by Sheridan Lane, director, culinary program and operations, Lincoln Land Community College
Wow, we survived another week amid shelter in place. If we are lucky enough to still be working our new normal is anything but routine: lots of virtual meetings, tons of computer time, endless office chair sitting, keeping up with new mandates and changes, new homelife balancing act, missing our friends and loved ones, and many cancelled vacations.
Every two years, the Culinary and Hospitality department plans, in conjunction with Richland Community College and the Centro Studi Italiani in Urbania, Italy, a two-week cultural excursion. We were set to depart at the end of the month for what was going to be a trip of a lifetime for those that had planned to go. Covid-19 struck instead; striking especially hard in Italy. I know we are among so many that have cancelled life events and postposed dreams to deal with our new reality, but this week, I am going to take some time to do a little pretending to lighten the mood!
First, I am going to start with a classic Italian cocktail, the Negroni. I would have loved to have been enjoying this aperitif at a caffée while soaking in a bit of Italian charm, especially after this week. Negronis are made with Compari, a proprietary brand of liqueur with a distinct flavor, stirred with gin, sweet vermouth and lemon twist. Compari is made from infusing herbs and fruits in alcohol. The fruits, chinotto and cascarilla, give the Compari liqueur its trademark bitter flavor. Legend or not, Compari predates even Italy as a country when Gaspare Compari began his business in a small town west of Milan called Novarra. That being said, instead of mapping out my culinary stops, I will be making a list of all of my simple accomplishments while sipping this elixir certain to spark my appetite and mellow my quarantined angst.
Next I am going to dream of the amazing stops we planned to make in and around the Food Valley Region of Italy by indulging in lots of homemade pasta making while starting a batch of homemade limoncello so that I can toast with a limoncello crème the day we were supposed to have embarked on our trip.
I know all of this pretending may seem silly, but it sure is lifting my spirits today. I hope this message finds you using your own creativity to make the best of your time at home while transporting the senses to wherever it was that we had hoped to have visited during this time of staying put. Perhaps my Covid-19 saying will be, “when life gives you lemons, start with Negronis and end with limoncellos.”
Now to decide where to transport my “spirits” next week … Cuba for mojitos now that my mint is really starting to grow or Greece for a really crispy lemony while wine?
Equal parts Compari, Gin and Sweet Vermouth stirred with a large ice cube and served with a twist of lemon or orange.
Limoncello (MAKE ahead)
1 (750-ml) bottle vodka
3 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar
Using a sharp knife or peeler, remove the peel (try not to get into the white pith) from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Place the lemon peels in a resealable container large enough to hold the bottle of vodka plus the sugar syrup you will make in a week (approximately 3 quarts). Once the lemon peels have infused the vodka for 1 week at room temperature, make the sugar syrup by stirring the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup into the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.
Limoncello is nice to enjoy this way over ice, but I prefer to make the following variation for an after-dinner treat.
Combine the following & refrigerate well.
1 pint ½ & ½
1, 14 oz container sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp. REAL vanilla
To mix the limoncello crème use a drink shaker full of crushed ice and add equal parts cream mixture and prepared limoncello. Shake vigorously and serve up in a cordial glass.
I am celebrating what I was able to do this week by toasting the small successes I did accomplish. Make a list and relish in those check-offs!