Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Great'er Pumpkin

One of my favorite comics and cartoons growing up was Peanuts and Charlie Brown.  I especially remember It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which introduced everyone to the Great Pumpkin.  Well, not formally, anyways.  Every Halloween, Linus van Pelt would wait in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin.  The problem was that the Great Pumpkin never materialized and, in the end, Linus was ridiculed by all of his friends for standing in the pumpkin patch all night while they were trick-or-treating and celebrating the holiday at parties.

Linus is confined to realm of non-fiction, which is unfortunate given the Great Pumpkin exists in reality.  The brewers at Heavy Seas have produced The Great Pumpkin, which is brewed in the style of an imperial pumpkin ale.  They have also produced the Greater'er Pumpkin, which is the imperial pumpkin ale aged in barrels from Virginia's A. Smith Bowman Distillery. I found a bottle of the Great'er Pumpkin and saved it for Halloween.

The Great'er Pumpkin pours a nice orange in color, with a thin level of foam.  The aromatic elements of suggest pumpkin puree, cinnamon and a little clove.  The aging of the beer for three weeks in bourbon barrels also contributes to the aroma of the beer, with hints of the bourbon itself.  

When it comes to the flavor of the beer, the Great'er Pumpkin is like a liquid pumpkin pie that has been made with bourbon.  There are flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and allspice.  The brewers also note these flavors, along with their use of dark brown sugar, which added color and some dryness to their spicy, malt-forward ale.  All of these flavors are wrapped in a boozy cover, which is clearly drawn from the A. Smith Bowman Distillery barrels.  The aging of this beer in the bourbon barrels definitely sets this beer apart from other Imperial Pumpkin Ales that I have tried in the past. 

The Great'er Pumpkin is best enjoyed alone, sipping the beer as a digestif.  You could also enjoy the beer like I did, waiting to give away our candy to the trick-or-treaters  before I break down and eat that candy myself.

I found this beer at State Line Liquors in Elkton, Maryland.  It sold for about $6.29 or $6.99 a bottle.  


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Vegetarian Kheema

Kheema is a ground beef curry dish that originated in the Punjab region.  The preparation of the dish is fairly straight forward ... ground lamb meat or beef is sauteed with curry powder and a range of spices added.   As the dish nears completion, some potatoes, tomatoes and peas are added.  Once the cooking is done, it can be served with some rice.  

However, Clare does not eat ground meat (and, with all the news stories about ground beef, I am a little hesitant myself) and she does not like peas.  So, I decided to modify a traditional Pakistani Kima recipe to make it vegetarian.  Out with the ground beef, in with the red kidney beans.  Out with the peas, in with the chickpeas.  Everything pretty much stayed the same.  In the end, the dish would probably be unrecognizable to the average Pakistani.  A sort of anti-Kheema. 

Still, the dish was very good.  The use of the curry powder -- along with the cinnamon, garlic, ginger and turmeric -- made this a very aromatic dish.  I would make this again, but I think I will first make the traditional, beef Kheema first.

Recipe adapted from Whole New Mom
Serves 4

2-3 tablespoons of oil
1 cup of onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can of red kidney beans
1 1/2 tablespoons of curry powder
2 1/4 teaspoons of salt
1/8 teaspoon of black pepper
1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of ginger
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1 can of whole tomatoes
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
1 can of chickpeas or 3/4 cup of peas

1.  Saute the vegetables.  Heat the oil in a large pan.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion softens and the garlic begins to brown.  

2.  Add the beans, tomatoes, and spices.  Add the red kidney beans, tomatoes, and all of the spices.  Continue to cook for a couple of minutes, stirring to mix the ingredients.

3.  Add potatoes and chickpeas.  Add the diced potatoes and chickpeas (or peas).  Bring to a simmering boil, reduce the heat and cover the pan.  Simmer for at least twenty-five minutes or until the potatoes are done.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Old Embalmer '12

Ambiguity defines the history of the barleywine style.  I have been trying to learn where this style first emerged, but I have been unable to pinpoint when brewers started producing a "barley wine."  According to Bryce Eddings at, the term "barleywine" was first used to describe Bass No. 1 in 1903, a high powered beer produced in Burton-on-Trent, England by White Shield.  Eddings concedes, however, that the barleywine style predated the early twentieth century. 

While I cannot pinpoint when the style first emerged, it seems clear that barleywines were first produced in England. It is possible that barleywines emerged out of the English Old Ale style. According to the Beer Certification Judge Program, old ales are mashed at higher temperatures than other styles (like strong ales), and then aged at the brewery after the primary fermentation.  This process produced a beer that has an alcohol content ranging between 6% and 9%. The barleywine style shares a similar production method and aging process.  The only significant difference between old ales and barleywines is that a barleywine usually has an alcohol content that starts at 8% and can go as high as 12%, if not higher.  In addition, a more recent phenomenon is to provide barleywines with their own vintages, just like the vintages of wines. 

