Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Repeal Day!

Like you need another reason to drink beer. . .

Today is the 74th anniversary of the ratification of 21st amendment. Take some time to savor a great beer. I'll sit down with a nice cold IPA from the 21st Amendment brewery (how appropriate!) They are a great microbrewery in San Francisco, that offers a changing selection of consistently delicious beer. The brewpub is a great place to grab a bite with friends and best of all they sell a few of their beers in cans to take home.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hooray Beer!!! Homebrewing Part 1

Kenny and I have made beer at home a few times over the last two years. I bought him a homebrewing kit two years ago, and we have enjoyed making a few batches in the last couple of years. We started out with and IPA, and followed that with an Oatmeal Stout. Last year we decided to try and make a Celebration Ale for our friends and family to give out as gifts for Chrismas. We needed four weeks at a minimum for our beer to be ready to give as gifts, but we kept putting off the brewing process. We ended up opening the first bottle to celebrate Spring instead of Christmas as we had envisioned.

This year we are trying to make beer for the holiday season once again. We have opted not to go with a seasonal blend, instead choosing to go with our most successful variety so far, an IPA.

Now I realize that the average beer drinker may not even know that there are different kinds of beer (Budweiser vs. Miller's doesn't count, by the way.) There are basically two main types determined by the type of yeast used for fermentation-ales and lagers. Ales are top fermenting, and lagers are bottom fermenting. Most home brewers will chose to go the ale route, as it is fermented at room temperature, and doesn't require the same amount of precision a lager might need to develop properly. More specifically we are making an IPA, which is an India Pale Ale. It is characterized by a stronger than average hoppiness. Hops are the plants that contribute to the bitterness of the brew, balancing the sugary sweetness of the malt, which feeds the yeasts. Back when the British had colonial rule over India, they would ship beer from Britain to India, adding extra hops to help in the preservation (hops have numerous beneficial effects including antibiotic properties.)

Until a few decades ago you wouldn't have even been allowed to brew at home (at least as far as the law was concerned.) It was due to an error in the 21st amendment which allowed for the homemaking of wine, but unintentionally didn't mention beer. In 1979 Jimmy Carter signed a bill making homebrewing legal once more. The new legality spawned a slew of new beer makers who not only have learned to create their own but have helped support and popularize the craft and microbrews that can be found through the U.S. (Anchor, Sam Adams, and Pyramid are a few of the larger ones.)

There are many great things about homebrewing. The anticipation of the final product is probably the greatest. You'll find me and Kenny peeking into our spare shower to check up on our beer daily (if not hourly.) The beer will take about three weeks until its time to put it in a bottle. I'll be back soon to update you about its progress. And maybe, if you are one of the lucky ones Santa may even leave you some in your stocking.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tomato Mania

Growing up I remember all tomatoes seemed exceedingly red and ripe. Often they needed nothing more than to be sliced and sprinkled with salt. I have always loved tomatoes, and love them even more since I've discovered the many varieties available. Being in the heart of tomato season, you've likely stumbled upon bins of orange, greed, red, purple, and multicolored heirlooms. Each has distinctive qualities that should be celebrated. Seek out a Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, or Ida Gold. I suppose there could be commercially produced variations, but for the most part you'll find the treasures labeled "heirloom."

An heirloom variety is one that has retained its integrity over time, meaning that it has not been hybridized, but is a seed stock that has been maintained over time. Some say the the seeds must remain the same for over 100 years. All I know is that if eaten ripe, there will be no disappointment. For those of you who haven't experienced the richness that embodies a heirloom variety of produce, seek it out, you'll be surprised at the rich flavors.

For the last few weeks my kitchen has been inundated with many of the varieties mentioned above. A few great ways to go through them are: make a caprese salad with fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella (in the photo above), chop and add garlic and olive oil for a quick fresh pasta sauce, add to a salad, or just salt and eat as you would an apple. Don't just take my word for the greatness of heirloom tomatoes, check out how other bloggers wax poetic on the subject: Matt Bites, The Amateur Gourmet, Albion Cooks. Who wouldn't love an heirloom tomato smack dab in the peak of the season?


Monday, July 30, 2007

My Weekly Challenge

Growing up there was a time my family subscribed to a CSA box. We would get our weekly selection of vegetables, and would try new things we hadn't even heard of. I remember we received Jerusalem Artichokes one week, they seemed so extremely exotic (not so much now.) Since visiting the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market back in December I have really wanted to subscribe to one. Kenny and I searched around online but had difficulty finding one in our area. I finally found Two Small Farms while cruising around the web. I immediately looked into the options and signed up. I paid for a four week trial, and a few days later picked up my first box.

The photo shows everything that came that first week: Golden Beets, Cauliflower, Spinach, Radishes, Romaine Lettuce, Spring Onions, Oregano, Spigariello (a type of leafy green), and Strawberries.

