Brew n’ Chew at The Diamond

persimmon

Back in action! My apologies for those of you following along—the past month has been quite busy. I do have some cool news though…

For the past year and a half, I’ve been brewing beer with two lovely gentlemen. Both have been brewing beer with friends and family for quite sometime but when we all found ourselves in the same city (and same apartment, as it turned out) we decided to combine forces and begin a mini brew operation in our kitchen. Since September of 2011, Green Groove Brewers has made over 20 different batches of beer and just last weekend competed in (and won!) our very first home brew competition. The Brew n’ Chew consisted of two teams and was held at The Diamond in Greenpoint. All ticket proceeds were donated to the Greenpoint Reformed Church Food Pantry—over $500 was raised! If you haven’t been to The Diamond, go check it out! It’s a great little bar on Franklin that boasts good beer, a killer backyard and table top shuffle board.

Green Groove Brewers

So, what was the winning beer and snack pairing? The snack was a slow cooked, dry-rubbed pulled pork with a persimmon, apple and red cabbage slaw all piled up on a roasted potato chip. Our beer, Spring Tides, was a steam finished off with Adirondack Wildflower Summer Honey from Mohawk Valley Trading Company.

Spring Tides

A steam beer, now known as a California Common, is the first truly American beer style—it originated in the 19th century in San Francisco. Ever hear of Anchor Steam? Well, the Anchor Brewing Company trademarked the term ‘steam beer’ because they were the first to brew it. Basically, a steam beer uses a lager yeast (typically fermented at a low temperature) and is given a warmer fermentation. We brewed a pretty traditional steam but towards the end of our boil, we added a pound of the wildflower honey. The result was a clear, crisp, golden-tinted beer that tasted sweet and floral like a honeysuckle.

bottles

We thought the honey in the beer would play well with the persimmon and apple slaw. From there, we built onto the dish adding a smoky pulled pork and the roasted, salty potato as a base.

potatoes

A special thank you to all of our friends who came out! We had an awesome time and couldn’t have done it without you all.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

oatmealraisin

I used to have a serious sweet tooth. I don’t exactly know when it started to mellow out but for the past couple of years I’ve been drawn to the lightly sweetened snacks. This cookie recipe is a bit of an exception. They’re not VERY sugary but it’s definitely a departure from my usual dessert choices. They’re so simple to make and the recipe doesn’t yield too much (24 or so depending on the size) so it’s perfect for our 2-person household with the occasional guest. BONUS—if you’re near my neck of the woods and you’re getting hit with this extreme cold you’ll appreciate the warm oven.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

(yields about 2 dozen)
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar (I used a bit of white sugar too—about a 1/4 cup— because I ran out of brown!)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups oats
3/4 cups raisins
1/2 cup walnuts (optional-I don’t usually add them but they can be a nice addition)
Beat butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon. Add egg and mix to combine. Stir in vanilla.
Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix into wet ingredients to combine. Stir in oats and raisins (and walnuts, if you’re using them).
cookiedough
Cover bowl and put in refrigerator for about an hour. I’ve skipped this step before and it results in a flatter, crispier cookie with a shorter cook time. I personally like the chewier texture that comes with chilling the dough for a bit. Go ahead and try both to see which one suits your taste.
While dough is chilling, preheat oven to 350°F.
I used two tablespoons to shape balls of dough roughly the size of a heaping tablespoon (a little less than an inch and a half across). Make sure to give them enough space around to spread! Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the edges are a bit browned.

Re-seasoning cast iron

breakfast

Frittata, dressed greens and toasted homemade Italian bread.

My mom bought me my first cast iron skillet as a Christmas gift a few years ago. The skillet is 12″, pre-seasoned and I still love it with all of my heart. I use the thing constantly—for searing steaks, frying eggs, making pizza, and even roasting chicken. The first thing I set out to make in the skillet was a frittata. I imagined the crispy edges and browned bottom of the omelet and began to tear through my refrigerator picking up veggies, cheeses, and meats along the way. 

Well, I guess I could have made a frittata in my 12″ but then I began to think of more than a half dozen of eggs staring me down and it quickly lost its appeal. So, I set out on a quest to find something in the 6-8″ range, searching department store sales and restaurant supply stores. There were plenty to choose from but I quickly found the perfect one at a thrift store outside of Philly. 

I had seen cast iron skillets in thrift stores before but they were usually heavily spotted with rust or cracked so I often passed right by them. This one was a 6″ and had a few of the tell-tale signs of extended use but looked pretty good overall. The pan was sporting a $3 price tag so I decided to take the risk and see if I could bring that baby back to life. 

