Friday, June 25, 2010

Beer Me

There’s nothing better than a warm Friday morning to complement your re-cap of last week’s American Craft Beer Fest. I attended the first session of the fest last Friday at Boston’s World Trade Center. I’m a beer festival veteran so I came bright eyed and bushy tailed with a big prosciutto sandwich in my tummy -- So I was ready for action.

I love beer festivals. I love trying new things and I love variety. While I tend to buy good beers/craft beers at the store and out at bars and restaurants, beer fests give me the extra opportunity to try out different beers that might be out of my normal ordering or purchasing range. Not to mention, the fest is a great opportunity for breweries to showcase beers that you can’t even get anywhere else! If you’ve never been to a beer fest the run a bit like this:
  • You pay $40
  • You get a little plastic or glass sample cup 
  • There are 100+ breweries with booths stationed in the venue handing out samples of their beers 
  • A brewery could offer their best sellers, a few new products, and then some stuff that isn’t available anywhere else 
  • Many of these beers are strong and high in alcohol 
  • You go round and round to booths for 3 hours and the breweries pour you 2-3 ounce samples of their offerings 
  • You leave feeling good
Sidenote: I’m very excited to announce that I just signed the lease for a new 2-bedroom apartment starting in September and it has a wonderfully fabulous kitchen where I am going to try my hand at…. wait for it… brewing my very own beer!

Enough with the introduction and digressions… what I’m really here to do is give you a the list of what I tried out last week. Amazingly enough I was actually able to completely document my beer journey and appropriately check off the beers I tasted at the festival guide. (Trust me, it’s a feat worthy of applause.) I don’t deserve all of the credit though, the wonderful American Craft Beer Fest program guide listed each brewery in attendance, their beers available, and the alcohol percent so that I could share them with you here.

What I tried. Those in bold I found particularly delicious:

21st Amendment Brewery (CA) : Hell or High Watermelon (Wheat Beer/4.9%)

Alagash Brewing Company (ME) : Allagash Victor (Belgian Strong Ale w/grapes and yeast wine/9%)

Atwater Block Brewery (MI) : Vanilla Java Porter (6%)

Berkshire Brewing Co. (MA) : Nitro Coffee Porter (6.2%)

Boston Beer Co. (MA) : Kosmic Mother Funk (Belgian Sour/7%)

Brooklyn Brewery (NY) : Dark Matter (Whiskey Barrel-aged Strong Brown Ale/7.5%)
Brooklyn Brewery (NY) : Local 1 (Belgian Strong Golden Ale/9%)

Cape Cod Beer (MA) : Cape Code Beach Blonder Ale (American Golden Ale/4.8%)

Cody Brewing Co. (MA) : Wheeler Oatmeal Brown (American Brown Ale/5.7%)

Defiant Brewing Co. (NJ) : Defiant Little Thumper (Ale/5.2%)

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (DE) : World Wide Stout (Imperial Stout/18%)

Earth Bread + Brewery (PA) : ABA (American Brown Ale/6.2%)
Earth Bread + Brewery (PA) : Donut Hole (Belgian Dark)

Flying Goose Brewpub & Grille (NH) : Pilsner
Flying Goose Brewpub & Grille (NH) : Red

Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery & General Store (MD) : Hop Zen (American Strong Ale/7.2%)
Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery & General Store (MD) : Smoked Porter (6.5%)

Goose Island (IL) : Coffee Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Coffee Stout/13%) -- This was my personal favorite of what I tried at the festival

Harpoon Brewery (MA) : Leviathan Big Bohemian Pilsner (Imperial Pilsner/9%)
Harpoon Brewery (MA) : Belgian Cask
Harpoon Brewery (MA) : 100 Barrel Series Pott’s Landbier (Landbier Lager/4.8%)

Kennebec River Brewing (ME) : Summer Ale (American Pale Ale/5.8%)
Kennebec River Brewing (ME ) : Penobscot Porter (English Stout/5.8%)

Mayflower Brewing Co. (MA) : Mayflower Pale Ale (English Pale Ale/5%)

