Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake

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If you are planning to entertain this week or happen to be traveling to visit friends - I have the perfect host/hostess bring-along, or an outstanding dessert with wide appeal to finish a dinner. I created this recipe knowing it would be one of those cakes that gets better with age; meaning, it tastes even better the day after it is baked.

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Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake

Makes one large loaf, or three demi-loaves

chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup sweet butter, softened

1 1/2 cups (15 oz container) fresh whole-milk ricotta, drained

1 1/2 cups Turbino or granulated sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Grease and flour 9-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, cream butter, and sugar until smooth and light. Fold in ricotta in three parts. Scrape bowl well with a spatula. Mix dry ingredients- flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter and sugar and mix just until flour is absorbed with eggs one at a time, scraping sides of bowl after each addition. Add lemon juice and vanilla. 

Scrape down sides of the bowl, mix on low speed, 30 seconds just until batter is completely mixed. Do not over mix. Over mixing will toughen cake and produce air pockets. Pour the batter into greased pan and smooth on top. Once pan is filled with batter, tap pan against table or counter to remove air pockets.

Bake for 45-55 minutes. After 40 minutes, lower to 325 degrees until done. Allow cake to cool in pan for 5-10 minutes. Remove from pan; finish cooling on wire rack. Top with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Know Your Fire Fridays: Ancient Grilling

Celebrating Chef George's 24th Anniversary on PBS

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One of the oldest cooking techniques in existence, the art of grilling meat on a skewer was derived from medieval Turkish soldiers who used their swords to cook meat over open fires. An Adana kebabi from the south of Turkey is a savory mixture of minced lamb, cumin, cayenne, black pepper, dried oregano and mint. The meat is shaped into a long cylindrical shape like a long hot dog or sausage, then pierced onto a long metal skewer and grilled in one piece. It is served removed from the skewer and cut up.

Adana is named after the 5th largest city in Turkey, Adana. There are very strict guidelines and inspections that must be passed by The Adana Chamber of Commerce in order to be an authentic Adana kebabi vendor.

Adana kebabi has to be made from the meat of a male lamb. The skewered meat, must be roasted on fireless, charcoal embers exclusively from oak wood. The skewers are frequently turned during grilling using caution so the melting fat is not dripped on the embers causing a flair up. The Adana is served on flat bread by pressing the meat off the skewers after cooking; when wrapped and served in a flat bread, it's called a Dürüm. Authentic accompaniments served with adana include; charred tomatoes, green or red peppers, onions and parsley seasoned with sumac or lemon pepper seasoning, and warm hummus.

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Adana or Kiyma Kebabi

Makes 4 servings

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1 pound ground lamb or ground beef 

1/4 teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper

1/2 teaspoon each; ground cumin, dried oregano

1 Tablespoon each: fresh parsley and fresh mint

1 egg white

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Pinch Sea salt

Olive oil

2 fresh lemons, quartered

Fresh Mint 

1 cup plain Greek yogurt, optional. Or, serve with Tzatziki Sauce

Mix the meat with the cayenne, cumin, oregano, parsley, mint, black pepper, and salt in a bowl. Add the egg white and continue to combine until the mixture is well blended.

Grease skewers with cooking spray or oil. If possible, use long, flat metal skewers. Divide the meat mixture into 2-4 (depending on the length of skewer), 2 inch wide thick sausage shapes. Push the skewer through the middle, lengthwise, and squeeze the mixture up and down the skewer, spreading it evenly. Repeat with the other skewer. 

Cover and place in refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. This will help the meat hold together. When ready to grill, brush the outside of meat with olive oil.

Preheat the grill to high. 

Place skewers on very hot grill. Grill 5 minutes, turning frequently, or until cooked through. Serve immediately with sides of yogurt, fresh lemon, fresh chopped mint, and an onion & parsley salad.

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Summer Muffins

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Summer and muffins seem to go hand and hand; especially since blueberries are so plentiful right now and muffins bake fairly quickly with not much prep.

Tip: Did you know? Tossing blueberries with flour before adding them to the batter will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the muffin during baking. 

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Blueberry Nut Muffins

Makes 10-12 muffins

chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle

For the topping:

1/3 cup lite brown sugar

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 Tablespoons nuts, walnuts or pecans, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

1 Tablespoon sweet butter

In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nuts. Blend butter in with a fork until mixture is crumb like.

For the muffin mix:

1/2 cup sweet butter, room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon flour for coating blueberries, plus greasing muffin cups

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups fresh blueberries

1 cup pure cane granulated sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/2 cup milk

Grease a regular size 12-cup muffin pan with butter and dust with flour, banging out excess flour; or use muffin cups liners.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. 

