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When life gives you lemons: Some recipes for citrus cocktails, entrees and desserts

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MILWAUKEE -- For summer, these recipes are simply the "zest." Chef Alisa Malavenda joins Real Milwaukee to show us her sour side. Today Alisa showed off three recipes for citrus cocktails, three for citrus-flavored entrees and three recipes for citrus desserts.

Homemade Limoncello

  • 15 lemons*
  • 2 bottles (750 ml) 100-proof vodka**
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 5 cups water

*Choose thick-skinned lemons because they are easier to zest. Also you can make other citrus liqueur by substituting 8-10 oranges or 12-15 tangerines or 5-6 grapefruits – do not substitute lime – it has too much oil and bitterness in the skin

** Use 100-proof vodka, which has less flavor than a lower proof one. Also the high alcohol level will ensure that the limoncello will not turn to ice in the freezer.

• Wash the lemons well and dry with a paper towel. Carefully peel the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is NO white pith on the peel.
• NOTE: Use only the outer part of the rind. The pith, the white part underneath the rind, is too bitter and would spoil your limoncello.
• Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least (10) ten days and up to a month in a cool dark place. The longer it rests, the better the taste will be.
• After the waiting period combine the sugar and water; cook until a little thick and syrupy simple syrup forms. Let the syrup cool completely and put in refrigerator overnight. Then add the 2nd bottle of vodka and syrup to the vodka with the lemon peels.
• Allow to rest for another 10 days or up to a month .Strain and bottle: discarding the lemon zest. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve. This is beautiful to make cocktails, splash some in seltzer or champagne , drizzle over fruit , ice cream or use in desserts.

Limoncello Collins with Charred Thyme
Per serving

  • 2 large sprigs of Thyme, more for garnish
  • ½ oz fresh squeezed lime juice
  • ½ oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-2 oz vodka or gin
  • ½ oz limoncello ( homemade or store bought)
  • 3-4 oz club soda for a Collins or a splash for a martini

Either grill or torch thyme until lightly charred

• In a large glass or cocktail shaker add charred thyme and lemon and lime juice. Muddle Gently just to release thyme flavor.
• Add the vodka and limoncello and fill with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass or tall Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Add more fresh thyme or lemon wheel for garnish.

Frozen Negroni
Per serving

  • 2 oz Gin
  • 2 oz Campari
  • 2 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 4 oz Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice

For garnish ideas
You can sugar a rim of a martini glass
make caramelized grapefruit wheel
of grapefruit segment on a pick

• Add all the ingredients to a blender with a cup of ice
• Blend on high for about 30 sec until the cocktail is slushy

Citrus Salad with Beet and Goat Cheese “Ravioli” and Orange Tarragon Sauce

  • 2 # beets ( look for medium to large size beets )
  • Drizzle of olive oil , salt and pepper
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 scant T flour ( 2 t)
  • 1 C orange Juice , divided
  • ¼ C sugar
  • 2 t fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ½ t fresh tarragon , chopped and divided
  • 6 oz soft goat cheese
  • ½ C toasted pistachios , chopped and divided
  • 2 orange or tangerine segments, no pith
  • 1 grapefruit segments, no pith

• Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove the green tops and stems to about 1” from beet. Wash and dry the beets well. Place beets on a large piece of foil and drizzle with a little olive oil , salt and pepper. Close the foil around beets like a packet and place on a baking tray in the preheated oven. Roast beets for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until tender when pierced with small knife. Cool until able to handle. Peel beets.

• Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan on low heat. Add flour, whisking until well blended. Stir in 1/2 cup of the orange juice until smooth. Whisking constantly, bring to boil on medium heat. Remove from heat. Whisk in remaining 1/2 cup orange juice, sugar, lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of the tarragon. Let the sauce cool completely, stirring occasionally.

• Mix goat cheese, 1/4 cup of the pistachios and remaining 1 teaspoon tarragon in small bowl until well blended.

• Cut beets into very thin slices. Use the smaller circles for the bottom of the “ravioli and the larger for the tops. ( you can also use 2 different size cookie cutters) Spoon about a slight teaspoon filling onto half of the beet slices. Cover each with a second beet slice to create “raviolis.”
• Segment Citrus and serve by spooning some sauce on the plate and arrange the “raviolis” on the sauce with the citrus , sprinkle with more pistachio and some micro greens, cilantro or shaved fennel.

