Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ginger Pear Cranberry Sauce with Port

INGREDIENTS (creatively based on another recipe from Cooks Illustrated, November 1999):

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. table salt
1 generous inch of grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp. orange zest
1 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries, picked through
2 medium firm, ripe pears, peeled and then diced into 1/2 inch chunks
2 tbsp. good quality ruby port

1) Bring the first 6 ingredients to a boil over high heat in a nonreactive sauce pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
2) Combine cranberries and pears and return to boil.
3) Reduce heat to medium and simmer until it reaches the sauce consistency of your choosing (it will thicken more after it cools)--at minimum after about 2/3 of the berries have popped open, five minutes or longer.
4) Add port and cool at room temperature and serve, or stow it in the fridge for up to 7 days.


We aren't drinking beer at the moment. Before you grow sad on our behalf, because you're doubtless a sympathetic soul, we ARE drinking a cocktail Gabe just made up out of the blue (recipe following). But we had beer earlier, at Amsterdam Ale House (where else?), and it was delicious. A Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial India Pale Ale. Let's talk more about that beer later, because I have no intention whatsoever of pairing it with cranberry sauce. We at Beer Meets Food just wanted to wish you a merry Thanksgiving.


1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. pomegranate juice
2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters

1) Combine, with ice. If you don't like sweet cocktails, don't add quite as much simple syrup.
2) Mix. Shake.
3) Pour into cocktail glass.
4) Drink.
5) Start thinking about what you'll drink next.


Be merry! Be bright! We are thankful for a number of things, and I'll do a short list here:

1) We are thankful we can cook, so people actually come all the way to our house and merrify our Thanksgiving.
2) We are thankful for the means to cook it in the first place.
3) We are thankful that raw sewage is not at this very moment seeping through the ceiling of our bathroom. Long story. (As it was last Thanksgiving. Long story. Not a short story. But as the Beatles said, It's Getting Better All the Time.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Roasted Tomato Shrimp Sauce


(for the beer)

1 12 oz. bottle (or more!) Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale

(for the gnocchi: will make about 6 servings)

3 medium sweet potatoes, roasted (you can microwave them or boil them if you really prefer, but we found the dry cooking method made for less moisture to deal with--and you can be roasting the sauce elements at the same time)
1 1/2 cups white flour (approx.)
1 fresh egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

1) Peel your sweet potatoes and either shave them into a fine pulp with a knife or send them through a potato ricer. Don't overwork.
2) Pile the flesh in the middle of a big well-floured cutting board with the beaten egg, maple, and all dry spices in the center.
3) Sprinkle the pulp with flour, slowly incorporating the dry ingredients into the wet ones with a fork. Add only as much flour as needed--the dough should be sticky, nearly too sticky to handle although still workable.
4) Divide your dough into 4 ropes on a dry, well-floured surface, each about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the ropes into 1-inch segments with a floured knife.
5) Leave as much gnocchi as you want to cook immediately on your work surface. Transfer the rest to a nonstick baking sheet and place in the freezer (you'll have lots). When the individual dumplings are frozen enough not to be sticky, you can put them in a freezer bag and have gnocchi for later.
6) Boil a large pot of salted water while you make the sauce. Drop all the reserved gnocchi into the water when it reaches a rolling boil, and watch it carefully. When all of it floats, it's finished. Transfer with a slotted spoon directly into the sauce.

(for the sauce: serves 2)

(just oil the to-be-roasted ingredients lightly and cook them in the oven on a tin-foiled baking sheet for about 50 minutes at 400 degrees along with your sweet potatoes)
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 roasted onion, chopped
2 cloves roasted garlic, minced
2 roasted tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 or 2 scotch bonnet peppers, minced (go easy, these are very hot)
1/2 pound of shrimp, peeled, de-veined, tails removed
1 cup shrimp or fish or vegetable stock
1 tbsp. agave or sugar
salt and fresh pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

1) Heat the oil in a large skillet. When shimmering, add minced scotch bonnet. Saute 1 minute.
2) Add the roasted onion, roasted garlic, tomato paste, sugar, and roasted tomatoes along with the stock. (I always have shrimp stock on hand with shrimp dishes because I make it by boiling the shrimp tails and legs with a little bay leaf and black peppercorn and clove.) Allow to simmer until the tomato has melted into the oil and stock and the sauce has thickened, about 8 minutes.
3) Stir in the raw shrimp. Saute in the sauce until just pink and cooked through.
4) Add parsley. Drain the gnocchi and add directly to the sauce.
5) Sip Punkin' Ale. Enjoy together.


Dogfish Head folks are crazy in a really good way. They are so passionate about brewing that they are very comfortable going to extremes and pushing boundaries, but we thought their classic pumpkin seasonal ale would be a great pairing with sweet potato gnocchi in an extra-spicy sauce.

This is a brown ale style brewed with pumpkin meat, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spices. Although a very fun seasonal autumn brew, pumpkin beers often meet with one of two problems: either they don't taste much like pumpkin, or they taste shriekingly of pumpkin. Neither is delicious, although I'd prefer the latter over the former just to say I tasted the pumpkin at all. The nicest thing about Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale is that it both tastes of actual pumpkin and is also quite balanced. The cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and malty pie-crusty flavors all blend together delightfully, but you don't feel as if you're drinking carbonated pumpkin pie in any way. This is still beer, baby.


A word of caution when dealing with scotch bonnets. You know scotch bonnet peppers, yes? The ones pictured up top with Gabe holding them? Well, that's the color and the sole quantity in which my downstairs C-Town grocery store sells them. This is because, as I have deduced by now, my C-Town is making attempts on my life.