I bought a bottle of the Widmer Brothers Old Embalmer '12.  The 2012 vintage of this beer features the use of Bravo Hops.  The bravo is a second generation, high alpha variety hop that was developed by the Hopsteiner breeding program in 2006. This hop is primarily used in as a bittering hop, which is added to provide the citrus or fruit flavors to the beer.

The brewers at Widmer did not use the Bravo hops for bittering; instead, they chose to use Alchemy hops as the bittering hops.  The Bravo hops were used as aroma hops, with the intent of highlighting those citrus flavors in the aroma of the beer.  

The Old Embalmer pours a bronze to brown in color, with amber hues.  As the beer was poured, a consistent, even foam developed over the beer.  The aromas of the Bravo hops penetrated that cloud-layer of foam, greeting the nose with a balance of citrus flavors, as well as caramel and malt aromas (from the use of the 2-Row Pale and Caramel malts used in the brewing process).  The flavors of the Old Embalmer seem more malt-driven, with hints of vanilla, caramel, and toffee being the principal flavor elements.  
With an ABV of over 10%, this beer is probably best enjoyed by itself as a digestif.  If you are looking for something to pair with this beer, then the dessert course is probably where you start.  Any dessert with caramel would make a good pairing with this beer.  You could also simply serve a cheese platter, with cheddar cheeses or goat cheeses, all of which should pair well with this beer.

I found this beer at a local grocery store.  It sold for about $14.99 a bottle.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Quinoa Tabbouleh

For the longest time, I had never tried Tabbouleh.  I do not know why, I just never ordered it in a restaurant and never tried to make it at home.  My first experience eating Tabbouleh came relatively recently when I went with my beautiful wife, Clare, to a local Lebanese restaurant.  As with all Lebanese food, I really liked it. 

Having purchased three pregnancy cookbooks, which is where I found the quinoa risotto recipe, I immediately returned to those books.  I came across this recipe for Quinoa Tabbouleh, and, thought it was an interesting twist on a traditional recipe.  After making Mushroom Quinoa Risotto for Clare, I had a lot of quinoa leftover.  I also knew that Clare loves tabbouleh, so I thought I could not go wrong with the recipe.  I got all of the ingredients and turned my attention to making this dish.

As it turns out, this recipe makes a lot of quinoa tabbouleh and we had a lot leftover.  The use of the quinoa definitely provides a different texture and taste than using bulghur.  I would make this again, but, it will not be soon.  I think between the quinoa risotto and the quinoa tabbouleh, I have worn Clare out with respect to this ingredient.

Recipe adapted from What to
Serves several

3/4 cup water
1/2 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cups lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, 
     finely chopped
2 Tablespoons finely chopped mint
3 scallions (white and light green parts), finely chopped
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded carrots
3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup crumbled pasteurized feta cheese (optional)

1.  Make the quinoa.  In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil over high heat.  Immediately add quinoa and a pinch of salt, bring back to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer for 6 minutes or until nearly all of the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender but not soft.

2.  Make the salad.  In a serving bowl, combine the quinoa, parsley, mint, scallions, tomato and carrots.

3.  Finish the salad.  In a cup, combine lemon juice and oil.  Whisk until just blended.  Add salt and pepper.   Pour over quinoa, toss to coat and garnish with feta cheese. 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Burning River

The lyrics are haunting for someone born and raised in Cleveland ... "Cleveland, City of Magic; Cleveland, City of Light" ... even as melodic music plays in the background.  References to "magic" and "light" would make one think that the composer and singer is paying a tribute to Cleveland.  However, the composer is Randy Newman and the song is named "Burn On."  The tribute is to a travesty ... "burn on, big river, burn on."

The travesty was the Cuyahoga River catching fire in 1969.  The odd thing is that sight of a river catching fire was not uncommon.  According to Wikipedia, the Cuyahoga has caught fire approximately thirteen times since 1868.  The largest fire was not even the one in 1969.  Instead, a fire in 1952 caused over a million dollars of damage to boats and even a river-front building.

Yet, the burning of the Cuyahoga River in 1969 fire sparked a different kind of flame, which propelled the environmental movement.  People began to take notice and heed of the state of their rivers.  The Cuyahoga River, for example, was basically sludge, with all of the fish having been killed off in many parts of the crooked river.  That fire in 1969 was a catalyst for a lot of good things, such as the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The name, Burning River, also happens to be my favorite beer from Great Lakes Brewing Company, at least among its year around offerings.  Great Lakes Brewing is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, craft brewer in the State of Ohio.  For the longest time, it was the standard in craft brewing.  I used to visit Great Lakes whenever I was visited Cleveland.  (Admittedly, I do not get there as often as I used to, due to the proliferation of craft brewers like Fat Head's, The Brew Kettle and Market Garden.)

Great Lakes produces the Burning River with four malts and two hops. The malts are Harrington 2-Row base malt, Crystal 45, Crystal 77 and Biscuit malts.  The hops are Northern Brewer and Cascade hops. 

The Burning River is pours an amber orange color, reminiscent of the hues that could be seen in some fires.  The beer pours an off white foam that graces the top of the liquid.  The aroma is full of hops, which one expects from the Cascade hops.  Both the Northern Brewer and Cascade hops are clearly present in the taste, with the former providing a strong bitterness to the beer, while the latter adds a sense of grapefruit or other citrus to the taste. 

