CSA: Week 9

Okay, I’m falling behind in the blogging and for a while there we were falling behind in eating our CSA vegetables. Juliana keeps a list of our produce on a white board in the kitchen, and it was looking a little daunting last week. First let’s look at what we found in Saturday’s half share from Heartland Family Farms.

CSA half share for week 9

CSA half share for week 9

New this week are cauliflower and leeks. We already roasted the cauliflower and zucchini, an odd combination, perhaps, but we’ve been too busy to be more creative in the kitchen. Juliana roasted the beets too, and has had them for lunch on salad with blue cheese and balsamic vinegar.

On Sunday I had several friends over for a double brew day. These guys had done their part to finish the first keg of Saison that I’d made, so we decided to make another batch of that for the first brew of the day. The second brew was a hoppy wheat ale along the lines of Three Floyds’ Gumballhead. Some of their spouses/partners joined us for a dinner of homemade lasagna, salad, and wax beans.

Asparagus & chard souffle

Asparagus & chard souffle

Last night I whipped up a soufflé of asparagus, chard stems, and Gruyere cheese. I had a bunch of egg whites in the fridge after making ice cream sandwiches for BrewZaPalooza, and Juliana loves her some soufflé.

Now I’m thinking about making some hand pies. I think I’ll saute the chard leaves with garlic and roast some potatoes (from last week’s share) and onion and maybe squash too. By this weekend we should be all caught up with our vegetables and ready for a new haul on Saturday.

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BrewZaPalooza 2013: The Brews

Last summer I got it in my head to throw a big party with a bunch of homebrew from our cellar and as many pizzas as I could stand to grill. I dubbed it BrewZaPalooza. It was so much fun that we decided to do it again this year, so now it’s officially an annual thing. This year we hosted 22 adults and 7 children. In another post I’ll go over the food menu, but here I’ll present the 8 homebrews that BrewZaPaloozers imbibed.

Two beers were in kegs, the “Hopeye” American IPA and the first Saison I’ve brewed. The others were in bombers (22 oz. amber bottles).

Hopeye, an American IPA

Hopeye, an American IPA

Hopeye IPA | OG: 1.045 FG: 1.005 ABV: 5.25%
Malts: Am. 2-row, Munich, Crystal 20L
Hops: Simcoe, Cascade, Citra
Yeast: WLP 001 (California Ale)
Hopeye is my ongoing quest to make my perfect American IPA (that is, perfect for me). For this version, I used Simcoe (60 min.), Cascade (10 min.), Citra (during cool down), Citra for a first dry hop, and Cascade for a second dry hop. So yeah, it’s hoppy in your nose, hoppy in your mouth, hoppy in your dreams.

Saison | OG: 1.064 FG: 1.003 ABV: 8.1%
Malts: Pilsener, Red Wheat, Vienna, Acid Malt
Hops: Styrian Goldings, Saaz
Misc.: Candi Sugar, Coriander Seed, Black Pepper, Orange Peel
Yeast: WLP 568 (Belgian Saison Blend)
This is the first Saison I’ve brewed, and it’s based on a recipe called Saison Été that Drew Beechum published in Zymurgy (May/June 2008). Based on the feedback from BrewZaPaloozers, this was the most popular homebrew of the evening. It’s going quickly, so I think I’ll brew it again this weekend.

Foreign Extra Stout | OG: 1.067 FG: 1.013 ABV: 7.2%
Malts: British Pale, Crystal 40L, Flaked Barley, Roasted Barley
Hops: Centennial, Cascade
Yeast: WLP 001 (California Ale)
This was the first beer I brewed this year (Jan. 7) and I’m letting most of it age until this fall. Every once in a while I open a bottle to see how it’s maturing. At first it was fairly roasty, but now it’s developing a bit of a dark chocolate flavor. My pal Fleeter—after much sampling and deliberating—declared this his favorite of the evening.

Chipotle Porter | OG: 1.058 FG: 1.011 ABV: 6.2%
Malts: British Pale, Brown, Crystal 40L, Chocolate
Hops: Northern Brewer
Misc.: Dried chipotles
Yeast: WLP 001 (California Ale)
This might be my personal favorite. I brewed it in February and at first I was disappointed that the chipotles weren’t more prominent. I remember years ago when I first learned about chipotles, and for a while everything I cooked had chipotles in it (just ask Juliana). I love the smoky flavor, and that’s starting to come through in this brown porter made with dried chipotles. The smokiness is subtle, and the porter is creamy and smooth. Hmmm, if I weren’t already drinking a Saison I might open one of these.

