Sunday, September 29, 2013

Beer-Yeast Bread

We have been making beer for awhile now. There is something just fantastic about arriving home and pouring yourself a cold pint of homemade beer--it's like, hooray for adulthood.
An attempted Brooklyn Lager clone fermenting in the basement. 
When you rack the beer into the secondary, there remains at the bottom on the carboy a thick, goopy layer of yeast--so I naturally have been using it to make bread! I've had some mixed results--the pretzels I made with hefeweizen yeast were excellent, but the rye stout bread was like a dark unchewable brick of Eastern block sadness.
So this latest batch was made with the yeasty sludge from our current attempt--a cold-fermented imitation of Brooklyn Lager (nostalgic taste of Adam's youth). The sludge had a lot of hops left in it, so I was curious about how that might taste in the finished bread. Also, this cold-fermenting yeast is slower than other types--would it need to rise for two days? I was prepared for a flop.
Well--this was my biggest beer-yeast success to date! I made rolls with it. The crust is crisp and thick, with a golden flake; the inside crumb is springy, soft, tender, and a bit chewy; the dough itself has an almost nutty flavor--not sour but more complex than other breads, a teeny bit caramel-y. Totally pleasant and lovely.
I plan to keep this yeast line alive for future bread endeavors.
Not entirely sure this is a copy-able recipe, seeing as you need this particular type of yeast. But if you're in Denver, come over and I'll give you some.
How to Make It Bread with Beer Yeast 
The day before you plan to bake, take the sludge out of the bottom of your latest beer. Put it in a big container and add a cup of water and a cup of flour. Mix with the sludge and leave overnight. This will make a sponge starter for the bread.
Take two cups of the sponge starter and put into a bowl. Add two tablespoons of sugar and leave alone for 20 minutes. This will wake the yeast up and get it super horny.
Add five cups of flour (I like white unbleached) and mix up. I used my Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Test the dough--it should be pliable and elastic but not sticky. Mess with flour and moisture until you have the perfect consistency.
Then allow the dough to rise for about 5 hours.
Form into rolls or loaves or whatever you want and allow to rise for two more hours.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Dough before rising. 
Many hours later. 
Risen rolls.
All done. My house smells amazing.
Can't wait to have a sandwich on Lager bread alongside a cold glass of lager--hopefully the beer comes out as well as the bread did. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Spicy, Smoky Veggie Tacos with Cilantro-Cumin "Crema"

Spicy, smoky, creamy, tangy. 
If you read this blog or interact with me in real life, you know I adore consuming excellent meat.
But--this is not how I eat all day, every day. I don't like having meat during the work day--something about it seems weird and unappetizing. Maybe it's the way meat looks under florescent lights. And it's impossible to pair your meaty lunch with a nice glass of wine or beer, which ruins it. Microwaving braised short ribs in tupperware and pairing them with tap water is disrespectful. Not to mention un-tasty. Stupid teaching job, preventing me from drinking all day.
So I made some yummy veggie taco filling to bring as lunch during the week. I made it SUPER spicy, because I love heat. Then I made a tangy, cooling yogurt sauce to cool it down. The paprika and chipotles lend a rich smokiness. Very strong flavors for a vegetarian meal.
These were delish! Somewhat sloppy, but totally tasty. Plus my students are totally used to seeing food dripped all over my clothes.

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 chipotles, chopped
1 can of diced tomatoes
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 red onion, diced
7 carrots, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped (I left the seeds in for more heat)
6 Anaheim peppers, sliced into strips
1 can of black beans, drained
salt, pepper, sugar

What to do
Saute the onion in the olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add the tablespoon of paprika and the chipotles and mix around for a minute or so. Add the can of tomatoes (with juice) and bring to a boil. Add about a teaspoon of sugar. Put the carrots in, cover the pot, and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes to cook the carrots. Open the pot and add the rest of the ingredients--garlic, peppers, and black beans. Mix everything in and allow to cook for about 10 more minutes, until the peppers are just barely done.
Season with salt.
Serve with warmed corn tortillas and whatever sides you'd like (I like lime wedges, avocado, and cilantro-cumin crema).

Taco filling!
To make Cilanto-Cumin "Crema":

Blend 2 cups of lowfat plain yogurt with a bunch of cilantro, juice and zest of 2 limes, and a teaspoon of cumin.

Finished "creama" 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Orange-Cardamom-Vanilla Rice Pudding

I didn't get many pictures of this--and the ones I did take were pretty iffy. But: I wanted to include this recipe because a. It turned out great, and I was proud of a rare dessert-making success b. I realized rice pudding is an endlessly re-imaginable dish. You can start with a basic rice pudding (I used smittenkitchen's excellent and simple recipe) and add whatever flavors you like. I am already thinking of new ideas: Ginger and lime? Toasted walnut and caramel? Sour cherry?
It can also be made ahead and quickly bruleed at dessert time--so it's a great party dessert. And it's also gluten free.
This was delightful--creamy and sweet, but with the spices adding interest and depth. Absolutely lovely.
I made this for an Indian food dinner party--so I just added Indian-ish spices. It was big hit--even though people were too full to eat very much of it.