You can't buy one scotch bonnet, you see. Or even several. You have to buy oodles. And then there they are, all multicolored and beautiful and smelling of sweet grass when sweet grass tastes a bit like lava, and my natural reaction to their loveliness is to cook them. So about two years ago, when I was determined to eat Thai-style ground pork with green beans, I minced four of them up and dropped them into shimmering oil.

Here's where I slipped up.

I had my face over the pot.

Now, I know that life is a fragile and tangential continuum, multifaceted and painted in as many opinions and beliefs as there are shades of grey, but nevertheless breathing the air above newly simmering scotch bonnets is NEVER A GOOD IDEA.

Why, you might ask? I have a two-word answer to that question:


How does one cure Chili Lung, the reader desires to know? How do I know if I have Chili Lung? Is it hilarious? The answer to the third question: no. Well, a little. I'm going to answer the second question next: you know you have Chili Lung when you sound as if you have walking pneumonia for literally a THREE MONTH PERIOD OF TIME. Another good sign is when your cat (pictured, a very reasonable and non-reactionary feline) screams like the vacuum cleaner just came to life and flees the kitchen in a blur of panicked mammal the instant the peppers hit the pot. See, it turns out by pure linguistic coincidence that the active ingredient in pepper spray is...well, you're an intelligent reader, so I leave you to determine whether or not you have Chili Lung.

As to the first question, what should you do about it once you have given yourself (or, if we're blaming the nefarious source, C-Town has given you) Chili Lung? I have, by rigorous process of elimination, cataloged several remedies that do not work in the smallest degree:

1) Taking steam baths. Nope. Weak.
2) Covering your head with a towel and inhaling a steamed pot of eucalyptus. No. Sets you coughing again.
3) Sucking cough lozenges. Negligible effect.
4) Standing outside C-Town swearing like a theatre techie. This feels excellent, but the symptoms inevitably return. A temporary cure, though a pleasure.
5) Stealing your Dad's asthma inhaler. Promising, but you don't have asthma--so it just gives you a really weird, distant high before you start coughing again.

Solution: outfox C-Town. Do not get Chili Lung in the first place.

Which leads me to ask: who in their right mind buys this quantity of scotch bonnets at a go? And don't say "Dominicans," because I thought of that already, but my neighbors are bon vivants, not suicidal lunatics. I am left with my original conclusion. C-Town has designs on my life.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Garlic Scape Pizza


(for the dough; adapted from recipe first printed in Bon Appetit, August 1998)

3/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon honey
1 envelope dry yeast
2 cups wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt

1) Place 3/4 cup warm water and honey in processor. Sprinkle yeast over; let stand until mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes.
2) Add flour, oil and salt. Process until dough forms.
3) Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.
4) Transfer dough to large oiled bowl; turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
5) Punch down dough. Divide into 2 equal balls.


Now it gets creative.

Obviously this is garlic scape pizza, so here's what we did with the scapes themselves: chop scapes on the bias into 2-inch lengths. Heat olive oil in a wide skillet until shimmering. Add scapes, with salt and pepper to taste, and saute over med-high heat until the skins are slightly browned and the scapes are cooked through. (When they're done, they are going to resemble the consistency of sauteed green beans or asparagus--5-7 minutes should be enough, depending on thickness.)

What do they taste like? When they're raw, they taste like garlic. When cooked, they're very sweet, like a caramelized sweet shallot.

Delicious. They taste delicious.

When you're ready to roll out your pizza dough, you're going to want to put a pizza stone in the oven (very important--maybe if you didn't have one, you could stick a gigantic cast iron skillet or some really heavy quarry tiles in there?) and preheat it to 500 degrees (if 550 is your highest setting, go for broke). Rolling out the dough is good fun, and you're going to want to do it on a breadboard scattered with a good amount of semolina flour or cornmeal.

It's all about the toppings with pizza, obviously. The first dough ball we used got covered with:

drizzled extra virgin olive oil
1 cup grated manchego
6 thinly sliced garden baby Roma tomatoes
sprinkled parmesan
sauteed scapes
salt and pepper
(finished with chiffonade of fresh basil)

Second dough ball:

drizzled extra virgin olive oil
big dollops of Boursin garlic and herb cheese
sauteed scapes
dried thyme
red pepper flake
sprinkled parmesan
(finished with chiffonade of fresh basil)

Further instructions (throughout the course of these steps, you should be drinking beer):

1) When the first pizza is dressed, carefully scoot the dough onto a semolina-lined rimless nonstick cookie sheet or pizza peel (if you have one).
2) Line up the far edge of your peel or baking sheet with the far edge of your stone or tiles or maybe a huge cast iron pan if you're very adventurous, and tilt peel or baking sheet, jerking it gently to start pizza moving. Once edge of pizza touches stone or tiles, carefully pull back peel or baking sheet, completely transferring pizza to stone or tiles or your crazy-big cast iron (do not move pizza).
3) Bake pizza 6 to 7 minutes, or until dough is crisp and browned, and transfer with a metal spatula to a cutting board.
4) Immediately move your second pizza onto your semolina-sprinkled "device," slide it into the oven onto your other "contraption," and close oven door.
5) Turn around.
6) You should find your first pizza in front of you, sitting on a cutting board near your beer. Sprinkle with fresh basil. During the next 6 to 7 minutes, eat it up.
7) Get your second pizza out of the oven and place onto the now-cleared cutting board.
8) Find your beer. Turn off the oven (it's very hot). Sprinkle fresh basil over your second pizza. Eat it up.


Let's talk about Sixpoint Craft Ales for a second. Why? Because they're awesome. And local. (For us.)