The brewers suggest that this beer is best paired with smoky red meats, as well as flavorful cheeses such as Stilton and other blue cheeses.  I think that the Burning River will go with most any red meat, and even poultry.  I did try the Great Lakes with a Rogue blue cheese and the pairing worked fairly well, much to my surprise.   

Great Lakes is increasing its distribution of its beers, which can be found from Chicago to Washington, D.C.  This beer sells for about $8.99 a six pack.  


Monday, October 22, 2012

Cordero Asado con Patatas

According to José Andrés, this dish -- Cordero Asado con Patatas  or Roast Rack of Lamb with Potatoes --is a classic dish from Aragón, which is served in many of the region's restaurants.  José says he began making this dish for his Jewish friends in the United States as their passover meal, "not least because lamb plays a symbolic role during their holiday feast."  José adds, "[i]n any religion, on either side of the Atlantic, this is a simple and satisfying meal the whole family can enjoy!"

This simple meal is reflective of the cuisine in Aragon.  Many describe that cuisine as simple, straightforward meat dishes of  lamb, boar or venison, served with vegetables.  Lamb is especially common, with various dishes of roast lamb or lamb stew gracing the tables of restaurants and households.  This dish is a little fancier than the average lamb dish, relying upon a cut -- the rack -- that costs more than others, such as the shank or shoulder.  

While this recipe is fairly simple, I did have some trouble with the potatoes.  If you look at the picture in the Made in Spain cookbook, the potatoes are nicely browned.  Although I followed the recipe, including cooking times, the potatoes did not brown and some were still a little raw.  This may have been due to my cutting the slices a little too thick or it may have been that I needed to cook them a little longer.  However, the lamb cooked perfectly, as you can see from the pictures.  I can live with some undercooked potatoes when the lamb is perfect.

Recipe from José Andrés, Made in Spain at 200
Serves 4

4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 
     1/4 inch think rounds
8 garlic cloves, peeled
16 pearl onions, peeled
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
4 fresh thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons of Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
2 French cut racks of lamb, about 10 ounces each
1/2 cup of dry white wine

1.  Bake the potatoes.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Toss the potato slices, garlic, onions, rosemary, thyme and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil together in a mixing bowl.  Spread the mixture in a large roasting pan, season to taste with salt, and bank in the oven for 10 minutes.

2.  Brown the lamb.  While the potatoes roast, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a  a large saute pan over medium high heat.  When the pan begins to smoke, add the lamb racks and brown for about 2 minutes per side.

3.  Roast the lamb.  Remove the potatoes from the oven and pour the wine over them.  Arrange the lamb racks on top of the potatoes, leaning them against each other to form a triangle.  Return the pan to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes or until the lamb measures 130 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer.  Transfer the lamb to a cutting board to let it rest for 5 minutes.

4.  Plate the dish.  Slice the racks into chops and divide them among 4 plates.  Spoon the potatoes, onion, garlic and herbs onto the plates.  Drizzle the lamb with the pan juices and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Season to taste with salt.


Given this recipe draws its inspiration from Aragón, Spain, one would think a wine from that region would pair well.  It may be a little difficult finding wines from that region. However, wines from a nearby Rioja region could work just as well.  Obviously, a red wine -- such as a wine made with the Tempranillo or Garnacha grapes -- would pair well.  When I made this dish, I used a Rioja Blanco -- the Muga Rioja Blanco (2011) -- for the 1/2 cup of the dry white wine; and, to my surprise, the wine also paired reasonably well with the dish.  If yo udo not have a Spainish wine handy, then consider a Pinot Noir from France or Oregon.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Muga Rioja Blanco (2011)

When one thinks of Rioja wine, thoughts usually turn to red wine, tinto.  The reason may lie with the fact that 85% of the grapes cultivated in the La Rioja, the denominación de origen calificada, are red grapes (Tempranillo primarily, but also Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo).  This obviously leads to an abundance of Rioja tinto wines.

Yet, winemakers in La Rioja also make other wines, such as a blanco, which is made with the Viura grape, also known as Macabeo.  This grape is grown throughout La Rioja, as well as in Catalunya and Languedoc-Roussillon.  The Viura or Macabeo grape produces young, acidic wines.  However, winemakers often use the grape in blends, such as blending it with Xarel-lo and Parellada grapes to produce Cava.  The Viura grape can also be blended with some Malvasia and/or Garnacha Blanco grapes to produce the Rioja Blanco.

For the longest time, I have been wanting to buy and try a Rioja Blanco made by Muga.  I previously tried a Rioja Rose (or rosado) when I was pairing Spanish wines for a four course Spanish meal.  The rose wine was very good and, during my research, I only read good things about Muga wines.  So, I recently bought a bottle of Rioja Blanco to serve with a dinner that I made for my parents. 