As it turns out, re-seasoning a cast iron is not difficult. As long as the pan is not cracked and rusting right through, you should be able to clean it up. First, use steel wool or a scouring pad and scrape all the blackened bits and rusty spots from the bottom of the pan with some hot water and a mild soap. Next, dry your pan and turn your oven up to as high as it will go. Let it heat up for 10 minutes or so while you grease up the pan. For this step you can use oil, bacon fat, lard, or even Crisco. I used olive oil because I had it on hand but the choice is yours. Put your pan inside of the pre-heated oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Carefully take the pan out and allow to cool down. Depending on the condition of your pan, you may need to re-grease and bake again to get that nice, non-stick finish. It also helps to cook some fatty foods in it to help with the seasoning (bacon, anyone?). 

Once your pan is in tip-top shape, all you have to do is maintain the season. I wash my pan with warm water and scrub with a bit of course sea salt for when it’s particularly crusty. After every use you should be oiling up your pan and heating it on the stove just until smoke begins to appear. Turn off the heat, maybe give it a quick wipe, and always remember to let it cool before storing. 

castiron

Believe me, that first frittata will be worth the wait and the work.

Frittata:

The best thing about a frittata is you can put absolutely anything in it. Really! Use your imagination and don’t forget to leave some ideas in the comments section. 

6″ cast iron skillet

1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. diced shallot
1 chicken sausage (I used sweet Italian), chopped small
4 eggs
1 oz. goat cheese, softened
1 cup chopped mixed greens
salt and pepper to taste. 
 
Preheat oven to 375 with a rack in the top third of the oven. 
 
In a small bowl, beat eggs. Add goat cheese and whisk together—it’s okay if there are still a few clumps because they will melt up when you bake the frittata.
 
In your newly seasoned cast iron skillet, saute shallot and chicken sausage in butter over medium heat. Add greens.
 
When the greens have just started to wilt, add egg and cheese mixture and continue to cook over medium heat until the sides and bottom begin to set—about 5 minutes or so. You can run a silicone spatula around the edges to check its progress. When the frittata is mostly set (the top will still look a little runny), transfer your pan into the preheated oven and allow to cook until puffy and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can broil it although I often forget things in the broiler and have set off the smoke detector one too many times. :-/
 
Allow to cool for a few minutes then run that spatula around the edges, loosening the omelet from the pan. Transfer to a cutting board, slice and serve! 
 
 
 

Tips on meal planning and food budgets

Hopefully you’ve all begun to recover from your holiday gluttony and are well on your way to a healthier and happier 2013. This week has been all about exercise, raw vegetables and as little cheese as possible (I’ve still had some cheese—I mean, come on, I’m only human). But one of my biggest resolutions has been focusing on my food budget. I often find myself SO excited about a new recipe that I’ll run out, buy a bunch of ingredients and get cracking. Sometimes, these dishes only yield a serving or two, leaving me with no leftovers and another trip to the grocery store in my near future. Since my current salary doesn’t allow for this, I’ve started carefully planning my meals and grocery trips. If you’re in the same boat as me, here are a few tips on how to make your groceries stretch without emptying your wallet.

First things first—do a quick inventory of your pantry. It’s easy to forget about that bag of rice or those cans of garbanzo beans leftover from a hummus making spree. With each new grocery trip, they’re just pushed further back into the dark corners of your pantry. Now, that’s not to say that you should be using anything that’s been in your cabinet since the ’60s, but you catch my drift (I’ve gotten into the habit of writing the date when my grains were first opened—that way I can eliminate any stale flavors). Once you know what you have, you can start to split the portions up into meals. Half cup of quinoa on Tuesday, half pound of pasta for Wednesday… Next, I’ll take a look at any dairy, veggies or other goods in my refrigerator. Is there anything a few days away from the sell-by date? Those items should be first priority on your menu. The key is to limit the amount of waste and get the most out of your purchases.