When Gabe and I first moved to NYC, we were already rabidly slavering beer nerdlings who had tried so many obscure brews that we were ecstatic to sample local East Coast fare. Unfortunately, some of it tasted less like microbrew and more like malts filtered through a fermented fireman's sock with hops maybe waved around in the air nearby it as it conditioned (you know who you are). Then we started chatting it up with other lunatic beer dorks, as beer dorks are wont to do, and discovered that apart from the nationally known Brooklyn Brewing Company, there was another "Brooklyn" brewing company: Sixpoint Craft Ales.

Already, we liked the name more. Excellent. Off to a good start.

But it only gets better. Sixpoint refers to its Brooklynite craftsmen in its website as a part of a larger "community of artists" unable to "resist the magnetic pull of [Brooklyn's] natural and urban beauty" who "take what we know, what we like, and what we aspire to be, and create our own style."


You are unlikely to be sipping a Sixpoint just now, unless you are the sort of person who possesses an NYC MTA card instead of a car. They don't distribute in bottles, and they don't send their drafts far afield. But hereabouts we can get growlers of the stuff at Whole Foods, which is a lovely ornament to life, liberty, and the pursuit of quality brew.

Specifically, drink the Brownstone with a slice of pizza in your hand when you get a chance. Make a point of doing so. Sixpoint Brownstone is an American Brown Ale style, 5.7 ABV, with a sweet, rich, cocoa-caramel nose and a brilliant dark mahogany color. The ample piney hops are so perfectly integrated with the roasted-pecan tones and the faintly molasses-tinged malt sweetness that you will do a merry beer jig and demand another glass. Great carbonation for a brown, too, and it tastes so much like home-baked bread that you really don't NEED the slice of pizza in your other hand...but have it anyway. Live large.


I recently learned off the Google on the interweb that scapes and roses are friends. Isn't that odd? Apparently they're "companion" plants, which means they grow better when planted in close proximity and are allowed to hold hands and have tea parties and watch the Colin Firth miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice with martinis at their...elbows. Anyway, I'm going to pretend that this post is remotely seasonal by saying that if you want to grow garlic scapes in your garden...THE TIME IS NOW! Hooray for autumn, and the ideal time to plant your wee little garlic bulbs.

Here's how to do it, in a nice, detailed report from Boundary Garlic Farm.

Reasons to plant your own garlic:

1) You get to eat garlic scapes, the tender fronds of the garlic plant. This is reason enough. Stop reading and go plant garlic.
2) Most of the garlic eaten in the Unites States comes from China. That's ridiculous. Seriously, how much fossil fuel is that using? Foolish. Grow your own.
3) The plant looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. People will talk about it--and you, by proxy, as an intriguing and dangerous individual.
4) The garlic scape will give your roses backrubs and talk about their sex lives over macchiatos and invite them over for holidays.
5) I'm doing it! I'm doing it! Peer pressure! I might even buy them roses.
6) It's very difficult, in some parts of the country, to find garlic scapes at the grocery store. PROBLEM SOLVED.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tarragon Shrimp Snap Pea Salad

Goodbye to the Extreme Summer Series! Why? Because it's cold, dammit. Also raining. Perhaps I'll include more garden photography in future posts anyway, absent of theme. But mourn not for Extreme Summer--I shall speak of Fall Fashion Week parties instead.


1 large head fennel, shaved thin, fronds reserved
4 oz. slivered ricotta salata
6 oz. sugar snap peas, julienned
1 small shallot, shaved very thin
3 springs fresh tarragon, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped rough
12 shrimp, tails removed, seasoned with a little salt and pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp. honey or agave
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. poppy seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
Harpoon Leviathan Big Bohemian Pilsner

1) Mince your fennel fronds. Toss them with the snap peas, ricotta salata, fennel, shallot and fresh tarragon in a bowl. Set aside.
2) Whisk or shake together the mayonnaise, honey or agave, white wine vinegar, poppy seeds salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste.
3) Heat the olive oil in a skillet. When oil is hot, add red pepper flake and garlic and saute until garlic is nearly golden, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook until tender and just pink. Set shrimp aside.
4) Scrape the oil, pepper flake and garlic from the skillet into the salad bowl with the fennel and snap peas. Add dressing to salad and toss well to coat. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
5) Arrange your shrimp over the salad.
6) Open Harpoon Leviathan Pilsner.
7) Enjoy together.

Harpoon's Leviathan series is really growing on us. They don't make outrageously good standard bottles yet, although some are quite drinkable, but the Leviathan series is what its name implies: big. Now, a 9% alcohol pilsner is admittedly counter-intuitive, but it's also very good. The classic pilsner malts are nice and frothy, as the brewer's notes mention, and they used Czech hops for further authenticity. Apart from that, however, this is anything but an average pilsner--the hops are very aromatic with lots of grape and lemon notes from the big malt profile. Very tasty, doesn't drink like it's 9% hooch, so use with caution but by all means enjoy with shellfish! Delicious.

So NYC launched Fall Fashion Week last night, and I helped them pull the trigger. We spent a good spell of time at Versani and then wandered over to Prada to see all our other friends. Gabe bartends next door, so he's pretty much the Sam Malone of the flagship Prada, and man alive am I happy to know the fabulously artistic cats who sell luggage worth more than my car, when I had a car. (I have no car.) The employees at Versani and Prada are the nicest people, and the evening was absurdly fun all round. There might, admittedly, be better things than a night of free champagne and ace-high people-watching while wearing an ivory cloche hat, but nothing occurs to me at the moment.

