Category: Fun Stuff

Fun things to make that defy easy description.

Tiramisu by Betti

Tiramisu is one of the classic Italian desserts, a delicious combination of cream, coffee, sugar and egg.   A good tiramisu is difficult to find, but I’ve been able to prepare this one for very large crowd…just a little piece goes a long way!


A delicious slice of tiramisu

This is based on Giancarlo Gottardo’s recipe, but it has less sugar and  adds whipped egg whites to the custard for the tiramisu.

I also add a chocolate-flavored rum to the zabaglione (custard) that is the basis for the tiramisu. The alcohol in the rum cooks off, but it leaves a delicious flavor.

The tiramisu has a layer of custard on the bottom, topped by a layer of coffee-dipped ladyfingers, with another layer of custard, another layer of coffee-dipped ladyfingers, and then topped with a final layer of custard sprinkled with powered chocolate.  This recipe makes enough of the custard for a 13.5 inch by 9 inch  rectangular baking pan.

Because it’s so rich, a small piece is just right, and this recipe can serve 40 people easily.  That said, I always give the leftover tiramisu from a smaller gathering to my mom, who eats a couple of pieces each day for almost a week.  She assures me that the tiramisu seems to get better with each passing day.  So don’t worry, even if this seems like a lot of tiramisu, none will go to waste.

When you assemble the ingredients, you need to make sure that you make each part separately and then combine them quickly into the baking pan.

Make the recipe one day in advance so that the ingredients combine together fully before serving it.


  • 5 egg yolks, with 3 TB sugar for the zabaglione
  • 3 egg whites, with 3 TB sugar (or just use all 5 egg whites, using 1 TB sugar for each). You can reserve the extra whipped egg whites for your coffee the following morning.
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 packages of ladyfingers: You need enough to create two layers of ladyfingers in the baking pan
  • 3/4 cup fresh espresso, mixed with 2 TB sugar. You can optionally add 1/4 cup of chocolate-flavored rum to the coffee if you are okay with serving a dessert that has a small amount of alcohol in it.
  • 2 cups of mascarpone
  • 1/4 cup of chocolate-flavored rum (optional) for the zabaglione, plus an additional 1/4 cup that you can add to the coffee if you are okay with
  • 1/4 cup of ground dark chocolate (I use my coffee bean grinder to create the powder that dusts the top of the tiramisu)


You will need several large mixing bowls ready for this recipe, as well as space in your refrigerator to store each bowl as you complete the steps below.  I have found that it’s best to start with the zabaglione, then whip the heavy cream, followed by the whipped egg whites.

Start by taking the two cups of mascarpone from the refrigerator so that they are at room temperature when you mix everything together.


  1. Make 3/4 cup espresso and add 2 TB sugar. You an optionally add about 1/4 cup of chocolate-based rum, if you and your guests are okay with having some alcohol in the dessert.  If you prefer it non-alcoholic, make about 1 cup of espresso.
  2. Refrigerate until you need to assemble the tiramisu.


The zabaglione is the egg-yolk-based custard that is key to making an excellent tiramisu.  You need to be prepared to devote at least 15 minutes of your full attention – and both hands – to the process of making zabaglione.  Turn off your phone, make sure you are listening to some good music!

  1. Prepare a Dutch boiler by putting water high enough to cover the bottom of the inserted pan. If you don’t have a Dutch boiler, select a pot that can hold a heavy Pyrex bowl comfortably, with the bottom part of the bowl immersed in the water.It’s best if you have a pan or bowl with a curved bottom, because you will need to whisk the eggs and sugar, and the curved surface makes the task easier and prevents sticking.
  2. Turn on the heat to medium/medium high to start heating the water. In the top pan, combine the 5 egg yolks with 3 TB sugar. With a large whisk, begin whisking the egg yolks and sugar, as the water comes to a light boil/simmer.You want to regulate the heat so that the water doesn’t boil too hard.  The goal is to make sure that the zabaglione cooks into a thick sauce over the next several minutes.
  3. Using a whisk, rapidly froth the egg yolks and sugar. Continue mixing over the Dutch oven for about 10 – 14 minutes. If you wish to add the chocolate-based rum, add it in 2-3 increments as you continue to whisk the eggs, sugar, and rum.If you don’t add the rum, add about 1/4 cup of the boiling water in small increments.
  4. When the mixture becomes thick, like a mayonnaise, the eggs have become pasteurized, and the zabaglione is ready.
  5. Remove the top part of the Dutch oven (or the Pyrex bowl) from the heat and continue to whisk for a couple of more minutes. This allows the custard to cool down and become slightly thicker.  Once it has cooled to a tepid temperature, you can stop whisking and place the bowl/pan you’re your refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Whipping Cream