Muga produces its Rioja Blanco with a blend of 90% Viura (Macabeo) and 10% Malvasia grapes.  The grapes are picked from vines that grow in clay and alluvial soils.  The winemaker's process results in half of the picked grapes being excluded from the wine process.  The wine is barrel fermented for three months on its lees (yeast), and then bottled.

The Rioja Blanca wine is a very pale yellow in color.  Given its youth, the wine is very aromatic, with scents of apples and a little pear or peach.  The winemaker describes this wine as having aromas of pineapple and peaches in syrup or honey.  Other reviewers described aromatic elements such as vanilla, almond, wild herbs and "buttery brioche."  Perhaps my olfactory senses are not well developed, but I could see the peaches and had a more difficult time sensing the other aromas.  As for the palette, the wine definitely had the taste of ripe apples, along with some pear and perhaps a little herb de provence in the background.  Those other reviewers found pineapple and guava, and perhaps a little spice from the barrel aging.  I could sense the fact that this wine was barrel aged, because it was a little smoother than I would have expected for a wine that is described as young and ready to be consumed now.

As I mentioned above, I bought this wine to pair with a meal that I made for my parents.  The meal began with Ensalada Murciana con Queso Murcia al Vino or Drunken Goat Cheese and Tomato Salad.  The wine went very well with the tomatoes and cheese.  The main course was Cordero Asado con Patatos, or Roast Rack of Lamb with Potatoes.  The Rioja Blanco actually went very well with the roast lamb and complemented the herbs used with the potatoes.  

I found this wine at a local grocery store where it sells for $16.99 a bottle.  


Friday, October 19, 2012

Ensalada Murciana con Queso Murcia al Vino

I am a big fan of José Andrés and his cooking.  I have watched all of the episodes of his PBS show, Made in Spain.  (Actually, I have watched those shows several times each.)  Clare bought me a copy of his book, Made in Spain, and, every once in a while, I have made one of his recipes.

Recently, my parents came to visit and I decided to make them a meal from the Made in Spain cookbook.  I decided to make this dish -- Ensalada Murciana con Queso Murcia al Vino or Drunken Goat Cheese and Tomato Salad -- as the starter.  

Although this dish appears fairly simple, it takes some skill.  I was limited in one respect -- I did not have an apple corer -- so that I could not get the cores cut as called for in the recipe.  I also sliced the cheese in a different way.  Rather than cutting 1/2 inch sticks, I cut slices, primarily because of the cut of the cheese that I got from the store. However, the skill really is needed when it comes to getting the "tomato fillets" -- the seeds -- which José describes as the "hidden caviar" in the tomato.  He admits that it takes a lot of work, "but along the way," according to José, "you're exploring the wonders of the tomato and transforming your salad into something truly special."

This dish was very special and very delicious.  However, I was unable to recreate the dish as it is depicted in Made in Spain.  Presentation has always been my weak point, but it gives me an opportunity to improve. 

Recipe from José Andrés, Made in Spain, p. 37
Serves 4

4 ripe beefsteak tomatoes
4 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
4 ripe plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon Spanish aged sherry vinegar
8 ounces of Murcia al Vino, cut into slices
1/2 cup of good quality black olives
Fresh thyme sprigs
Fresh chervil sprigs

1.  Prepare the beefsteak tomatoes.  Using an apple corer, cut out the centers of the beefsteak tomatoes.  Trim off the stem end of the cores, cut the cores in half and set aside.  Slice the tomatoes in half.  Place a grater over a large mixing bowl.  Rub the cut surface of the tomatoes over the grater until all the flesh is grated. Discard the skin.  Season the tomato pulp with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and a little salt and set aside.   

2.  Prepare the plum tomatoes.  Using a sharp knife, slice off the top and bottom of each plum tomato.  Locate the fleshy dividing wall of one segment inside the tomato.  Slice alongside the dividing wall and open up the flesh of the tomato to expose the seeds. Remove the seeds and their pulp by slicing around the ore of the tomato.  Set the seeds aside.  The aim is to keep the pulp of the seeds together to create tomato-seed "fillets" that are separate from the firmer tomato flesh.  Finely dice the tomato flesh and set aside.

3.  Complete the dish.  Whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the vinegar in a bowl and season to taste with salt.  Spread the grated tomato pulp on a serving platter.  Sprinkle the diced plum tomatoes on top of the pulp.  Arrange the tomato cores on top.  Place the tomato-seed "fillets" around the platter.  Top with the cheese and olives and drizzle with the dressing.  Garnish with thyme, chervil and sea salt.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Curried Pumpkin Apple Soup

My Mom is a great cook who, along with my Dad, make some really great meals.  Recently, my Mom has been talking about this recipe for Curried Pumpkin Apple Soup.  She has made the soup and really loved it.  She loved it so much that, when my parents recently visited Clare and me, she brought the recipe with every intention of making it for us.  And we were glad she did.

The recipe from Taste of Home's Heartwarming Soups.  The ingredients suggest fall ... pumpkins, apples, leeks, onions.  The curry provides a good spice flavor and, if you want to be adventurous, you can try different curry powders, which could increase the heat or spice flavor.  My mother used some of the sweet curry powder that we have in our spice drawer.  When all is said and done, the soup was exactly as described in the magazine: "[s]weet apples and spicy curry combine in a rich soup that is absolutely perfect for fall."