Hair and make-up by me. The dress is vintage and thrift-store purchased. Cloche hat by H&M, $12.95. Boots not shown, but were a gift from Mom. Thanks, Mom! Tights from Daffy's Clothing Bargains for Millionaires. Necklace by Prada with Swarovski crystals. Necklace does not belong to me, but they let me try it on. Necklace costs approximately triple what Gabe and I spent on a month in Thailand. Necklace costs are frankly prohibitive. Necklace costs about as much as my entire beautiful catered wedding ten years back (same general figure). Necklace will never be mine. But we were good friends for a brief time. I'd like to think when this necklace finds a home, it will occasionally speak of me over appetizers when its owner is sipping oysters and French rose champagne.

I had a grand time talking to everyone on the streets about art and style. A class act purple bow tie-wearing gent and I were interviewed in front of Vera Wang's fete about the mood of the celebration, and whether we thought it elitist. Elitist? It was a block party. With free champagne. Free sushi. Free bands. And hardly any of the designers had guest lists. The ones who did have guest lists, the bloggers report, had lamer parties. So there! Viva riffraff and artists and thrift store dresses! Opening Ceremony cleared out all their display windows so the common folk could pose as mannequins. That's what I call fashion.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Extreme Summer Garden Party

I love my neighborhood! And my neighbors. And eating clams and boiling crabs and grilling sweet potatoes while people play African dance and spin old skool Beck tunes.

INGREDIENTS (for successful garden party):
1 huge metal vat with an ungodly dangerous propane flame under it
plenty of 22 oz. bottles of Budweiser
a bunch of fresh crabs that keep trying to crawl away from their boxes
1 assload of Old Bay seasoning
a nearby fire station if necessary
plenty of beer, wine, and friends
good weather
African dancers

1) Heat vat over ungodly dangerous propane tank, being careful throughout process not to die.
2) Pour in Budweiser and bring to a boil.
3) Dump in a bunch of crabs and cook them until they aren't alive and are nice and red.
4) Eat them with your friends. Enjoy a beer simultaneously.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Extreme Summer Series: Summer Dinner Party

We had two of the world's finest ASH/BSI over for a summer dinner party recently, and decided unabashedly to show off our love for retro food stylings in honor of Susan and Mickey, who--unlike the more gastronomically cautious/sensible of our friends--have no problem with scooping up dollops of chicken liver mousse and sending it mouthward. Our devoted affection for our other friends notwithstanding, a couple of them are leery of the exotics--organ meats, soup that ain't hot. Shellfish. The menu was as follows, but we're only going to post the soup recipe, because we're lazy gadabouts who drink like it's summer and can no longer recall proportions.

The chicken liver mousse was excellent, and the recipe can be found here. We modified it thusly: rehydrate the apricots in Spanish brandy instead of water (water??), use Spanish brandy to marinate the livers, and replace the dried figs with a small amount of minced candied ginger. Then, if you're like us and you enjoy a nice terrine, send it mouthward. Also, if you like brilliant food photography and tasty comestibles from la belle France (who doesn't, apart from Bill O'Reilly?), you should regularly check out the rest of La Table de Nana. Gorgeous blog, and several of her recipes are translated from classic French cooking sites.


Chilled Radish Green Soup with Greek Yoghurt
Sugar Snap Pea Sal
ad with Ricotta Salata and Tarragon Vinaigrette

Terrine of Chicken Liver Mousse, Apricot, Candied Ginger, Hazelnut and Pistachio
Tomato, Garlic, and Olive Oil-Poached Shrimp w
ith Two Garden Basils

(both above items served with baguette)
Koltiska Liqueur-Glazed Nectarines with Basil and homemade Burnt Sugar Cardamom Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS (for radish greens soup):
greens, very thoroughly washed and then coarsely chopped, from 1 bunch radishes
8 large radishes, chopped
4 scallions, chopped, with white and green parts separated
1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 handful chopped raw almonds
1 piece parmesan rind
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
rich vegetable stock to cover (about 6 cups)
Salt and pepper to taste

for garnish: sliced raw radish, chives, and Greek yoghurt

1) Bring vegetable stock to boil along with all the ingredients save for the radish greens and green portion of scallions. Simmer for 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
2) Discard bay leaves and parmesan rind.
3) Add chopped green portion of scallions and radish greens. Simmer until just cooked, about 5 minutes.
4) Blend thoroughly, either in a standing blender or with an immersion blender, until the texture is smooth and the almonds have created a creamy texture. Season to taste, with plenty of pepper.
5) Chill thoroughly.
6) Garnish with raw radishes, fresh chives, and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.
7) Open a beer. Enjoy together.*

*(We paired a beer with the main course. It was delicious. We cannot, however, remember what beer it might have been. We recollect a Belgian yeast strain and a nice, frothy champagne texture that paired wonderfully with the mousse. You'll never know what it was, with our apologies--but then again, neither will we. Such is the occasional nature of the beast known as the Dinner Party. When one begins a dinner party with Prohibition-style cocktails, once must be prepared to face the shameful public consequences.)

Food photography is a hilarious business. I'm going to say a word on the subject because we forgot the beer, and while the evening's conversational gambits ought to have been recorded for posterity, there are only so many Glenn Beck jokes that look tasteful when set in cold, hard print on the web.

We were first exposed to the utter hilarity of poor '50s and '60s food photography by the master: James Lileks, author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food. There is a living to be made excoriating the absolutely inedible quality of retro cookbooks' food photography. Or there is when you're clever enough for your headings to include phrases like "The Unbearable Sadness of Vegetables," or "Jello Confronts the Depression." A sample from the section titled "Meat! Meat! Meat!":

This would seem to be a segment of an intestine from some creature that ingested the fender from an old DeSoto. In any case, it's alarmingly aerodynamic, this meat; very modern and streamlined. Perhaps this recipe hails from the 1939 World's Fair.