  1. In a cold mixing bowl, add the whipping cream and vanilla extract.
  2. Mix until the whipping cream is light and fluffy.
  3. Put into the refrigerator. Clean the blades on your blender before starting the next step.

Egg Whites

  1. Just before combining ingredients for the tiramisu, make the egg white mixture. In a mixing bowl, add the 3 egg whites and 3 TB sugar.
  2. Whip until the egg whites form stiff peaks.

Combining All Ingredients

  1. With a silicon/rubber spatula, lightly fold—by hand—the mascarpone with the whipping cream in your largest bowl. Do not overmix – the mixture should be a combination of lumpy and fluffy, like summer clouds.
  2. Now fold the zabaglione mixture into the combined mascarpone/whipping cream.
  3. Next, gently fold approximately 1/2 to 2/3 of the whipped egg whites into the mixture.
  4. Spoon a layer of the zabaglione/mascarpone/egg white mixture into a rectangular baking pan.
  5. Now add the first layer of coffee-soaked ladyfingers. I usually line up the ladyfingers, a flat-bottomed bowl containing the coffee, and the rectangular baking pan.Working quickly, one ladyfinger at a time, I dip a ladyfinger into the coffee, then place it gently on the layer of custard.  I create a layer of ladyfingers, lined up like little soldiers, over the custard.
  6. Add a layer of custard over the ladyfingers.
  7. Next, add a second layer of ladyfingers, following the same process as above – dip each ladyfinger in coffee, then gently place it over the custard in the baking dish.
  8. Layer the last of the custard over the ladyfingers.
  9. Sprinkle the powdered chocolate over the top of the pan.
  10. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator at least 8 hours to allow the custard to set.


Twice Baked Potato Skins

When I make gnocchi, I bake the Russet potatoes first on high heat (450º F). After removing them from the oven and allowing them to cool off enough to handle them, I peel them, reserving the peels in a large bowl. The skins are delicious when baked again with a combination of cheese, herbs, and even anchovies.


  • Potato skins from baked Russet potatoes

    Mushrooms From Oak Park Market 1

    Mushrooms, a red pepper, and parsley used in my twice-baked potato skin recipe

  • A Calabrian or Thai pepper, minced
  • A handful of minced herbs, such as rosemary, parsley, and sage
  • Olive oil infused with garlic
  • …any optional additions, such as anchovies, fresh mushrooms, and grated Parmigiano or Peccorino cheese


  1. The first time I made the twice-baked potato skins, I sautéed some anchovies in a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, an Italian red pepper, rosemary, and garlic.
  2. I removed the garlic from the olive oil and mixed the oil containing the homogenized anchovy and herbs with the potato skins.
  3. I sprinkled them with some grated Parmigiano cheese, and then baked the mixture in a pre-heated oven (450º F) for 15-20 minutes. They were delicious!

Another variation…

  1. The next time I made the baked potato skins, I was out of anchovies and rosemary. But I had some wonderful fresh mushrooms, so I sautéed the stems with a bit of olive oil and an Italian pepper.
  2. I combined the olive oil and minced pepper with the mushroom caps, some sage, rosemary, and parsley, and then mixed gently with the potato skins.
  3. I baked the mixture in a 450º F oven for 15 – 20 minutes, and it was fantastic.


The bottom line is that baking the potato skins again with a combination of some of your favorite cheeses and herbs makes a winning appetizer or side for a dinner.