Maibock | OG: 1.076 FG: 1.016 ABV: 8.0%
Malts: Pilsener, Munich
Hops: Hallertau
Yeast: WLP 833 (German Bock)
Our friends Tiffany and Ben really loved this one, and all modesty aside, I can’t blame them. I brewed it in March and lagered it for a month, and I think it’s at its peak right now. I’ve been trying to think ahead and brew beers that I’m going to really enjoy at a particular time in the future, and the timing was great with this one.

Dunkelweizen | OG: 1.047 FG: 1.011 ABV: 4.8%
Malts: Wheat, Munich, Pilsener, Crystal 40L, Special B, Carafa
Hops: Hallertau
Yeast: WLP 300 (Hefeweizen)
This past winter/spring, Juliana and I took a “beer appreciation” course from Ron Smith in Indianapolis. Neither of us likes American wheat beers much (although the hoppy wheats that craft brewers are producing are an exception), but we discovered that we really like German and Belgian wheat beers. The yeast really makes the difference here as it produces banana esters and clove phenols that result in complex, delicious beers. My brother made an excellent Roggenbier, and as soon as Juliana tasted it she said “Hefeweizen!” This dark wheat beer really hits the spot.

Banana Hammock

Banana Hammock bottle label

Banana Hammock | OG: 1.049 FG: 1.005 ABV: 5.8%
Malts: Am. 2-row, Vienna, Cara-Pils
Hops: Saaz
Misc.: Coconut, Thai Basil
Yeast: WLP 300 (Hefeweizen)
My homebrew club, the Bloomington Hop Jockeys, has started a bi-monthly club competition called Iron Brewer. The officers pick three ingredients, and competitors must use at least two of those ingredients in a beer. The inaugural competition featured WLP 007 (English Dry Ale), coconut, and Thai basil. I made a 9-gallon wort and split it into two 4.5-gallon fermentors. For one, which I called Liz Lemongrass, I used all three ingredients plus lemongrass. That one ended up winning in a very close contest. For the other, which I envisioned as a German tourist in a thong on a Thai beach and so named Banana Hammock, I used the WLP 300 again for a banana and coconut combo.

Leipziger Gose | OG: 1.040 FG: 1.006 ABV: 4.5%
Malts: Wheat, Munich, Pilsener, Sauer, Melanoidin
Hops: Saaz
Misc.: Pink Sea Salt, Indian Coriander
Yeast: WLP 400 (Belgian Witbier) and lactobacillus
Did I say that the Chipotle Porter might be my favorite? The gose (pronouced goze-uh) is tart and slightly salty and incredibly refreshing on a hot summer day. I brewed this with a guy from my homebrew club who has a lot of experience brewing sour beers. It’s closely related to the Berliner Weisse and the Belgian Gueuze. The sourness is the result of fermenting with lactobacillus. This beer always takes people by surprise when they first drink it. I’m planning to make this many more times and experiment with different fruits in secondary fermentation.

So that’s the Brew part of BrewZaPalooza 2013. I’m pretty happy with my brewing so far, after 2 1/2 years, but like any craft it can take years to become really good. I enjoy trying to improve my process and techniques and coming up with new recipes. But what I love the most is sharing my homebrews with my friends and family.

 

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CSA: Week 8

I’m working on a couple of posts about BrewZaPalooza, our big homebrew and pizza bash this past weekend, but in the meantime another week has passed and we have a new CSA share. We did well with last week’s share. I think we have a few green onions and cucumbers left. No photos of dishes from the week. I planned to make a cucumber cordial, but we’re out of vodka (gasp!) so that’s been put off until this week. Some friends sampled the rhubarb cordial and pronounced it delicious, so I think cordials are definitely trending here.

CSA half share for week 8

CSA half share for week 8

So let’s see, new this week are red potatoes, wax beans, and beets. More Napa cabbage, Swiss chard, cucumbers, and miscellaneous squash. Juliana has already roasted the beets, which I can’t learn to like no matter how they’re prepared. She’s craving curry, so we’ll probably make a meal of vegetables in curry. She also used most of the cabbage to make more kimchi.