Now, we try on Beer Meets Food never to offend the sensibilities of hapless internet food gawkers with such unfortunate food photography. But we made chicken liver mousse, of all things, and then we put it on my great-grandmother's china. And it was almost immediately...regrettable. I mean, the kitsch value was through the roof, like socks with ice cream sundaes printed on them, or a Thomas Kinkade print with specks of paint spackled onto it by one of his seven hundred Glowing Cottage Elves. So...you would eat this, wouldn't you?

How about this, though?

We thought not.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Salad Nicoise


INGREDIENTS (serves two; this recipe is a simplified/modified version of the one found in Cooks Illustrated from July 1st, 2002):

(hint: you're going to be boiling/steaming quite a few things, so reuse your water--hard boil your eggs and then set them in an ice bath, then boil the potatoes and put them on a board to cool, then set your steamer above the same water and steam the beans)

(for the salad)
1 8-oz. tuna steak, rubbed with salt, pepper, chili powder, and ground coriander
4 large eggs, hard boiled and quartered
5 small new red potatoes, boiled
2 tbsp. dry vermouth
1 handful trimmed green beans, steamed and then rinsed in cold water
1 small head fresh garden lettuce, leaves torn into bite-size pieces and washed thoroughly
2 small vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced and sprinkled with salt and pepper
1 very small red onion, quartered and sliced paper-thin
1/4 cup nicoise olives, chopped

(for the vinaigrette)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium shallot, minced very fine
1 tbsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. minced fresh basil
2 tsp. minced fresh marjoram (you can substitute 1 tsp. fresh oregano if you like)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey or agave

(for the beer: 1 bottle Sam Adams Imperial White)

1) Heat a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet with 1 tbsp. olive oil until the oil is very hot, nearly smoking. Sear the tuna for a little over one minute on each side and then remove to a board to slice.
2) When the boiled potatoes are cool enough to handle, toss with the vermouth, add salt and pepper, and set aside.
3) Whisk all the ingredients in the vinaigrette together and taste, adjusting seasoning.
4) Combine the green beans, lettuce, and red onion in a bowl and toss with 3/4 of the vinaigrette. Plate your greens.
5) Toss the potatoes with the remaining vinaigrette. Arrange the potatoes, sliced tomatoes, olives, and eggs around the edges of the salad and season the tomatoes and eggs with a little salt and pepper. Finish by placing the cooled tuna slices over the greens.
6) Open Sam Adams Imperial White.
7) Enjoy together.

Samuel Adams--the regular version--is just really low on my personal list of beers. I think Dave Chappelle's "Samuel L. Jackson: It's My F&%$ing Beer" would probably taste better, if it existed. But we cannot overstate how successful this pairing was. Sam Imperial White is a 10.3% alcohol witbeer brewed with half wheat and half barley malts, enhanced with classic witbeer spices like coriander and orange peel, with a good dose of smooth banana sweetness on the palate. It's actually quite silky and fruity for such a high alcohol brew, which makes it deceptively drinkable, not to say dangerous. The dressing for the nicoise salad is a nice tart lemony flavor balanced by loads of herbs, and when nibbled in conjunction with the almost creamy candied orange notes of this beer, both the food and the drink taste better. Exactly what we want in a pairing. HUZZAH.

By the way, Sam Adams had been putting out more and more specialty beers in recent times, even apart from their seasonal offerings like the Cherry Wheat, for example, and if the Imperial White is any indication, they're worth a taste-gander. It would be kind of silly to call them a microbrewery--Samuel Adams is actually the largest of all American-owned beer brewers following the InBev Belgian takeover of Anheuser-Busch--but one thing Sam Adams has been doing for a long time effectively is producing drinkable high-alcohol concoctions. (Their brew Utopias was record-setting at 27% abv.)

We're growing lettuce heads for the first time this year, and they're frigging cool. I always supposed that lettuce heads in a garden would be just like the ones that come from a store--you know, when they've grown big enough they're pulled entirely out of the ground, and then it's fare-thee-well-lettuce-plant-I-shall-dress-thee-for-thy-tomb-in-my-dark-stomach. And my garden would have a sad hole in it. I thought this because I'm an American and we don't grow our own food in these parts. Food comes from a box, if at all possible, or arrives on a plate in front of me carried by a gent in a black apron already cooked. (I love when that happens.) But you can actually pluck the biggest leaves one by one from the base of the plant and the stem will just get longer, growing and producing more greenery. Some of my lettuces are getting absurdly long, curvy stalks by now, which is not only delicious but kind of surreal and amusing to look at. My lettuces, as I milk their worth, are starting to look like Dr. Seuss plants. An unlooked-for benefit, and one I'll repeat next year.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Beer Meets Food is taking it to another level, ladies and gents. The picture you see before you is nothing other than our yearly garden plot here in the Heights, the one we've been yammering on about for four years. See it? See the little lettuce heads and the sage bush and the five kinds of basil? See my Hudson River rocks, which are totally shiny naturally? (They're in the front by the lemon thyme). See how the parsley is trying to stage an escape, and see the Thai basil behind it? See how I have, like, one marigold? See the fried chicken smell wafting through the air from Mamma's Fried Chicken? No? Well, it's generally so thick you can see the chicken smell, but maybe the wind was blowing a little leeward this morning.

Foodies and people-who-tolerate-me everywhere, prepare yourselves for a series as rooted in the natural world as the flesh of a rutabaga, as verdant and grassy as our neighbors' marijuana supply, as flavorful as the language used on the streets here in Washington Heights, in the pulsing heart of the Dominican Republic. Did you think I lived in New York City? Think again. Or don't think at all, as might be more comfortable for you depending on workload--and check out our hood for yourselves. Wander through the streets, sipping a cafe con leche that you asked to have with "no" sugar so that you only got a heaping tablespoon. That's right, kids, Beer Meets Food is taking you on a whirlwind tour of our very own community garden, with recipes inspired by growing plants, in our new installment:

Baseball season never felt this locavore-agrarian!