Betti’s Biscotti

Miguel eats these biscotti almost every day.  This recipe is a variation of a recipe from The Splendid Table, which adapted it from Tony Lenox.  Betti has added grated lemon or orange zest and dipped the biscotto in dark chocolate.  It’s a great breakfast!


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 14 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, blanched or unblanched OR 1 cup pistachios (I usually grind about 1⁄3 of them, then combine them with the whole pistachio kernels)
  • Zest of 3 lemons OR zest of 2 oranges


  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the cornmeal and whisk again to blend.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed for 3 minutes, until very smooth. Add the eggs and continue to beat, scraping down the bowl as needed, for another 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light, smooth and creamy.
  3. Beat in the almond extract and lemon or orange zest. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. You’ll have a soft stick-to-your-fingers dough that will ball up around the paddle or beaters.
  4. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes before continuing.
  5. Scrape half the dough onto one side of the baking sheet. Using your fingers and a rubber spatula or scraper, work the dough into a log about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. The log will be more rectangular than domed and bumpy, rough and uneven. Form a second log with the remaining dough on the other side of the baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden but still soft and springy to the touch. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and cool the logs on the baking sheet for 30 – 60 minutes.
  7. If you turned off the oven, bring it back up to 350 degrees F.
  8. Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the logs to a cutting board and, with a long sharp knife, trim the ends and cut the logs into 3/4- inch-thick slices.
  9. Return the slices to the baking sheet–this time standing them up like a marching band–and slide the sheet back into the oven. Cook for 15 minutes.
  10. Allow the biscotti to cool for an hour or so.
  11. Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl in the microwave. I usually use Guittard Extra Dark Chocolate Baking Chips, and I put about ½ a bag into a bowl and then microwave on 50% power for several minutes, warming it for 1 minute at a time, stirring it, and then re-heating it until it is ready.
  12. Dip the cooled biscotti in the melted chocolate and set onto a separate platter. Allow the chocolate to dry, and then store the biscotti.

Giancarlo Gottardo’s Vinaigrette


Do you like a slightly-sweet vinaigrette with your salads? I do, and often I have used a bit of honey as one of the ingredients in my oil and vinegar salad dressings.  Now I have a new favorite – a grape-reduction vinaigrette that has become one of the staples in my pantry.

I never knew what to do with the grapes that remained after an event.  They are so beautiful when they are fresh and cool, displayed artfully on a platter…but if  they aren’t all eaten, they look soft and unappealing the next day. I used to throw them away, until Giancarlo Gottardo, our good friend, showed me how to use them to make a fantastic homemade vinaigrette.


  • 1 cup of sugarGiancarlo's Vinaigrette
  • 1 cup of white, apple cider vinegar, or white
    balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of white, red, or green grapes and their stems (you can use a mix of these varieties as well)

How to Prepare this Recipe

  1. Put the grapes, sugar, vinegar, water, and salt into a heavy saucepan with a good lid.
  2. Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes, then put a lid on the pot and turn down the heat. Cook for an hour on a simmer with the lid on.
  3. Allow the pot to cool, covered, then strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth into a bottle.
  4. Store at a cool temperature inside a cabinet.
Michele Carbone



My favorite summertime after-dinner digestivo is the limoncello made from the lemon trees in my mother’s yard in Calabria. You can purchase limoncello in many locations in Italy and the US, but the pre-packaged bottles are never as good as the ones made from those homegrown, freshly-picked Calabrian lemons.

I’ve found that I can make a great limoncello using organic lemons from the supermarket. Of course, they aren’t quite as great as those collected in the warm sunlight of my mother’s garden, but they still make something delicious.

Even the process of making limoncello is a pleasure, because you breath in the aroma of the fresh lemon zest as you prepare it. The only problem with this recipe is that you have to steep the lemon zest in alcohol for a week – or up to three weeks (depends on the point of view). I say 1 week is all is that is needed before you finish the recipe.