What makes it perfect is that it was cooked by my Mom!

Recipe from Jane Shapton, printed in Taste of Home,
Heartwarming Soups at 11
Serves 8

2 medium Golden Delicious apples, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium leek (white portion only) chopped
2 tablespoons of butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt to taste

1.  Saute and boil the ingredients.  In a large saucepan, saute the apples, onion and leek in butter until tender.  Add garlic and curry; cook 1 minute longer.  Add pumpkin and broth; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir in cream, heat through (do not boil).

2.  Blend the ingredients.  Remove from heat; cool slightly.  In a blender, process soup in batches, until smooth.  Season with salt.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Mushroom Quinoa Risotto

This recipe caught my attention ... it blends an ancient "grain" with a traditional Italian preparation for rice.  Quinoa or, in Quechua, kinwa, is a grain-like crop that originated in the Andean mountains from modern day Ecuador to Peru and Bolivia.   South America.  Far from modern, quinoa dates back thousands of years.  The Incans referred to it as chisaya mama or "the mother of all grains."  The name is apt, as quinoa is a very healthy ingredient.  The grains pack a lot of protein, calcium, iron, and all eight essential amino acids.  

When it came to getting the ingredients, the recipe calls for the use of trumpet mushrooms and shiitake or white mushrooms.  Trumpet mushrooms can be hard to find, while most stores carry shiitake or button mushrooms.  However, I decided to use a mixed mushroom pack, which had at least four of five different mushrooms.   The variety of mushrooms definitely added to the plating of the dish.

This dish represents my first attempt at making quinoa.  The use of the risotto preparation provided some comfort, because I have made several risottos in my time. The quinoa definitely presents a different texture than the arborio rice, but I think it  still worked very well with this dish.  I would have to say that I would make it again.

Recipe adapted from Healthy Eating During Pregnancy at page 88
Serves 4

3 cups of mushroom or chicken stock
1 tablespoon of extra virgin oil, plus 2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons of shallots, diced
1 teaspoon of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups of white quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup white wine
8 ounces mixed mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cups of grated Parmesan
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

1.  Heat the stock.  In a medium pot, heat the broth over low heat and simmer while you prepare the rest of of the dish.

2.  Prepare the risotto.  In another medium pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallot and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, stirring often to prevent browning.  Add the quinoa and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the grains are coated in oil and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until evaporated.  Ladle 1/2 cup of hot stock, stir and simmer until the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes.  Continue the process, adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time, until the quinoa is fully cooked and there is no more broth, about 25 minutes.

3.  Prepare the mushrooms.  Heat the remaining two teaspoons oil in a small saute pan and cook the mushrooms until browned.  Season with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and set aside.  

4.  Plate the dish.  Stir some of the mushrooms and Parmesan into the risotto.  Spoon into 4 serving bowls and top with mushrooms.  Serve immediately, with additional Parmesan cheese for sprinkling.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Gazpacho with Shrimp

My beautiful Angel, Clare, and I both love gazpacho.  The chilled tomato-based soup has some very old roots originating in the Spanish region of Andalucia.  According to some sources, such as Chef Clifford Wright and the Food Timeline, gazpacho is based upon recipes from the Moors, who occupied Andalucia between the 8th and 13th centuries. 

Gazpacho was quintessential cocino pobre or peasant fare.  The first recipes called for the use of bread, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and water.  The original versions of gazpacho did not include tomatoes, because that ingredient did not become available until after the discovery of the New World. 

As part of cocino pobre, recipes for gazpacho did not grace the pages of early Spanish cookbooks. The first recipe for gazpacho was published in an American cookbook, Mary Randolph's Virginian Housewife (Washington 1824).  The recipe provided, "Put some soft biscuit or toasted bread in the bottom of a salad bowl, put in a layer of sliced tomatoes with the skin taken off, and one of sliced cucumbers, sprinkled with pepper, salt, and chopped onion; do this until the bowl is full, stew some tomatoes quite soft, strain the juice, mix in some mustard and oil, and pour over it; make it two hours before it is eaten."  Since that time, the recipes have evolved, especially with technology, such as blenders and food processors.

This recipe for gazpacho does not come from a Virginian Housewife, but it does come from a wife ... Patricia Fernandez de la Cruz, who is the wife of José Andrés.  The recipe calls for the use of two pounds of ripe tomatoes, but it did not specify which tomatoes to use.  I decided to be a little creative and use some heirloom tomatoes.  Those tomatoes provided a yellow color to this soup, giving the soup its own distinctive color. 

Recipe from Healthy Eating During Pregnancy at 72
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the gazpacho):
2 pounds of ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 green pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup water
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
1 1/2 slices of bread, torn into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Ingredients (for the shrimp):
12 large shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt

Ingredients (for the garnish):
4 (1/2 inch thick) slices of bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon of olive oil
4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
Kosher salt
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon diced shallot
1 tablespoon of minced shallots, to garnish
Sea salt, to garnish

1.  Make the gazpacho.  Place the gazpacho ingredients in a blender and blend until very smooth, adding more water if necessary.  Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and chill.