*(with special guest appearances by
Stinky the Redolent Subway Crackhead and

The O-No-He-Di'En't-3 am Screamers)

Let's talk about purple basil for a second.

Purple basil has a similar flavor profile to its cousin Italian basil, but we find it to be a bit more concentrated, less sweet than the classic Italian "sweet" green basil, and it carries more touches of pepper and anise. This is all relative, by the way--purple basil is bred specifically to filter the green out of it, and in consequence the strains are not always consistent regarding flavor. I've heard it called bland, which isn't the case for ours, but I can certainly see how that might have happened. In any case, the leaves are generally a little thicker, more durable. And also purple basil is more awesome, because it's purple. Purple things rule.

(Not to get off topic, but seriously, even if I didn't have a girlfriend called Purple, how awesome are purple things? Like beans, and sweet potatoes, and...daring old women's outfits? I approve of purple things. Besides, they're good for you. Lots of antioxidants.)

THE RECIPE: Herb-Topped Slurp Noodles

1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 inch of peeled ginger, grated
6-8 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flake
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 star anise pod
2/3 pound asparagus, thick ends peeled and trimmed, cut into matchsticks
1/4 of a small red cabbage, cored and sliced very thin
1 handful (the pre-wrapped portion we used was 3 ounces) buckwheat soba noodles
3 handfuls each fresh mint, purple basil, and chives, sliced thin in a chiffonade
1 bottle Weyerbacher Zotten Belgian Pale Ale.

1) Heat both oils in a stock pot and add ginger, onion, garlic and red pepper flake. Saute until fragrant and golden, a little over a minute.
2) Add chicken stock, soy sauce, and star anise. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
3) Add cabbage and cook for another 3 minutes.
4) Stir in asparagus and bring back to a simmer, cooking for about 2 minutes longer.
5) Clear a space in the broth for the soba noodles. Submerge in the broth and simmer until cooked through and just barely tender, about 3 minutes. Adjust seasoning--add a little agave or salt if needed.
6) Garnish with the fresh herbs, to taste. Open Weyerbacher Zotten. Enjoy together.

Zotten is a new special-release offering from an Easton, PA craft brewery called Weyerbacher who make pretty damn killer specialty brews. They're a local outfit who like to bill themselves as being artisanal, which is perfectly fair--they don't brew too much and let anything lose consistency, while on the other hand they make an impressive variety of seasonal styles. Specifically, the Zotten is an American Pale Ale, so very crisp and clean with Centennial and Cascade hops, but brewed with a Belgian abbey yeast strain. The stuff is good. You should drink it in a garden.

This is me smiling in my garden. I'm smiling for three reasons: first, I love my garden. Second, I am not shoveling the mulch you see underfoot. Last week the garden administrator ambushed Gabe and me as we were coming out the front door of our apartment building.

NANCY: We just got these three forests' worth of mulch delivered free of charge in seventeen city dumptrucks. It's all sitting right here in a big pile. And as you can see, here are several extra shovels.

US: Awesome. That is so tight.

NANCY: There are some wheelbarrows over there.

US: You must feel really comfortable being so equipped for any eventuality.

NANCY: Since the mulch is on the sidewalk and it's going to rain in an hour or so, how would you feel about grabbing a shovel?

US: Poor. We feel pretty unenthusiastic about that idea, in all honesty. We were steps away from the subway. Well. Ok, fine.

So with stellar arguments like that backing you, what you end up doing for the next hour--wearing little black leather pumps, no less, and hell yes the gents on our street laughed at me--is shoveling mulch. If you're me, and you're starting to crack and you see kids coming down the sidewalk, you also start saying things under your breath like, "Hey kid, wanna play a shovel game?" I tell you, with Dominicans, that proposal goes over like a lead balloon. I think my favorite moment came when one of my fellow shovelers remarked in rapt shock (and also in Spanish) after about forty minutes of this that I hadn't put down my shovel once, and I replied (in English), "Setting my shovel down is no way to make this pile of mulch my bitch."

But I digress. The third reason I'm smiling is that the garden is so much better this year than in years past. You would not believe the sort of crap people used to sling at each other in this joint, while other more docile people sat shivering and hugging themselves behind the tool shed murmuring, "I like plants. Why? Why choose rage? Why are the hoes sharpened to knife points? Dear God. I like plants so much." This place used to be a seething hotbed of Machiavellian political intrigue, a place where being feared, or loved, or both, was not enough--you needed a mastodon with distemper. But this year...this year is going so well. And see? We have mulch. That's why I'm smiling. More to come in the next installment of Beer Meets Food's EXTREME SUMMER GARDEN SERIES.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Green Olive and Herb Chicken with Root Vegetables


(this is a new riff inspired by the Crisp-Skin High-Roast Butterflied Chicken recipe published March 1st, 2000 in Cooks Illustrated)

1 cup kosher salt or 1/2 cup table salt, for brine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 whole chicken, no bigger than 3 1/2 lbs., preferably organic, giblets removed, fat around cavity trimmed and discarded
2 1/2 pounds of root vegetables (we prefer carrots, parsnips, and purple sweet potatoes) peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Nonstick vegetable cooking spray
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tbsp melted butter
10-15 large green olives, pits removed, finely minced
2/3 cup finely minced parsley
3 tbsp. finely minced lemon thyme
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced

1) Dissolve the kosher salt and sugar in 2 quarts of cold water, in a large container or pot. Immerse chicken and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2) Adjust oven rack to lower middle and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line the bottom of your broiler pan with tinfoil and spray evenly with the cooking spray.
3) Remove chicken from brine and rinse under cold water. Place the chicken on a cutting board and butterfly it. First, cut through the bones on either side of the backbone with kitchen scissors, discarding the backbone or reserving it for stock if desired. Flip the chicken over backbone-side down and flatten the breastbone with your hand; you'll hear it break. Now slip your fingers between the skin and the breast meat to loosen.
4) Combine 1 tbsp. of olive oil with the melted butter, minced green olive, parsley, and thyme. Season the green paste generously with salt and pepper. Using either a spoon or your fingers, push the paste in a fairly even layer between the skin and the meat of the breast. Repeat process with the thighs and drumsticks, and pat dry any excess water on the skin with paper towels. Transfer the chicken to the broiling rack and lift the legs toward the middle to rest between the thighs and the breast.
5) Toss your root vegetables with 1 tbsp. olive oil, the minced rosemary, and plenty of salt and black pepper. Spread them in an even layer in the foil-lined broiler pan bottom. rub chicken with remaining olive oil and season the skin with salt and pepper. Place broiler pan rack with chicken on top of the root vegetables.
6) Roast chicken for 20 minutes, until spotty brown. Rotate pan and continue to roast until skin has crisped to a deep brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees in the thickest part of the breast, 20-25 minutes longer.
7) Transfer chicken to a cutting board and remove the broiler pan rack with potholders. Invert the foil and transfer the roasted root vegetables to a cookie sheet, patting off the excess grease with paper towels as needed. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve with the carrot, parsnip, and purple sweet potatoes.

Good pairings: we served this with southern-style kale. Spinach would be nice, or mustard greens, or just a big leafy salad or some sauteed green beans.

Hop Sun Summer Wheat Beer is from one of our favorite New York brewing companies of all time: Southern Tier. Their 22 oz. specialty brew are stellar, but this is one if their several 12 oz. seasonal offerings (March release), and a delicious one at that. The makers tout it as a dry-hopped unfiltered session ale, and that's exactly what they've accomplished--you get the soft, smooth mouthfeel of a wheat beer, but balanced by the grapefruit and orange zest citrus of the hops. If you like wheat beers and hefeweisens in general because they're only very mildly hoppy, this beer might not be for you--but it's a superbly quaffable eating-chicken-by-the-poolside beer with its tender lemon yellow color and cereal malts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Salsa Verde Brasied Pork Shoulder Two Ways

INGREDIENTS (serves 6 easily, with brunch leftovers recipe following):

1 5-pound bone-in pork shoulder or Boston Butt, preferably from a pig who was happy in life
2 tbsp. olive oil
10 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 bottle of Hoegaarden
1 bottle of Southampton Altbier
2 cups chicken stock, as needed
1 7-oz. can of Herdez Salsa Verde (if you can't find it in a Mexican market, substitute another brand or finely mince 2 tomatillos, 1 small onion, 2 serrano peppers, and a few springs of cilantro)
4 bay leaves
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. ancho chile powder
1 tbsp. Anaheim chile powder
1 tsp. thyme
Salt and black pepper

1) Pre-heat oven temp to 275 degrees. If using a picnic cut, trim off the skin. Score the fatty side of the pork shoulder, at spaces about 2 inches apart, and then repeat perpendicular so the fat is still attached but appears cubed. Make several more deep cuts into the meat to allow the braising liquid to penetrate.
2) Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed casserole, Dutch oven, or soup pot. When oil is very hot and smoking, sear the pork, browning it on all sides. When all the sides are a nice, deep brown, remove to a plate.
3) You'll have some rendered fat in the pot now. Turn down heat to medium. Add minced garlic and saute until golden, about 1 minute.
4) Add all the dry herbs and spices, stirring constantly to toast, for 1 minute.
5) Incorporate the wet ingredients (both beers and the can of Herdez), and add salt and pepper. Bear in mind when salting the liquid that you will be reducing it by half later in the process. Note: if you can't find the same beers we used, the recipe would work just as well with other options. We liked the orangey-coriander spice of the Hoegaarden combined with the rich brown of the Altbier, but truly, use what you like.
6) Return the pork to the pot. Bring to a simmer. The liquid should come halfway up the sides of your meat--if needed, add chicken stock.
7) Cover and braise in the 275 degree oven for AT LEAST 3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, more like 4 hours if you have the time.
8) Remove pork to a cutting board. You will have a great deal of rendered fat in your pot. You can a) use a spoon and skim it off when it cools enough to handle, b) use one of those nifty fat-separating teapot looking thingies, or c) put the pot in the refrigerator overnight and peel the hardened fat off in the morning. This is not a fast recipe. We used a spoon.
9) Return the cooking liquid (minus most of the rendered fat--feel free to save that for another purpose) to a burner and reduce by about half.
10) Meanwhile, shred your pork. It should fall right off the bone.
11) Season your reduced cooking liquid to taste and return shredded pork to the pot, mixing it all together.
12) Serve, with guacamole, cilantro, and corn tortillas.

This recipe already uses two beers. Either would work fantastic with these pork tacos. ANY beer in the WORLD would go well with these pork tacos. Maybe have a Negro Modelo. Let me know how it goes.