We've now been subscribing for about 5 weeks. We LOVE our weekly supply of veggies. I check the Two Small Farms blog at the beginning of each week to find out what exciting produce we'll get to play with that week and then spend the next several days waiting to pick up our box (it comes on Thrusdays.) We love that we are forced to try and eat things we may not have otherwise tried. We also like that we are forced to eat a ton of vegetables, we both feel we are becoming more healthy as a result. The commitment of the subscription is contributing to our health and happiness. I would recommend anyone try it out!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Goat Cheese: What to do with it?

I have to say that over time I've become less and less of a picky eater. I'm not a picky eater in the extreme sense, since I eat foods in colors other than white. But as a child I hated onions, hated fish, hated mushrooms, etc, etc. Slowly I've learned to love all of them, although certain flavors and textures I am still a bit hesitant about. In particular there are two types of cheese that I occasionally love, but often hate: blue veined cheeses and goat cheese. Sometimes they are the perfect addition to a salad, sandwich, or appetizer, and other times I find them unpalatable.

I decided to introduce goat cheese to my cooking after buying an assortment of beets, remembering that goat cheese if often paired with them. After putting together the goat cheese, beet, and walnut salad seen above, I still had about 6 oz. of cheese I needed to use (along with a vegetable bin full of veggies.) I'm now convinced the best way to use up an assortment of leftover food is to make a pizza.

I purchased the pizza dough from Trader Joe's, the Garlic Herb variety. And rummaged around my fridge coming up with caramelized onions, zucchini, tomatoes, and of course, the goat cheese. Once the cheese has had a chance to warm up and caramelize a bit it is soo delicious. So good that I made this recipe again a few days later for some friends.

Makes 4 Individual Pizzas

  • 1 package Trader Joe's Garlic Herb Pizza Dough
  • 1 cup Pizza sauce (or mix 8 oz of tomato sauce with 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and add herbs)
  • 1 large tomato sliced
  • 1 cup caramelized onions
  • 1/2 cup sauteed mushrooms
  • 1 small zucchini sliced
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  • Flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove pizza dough from refrigerator and let it start warming to room temperature for about 20 minutes. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray.

Flour a large cutting board or clean kitchen counter. Remove pizza dough from bag and flour lightly. Roll dough out to desired shape (I actually usually cut in 4 servings, and roll out what ever shape comes most natural, usually a triangular piece.)

Top each piece of dough with pizza sauce, then caramelized onions, then all remaining toppings. Add goat cheese near then end so it is on top and browns up a bit.

Bake for roughly 20 minutes, or according to the directions that came with your dough. The crust and goat cheese should both be lightly golden.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

One-Legged Chef Update

Dear Readers,

After months of hobbling around on one leg, awaiting the day my cast would come off, I again became a two legged functioning individual. My cast came off on July 2nd!!!! Within a week I was driving. And two days after that. . .back on crutches.

I have very unfortunately managed to re-injure myself, so I will remain the one-legged chef a while longer. Which is good for you, dear readers. I'll be going in for surgery this time around which means I'll actually have to take time off work. The one good part about all of this is I'll be at home the next few weeks and able to catch up with all my postings. I have a back log of photos I've taken awaiting comments to post on my blog.

Hold tight. . .more recipes coming your way.

The One-Legged Chef

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My New Favorite Recipe

I have a weird obsession for making lists. I have massively long list of books I want to read, a list of books I've already read, a list of recipes I want to master, and an ever growing list of things to do. Each list is housed in its own notebook. A few months ago I started a new notebook to keep a record of all the new recipes that I try. Each entry contains the title of the recipe, any notes about alterations I made to the recipe, as well as my impressions, followed by a rating out of 5 stars. I've made 21 recipes since the beginning of the year, and today was the first time I questioned if a 5 star scale would be adequate.

I made Eating Well Serves Two's Orzo with Lamb, Olives & Feta. I am in love.

Lamb is probably my favorite type of meat. I particularly like it cooked all day in a slow cooker. It seems you can never ever go wrong with slow cooked meat of any variety (by far the easiest way to cook a whole chicken, and impossible to overcook.) The dish I tried today is much better suited for when you haven't planned ahead to allow an 8 to 10 hour cooking time. Man o man, this is one delicious treat. The flavors are complex, it's like a meaty marinara sauce with the addition of cinnamon. In the past I've stayed away from most things sweet, so luckily for me I've discovered over the last year that cinnamon offers great complexity to savory dishes, much more than you'd imagine (or at least more than I had imagined.) It's delicious used in fajitas, and as in this recipe it happens to go particularly well with lamb.

This dish is very quick and easy to put together. The end result is so good, I'd venture to make it even if it took several hours. Next time I'll have to create a slow cooked version to see if it's even possible to make any more delicious. If you love lamb, or maybe even just like it, try this recipe, it will be a new favorite. Enjoy!