2.  Make the shrimp.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Cut the shrimp lengthwise about halfway down so they open into a Y shape (this allows the shrimp to cook more evenly).  Once the oil is hot, saute the shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

3.  Prepare the bread cubes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put the bread cubes in a mixing bowl, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss to coat evenly.  Spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden, turning once or twice with a spatula, for 15 to 20 minutes.  Let cool.

4.  Prepare the garnish.  In a mixing bowl, combine the plum tomatoes, cucumber, red and green bell peppers, and shallot and mix well.

5.  Plate the dish.  To serve, place three sauteed shrimp in the center of four soup bowls.  Arrange some of the tomato-cucumber mixture around the edge.  Sprinkle with chives and sea salt and top with some croutons. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.  Pour the chilled gazpacho into a pitcher.  Set the bowls in front of your guests and pour some of the gazpacho at the table.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Some Great Changes at Chef Bolek ...

There are some changes coming to Chef Bolek.  For those of you who follow this blog, you know that I love to cook for my beautiful wife, Clare.  Many of the dishes that make their way onto Chef Bolek are dishes that I make for and/or are inspired by her.

Recently, I have been making some changes to the meals that I make for her.  The reason is a great one ... we are expecting a child in April!  

After we got the news, one of the first things I did was to purchase some cookbooks with recipes for pregnancy.  Three cookbooks to be exact.  I knew that I would have to make some changes to what I make.  The problem is that, before I bought the cookbooks, I had a difficulty when it came to conceiving a proper meal for someone who is expecting.  I had all of these thoughts about ingredients, dietary value, and nutrition that, quite frankly, brought my creative processes to a halt.  I needed some guidance, not only when it came to dishes, but with respect to meals.  I needed to make sure that what I made would provide the necessary nutritional value for my Angel and our little cherub.   

Once I received the books, I immediately started looking for recipes based upon their nutritional content, such as the levels of protein, folic acid and the range of vitamins.  I also started cooking with ingredients that I have never used before, such as quinoa, kale, and tofu.  (Yes, the consummate carnivore is now cooking -- and eating -- tofu.) So, over the course of the days, weeks and months to come, I'll be posting some of the dishes that I have been making for Clare and our little "Baby Bolek." 

Until then, and as always ...


Monday, October 8, 2012

Chicken Hawayil

One of the most interesting aspects of my personal culinary adventures is the exploration into different spice mixes.  Over the past couple years, I have made several spice mixes.  These blends include Egyptian Baharat, Libyan Bzaar, Keralan Panni Ularthiyathu and two different versions of Berbere, Ethiopian and Eritrean.  Recently, I was looking for a new spice mix to try in connection with grilling a whole chicken.  I decided to make my search more interesting by focusing upon those blends or mixes that incorporate cardamom.  This focus basically narrowed my search to spice mixes used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking.

As I conducted my search, I fully expected to find and use an Indian spice mix.  I was very surprised when I came across a few recipes for Hawayil, which is a traditional spice mix used in Yemeni cuisine.  Although the recipes varied in terms of the ingredients used to make the mix, the core spices are black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, saffron, cloves and turmeric.  Some other recipes include other spices, such as cumin seeds and coriander seeds.  Ultimately, I decided to make a Hawayil spice mix using the core spices, although I used both green and black cardamom pods, and I added cumin seeds.  (For some reason, I did not have any coriander seeds in my spice drawer; however, I added the coriander to the recipe below for future reference.) 

The recipes also differed as to the preparation of the spice mix.  Some recipes called for toasting the seeds, which is usually done to help release the aromas and flavors.  Other recipes omitted this step.  From what I can tell from my research, toasting the seeds is part of the traditional method for making Hawayil.  Therefore, I adapted the recipe for Hawayil to provide for the toasting of all of the seeds (black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cumin seeds, cloves and coriander seeds).  The toasted seeds are then added to the spice grinder, along with the saffron and turmeric. 

Overall, this is a very good spice mix.  It worked very well with chicken; and, I think it could also work well with lamb or goat.  I will definitely try this mix with other meats.

Hawayil recipe adapted from Ya Salam Cooking
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the chicken):
1 whole four pound chicken, rinsed and spatch-cocked
Salt, to taste

Ingredients (for the Hawayil):
6 teaspoons of black peppercorns
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
3 teaspoons of caraway seeds
1 teaspoon of green cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon of black cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon of saffron threads
2 teaspoons of whole cloves
2 teaspoons of coriander seeds
2 teaspoons of ground turmeric

1.  Prepare the Hawayil.  Heat a small pan on medium heat.  Toast the black peppercorns, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, cardamom seeds, cloves, and coriander seeds for a couple of minutes, moving the seeds to prevent burning.  Once the seeds become fragrant, remove them from the heat and add them to a spice grinder with the turmeric and saffron.  Grind the seeds until they are a powder.  Season the chicken with some salt and add the hawayil rub to all sides of the chicken.  Let the chicken rest in the refrigerator for about one-half hour.

