Thursday, July 16, 2015

Malohta (Green Beans with Walnuts)

Green bean dishes are somewhat tricky for me. The difficulty does not come from cooking with green beans.  Instead, the trick is finding a recipe that I will want to eat ... and eat again.  A while back, I came across a rather simple dish of sauteing beans in butter, garlic, salt and a little lemon juice.  That recipe has become a standby, and I make it often.  Too often, in fact.  And, recently, I decided that I needed to find another green bean dish to make.

I turned to the trusty Internet to find me a recipe, focusing on one that I would like enough to make again and again.  After perusing recipes, one recipe caught my eye ... Malohta.  This is a Turkish green bean dish that originates from the Black Sea region.  I decided to give this dish a try and I have to say that I was not disappointed with the result.

The one ingredient that sets this dish apart is the use of walnuts.  I've seen many a green bean recipe that used almonds.  Walnuts provide a different taste and texture to the dish.  The pinch of coriander also adds some additional flavor that was lacking in other green bean recipes.  When the walnuts and coriander are added to more traditional ingredients, such as garlic, lemon juice and crushed red pepper, the end result is a very tasty green bean dish.

Serves 4

Approximately 1/2 pound of green beans, washed and trimmed
2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup of walnuts, ground
1 garlic clove, smashed with salt
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
1 pinch coriander

1.  Cook the beans.  Cut the beans in 2 or 3 pieces depending on how long they are.  Boil in salty water until they are softened, then drain.  Pour lemon juice and olive oil and toss.

2.  Finish the dish. Mix the walnut with garlic red pepper, coriander, salt and pepper.  Toss with green beans.  Leave in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving. 


Wednesday, July 8, 2015


One of my favorite styles of beers is the chile beer or a beer brewed with peppers.  Some brewers produce beers that highlight a particular pepper, such as Rogue's Chipotle Ale.  Other brewers incorporate chiles into beers inspired by the Mexican mole, such as New Holland's El Mole Ocho, Ska Brewing's Mole Stout, and New Belgium's Cocoa Mole.  (As an aside, mole beers are probably my favorites.)

Then there is Stone Brewing's Punishment.  This is a chile beer that only Stone could produce.  Brewed in its in-your-face style, Stone Brewing takes its Double Bastard Ale (an excellent beer in its own right) and then adds peppers.  A lot of peppers.  Red and green jalapenos.  Black nagas.  Caribbean red hots.  Moruga scorpions and fatalia.   All of these peppers produce a beer that practically breaks down the Scoville Scale.  They also give life and meaning to the name of the beer.  It is Punishment.

Let's begin with the fact that I am a chile head.  Hell, I came up with my own recipe known as The Inferno Steak, which uses nine different chiles in an ode to Dante's Inferno.  The phrase from Dante's writing -- "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate", or "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" -- is not only apt for that recipe, but for this beer.

The Punishment pours a darkish amber, brown in color.  There is a thin, light foam that quickly recedes, opening the beer for drinkers to take in its aroma.  That aroma is ground chiles.  The beer smells like any one of the many ground chiles in my spice pantry.  The aromatic elements do not burn the nose, but it nevertheless serves as a warning to those who would go ahead and take a sip.  

This is truly a sipping beer.  The reason is the sting of the peppers.  The combination of black nagas, Caribbean red hots, and moruga scorpions pack a punch, especially in the roof and back of the mouth.  Indeed, the sting is so much that I could feel it in my ears and my nose.  The burn of the peppers is a good thing, if you are a chile head.  If you are a beer connoisseur,  then it becomes a little more problematic.  The taste elements of the bourbon barrels are present in the first few sips, but they cannot stand up to the sting of the chiles.  In fact, the chiles are so overpowering, that even the Double Bastard Ale gets lost in the experience.   I had a difficult time discerning the caramel, butterscotch and, eventually, the bourbon flavors.  Eventually, I could not even tell that this beer also packs a whopping 12% ABV.

Don't get me wrong, I like this beer, because I love chile peppers.  While I understand the goal of the brewers, brewing a beer that could embody its name, the Stone Double Bastard Ale is such a good beer that I would have liked for a better balance of the heat and the base beer.  

I would recommend this beer only if you can tolerate peppers such as habanero or scotch bonnets.   If you cannot, then I would recommend that you buy a bottle of the Double Bastard Ale.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Insalata di Calamari

When it comes to squid or calamari, there is a debate among some.  If you go to many restaurants and order calamari, you get rings.  Pale white rings (more often than not, overcooked and chewy).   The rings are sliced portions of the body or mantle of the squid.  They are also the most boring part of the animal.

For me, the best part of the squid are the tentacles.  Not only are the tentacles more interesting in a visual sense, but they also have a texture and taste that is far better than the cut rings of the body.  I think this preference is due to my love of octopus, which is only served in the form of tentacles.  Grill those tentacles, like the Barbecued Octopus with Arugula and Mint, and I am in heaven. Many people do not share my affinity for the tentacles of octopus or squid.  That is too bad for them, because they are missing out on a great food experience.  

This recipe -- Insalata di Calamari -- is a very simple and very tasty way to incorporate not just those rings, but the tentacles.  The simple part of the recipe is the boiling of the squid for a couple of minutes.  That is the beauty of squid.  It cooks fast.  That beauty is also deceptive, because a minute too long in the boiling water, and you are left with a chewy mess.  If you can cook that squid right, the rest falls into place.  Some white beans, lemon juice and red onions.  Garnish with some chopped parsley.  The end product is an amazing, healthy salad that will become a go to for a dinner any night or a nice dish to serve to guests. 

Recipe adapted from Oscar Farinetti, How to Eataly at pg. 232
Serves 4

1 pound calamari, bodies and tentacles
16 ounces of cooked white beans
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly

1.  Bring a pot of water to boiling over high heat.  Add the calamari and cook until opaque, for 1 to 2 minutes.  Drain  and, while still warm, toss some cooked white beans and sliced onion.

2. Whisk together the lemon juice and extra virgin oil oil and dress the salad.  Refrigerate until chilled.

3.  Serve with an additional spritz of lemon juice and some minced flat leaf parsley.