Easy Shrimp in Lemon Caper Sauce

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves of garlic , thinly sliced
  • 2 # large to jumbo shrimp( 16-20), peeled and deveined
  • 4 T capers, drained , rinsed and dried
  • ¼ C fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 t grated lemon zest
  • 1 C fresh parsley , chopped
  • Little salt and pepper to taste

• In a large skillet, combine butter and olive oil. Add the garlic slices and then heat pan to about medium and just enough for the garlic to release its flavor, but not brown or burn.
• Add the shrimp, capers, lemon juice and zest.
• Cook shrimp about 2 minutes per side ( do not over- cook.) remove from heat, add parsley and season with a little salt and pepper .

Citrus Marinated Chicken Thighs with bok choy and shiitake mushrooms with an Asian lime dipping sauce

  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup dry Sherry or dry white wine
  • ¼ C fresh squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ C fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 T finely grated peeled ginger
  • 2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 3 Kaffir Lime Leaves ( optional
  • 1 ½ - 2# skinless boneless chicken thighs, ( if doing kabobs cut into 2 “pieces or leave whole )

Make Asian Lime Dipping Sauce ( recipe below)

• Mince the garlic, set aside.
• Add soy sauce, citrus juices, sherry or wine, and brown sugar to a saucepan and cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil.
• Stir occasionally and cook about 10 minutes until it reduces a little.
• Stir in the garlic, ginger and sesame oil , and Kaffir Lime Leaves if using , remove from heat and cool completely.

• Marinate the chicken with about ¾ of the marinade in a big ziplock bag reserving a little of the marinade aside for basting on the grill. Refrigerate the chicken for at least 3-4 hours , turning the bag occasionally to redistribute the juice.

• Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas).

• Lightly Oil the grill rack, grill chicken thigh about 6 minutes and baste , turn over, baste again and cook other side for another 6-8 minutes or until cooked through.

• I like to serve this with grill bok choy and shiitake mushrooms – you can also make kabobs by threading all these items on soaked skewers.
• For bok choy : Cut the bok choy in half and blanch in salted water. Dry on paper towel.
• Toss the cleaned mushrooms and bok choy in a little oil before putting them on the skewer or on the grill.

• This is also nice served on top of cilantro , lime rice and some pickled ginger cucumber.
• Serve Dipping Sauce on the side.

Asian Lime Dipping Sauce

  • 3 T ginger , coarsely chopped
  • 2 T garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ¾ C rice wine vinegar
  • ½ C low sodium soy sauce
  • ½ C ketchup
  • ½ C chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 C fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/3 C brown sugar
  • ¼ C hoisin sauce
  • 2 T dark sesame oil
  • 1 T crushed red pepper flakes

Place everything in a food processor and pulse until well combined.
This sauce is a very versatile and good with beef, spring and summer rolls, or as a marinade for pork.

Three Interchangeable Citrus Curd Recipes

Limoncello Tiramisu


  • 1/3 cup Limoncello
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 pound mascarpone cheese
  • 2 cups heavy cream, whipped until soft peaks
  • 1 pound of lady finger cookies (about 30-40 lady finger cookies)

Limoncello Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup Limoncello

For Custard:

• Place Limoncello, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and egg yolks in a stainless steel mixing bowl.
• Whisk constantly over simmering water bath until thick, about 5 minutes. Then,
• Place in mixer & whip until double in volume and nearly cool.
• Add mascarpone cheese to the yolk mixture. Whip until smooth.
• ATTENTION: Do not over whip when using mascarpone cheese or it will separate.
• Cool to room temperature or below.
• Fold whipped cream (soft peaks) into above yolk/mascarpone cheese mixture.

Limoncello Simple Syrup:

• Mix water, sugar and Limoncello in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes. Place in refrigerator to cool. (Can be made several days in advance.)