1 cup rice
4.5 cups milk (anything but nonfat)
1/2 cup sugar plus 2 TB
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest and juice of 2 fresh oranges
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt

What to do
Place all of the ingredients except 2 TB sugar into a saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to the barest simmer. Leave uncovered. Stir occasionally for 30 minutes--plump rice should be suspended in a thick, creamy sauce.
Pour into a casserole dish and leave until ready to serve.
Before serving, dusk the top with the remaining 2 TB of sugar. Turn the oven on to High broil. Place the casserole dish until the broiler for a couple minutes--until the sugar becomes brown and caramelized.


My sister say NUMSSSSS! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lamb Korma


To be fair, I've never made a lamb dish that wasn't fabulous. I've made leg of lamb, lamb ragu, lamb chops, and 6-hour lamb shoulder: all of these were to die.
And so was this fantastic lamb korma! The spice combination tasted warm and complex, while not overwhelming the rich gaminess of the lamb. It was simply delicious--better than any version I've ordered in a restaurant.
I made this dish for an Indian dinner party, along with chicken tikka masala and fiery veggie masala with cucumber-mint raita. I also made a cardamon-orange-vanilla rice pudding for dessert.
People came over and we ate in the backyard--it was a really fun night, and the Food. Was. Amazing. It was exactly my idea of a great Saturday night.
Not a photogenic dish--but the taste makes up for it. 
I invited my English department to the party--and several of them can't eat gluten, which is how I struck upon the idea of having an Indian food party--it's all naturally gluten-free.
I bought my lamb at Oliver's, which is the only place I ever buy lamb and my favorite butcher's shop of all time.
Finding a Lamb Korma recipe online isn't easy--and each one I found had a slightly different combination of spices--some included chile powder, others bay leaves; some included poppy seeds or raisins, one had almond powder. But all of them started with sauteed onions, tons of spices, ginger and garlic, tomatoes, and yogurt--the lamb is then braised slowly in this sauce. Most call for whole spices to be ground in a mortar--I skipped this and just used regular ground spices for the sake of simplicity. My recipe is an amalgam of several I read.

2 red onions, chopped
4 TB salted butter
1 TB ground cloves
1 TB ground cinnamon
1 TB ground cardamon
1 TB ground coriander
1 TB ground tumeric
1 TB smoked paprika
1 TB cumin
5 garlic cloves, minced
4 TB minced fresh ginger
5 big, rip tomatoes, blended up
2 TB sugar
3 lbs boneless lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 cups plain, full-fat Greek yogurt

What to do: 

Melt the butter in the pan you'll be cooking in. You should use a deep pan with a well-fitting lid that can go in the oven. Add the onions and saute for about five minutes. Add all of the spices--cloves, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, tumeric, paprika. Basically throw in anything powdered. 
Stir the spiced around, allowing the to fry just a bit in the butter for about a minute. Then add the ginger and garlic and stir that around, too. 
Add the blended tomatoes and allow everything to come to a boil. Scrap the bottom of the pot, getting up any spices which may have stuck. Add the sugar and a dash of salt and stir in. 
Add the lamb and yogurt. It's fine to put the lam in raw (I was worried about not searing before braising, but it turned out totally fine). Stir around until the yogurt is well mixed in. Add about a cup of water if it looks too dry for a good braise.
Cover the pot and place into the oven at 280 degree for 3 hours or more. 
Before serving, skim as much of the fat off of the top as you can. 
Taste for salt and serve with rice! 
The recipe had the most individual spices of anything I've cooked. 

Onions and spices.
Adding lamb to the bubbling, tomato-ey mix. 
Someone's delicious plate.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Seared Scallops with Thai-Scented Pea Puree

I have been making this for years, and it's one of our all-time favorite dinners. I originally found this recipe on Nigella Lawson's website.
It is utterly, fabulously delicious--the tender, sweet seared scallops; the creamy, tangy, curry-scented pea puree; the rich, bright lime-butter sauce. An incredibly impressive, civilized meal, especially accompanied by a cold glass of white wine--but one that can be put together in 20 minutes at the end of a long work day. There are only 7 ingredients (not counting salt), most of which can be kept in the freezer.
Make immediately--totally, utterly fabulous.

Ingredients (serves 2) 

8-10 large scallops
1 bag of frozen baby peas
1 TB Thai green curry paste
2 TB full-fat plain Greek yogurt
3 TB butter
juice of 2 limes
chopped basil and cilantro (tastes best when you mix both--but either on its own is also fine)

What to do
Your scallops should be completely defrosted. The secret to a well-seared scallop is to get your scallops AS DRY AS POSSIBLY. This is especially important with previously frozen scallops, which are usually injected with extra liquid to make them freeze better.
To dry them, lay them out on a few layers of paper towels, then lay a few more layers on top. Let them dry this way for at least ten minutes (you may need to replace the towels if they get soaked through).