2.  Grill the chicken.  Heat the grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the chicken, skin side up.  Grill for about twenty minutes.  Flip the chicken and grill for fifteen minutes.  Return the chicken to skin side up, and continue to grill for about five minutes more. Let the chicken rest for ten to fifteen minutes.

3.  Finish the dish.  After the chicken has rested, break the chicken down into pieces:  2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs and 2 wings.  Serve on a platter. 


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Heavy Seas Plank II

Craft brewers use wood in a variety of ways.  The most common method is to age the beer in wooden barrels.  If those barrels happen to have been used before, such as to age red wine or hard liquor, all the better. Brewers rely upon the past usage of those barrels to add depth to the flavor of their beer.  While barrels may be the most common way to use wood in the production of beer, but it is not the only way.

At Heavy Seas, in Baltimore, Maryland, the brewers have developed another innovative way to use wood into the brewing of a beer.  This method involved adding wooden planks to the fermenter.  For months, the Heavy Seas crew experimented with beers and woods to achieve a certain style with certain tastes.  The experiments produced Plank II, which was brewed with six foot planks of yellow poplar and eucalyptus woods.  The planks had been retified, which involves a a thermal process developed in the construction industry by John Gasparine.  The retification process helps to increase the flavor of the wood.  Once they receive the planks, the brewers placed them in the fermenter with a base beer to age for half of a year.  The Heavy Seas brewers called this process "deconstructing the barrel," which contributes flavors to the beer in a different way than barrel aging or using toasted wood.

Of course, the brewers used more than just wood to make the Plank II.  They used Hallertau hops, along with a variety of malts, including German 2-Row Pilsner, Vienna, Munich Light, Munich Dark and Carafa II.  Together, all of these ingredients produce a beer that Heavy Seas describes as a "velvety doppelbock."  

The Plank II fits within the guidelines of a doppelbock.  This style of beer is generally dark brown in color, strong maltiness in aroma, and a malt flavor with a strong impression of alcoholic strength.  The Plank II has a dark brown, almost cola color.  The five malts used to make the beer are definitely present in the aroma and flavor. 

Yet, this beer is not just an ordinary doppelbock.  The use of the yellow poplar and eucalyptus woods provide this doppelbock with its own unique aroma and flavors. According to the brewers, the eucalyptus wood lends notes of chocolate, balanced with a hint of toffee and smoky dryness from the yellow poplar.  I think that the use of these woods also provides flavors that give the impression that this beer is actually more like a bourbon.

The brewers recommend pairing the Plank II with smoked meats and German chocolate cake.  The richness of the beer clearly will complement the richness of the foods.  Personally, I think the Plank II is also a good sipping beer, enjoyed best by itself.

I found this beer at a local beer store, although I can't recall how much it cost. However, Heavy Seas' 22 ounce beers usually sell between $7.99 and $9.99 a bottle.  Regardless of the cost, the Plank II is definitely worth a try.  


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Our Side, by Two Gypsy Brewers

I have previously blogged about gypsy brewers ... people who brew beer without having their own brick-and-mortar brewery.  Rather than invest in the building and the equipment, they depend on the kindness and generosity of others, borrowing their equipment to brew beer.

Two of the biggest names in gypsy brewing are Stillwater Artisanal and Mikkeller.  Stillwater is an American gypsy brewer based in Maryland but who travels to brew beers like Stateside Saison, Cellar Door and Existent.  Mikkeller is a Danish gypsy brewer based in Copenhagen but who travels throughout the world to brew beers Beer Geek Breakfast, Gypsy Juice, Monk's Brew, Stateside IPA and The Big Hunt.

If you noticed, both Stillwater and Mikkeller brewed a beer called "Stateside."  Having that in common, the brewers joined forces to collaborate on a new beer, Two Gypsies, Our Side.  As the label states, "Mikkel and Brian are two of the world's most unconventional brewers.  By designing beers at various breweries around the globe, they have found the freedom to experiment and innovate, resulting in unique beers that often blur the lines of definition.  After having met at a festival in Bodegraven, Netherlands, the two realized that their first creations both were called stateside.  It was then an obvious decision to make the two recipes into a new product, packed full of piney, resinous hops and backed by the esthers of a farmhouse yeast strain." 

Sounds like a very promising beer.  (That is why they write it that way.)  In any event, Our Side pours like a pale ale or saison, with a golden color.  There is a very big, persistent foam from a lot of carbonation.  The foam is very assertive, providing a thick cloud over the beer.  Aroma is faint but there are some elements that can be discerned from the beer.  The aroma is suggestive of peaches, and is accompanied by some hops and yeast esthers.  While the aroma may be a little faint, the taste of the beer is complete.  The principal flavor of the beer is the piney hops (although not very resinous).  While the hops provide the up front taste, the finish is filled with some lemon and citrus (perhaps some grapefruit).  The beer accomplished the goal of the two gypsy brewers... to combine the Stateside Saison and the Stateside IPA into one beer.  One very good, drinkable beer.