Now comes the fun part. Sit your butt down (maybe with a favorite cookbook or food blog) and start brainstorming recipes. I tend to look for meals that will make good leftovers or ones that can be reworked into new meals. For example, a roast chicken is your best friend. The first night you get the real deal. Then the remaining chicken can be used for sandwiches, hash, tacos, soups—use your imagination! After you’ve cleared the leftover meat from the carcass, you can boil down the bones with leftover veggie ends and VOILA!-chicken stock that can be frozen and repurposed for soups, braises, or cooking liquid for your grains. (Tip: When I’m chopping up my veggies, I toss onion ends, carrot peels, mushroom stems or whatever other veggie ‘waste’ is lying around in a plastic bag and stick it in the freezer for future stock making. Chances are, you would have thrown them out or composted them anyway so why not use them for another meal?). That brings me to another point—your freezer is crucial to making meals last. No one wants to eat a bowl of chili every meal for a week. Just take half that pot, split it into a couple of containers or bags, date it and pop it in the freezer. That’ll give you a quick, homemade meal you can defrost a week or two later. The Brown Eyed Baker has a great post on organizing your freezer here.

Last but not least, do a little deal hunting. I’ve never been a coupon cutter or circular browser but sometimes you can find a great sale on that perfect cut of steak or your favorite brand of canned tomatoes just by looking around. Whole Foods, for example puts their weekly circular online so you can see what’s on sale before you leave your house—this is especially helpful for us North Brooklyners who are a hike and an L-train ride away from the closest location.

Don’t worry, we can get through this together. Happy Austere January!

New Year, new post

How was your New Year’s Eve? What did you eat, drink and toast to in those first moments of 2013? I was fortunate enough to spend the evening with good friends snacking on caponata crostini, oysters, lobster pot pie and champagne. After a meal like that, it’ll be easy to take on my resolution to work out more in the new year. 🙂

first course

Cheers!

Deb’s Chocolate Orange Bread

Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE the Smitten Kitchen blog. My dear friend and I are going to a book signing and cooking demonstration at The Brooklyn Kitchen for Deb Perelman’s new cookbook. Can’t wait!

In honor of Deb’s new cookbook and the total geekdom that will spill out of me when I meet her next week, here is her recipe for chocolate orange bread. I slathered mine with butter and local honey, but that’s just me. 🙂

 

Chocolate Orange Bread

borrowed from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus a little more for kneading)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg

One 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4-inch loaf pan, buttered

Combine warm water and yeast, set aside for 10-15 minutes to proof.

Sift all dry ingredients and orange zest in a bowl. Rub in butter until no longer visible. Add milk, egg and yeast mixture and stir to combine. At this point, you can add more flour if it looks too wet, but a little sticky is ideal. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Place dough in a buttered bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until it’s doubled in size.

Turn risen dough onto a floured surface and press down to deflate. Stretch the dough into a rough rectangle. Fold into thirds and tuck the ends in. Place in buttered loaf pan, seam down. Cover with a buttered or oiled piece of plastic wrap and allow to double in size, about an hour.

While dough is rising, preheat oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the middle. Once dough has risen, place in oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until firm to the touch (190 degrees internal temperature). Unmold and place on baking rack until cooled.

bread

Adventures in cheese-making

Whew! I don’t know about you but I’m still full from my back to back Thanksgiving feasts. I’ve had so many cooking adventures in the past few weeks, I don’t even know where to begin. For now, I’ll focus on the latest and most exciting-my first time making cheese! I’ve been dying to try a fresh mozzarella or ricotta but was a little intimidated by the process. With the help of some good friends, we tackled it step by step and ended up with enough cheese for three homemade pizzas. Yum!

stretching

I picked up some fresh unpasteurized milk, rennet, and citric acid from the good people at The Brooklyn Kitchen and used a helpful tutorial from Food52. I read through each step and prepped all my ingredients and tools before getting started. One gallon of milk yielded about a pound of fresh mozzarella and about a 1/4 cup of ricotta.

And now, some tips for when you’re ready to tackle your own cheese-making:

-The steps happen rather quickly so I would definitely have all of your tools at hand when you begin to heat your milk

-Food-safe gloves could really come in handy during the stretching of the mozzarella. The water is very hot and this will help you to keep the cheese curds submerged long enough to stretch to the right consistency.

-Cannot stress this enough (and if you’ve read any cheese-making recipes, you already know) -the right milk makes all the difference. Most grocery stores sell ultra-pasteurized and homogenized milk to extend the shelf life but this heat treated milk will not yield good cheese. The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has a great list of where you can find raw cow, goat, and sheep’s milk in your state.

margherita

After finishing up our cheese, we rolled out a few pizza crusts and got to toppings. We had a classic or two and a tribute to my favorite pie from Saluggi’s in Tribeca.

fresh tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella

fresh ricotta, garlic infused olive oil, wilted spinach

balsamic roasted brussels sprout, bacon, caramelized onions, mozzarella

brussels