In a separate bowl use a mixer to cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla and orange zest to beaten eggs, then add eggs one at a time, mixing until eggs are absorbed. 

With the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture and milk in three stages, mixing until all are incorporated.  Do not over mix. 

Toss blueberries in a fine strainer with about one Tablespoon of flour to lightly coat. Using a rubber spatula, fold in 1 1/2 cups of the blueberries. With an ice cream scoop or large spoon, place batter into muffin cups filling each cup to three quarters full. Add remaining 1/2 cup of blueberries on top of the muffins and divide crumb topping over muffins. 

Bake about 25-30 minutes, until muffins are golden brown. Check muffins half way through and rotate if oven temperature is uneven. Test with a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin and it should come out clean; or when touched lightly the muffin should have a slight resistance to finger pressure.  

Remove from oven and allow muffins to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from pan.

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Dessert Grilled

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I don’t have a sweet tooth and unlike most people I can pass on chocolate. However, growing up, it would not be summer without my mom whipping-up a bunch of banana boats, my favorite summer sweet treat. It's one of those summer dessert traditions I look forward to every year. I know your whole family will love them. And, so much so I included Banana Boats in my first cookbook!

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Tips: Use large yellow bananas with the barest green tips. Avoid using bananas that are too ripe. For true decadence, top the bananas with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and some chopped pecans before serving.

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Grilled Banana Boats

Makes 6 adults servings, or 3 child servings

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6 bananas

Three 1-ounce good quality chocolate bars; milk chocolate, dark chocolate, broken into small pieces, or 6 Tablespoons chocolate chips

2 cups mini-marshmallows

six 12 inch squares aluminum foil

Preheat a gas grill, or use a hot-charcoal grill; after cooking your main food item.

Split bananas down the inner sides, but do not remove the peels. Spread the peels apart and evenly place the chocolate pieces and marshmallows between the bananas and the peels. Bring the edges of the peels together as closely as possible and wrap each banana in aluminum foil.

Grill the bananas for 4-5 minutes; turn them and move them to the cooler edge of the grill for 4 to 5 minutes.

Serve and eat immediately.

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Grilling Corn 411

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If ever there is a time, this is it — get to farm fresh ears of corn at your local farm stand or market this week. Buy extra to grill or roast; as leftovers they are an ideal addition to so many dishes. Cut leftover corn off the cob and use in salads, salsas, soups, taco, beignets, etc. Sufferin’ succotash - add grilled corn to lima beans and tomatoes. The charred kernels adds robust nutty flavor and a nice texture addition too. Fresh is where it's at. 

I am sure you have heard a version of this tale.

"My grandmother learned from a farmer how to cook the best corn, start the water boiling, run to the corn field, pick the corn, run back to the pot, cook the corn, and eat immediately."

A good tip is to stress freshness. But, how good is this advice if you don’t know how to select sweet and juicy tasting ears?

Here's The 411: When picking: The kernels should be smooth, plump and the juice inside the kernel should appear milky.  The kernels should not be too mature, soggy and doughy. The corn is good when there is a slight browning of the silks, it is cool to the touch, fullness of the tip kernels and firmness of the unhusked ears.

I’m still trying to figure out why people husk their corn at the market and leave husks all over the place. I may just have to ask why next time. It’s actually helps the corn retain it’s freshness by leaving the husk on until right before cooking. Ears of corn should also be chilled as soon as possible after picking to slow down the sugar in the corn, as it turns to starch. Think of corn like fresh whole fish, the ears should be firm, moist and kept chilled. I suggest taking a cooler with you to the market for the ride home.

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 - Begin by pulling the husks of the corn back, but do not remove them. Remove and discard the silk and then soak the whole cobs in a pot of cold water for 15 minutes. 

- Preheat the grill to a medium temperature. 

- Remove the corn from the water and brush the kernels with olive oil. Before you re-wrap the corn in the husks, add a little caramelized garlic, chopped onion, nutmeg and black pepper. 

- For an flavorful twist, try using herbs & spices such as cilantro, garlic, chipotle chili and fresh lime juice. 

- Then reposition the husks over the kernels and tie each ear with a piece of loose husk or twine. 

- Place the prepared ears of corn on a medium heat, turning every 2 minutes. 

- After a couple of turns, place the corn husk on an indirect heat or on the top shelf of your grill and close the cover. 

- Allow the corn to slowly roast for another 10 minutes. 

- You will know it is done when you press a kernel and it shoots out it’s sweet liquid.

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