McNeill’s Brewery (VT) : Warlord DIPA (Double IPA/8.5%)
McNeill’s Brewery (VT) : McNeill’s ESB (5.8%)

Narragansett Brewing Co. (RI) : Naragansett Bock (7%)

New England Brewing Co. (CT) : Alpha Weisen

Old Burnside Brewing Co. (CT) : Ten Penny Reserve Ale (Wee Heavy/9.2%)

OPA-OPA Steakhouse & Brewery (MA) : Opa Opa Watermelon Ale
OPA-OPA Steakhouse & Brewery (MA) : Blueberry

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery (MA) : Cinco de Mayo (Jalepeno Lager/5%)

Sebago Brewing Co. (ME) : Frye’s Leap IPA (American IPA/6.2%)
Sebago Brewing Co. (ME) : Hefeweizen (4.2%)

Schmaltz Brewing Co. (CA) : He’Brew Rejewvenator ’10 (Dubbel/Dopplebock with Concord Grapes/8.2%)

Stone Brewing Co. (CA) : Stone 14th Anniversary Imperial IPA

Stoudts Brewing Co. (PA) : Karnival Kolsch (4.8%)
Stoudts Brewing Co. (PA) : Heffer-in-Wheat (Hefeweizen/5%)

The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery (NC) : Duck-Rabbit Barrel-aged Milk Stout (5.7%)

Trinity Beer Co. (RI) : Belgian Strawberry (11%)
Trinity Beer Co. (RI) : Russian Imperial Stout (Oak-aged Imperial Stout/9%)

Weyerbacher Brewing Co. (PA) : Fifteen (Smoked Imperial Stout/10.8%)

It seems like I tried so much but really what I tasted was just the tip of the iceberg as far as what was being offered. I was able to taste stuff from only about half of the breweries in attendance and try 1 out of 5 things they had to offer.

But, there’s always next year! Cheers!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Swiss Chard Makes Super Soup

Oh goodness, I’m so cheesy. It must be all the Boston humidity seeping into my brain or the fact that I just spent a good 40 hours straight staring at the computer screen in preparation for my final project in my grad school publishing class. (Yes, I’m aware I should un-glue myself from the computer and go outside and play, but really, I wanted to make this post first.) Dear eyeballs, please forgive me.

In the spirit of continuing my experimental cooking with my farm share vegetables I bring you a fabulous Swiss chard soup that I took liberties with and tweaked a bit. My fridge was filled with an abundance of greens so I to searched around for a soup recipe that used Swiss chard. Swiss chard is really quite pretty, look at that beautiful big leaf over there. Unfortunately, I don’t think any food should be named “chard” as it too closely resembles “charred” which is a characteristic no chef wants their food to have. Oh well, name aside, I am a fan of said veggie.

I found recipe on epicurious called “Beans and Swiss Chard,” which sounded fab. Slight problem though: this recipe was vegetarian and my dining partner is a male who demanded meat. So what’s a girl to do? Tweak time. I bought a pound of chicken drumsticks, seasoned then, and then baked them in the oven for 45 minutes. When they cooled I pulled the succulent meat off of the bone and TADA meat for my soup! Bonus: I was able to do this a few hours before actually making the soup and then stick the chicken in the fridge until I was ready for soup prep.

The recipe I found called for 1 cup of beans but a few reviews from people were saying that they wished they had added extra beans so I decided to really beef it up and buy a can of white beans AND a can of chick pea beans so my soup would be extra bean-y. And that’s where my tweaking ends, from then on out I followed the recipe pretty closely but added some extra broth to accommodate my meat and extra beans.

Oh dear, looking back at my pictures I realize that I lied to you earlier – one more final tweak to the original recipe: I added a handful of grape tomatoes to the pot at the same time that I added the pasta.

This recipe was really great and with my addition of shredded chicken bits it was sort of a unique twist on chicken noodle soup. It was also really tasty the next day, though a bit more like a pasta dish since the little shell noodles soaked up the broth. But still quite delish!