While the scallops are drying, make the pea puree! Boil a bag of baby peas.

After the peas are boiling, drain them and put into a blender. Add the Greek yogurt and green curry paste. Blend!

I have enough curry paste for the next five years. 

Leave in the blender until ready to serve.
Now it's time to sear your scallops. Melt three tablespoons of butter in a skillet. When the butter is totally melted and nearly smoking, place the scallops into the pan. Place them so they DON'T TOUCH and DON'T wiggle the pan around--you want them to stay in one place. Sear for about a minute and a half on each side, turning with tongs.

Pour some of the puree onto both plates and place the scallops on top.

Turn the heat off and pour the lime juice into the leftover butter. Stir it around, scraping up any bits on the bottom. Pour the sauce over the scallops and peas. 
Sprinkle with herbs!
You're done!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Carne Asada with Chimichurri

A delicious, juicy carne asada taco with chimichurri, guac, and salsa roja. 
Far and away, the best food location I've ever lived in was the Rio Grande Valley. With the possible exception of Cajun food, I think it's the best regional eating in the whole country. The valley-dweller cannot help but encounter phenomenal food everywhere she goes. Never have I had a more wonderful breakfast than the Breakfast Tacos at the gas station down the road from the high school where I was teaching--the flour tortillas were made right there behind the counter (flour, water, salt, lard--patted translucently thin) and you could choose from about 10 different fillings--from Chorizo-Egg-Potato to Egg-Nopale to Egg-Chile-Chicarron. So fabulous. I often bought two and had one for breakfast and the other for lunch and was usually wishing for a third around 3 pm.
The Valley has a ton of dishes you rarely see elsewhere: carne guisada, for instance, I haven't seen on a menu anywhere since. Or the Papa Fuerte--a baked potato busting with meat, cheese, and salsa roja. Tortillas made with black or red corn. Cabrito en salsa (ok, that's everywhere, but I had it first in the Valley).
But: the best thing to eat down there is the CARNE ASADA. Every taco stand seemed to have the best steak you'd ever had. If you went to a sit-down restaurant and ordered the Parriada, a pile of smoking, succulent, charred-yet-juicily-rare, deadly-delicious meat would appear. It came with grilled jalapenos, peppers, onions, and the ubiquitous, ever-heavenly house tortillas. Corazon! That's still my Last Meal--accompanied by copious canned Tecates.
So: this is not that. Not even close. But since I ever lived in the Valley, I have been obsessed with finding or creating the best carne asada I possibly can.
So while this carne is not Valley--it's really, really good.
Cooking Carne makes this Valley girl nostalgic.
Carne Asada Recipe

Chile powder
Black pepper
Skirt steak, boneless chuck steak, or beef: at least 4 lbs but you could do more. 
1 head of garlic 
2 jalapenos
3 limes 
2 oranges or other sweet citrus 
1 red onion 
1 can of cheap beer. Tecate or Dos Equis are the best, but any crappy-type Pilsner will work.

What To Do
First, go buy some meat. I like either skirt steak or boneless chuck steaks for this. But any kind of thin-sliced beef will work. Look for something with fat in it--too lean will get tough. You will want leftovers so get a lot. 
Then, grab your meat (heh) and RUB IT! (heh heh). Sprinkle both sides of the meat with salt, chile powder, and black pepper. Place the meat in a tupperware and leave it while you make the marinade. 
Sprinkled-with-spices meat, ready for rubbing in.
Peel all the cloves of garlic and put them in a food processor or blender. Toss in the jalapenos. Juice the limes and oranges on top. Blitz it up!
Now, pour the marinade over the rubbed meat. And dump in the beer! 
Unfortunately I only had PBR. 
Then squish everything around so the marinade touches every meat-surface. Slice up a red onion and toss it in. Cover the tupperware and put it in the fridge. Leave it from anywhere between overnight to three days (done both--always good!).  

Then, take the meat out and grill it!
Neighbors = jealous. Yummy smells...

So, to go with this I made chimmichurri, salsa roja, guacamole, and some warmed-up corn tortillas. I also made a pot of chorizo and potatos in the interest of copious leftovers.

So, chimichurri: this is not a Valley condiment--I first found it in an Argentine restaurant in Managua, and have LOVED it since then. We had chimichurri on the steak at the wedding (nowhere near as good as mine).

1 bunch parsley
4 garlic cloves
3 TB red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp honey
juice of 2 limes
1 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
dash of salt

What to do
Put the garlic in the food processor and blitz them up into teeny little specks. Then, add the parsley and pulse a few times: you want the parsley chopped but chunky.

Place in a container and add the vinegar, oregano, lime juice, honey, and oil. Season to taste with salt and cayenne.
Serve at room temperature. Dribble over steak (or veggies. Or fish. Or chicken. Anything)

We ate this on the back porch and it was GREAT.
Eating juicy meat made Eric feel like this.

Mexican food is awesome.