When it comes to pairing this beer, its dual personality (saison/IPA) allows for a wide range of pairings.  Most notably, pork, poultry and seafood could work well with this beer, provided that there are no heavy sauces.  A variety of cheeses could also work with this beer, from creamy cheeses such as Camembert and Tallegio to more pungent cheeses, such as Rogue Blue.  

I found this beer at a local grocery store.  It sells for about $16.99 a bottle.  


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Reshmi Kebab

It was another Steak Night, and, oddly enough, I did not have any desire to have a steak.  It may have been all the Texas Barbecue Brisket and Baltimore Pit Beef that I have been eating recently.  It may have been that occasional desire to try to make something different.  Given how good the brisket and pit beef were, I will chalk it up to the latter reason. 

In any event, I was perusing some recipes on Saveur's website and I came across one for Reshmi Kebab.  These kebabs are a part of northern Indian cuisine.  They also became a part of  Mughlai cuisine, which was developed in the imperial kitchens of northern India (in regions such as Uttar Pradesh and Delhi).  Mughlai cuisine was strongly influenced by the Persians, which explains a lot.  Kebabs have a prominent place in the cuisine of Persia (or Iran).  I have made a couple different Persian kebabs, such as Kebab-e Jojeh (Chicken Kebabs) or Kebab-e Chenjeh (Lamb Kebabs).

While this dish may have Persian influences, its character is uniquely Indian.  These kebabs are made with minced or ground chicken and a wide array of fragrant ingredients common to Indian cuisine, such as garam masala, onions, garlic, cardamom, paprika and allspice.  The kebabs are supposed to be grilled over charcoal; however, I cooked them in the broiler.  I chose this alternative because I did not sufficiently flat and wide skewers to cook them on the grill and I thought the broiler would help to provide the characteristic char on the outside of the kebabs.

Recipe from
Makes 6 skewers

1 1/4 pound of ground chicken
2 tablespoons of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of hot paprika
1/4 cup of blanched almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of garam masala
3/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon of ground allspice
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 yellow onion, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

1.  Prepare the kebabs.  In a bowl, mix chicken, garlic, ginger and paprika and let it sit for thirty minutes.  Place the almonds in a bowl, cover with boiling water, and let sit for ten minutes.  Drain and puree in a food process with the cream, garam masala, cardamom, allspice and egg white.  Add to the chicken mixture.  Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add onions and cook, stirring, until deeply caramelized for about eight minutes.  Stir the onions into the chicken mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.

2.  Cook the kebabs.  Build a charcoal fire in a grill (or heat the grill on medium-high or start the broiler in your oven).  Divide the chicken mixture into six portions, form each around the length of a flat metal skewer.  Grill (or broil) the chicken, turning, until charred, about four to five minutes. 


If you happen to have a couple of bottles of Taj Mahal or Kingfisher handy, then you are set for this dish.  If not, then look for a good pilsner or lager.


Monday, October 1, 2012

De Struise Brouwers Pannepot Riserva (2009)

 De Struise Brouwers, or "The Sturdy Brewers," is a craft brewer located in Woesten-Vleteren in the Belgian province of West Flanders.  According to Wikipedia, the owners of an ostrich farm in Lo-Reninge -- Urbain Cotteau and Philippe Dreissens -- partnered with a local winemaker, Carlo Grootaert, to found the brewery.  The name De Struise is derived derives from the Belgian word for ostrich, which is also slang for "tough."  Thus, the Sturdy Brewers.

Those brewers have produced a wide range of beers.  One of those beers is the Pannepot Riserva.  The label tells the story: "we first brewed Pannepot in 2001, as a tribute to the local fishermen from our village of De Panne."  It continues, "Pannepot Riserva was the idea of my colleague, Carlo, who proposed to age Pannepot in oak barrels that he found in France."  The first brewing to be aged in barrels was in 2005.  The brewers have continued the tradition, including the aging of the 2009 brewing of the Pannepot.  I recently opened a bottle of this beer to give it a try.  

This is not my first experience with Pannepot.  Previously, I reviewed the Pannepot Grand Riserva (2005), which was one of the bottles from that initial aging of beer in oak barrels.  The Pannepot is brewed in the style of a Belgian Quadrupel.  The Riserva (2009) shares a lot in common with its older brethren, the Grand Riserva (2005).

The Pannepot Riserva pours a chocolate brown or cola in color, with a light brown foam.  The aroma has elements of caramel, malts, alcohol and yeast.  There is also a sweetness in the nose of this beer, reminiscent of Belgian candy, sugar or dark fruits. The sweetness of the aroma carries over to the taste of the Pannepot.  The aging of this beer in oak barrels has left its mark on this beer, rounding out the flavors and, perhaps, accentuating the alcohol.   As with the Grand Riserva, there is a little Bourbon vanilla interlaced in the taste of the beer. 

I picked this beer up at a Binny's outside of Chicago.  I have not seen it at any stores in the United States.  If you should happen to see one, you should pick it up if only for the fact that you might not see it again.