Overall score: 7 out of 10.

Bean and Swiss Chard Soup compliments of Epicurious and with my own tweaks

  • ½ to 1 pound of cooked chicken (my addition) 
  • 1/2 pound (225 g) Swiss chard or kale, trimmed (I used that nice red-stemmed chard) 
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus additional to taste 
  • 2 flat anchovy fillets 
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves or dried 
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil 
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled 
  • 1 cup (225 g) cooked small white beans or drained and rinsed canned beans (I used two cans of two different beans to add variety) 
  • 4 cups (1 liter) chicken stock [or Garlic Broth for a meatless soup] 
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) small shell macaroni 
  • handful of grape tomatoes (my addition) 
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • Season and roast ½ to 1 pound of chicken pieces in the oven until they are done (juice runs clear when poked with a fork.) I cooked mine for approximately 45 minutes.
  • In a medium saucepan, cook the chard with 1/2 cup (125 ml) water and the salt over medium heat until tender. Drain the chard, reserving any liquid that remains. Coarsely chop the chard.
  • Very finely chop anchovies together with the rosemary. 
  • In a medium saucepan, stir together the oil and garlic over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is pale gold, about 10 minutes. Stir in the anchovies and rosemary. Cook, stirring for 1 minute. Discard the garlic. Stir in the chard and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to thoroughly coat it with the oil. Stir in the beans. Cook for 3 minutes. 
  • Stir in the reserved cooking liquid and the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and stir in the macaroni. Boil for 6 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary. 
  • Pass Parmesan cheese at the table.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cooking with Kale

My second box of farm share veggies included kale. Commence poor veggie knowledge in 3... 2... 1. "What is kale?" I asked myself. Apparently, it's a leafy green veggie that look sort of like lettuce but isn't. It's more like spinach or chard (which I learned about last week!) It's good in soups and sauteed in a pan. Who knew there were SO MANY different veggies out there!

I hadn’t made a soup in a while so I decided to try out a soup recipe with kale. I found a recipe online for kale, sausage, and potato soup (google search to the rescue again). Since I love tweaking recipes, I decided to add an onion as well to beef up the consistency and flavor.

Since the recipe is made with chicken broth and wine I thought it would be good to use a chicken sausage (instead of pork). I found a nice spicy chicken sausage at Whole Foods –- bonus, chicken sausage has way less fat, so at only 7 grams per sausage the whole big pot of soup only had 28 grams of fat.

This soup was amazing and oh, so simple! It really only required chopping some veggies and browning sausage and then throwing it all together in a pot. I absolutely loved it. I doubled the recipe that I found online because it claimed that it served two –- and I figured this might be two servings of soup appetizer, not soup for a meal. I made a good call with this, doubling the recipe made this pot of soup perfect for two people for a whole meal. I would gladly make this recipe again and can probably think of all sorts of other ways to add variety to it and try out different veggies to add, not to mention the fact that Whole Foods has a TON of different types of sausages. YUM!

Overall score: 9 out of 10.


Smoked Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup compliments of Epicurious

Ingredients --
  • 4 ounces smoked fully cooked sausage (such as kielbasa or hot links), sliced into rounds
  • 2 3/4 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 pound small red-skinned potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 5 cups thinly sliced trimmed kale leaves (about 3/4 of medium bunch) or 3/4 of 10-ounce package frozen chopped kale, thawed, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, lightly crushed
Directions --
SautĂ© sausage slices in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth, sliced potatoes and white wine and bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes. 

Add kale and caraway seeds to soup. Simmer soup uncovered until potatoes and kale are very tender, about 10 minutes longer. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Steak ‘n Squash

Aside from both starting with the letter "S" steak and squash don’t have many similarities. Or do they? For starters, both were recently cooked by me, and both are delicious. Sounds like similarities to moi. I received an acorn squash in my first week’s farm share box so like my adventure with the beet I went to the trusty internet to find what to do with it.