Andouille sausages

Andouille sausages

In preparation for BrewZaPalooza, last week I fired up the smoker to finish some andouille sausages that Juliana and I made. As long as I had it going, I also smoked a large salmon filet, a whole chicken, and a few poblano peppers. Some of the sausages and chicken went on pizzas, and the salmon was part of a pasta salad. After we get home from the gym this evening, I’m going to stuff those smoked poblanos with homemade Italian sausage and cheese for dinner.

Garden update: the tomato and pepper plants are really producing. We already pulled an heirloom off the vine and a few jalapenos, plus we just picked enough green beans for a meal and the radishes are still going strong.

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CSA: Week 7

My how the weeks fly by. It’s week 7 already, and we’re just getting started! Let’s have a look at what’s in this week’s half share from Heartland Family Farms….

CSA half share for Week 7

CSA half share for Week 7

We have regular ol’ cabbage instead of Napa cabbage this week, and plain Swiss chard instead of rainbow. More peas, green onions, kohlrabi, and yellow squash. Zucchini makes its first appearance and also cucumbers. Juliana will probably take the raw peas in her lunch bag to snack on in the afternoons. She might start snacking on raw kohlrabi sticks too.

Rhubarb cocktail

Rhubarb cocktail

She mentioned having the cucumber on salad because, with a planter full of lettuces on the back deck, we’re all about the salad lately. But I’m thinking about a cucumber cordial. A while back we made a rhubarb cordial, and this evening we made a cocktail by muddling a couple of strawberries and a sprig of mint, then adding some rhubarb cordial and stirring gently. We strained that into glasses with ice and added some sparkling water. It was quite refreshing! So why not try cucumber cordial? In fact, I see a trend emerging this summer (wait for it…): cordials! They’re easy to make and versatile. As always, we’ll keep you posted.

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CSA: Review of Week 6

We did a good job of eating our way through this week’s CSA half share. Here are some of the highlights….

Turnip soup

Turnip soup

Even though it’s definitely feeling like summer outside, we made a turnip soup for a first course one evening. We sliced up half an onion and threw it in a hot pan with a little olive oil and butter. Meanwhile we peeled and chopped two medium turnips and then tossed them into the pan along with some fresh chopped rosemary, salt, and pepper. We covered the pan and let everything cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then we added about 2 1/2 cups of homemade chicken stock (which we always have in the freezer), brought it to a boil, reduced to a simmer, covered, and cooked for another 10 minutes. We finished it off with the immersion blender, resulting in a creamy, earthy soup.

Stuffed yellow squash

Stuffed yellow squash

One of our favorite things to do with summer squash is stuff it with a meat filling. Let’s face it, squash is kind of bland on its own, but it’s a great vehicle for a savory filling. We minced some shallots and garlic and sauteed them with a little dried thyme. Then we added some finely chopped pork loin that was leftover from a previous meal. We seasoned it with a little salt and pepper and tossed in some fine bread crumbs. Then we added a little pork stock (yeah, we keep plenty of different stocks in the freezer) and let it cook down a bit. Meanwhile we parboiled the whole yellow squashes for about 10 minutes, then drained them and plunged them into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Once they cooled, we cut them in half lengthwise and scooped out their innards. We filled them with the stuffing and popped them into a 350F oven for about 20 minutes or so.

Kohlrabi fritters

Kohlrabi fritters

Maybe our favorite new dish this week was kohlrabi fritters. We started with this recipe and then modified it to use what we had on hand. Actually, we modified it so much that the only things in common with the original recipe were kohlrabi, eggs, and whole wheat flour. We shredded the kohlrabi, squeezed it in paper towels to remove some of the moisture, then set it in a strainer to remove even more moisture. For such a solid little vegetable, it has a lot of liquid in it! We whisked a couple of eggs and mixed in 2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour. Then we added the drained kohlrabi along with some minced jalapeño and minced onion and mixed it all together. We let that batter sit for about 10 minutes. Then we made four patties, put them in a pan with hot olive oil, and fried them until brown on both sides.

It looks like we’re getting more kohlrabi this coming week, so maybe we’ll try these again but stay closer to the original recipe. We have both fresh mint and cilantro in the garden, and we’re getting more spring onions in our CSA share, so we just need to buy a little cottage cheese (which Juliana likes anyway!).

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CSA: Week 6

CSA half share for week 6

CSA half share for week 6

I’m a little slow with this week’s posting of the CSA share, but we were camping this weekend and I’m still trying to catch up with the online class I’m teaching this summer. Nevertheless, we’ve got a good start on eating this week’s share. But first, let’s see what we’ve got: Napa cabbage, peas, turnips, and squash are all new this week, along with more Swiss chard, green onions, and kohlrabi.

