the focus today is on one of my favorite ingredients: zucchini! I find people usually fall into either the love or the hate camp with this vegetable, and I am squarely in the love. Last summer, my brother-in-law decided to grow up some monster veggies in his garden. This prime specimen was a result:

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I managed to make six different meals from that bad boy, who I nicknamed Fassy, for obvious reasons. Fassy was a bit of a mess to deal with, but he fed me well. Here are two of the recipes I tried for the first time with him. Bonus: they are both vegetarian!

The first is zucchini lasagna. There is really no trick to this. You just substitute thick slices of zucchini–a mandolin is your friend–for the noodles, then layer with whatever sauce/cheese combo strikes your fancy. You can add in other ingredients as well, like sausage or mushrooms. Bake for 40 mins at 375F. Easy-peasy! Mine turned out like this:

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The next recipe tested Fassy’s longevity a bit–har, har–since it’s a bit tricky to get the amount of water right depending on your stove. I’ve made it three times now, and I think I’ve licked it (er, off the plate). If you’re ever in the mood for homemade mac and cheese, try this on instead. It’s marginally healthier (not) and ridiculously delicious. It also works well as a side or a main. Thanks to Katy from Baking, Domesticity, and All Things Mini for inventing it!

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Cheesy Zucchini Orzo

Makes 4 servings

A few notes: If you’re a heat seeker, try adding red pepper flakes or a dash of buffalo sauce for an extra kick. And, this reheats wonderfully if you can manage not to clear out the pan on the first round!

1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 cup Orzo
1 clove Garlic, minced
Salt
Ground black pepper
1 medium Zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar Cheese
Milk [Selina’s note – I never needed milk when I made this.]

In a large skillet over medium heat, toss orzo and garlic with oil until fragrant. Add 2 1/2 cups of water [Selina’s note: Personally, I found this to be too much water. I used 2 cups and a splash, and it was perfect. But it will depend on your stove.] and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer and, stirring occasionally so that orzo does not stick to the bottom of pan, cook pasta until al dente and liquid has almost completely evaporated. Stir in zucchini until warmed through. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted. If needed, add a splash or two of milk to achieve extra creamy texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I definitely recommend going for the chili option, and using the oldest cheddar possible. This makes it more expensive, but ups the cheese factor to Mach 10. And if there’s one thing in this world I find more satisfying than Fassy (real-life or veggie versions), it’s cheese. Though zucchini is in my top ten for sure.

Enjoy!

Selina 😀

Recipe: Mesir Wat – Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew

Someone asked me the other day if I was a good cook. I had no idea how to answer. I can cook. I know how to follow a recipe, and I’m good at cooking the ones I’ve made more than once. I am adept at anything that doesn’t require advanced technique: soups, stews, sauces, rudimentary baking. For instance, I could make you a chocolate-hazelnut brioche cake, or oatmeal-breaded chicken with peaches, or pasta with white wine butter sauce and zucchini, but I couldn’t grill you a steak. Roasting is not in my repertoire, let alone making a roux, butchering a pig, or decorating a wedding cake. I think the things that I make taste good, but am I a good cook? Hard to say. So take the following in the spirit that it’s intended, a pair of recipes that are easy to make (because if I can do it, trust me, so can you!) and that are crazy delicious.

1. Mesir Wat – Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew

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On my first trip to Berlin, my friend A. and her then-boyfriend, now-husband C. introduced me to the wonders of Ethiopian food. Traditionally, a few heaping spoonfuls of a variety of stews and salads are scooped onto a platter of injera bread for everyone to share. These can range from milder spinach and onions, to hearty carrot, cabbage, and potato stew, to meats in spicy sauces and, of course, tons of different lentil dishes. If there’s one in your neighborhood, definitely give it a try on your next night out!

When one of my vegetarian friends was coming over for dinner, I wanted to surprise her with something new that we both loved: Ethiopian food. (I might not know advanced techniques, but I can be absurdly ambitious in the kitchen.) That’s how I found this ridiculously easy and low-cal recipe. I usually serve it over basmati rice, since bread-making is beyond my list of culinary abilities (see above). It’s so good I usually make a double batch and eat it for the whole week. I found it on the Cooking Light web site and it’s by Domenica Marchetti.

Ingredients

.2 teaspoons canola oil
2 cups chopped red onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons Berbere spice blend
3 cups organic vegetable broth
1 cup dried small red lentils
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 15 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add ginger and garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in tomato paste and Berbere spice; cook 1 minute, stirring to combine. Gradually add broth, stirring with a whisk until blended. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to a simmer.
2. Rinse lentils in cold water; drain. Add lentils to broth mixture; simmer, partially covered, 35 minutes or until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve over basmati rice.

Selina’s note: I always omit the salt since the vegetable broth has enough and the spices are strong. Don’t skimp on the cilantro at the end, because it makes the dish! And it’s even better as leftovers.

Bon appetit!
-Selina