You folks are seriously getting two for the price of one in this blog post. For brunch the next day, (serves two, feel free to double the recipe):

1 medium purple sweet potato, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp. paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup minced cilantro
1 cup braised pork shoulder
6 cups of water
2 tbsp. white vinegar
2 eggs

1) Heat the oil and add the garlic, paprika and sweet potatoes. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is cooked through. Season to taste.
2) Meanwhile, add the vinegar to the water and bring to a boil. Crack the eggs into the water. Cook at a strong simmer for exactly 4 minutes for perfect runny-in-the-middle poached eggs, longer if you like a harder center.
3) Reheat the braised pork shoulder and layer it over the sweet potato, making a small nest in the center of the bowl. Sprinkle cilantro generously over all.
4) Remove the eggs from the boiling water after 4 minutes with a slotted spoon, placing the poached egg in the center of the hash. Season egg and serve.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Honey-Chili Glazed Copper River Salmon with Oyster Sauce Slaw and Herb Potatoes

INGREDIENTS (serves 4):

(for the salmon)

1 large (we used a 2-pound) fillet of wild Copper River salmon, cut into single portion-sized steaks, skin on
3 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp naam prik pow (Thai red chili sauce)
3 tbsp. honey
4 tbsp. (about 5 sprigs) minced fresh tarragon
Salt and black pepper

1) Pre-heat oven with a rack in the middle to 375 degrees. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the chili sauce and honey over medium heat. When the sauce thickens slightly and all the ingredients are incorporated, about 4 minutes later, remove from burner.
2) Set the salmon steaks skin-side down on a oiled, foil-wrapped cookie sheet. Brush half the glaze onto the top of the steaks, sprinkling liberally with the tarragon. Season.
3) Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, pull steaks out and brush the remaining half of the glaze over the tops. Return to oven for another 4 minutes.
4) After approximately 8 minutes total cooking time--10 for very thick steaks--remove from oven when just barely cooked through.

(for the oyster sauce slaw)

1/2 pound shaved bicolor cabbage (use one color if you prefer either all red or all green)
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp good-quality oyster sauce
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup minced chives
1 tsp. flax seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Whisk all the ingredients except the cabbage, chives, and flax seeds in a small bowl, or shake in a jar. Adjust seasoning to taste.
2) Sprinkle chives and flax seeds over the shredded cabbage and then drizzle dressing over all. Toss and serve.

(for the potatoes)

1/2 pound baby red potatoes, well scrubbed
1 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves, minced
1 tbsp. toasted black cumin seeds
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 tsp. rice, herb, or cider vinegar (depending on preference)
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper

1) Steam the potatoes until tender. Cut them in halves.
2) Whisk the remaining ingredients very briskly, or shake them in a salad dressing shaker or lidded jar.
3) Dress the potatoes, coating them well. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

(for the beer)
1 bottle Hoegaarden witbeer

1) Open Hoegaarden
2) Enjoy together

Most folk are already pretty well versed in the most famous of the Belgian styles, but Hoegaarden deserves a shout-out nevertheless. It's not only a great summer beer and a lovely beer with fish, it's also the most balanced and tasty of all the witbeer styles we've tried. In addition to the water, yeast, wheat, and hops, that all beers contain (one hopes) witbeers add spices--in general, coriander and dried Curacao orange peel, but occasionally other notes as well. The problem with the style as a rule is that when it's done wrong, the brew can get a touch soapy, which is rather unpleasant. Hoegaarden, however, avoid such pitfalls and just tastes like an unfiltered summer's day in Europe. Enjoy it with salmon!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Harissa Potato Salad


3/4 lb. blue fingerling potatoes, boiled and then sliced into medium pieces
2 large celery stalks, minced
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar, divided
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. (or to taste, depending on spice preference) harissa
1/2 tsp. dried garlic
1 tsp. paprika
chopped celery leaves, to garnish
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
1 can 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon

1) Sprinkle one tbsp. of the vinegar on the freshly sliced boiled potatoes when still hot.
2) Whisk remaining ingredients in a bowl, adjusting flavors if necessary.
3) Stir into potatoes and serve.
4) Pop open can of Hell or High Watermelon.
5) Enjoy together.

I have to be completely honest, this is a fantastic beer but a really difficult pairing--I mean to say, who puts watermelon juice in beer? And then, who buys it? And then, what the hell does it go with? Well, we happened to know for a fact that 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco, CA makes a fantastic vat of malt drink, so back in the day on the way to a Giants game or some such, we gave this odd brew what a friend of ours calls a taste-gander. Turns out it's phenomenal--balanced, not sweet, just a delicate hint of refreshing fruit on the nose and on the palate due to a secondary fermentation with fresh watermelon. Honestly, I don't know when I've ever had a better fruit beer, or one with a lighter touch. As a result, when we discovered that they now distribute the stuff in cans, we were delighted. Everyone pick up this beer when you can! It's lovely, and unique, and subtle.

Well, that left us with the pairing problem. How do you pair a watermelon beer? Turns out, you just drink it in the summer at a picnic and don't worry your pretty, sunstroked little mind about it too much. Now that the weather has finally turned and we're outdoors again, we're ready for action--a frisbee, a garden party, an open-air film. Potato salad is a classic summer side dish, so this slightly spicier version should treat you well paired with a cold beer in a foam koozie.

I had my first book signing for Dust and Shadow at Otto Penzler's Mysterious Bookshop last Tuesday, and despite my severe fears on the subject, I neither forgot my name, nor Sherlock Holmes's name, nor the ability to make a joke, nor did I spontaneously combust, and I was duly shocked by all of those felicities. All my friends who could make it were there, and they bought a pile of my books and a bottle of Dom and made me cry. They're truly lovely.

All the press info I've been getting lately, reviews, signing schedules, etc., are over at my website. It's not related to food and thus perhaps uninteresting to some, but Sherlock Holmes does mention curry at one point, and blood sausage at another, and I'm pretty sure Watson has eggs for breakfast.

This is a picture of me looking deliriously happy because my book has finally been released, and all that time I feared they might just be kidding me. It would have been an elaborate prank, but nevertheless a possibility.