Kimchi

Kimchi

Juliana has already made kimchi using half the Napa cabbage and some of the green onions. I’m pretty sure she used this recipe by Tyler Florence on the Food Network. She mentioned that she’s craving scrambled eggs and kimchi, so that will probably be dinner one night this week. On Sunday she made stir fry with the peas, Swiss chard stems, and zucchini along with onions and garlic. Last night we pulled some leftover pork from the freezer that will be the foundation for a stuffing to go into the yellow squash.

I’ll need to come up with some ideas for dishes that use the remaining Napa cabbage, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, and turnips. I have to say that so far the CSA is making us eat produce that we don’t normally buy at the market, which is a good thing and one of the reasons we joined!

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CSA: What We’re Eating Lately

I just received the weekly newsletter from Teresa at Heartland Family Farm and it looks like we’ll be getting more kohlrabi, zucchini, Swiss chard, spinach, and green onions, with Napa cabbage making its first appearance of the season. So I thought I’d post about a few of the dishes we’ve made lately in our ongoing attempt to eat our weekly share.

Sauteed spinach

Sauteed spinach

One of the things to know about spinach is that a seemingly large amount cooks down to a reasonable portion. Here we sauteed two weeks worth of spinach with some onion and garlic and added a little soy sauce at the end. We served it with some grilled green onions (also from our share) and marinated grilled pork loin.

Strawberry smoothie

Strawberry smoothie

We still have strawberry ice cream made from strawberries we received in a previous share, so this week’s strawberries were used in two ways. I’ve been packing yogurt in Juliana’s lunch bag and alternating between adding blueberries and strawberries. And now that the weather is warmer, I like to have a smoothie for breakfast after I walk Miles, our dog. My smoothie building technique is to start with some yogurt in the bottom of the blender, followed by some ice, then berries and banana, more yogurt, more berries, and sometimes a splash of soy milk and/or a squeeze of lime juice. I’ll riff on this, of course, with fresh mint, honey, pineapple, whatever we have on hand. A smoothie is a great way to get your daily dose of fruit and yogurt.

Swiss chard quiche

Swiss chard quiche

Juliana loves quiche, so I decided to surprise her with a Swiss chard quiche for dinner the other night. I made a double recipe of pie dough: half was chilled, rolled, and baked, and half is still sitting in the fridge. While the dough chilled, I caramelized some chopped onion for about 40 minutes on medium-low heat until it was dark and sweet. I sauteed the Swiss chard in olive oil with a little garlic. I layered the onion and Swiss chard in the baked crust, then added four eggs beaten with 3/4 cup of whole milk and 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. I sprinkled more Parmesan on top and put it in the oven at 325F for 30 minutes. At the end, I fired up the broiler to brown the top. The caramelized onions really made this dish; without them I probably would have used some herbs to give the dish more flavor. We had this with a simple salad, thereby using some of the spring salad mix from our share.

Quiche and salad

Quiche and salad

 

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Pre-Hispanic Tacos

Prehispanic Tacos

Pre-Hispanic Tacos

On our last evening in Playa del Carmen, we dined at a restaurant called Xuläm the Mayan Fisher (tripadvisor link). We’ve passed this place many times as it is at the south end of Fifth Avenue at the gated entrance to a quiet, upscale neighborhood where we stay. Several domesticated parrots hang out in front of the restaurant, and we’ve also spotted many agouti nearby. The menu is full of traditional Yucatecan dishes, but the appetizer that caught our eye was the pre-Hispanic tacos.

Mexico has a long history of insect cuisine, bugs being a ubiquitous source of protein and vitamins for the indigenous peoples. In Oaxaca, where European conquest arguably had the least impact, Juliana and I sampled salty, fried grasshoppers. They also make a salsa of chicatana (Tzicatana), flying ants that come out during the first rains of the season. And of course, maguey worms are famously at the bottom of mezcal bottles. Our friend Klaudia was quite excited at the prospect of eating Mexican bugs, so we all agreed to share the pre-Hispanic tacos at Xuläm.