Download a PDF with detailed instructions – Limoncello and Crema Recipe [Download]


  • 20 organic lemons, preferably less-mature lemons with a very thick skin
  • 750 ML rectified spirit, or ethyl alcohol, such as Everclear (I do not recommend the use of vodka as a substitute, that is a terrible idea)
  • 750 grams white sugar
  • 1.5 Liters water (purified or bottled)

NOTE:  The simple syrup is made with water and sugar, in a ratio of 1 liter of water to 500 grams of sugar.  If you want 2 liters of simple syrup, just double the quantities (1 KG sugar mixed with 2 liters of water).  Most Americans prefer to mix the infusion (the alcohol infused with the ethyl alcohol) at a combination of 1 liter of infusion to 2 liters of simple syrup (1:2).  My mother’s recipe is much stronger: 1 liter of infusion is combined with 1 liter of simple syrup (1:1).

Additional Supplies

  • A serrated vegetable peeler – One of the most important things about this recipe is that you need to use the lemon peel, avoiding the pith as much as possible. The pith gives the drink a bitter taste. Peeling the lemons “just so” used to be quite difficult, but now I have started using a microplane. It makes the job easy.
  • A large glass jar with a cover. The jar needs to be able to hold at least 1 liter of liquid (more if you choose to double or triple this recipe).
  • Another large glass jar that you use for the filtration process.
  • Aluminum foil to cover the jar as the limoncello steeps in the rectified spirit.
  • Glass bottles for the finished limoncello. You will need 2 1-liter bottles for this recipe.
  • A store-bought permanent coffee filter.

How to make this recipe

This is a two part process:

  1. Create the infusion of lemon zest in alcohol by zesting the lemons, putting the zest in a large jar, and pouring grain alcohol (such as Everclear) into the jar.  Cover the jar with aluminum foil and put it in a dark, cool place. Shake the jar every day for at least 7 days, and up to 3 three weeks.
  2. Once the infusion has matured, make the simple syrup of water and sugar (or alternatively, you can make a “crema” with a combination of heavy cream, milk, and sugar).  Once the simple syrup/crema reaches room temperature, you can mix it with the filtered infusion.
    1. If you have made the limoncello with simple syrup – Cover the jar again and put it in a dark cabinet…and wait at least 2 weeks, preferably 2-3 months, which causes the flavors to blend and become softer.
    2. If you have made a “crema” with the heavy cream, milk, and sugar –  Put the jar into your refrigerator and then wait for 2 weeks. You can then transfer the jar to your freezer.


  1. Wash and dry the lemons.
  2. Peel the lemons, making sure that you avoid including the pith.
  3. Chop the lemon zest, just a little bit.
  4. Pour the 750 ml of the rectified spirits into the clean glass jar, then add the lemon zest.
  5. Place the lid on the jar, then wrap it with aluminum foil or a cloth. The reason you cover it with aluminum foil is that the process is photo-sensitive. Therefore, you want to avoid exposing it to light during the one- to three-week steeping process.
  6. Shake the jar, then place it in a cool, dry, and dark place. Some people say that it’s best to shake the bottle each day; others say just leave it alone. My mother leaves the bottle alone with a towel around it for at least one week, so I suggest you do it her way (moms know best)!
  7. After the one-to-three week steeping period, you’re ready for the next steps.  
  8. In a very clean saucepan, heat 1 liter of purified water. Add, slowly, ½ kilogram of superfine sugar to the pan and stir it until the liquid is clear, meaning that the sugar has dissolved completely, creating a supersaturated sugar mixture.
  9. Allow the sugar-water to cool in a glass container.
  10. Strain the steeped limoncello mixture. Don’t squeeze or try to push the saturated lemon zest in order to extract a few extra ml of limoncello.  
  11. Once the limoncello spirits have been filtered, mix 1:1 with the sugar-water.  

    1. NOTE:  Most people perfer a 1:2 ratio of infusion to water, which lowers the alcohol percentage.  But my mother likes it strong!
    2. Decant the limoncello into your clean glass bottles and  cap them.
      While you can drink this right away, it’s even better if you can store it in a dark place for a couple of weeks — or more — before putting it in the freezer.
    3. Italians keep limoncello in the freezer — it won’t freeze.
  • Enjoy after dinner in a shot glass. Remember that this is a highly alcoholic drink, so sip it.

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