Easiest appetizer ever

Over the weekend we met up with some friends to cheer on California Chrome…womp, womp!  While the thoroughbred came up short, the appetizer I brought to share was certainly a crowd-pleaser.


Living in South Philadelphia, not far from the Italian Market, I’m fortunate to have Di Bruno Brothers at my disposal.  Di Bruno Brothers has been serving up gourmet goodness since 1939 and are well-known for their exceptional cheeses, meats and other Italian specialities.  I picked up a few simple ingredients: marinated mozzarella, roasted red peppers, salami, Roman artichokes, and pitted Kalamata olives – then I got to work!  Simply assemble ingredients on wooden skewers and violà….the easiest appetizer ever!  Easy to pick up and eat, each skewer is exploding with flavor.  And the best part – they can be made in advance and you can easily find all of these ingredients at your local supermarket.

The combinations are endless – here are a few other tasty ingredients to help you customize your skewer:
-Cherry tomatoes
-Artichoke hearts
-Mozzarella (marinated or plain)
-Roasted red peppers
-Tortellini (cooked, chilled and dressed with Italian vinaigrette)
-Italian bread (cubed and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil)
-Sun-dried tomatoes
-Pepperocini peppers


Buon appetito!

When life gives you lemons (lots of them), make limoncello


At the end of a hearty meal, do you find yourself yearning for that certain something to cleanse your palate, satisfy your sweet tooth and aid in the digestion of everything you just consumed all at the same time?  Look no further than the sweet, penetrating citrine pop of a smooth shot of limoncello.

There really is nothing simpler: spirit, lemons, sugar.  Peel some lemons, steep them in alcohol, add some sugar-water, strain, bottle, pop in the freezer, and viola, you have limoncello.  It can be good or not so good.  Too bitter or too sweet, not lemony enough or too strong, but in the end, after indulging in copious amounts of rich Italian food, you find yourself immensely pleased to be sipping this lemony delight.

I’ve never had much luck with the store-bought versions of the stuff, many are too sweet or don’t have enough kick.  We have a friend who makes some for us every year for Christmas, and it’s fabulous.  With our supply depleted, I wanted to see for myself just how easy it is to make homemade limoncello.  Side note: I love food favors – what’s a more perfect favor for a dinner party or bridal shower than a perfectly portioned bottle of limoncello (check your local craft store for cute bottles – the one pictured above with the cork is from A.C. Moore)?

Making limoncello isn’t an exact science, depending on who you talk to, everyone has a different take on how it should be done.  Here’s how I made mine.


Homemade Limoncello //

10 lemons (washed well, preferably organic)
30 oz. vodka (just a bit more than what’s in a 750 ml bottle)
3-1/4 cups sugar
3-1/4 cups water

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the lemons and place the peels in a large pitcher.  Pay careful attention to not peel the white pith (it’s bitter tasting).  Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap.  Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for at least 4 days at room temperature.

To make the simple syrup (sugar-water), stir the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Cool completely. Pour the simple syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels.  To help with the flavor and clarity, you should strain the mixture again through a coffee filter (tedious process).  Transfer the limoncello to bottles.  Seal the bottles and chill for up to 1 month.

Bonus Points:  For a refreshing, slightly alcoholic, summertime party beverage, convert your limoncello into a limoncello spritzer.  Combine equal parts limoncello with seltzer water, add ice and garnish with lemon slices!