Grasshoppers, Ants, Ant Eggs, and Maguey Worms

Grasshoppers, Ants, Ant Eggs, and Maguey Worms

For my share, I divided a tortilla into four quadrants to sample each taco: grasshoppers, ants, ant eggs, and maguey worms. Klaudia thought that the ant eggs tasted like bone marrow, but I have to admit that I didn’t chew and savor these so much as gulp them down followed by some cold beer. The ants had a nice charred flavor though, enhanced by a squeeze of lime.

Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita Pibil

We stuck with more ordinary fare for our entrees. Juliana ordered the cochinita pibil, perhaps the dish that the Yucatan peninsula is most famous for. Pork is marinated in citrus juices, usually from bitter oranges, and achiote (annatto seed) is added for color. Then it is wrapped in banana leaves and slow cooked until tender and juicy. It’s usually served with pickled red onion.

Chicken Mole

Chicken Mole

I ordered the chicken mole, a dish so labor intensive (if you make your own mole, of course) that I only make it once a year at most. The best moles have a long list of ingredients, and each ingredient goes through an elaborate process of preparation. Anyway, this mole was rich and subtle and I enjoyed every bite of it.

Xuläm is a bit on the pricey side, but the food is distinctive, well made, and beautifully presented. The service was excellent. You should note that the restaurant automatically adds the gratuity to the bill. Our server pointed this out to us and, in the course of proposing that we consider giving him an additional cash tip, explained that the gratuity gets split among several employees.

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CSA: Week 5

CSA half share for week 5

CSA half share for week 5

This week’s CSA share has lots of familiar veggies, although this is the first appearance of Swiss chard this year. The braising greens look like they might be beet greens. Kohlrabi is new to our table. Apparently it’s a German favorite, kohl being German for cabbage and rabi meaning turnip, which aptly describes this descendant of wild cabbage. We could peel it and shave it onto the spring salad mix along with some radishes from our garden. We could roast it, maybe with some Brussels sprouts. But I think we might try this recipe for kohlrabi fritters.

We still have strawberry ice cream made from last week’s share, so maybe these strawberries will go into yogurt smoothies for breakfast this week. Tonight we’re sauteing the spinach with garlic and red onion to accompany grilled pork loin. We’re going to throw those green onions on the grill too, to remind us of the cebollitas we had in Mexico. So far we’ve done a good job of eating everything in our weekly share, but it will be interesting to see how well we do at the peak of the season.

 

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El Fogon in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

El Fogon

El Fogon

Every few years we head down to Playa del Carmen, Mexico for a week of reading, relaxing, and eating authentic Mexican and Yucatecan cuisine. This was our fifth trip, and it’s always interesting to see how the town has changed. We have a few favorite restaurants that we visit each time, and we always try some new places hoping to find another favorite. On our previous visit we had lunch at El Fogon on 30th Avenue between 6th and 8th Streets and liked it so much that we had to return this time. Note the location! Our taxi driver took us to a different place named El Fogon on Constituyentes that was closed for some reason, so we ended up eating at the nearby El Jurado, which was fine but not outstanding.

Frijoles charros

Frijoles charros

A couple of days later, we made it to our El Fogon (rave reviews on Trip Advisor here). I started with the frijoles charros (cowboy beans), which are pinto beans in a rich broth with onion, garlic, and bacon. As I write this it’s nearly lunchtime and I’m starting to salivate.

2013-05-30_13-44-29_632For my main course, I had a plate of al pastor, which is marinated pork that is roasted on a vertical rotisserie until it is tender and juicy; tuck it in a tortilla with some white onion, cilantro, and lime juice and you’ll wonder why you ever bother to eat anything else. I made about seven tacos from this order, so ordinary eaters may want to share a plate. What can I say? We can’t get food like this in Bloomington!

Tacos al pastor

Tacos al pastor

Juliana exhibited more restraint and ordered just two tacos, but she was also suffering some sort of cold/flu bug. That didn’t stop her from ordering cebollas (grilled onions) for the table, and we were all glad she did.

Al pastor at El Fogon

Al pastor at El Fogon

Apparently this spit-roasting technique was introduced to Central Mexico by Lebanese immigrants who made shawarma, spit-roasted lamb (hence al pastor, “in the style of the shepherd”–thanks Wikipedia!). If you view the full image on the right, you’ll see a big chunk of pineapple on top of the pork. An enzyme in pineapple, bromelain, breaks down protein and tenderizes meat.

Well, I think that’s enough for one post. In my next post on Playa del Carmen, I’ll share pictures of tacos full of insects, so stay tuned!

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