• Dip ladyfingers in syrup & test dip a few lady fingers by cutting them in half to determine how long to soak them.
• In a 9 x 9 pan, alternate layers of lady fingers soaked with simple syrup and custard. Begin with cookies and finish with custard.
• It is best to assemble several hours before cutting. You can also make this in individual servings in a decorative glass or mason jar.
• Store in refrigerator until ready to serve. It’s better overnight

Mamma Barbara’s Orange Meringue Pie

Make Pie Crust ( or use store bought)

  • 1 ½ C Flour
  • ½ t salt
  • 6T Cold Unsalted Butter
  • 3 T Crisco
  • 3 T iced Water

Combine all dry ingredients- add the butter and pulse until pea size form. Add ice water
Don’t overwork the dough. Gather in a ball and wrap – let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Roll out dough in a 9 inch pie plate and trim edges. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork . beat one egg yolk and brush all over the crust to help it from getting soggy. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 min. lower to 350 degrees and bake until the crust is golden brown ( 5-10 min more depending on your oven)- cool completely.

1 C orange Juice, preferably fresh squeezed
1 C pulverized orange
2 T orange rind
1 C sugar
6 T corn starch
3 egg yolks
2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 T unsalted butter

Meringue :
3 egg whites
¼ t cream of tartar
6 T sugar
W T grand Marnier ( optional)

Combine orange juice, pulverized orange and rind, sugar and cornstarch. Cook until boiling.
Beat eggs and temper with a little of the egg mixture and then gradually add the rest of egg mixture with orange mixture/ Add lemon juice and butter , you should have a thick orange curd. Set aside

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt and cream of tartar , Gradually add sugar( and Grand Marnier if using) until meringue forms to stiff peaks.
Fill the baked cooled pie shell with curd and then spread the meringue to the edge of pie crust Bake for 15- 20 minutes until golden or use a blow torch.
Pavlova with Lime Curd , Whipped Cream and Fresh Berries

This light dessert is a dream and has a crunchy outside and a marshmallow texture inside. The sweetness pairs with any tart curd.

4 egg whites
1 T cornstarch
1 C sugar
1 t fresh lemon juice
1 t vanilla extract

Lime or other citrus curd ( recipe below )
1 C heavy whipping cream, beat until stiff peaks form
Fresh mixed berries , washed and dried
Mint or Edible Flowers for garnish

Position a rack in the lower third rack of the oven and preheat to 275 degrees F. Draw either 4-6 - 4 -inch circles or 1- 9-inch (23-cm.) circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Turn the parchment paper over and place on a baking sheet.

In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed just until well mixed. Sprinkle the cornstarch so no lumps form-over the whites and continue to beat until the whites are white and foamy. Raise the speed to high and very gradually add the sugar about 1 T at a time , beating until stiff, shiny peaks form. Quickly add in the lemon juice and vanilla and continue beating until mixed well. Spread the meringue inside the circles drawn on the parchment. Make a little thinner in the middle so there is a nice edge around the whole circle of meringue

Bake until the meringue is crispy, about 45 minutes. Try not to open the oven door during the baking. When time is up. turn off the oven and open the door. Leave the meringue in the oven to cool with the door open. When the meringue is completely cool, remove it from the oven and parchment paper and place on a serving platter.

Spread the curd in the hollow middle of the meringue. Top with half of the whipped cream and scatter with the berries. Garnish with mint or edible flowers.
Let stand for 5- 10 min before cutting to soften the center of the meringue slightly.

Lime Curd

  • 1/2 C fresh Squeezed Lime ( *or other citrus juice )
  • Zest from Limes
  • 1 C sugar
  • 4 Egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 ¾ sticks ( 14 T) , unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Zest limes and set aside.
Set a nonreactive bowl (because of the acidity),over a pot of simmering water to create a “double boiler”

Place the juice , zest, eggs and sugar in a bowl and continue whisking until it starts to heat. Begin adding cubed butter , while constantly whisking ( don’t let the water get to boiling) , let the cubes of butter melt before adding the next few until all the butter is incorporated and melted into the thicken custard. It should coat the back of a spoon,

Approx. 10-15 min. Do not let the custard boil.

Cool to room temperature and cover – refrigerate until well chilled.

*I love having these curds on hand and they last 2-3 weeks in under refrigeration.
Think outside the box with different varieties of oranges, lime and even grapefruit.
Use in desserts, yogurt, toast, sugar cookies or even in cocktails!

You can play with adding more citrus juice and less sugar to suit your taste.


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