I located a delicious sounding recipe for acorn squash baked with brown sugar (yum!) butter (yum!) and honey (yum!). That’s three yums in a row, we’re talking big-leagues now.

To go along with my squash (and zucchini which I would also roast in the oven) I wanted a low-fuss meal that was tasty, filling, and wholesome, too. So I headed to Whole Foods and found myself a nice sirloin steak. Because really, when you pair steak with veggies you can’t go wrong.

The result of this meal was a wonderful mix of seasoned steak with an appropriate, and not overwhelming nor scant, amount of veggies. I really enjoyed the sweetness of the squash, especially in contrast to the tender and juicy steak. The sugar and honey and butter melted down to create a quite yummy syrup that accompanied the squash very nicely. However, my only complaint is that I probably could have left the zucchini in the oven for a little longer but it was still tasty and edible so I guess that’s all that counts. And it was made up for by the fact that the steak, as always, was fabulous.

Overall score: 7 out of 10.


Baked Acorn Squash compliments of Reluctant Gourmet

Ingredients --
1 Acorn Squash, halved
2 pats of butter
2 teaspoons of honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
Salt & pepper 

Directions --
Pre-heat oven to 375 - 400 degrees F.
Scoop the seeds out of each half acorn squash with a spoon.
Add 1 pat of butter, 1 teaspoon of honey or maple syrup, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, salt and pepper to the hollow scoop of each half.
Place upright on a greased cookie sheet and roast for about 1 hour or until tender when flesh is poked with a fork.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Farm Market Time!

I am so excited that farm market season is finally here! While I’m doing a CSA/farm share this summer, I of course want to supplement what I get each week with some other odds and ends that I pick out myself – especially local meat, cheese, bread, and baked goods. I’m terrible at remembering the date in the summer (not to mention what day of the week it is) so I figured I would make myself a handy list so if the farm market mood strikes me I can know exactly where to head –- once I figured out what day of the week it is, of course. Here's a short list of what's around my area:

Boston City Hall: 11am-6pm
WHERE: 1 City Hall Plaza, Government Center
Copley Square: 11am-6pm
WHERE: Copley on Boylston

Dewey Square/South Station: 11:30am-6:30pm
WHERE: Summer & Atlantic Ave

Jamaica Plain: noon-5pm
WHERE: 677 Center Street, Bank of America Parking Lot

Newton: 1:30-6pm (Note: July 10th start)
WHERE: 1200 Beacon Street, Cold Spring Park
Boston City Hall: 11am-6pm
WHERE: 1 City Hall Plaza, Government Center
Dewey Square/South Station: 11:30am-6:30pm
WHERE: Summer & Atlantic Ave

Brookline: 1:30-dusk
WHERE: Beacon Street and Centre Street, Coolidge Corner

Mission Hill: 11am-6pm
WHERE: Huntington & Tremont, Brigham Circle

Prudential Center: 11am-6pm
WHERE: Outside the Pru on Boylston Street
Copley Square: 11am-6pm
WHERE: Copley on Boylston
Jamaica Plain: noon-3pm
WHERE: 677 Center Street, Bank of America Parking Lot
South End: 10am-4pm
WHERE: 540 Harrison Ave.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Garlicy Roasted Romano Beans

I received a big bag full of Romano Beans in my first week’s farm share box. The Enterprise newsletter told me that Romano beans are a form of flat snap bean which originates in Italy and that they are flattened, rather than rounded, and meant to be eaten whole, just as we would eat other summer green beans. Their flavor is tender and mild. Romanos are often braised with other summer vegetables and eaten as a side dish. I decided to try a create-it-yourself/fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants recipe:

First, I snapped the ends off of the beans and washed them. Then I coated the beans with a bit of olive oil, a heaping tablespoon of crushed garlic, then some freshly ground pepper and kosher salt.

I then put them in a small glass dish and baked them uncovered in the oven for approximately 7-10 minutes. The Enterprise newsletter warned me that Romano beans can become a yucky mush if cooked too long so I didn’t want that to happen and I took a peek at the beans every few minutes to see how they were doing. After a little under 10 minutes of cooking in the hot oven I turned on the broiler and let them broil for 2-3 minutes so the beans would get a nice toasted quality on the top. I wish I had some Parmesan or Asiago cheese to sprinkle on the top of them… maybe next time!

While I ate these all by themselves as a snack (I know, a weird snack) these beans would be a great accompaniment to a grilled steak or fish. I didn't overcook them so they still had a nice crispy texture and tasted wonderful with the garlic and pepper.

Overall score: 8 out of 10.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica

What is a beet? Is it just a nickname for that other red veggie known as the radish? But that leads us to another question… what is a radish? Are either of them actually veggies? Does Dwight actually own a beet farm? Enter all-knowing Wikipedia:

"Beet : The beet (Beta vulgaris) is a plant in the amaranth family (which includes beet, goosefoot, quinoa, and spinach.) It is best known in its numerous cultivated varieties, the most well known of which is probably the red root vegetable known as the beetroot or garden beet. The usually deep-red roots of garden beet are eaten boiled either as a cooked vegetable, or cold as a salad after cooking and adding oil and vinegar. A large proportion of the commercial production is processed into boiled and sterilised beets or into pickles. In Eastern Europe beet soup, such as cold borscht, is a popular dish."

"Radish : The radish (Raphanus sativus) is an edible root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family (includes Some examples of cruciferous food plants are the cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, rapeseed, mustard, radish, horseradish, cress, wasabi and watercress) that was domesticated in Europe in pre-Roman times."

Dwight Schrute : Dwight lives on his family's 60-acre beet farm, in a nine bedroom farmhouse (with one bathroom), with his cousin Mose where they grow table beets. Dwight also likes paintball, survivalism, Karate and weapons. Fact: bears eat beets (see shirt from café press.)

Note to self: All red veggies are not related. Either way, both beets and radishes are two things that I have never eaten before. The other distinguishing difference? My first farmshare basket from Enterprise Farms included 6 beets (and no radishes.) How do I know this? It was in their newsletter -- thank goodness, or perhaps I would have misidentified these suckers!

So how does one cook beets? I scoured the internet for something to make that has beets in it and is not borscht, which I will save for a later date. (Given my Eastern European background it really is quite surprising that I’ve never had borscht before, but it’s good to see that it makes numerous appearances in all four of my Polish cookbooks and my one Ukrainian cookbook. You know, in case I want to try out some different ways of making it.)

Have you ever felt like something was made JUST FOR YOU and nobody else? Well, I had that feeling earlier today while searching for a beet recipe. Really. I found a recipe for beets (which came in my farmshare), potatoes (which came in my farmshare), an onion (which came in my farmshare), and mint (my dad sent me a baggie of garden-grown mint about a week ago!) Talk about fate.

Of course, having never tasted a beet, I had no idea what to expect. What I learned: Beets turn everything red, including your fingers. Really, everything... including your cat's water dish when you accidentally drop in a beet chunk. (Sorry kitty.) Also, when peeled and chopped beets bear a striking resemblance to raw meat.

In general, this recipe was just a little too bland for my taste and I ended up spicing it up with some basil, salt, and pepper which helped it out a bit. It probably could have used some meat or something, but for my first beet experience I would say it went well. 

Lesson: Beets just taste like an earthy, less soft potato.... I'm no longer frightened of them.


Beet, Potatoes and Mint (recipe compliments of recipes):

6 beets, peeled raw, diced small
4 potatoes, peeled, diced large
1 onion, peeled, chopped fine
2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon mint leaves, chopped
Seasonings to taste 

Put all ingredients, except the mint, in a stew pan.
Bring to the boil, then cover and lower heat to low.
Let simmer about 35 minutes.
Before serving, sprinkle with the chopped mint leaves. 

Overall score: 6 out of 10.
PS: What else came in my farmshare this week? Blueberries, acorn squash, zucchini, lettuce, salad greens, and romano beans. YUM!
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