January 26, 2011

This Week's Menu

This is last week's Menu as planned by Sarah:

Sarah has taken to writing out our weekly meal plan on a chalk board hung in our kitchen.  Partly it's because I kept asking her, "what's for dinner tonight?", even though she had already told me about three or four times that same day.  The chalk board helps me remember when I get home from work.

Last week we had a Chard and Onion Panade based on the recipe in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.  We get a full loaf of bread every Thursday delivered to Sarah's work from iRise Bakery up in  Ben Lomond.  They're big loaves and we don't always finish them off in a week.  The leftovers go into a freezer bag and once we have enough we usually make a break pudding.  The Panade is a variation that we finally tried out. 

Borscht is on the menu, a good standby.  The black bean burgers we made ourselves based on a recipe from the Veganomicon using some of the left over rice meal from homemade rice milk.  We only got about 5 burgers out of the recipe, which isn't great, but it can be scaled up.  Ravioli didn't happen but we did make crepes for breakfast on Saturday with the blueberry peach sauce and we did end up finally making Strawberry Vanilla Sorbet, which I will post soon.

All in all, a good week.

January 21, 2011

Sour Beer Tasting

Sour beers are Sarah's favorite.  Our first introduction to this style of beer was at the 14th (?) Annual Legendary Boonville Beer Fest.  It was a rainy weekend and we got pretty muddy and pretty sloshed.  It was a good thing there was a shuttle to take us from the fairgrounds to our campsite a few miles outside of town, I don't think we would have been able to make it back otherwise.  I think I may have pictures from the fest somewhere, I'll have to pull them up and post them for posterity.

Anyway.  In celebration of this oft misunderstood beer style, our friend Renny put on another beer tasting geared specifically to sour beers.  The format for the event was the same: everyone brings a bottle and something to eat, and we all share.

This tasting was back this last Summer or early Fall (2010, ages ago) so I don't quite remember the order of the tastes, but that's ok.  I have a vague memory of us all having pizza to go along with the beers.  A good choice I feel.

Brouwerij Fonteinen Oude Geuze (6%) - Blended Lambic
   From Fonteinen's website (translated from Dutch, and changed to make sense): Oude Geuze is a completely natural geuze comprising an assembly of 1, 2 and 3 years old lambic beer aged in oak barrels.  This Geuze is a natural, unfiltered beer, which is bottled and undergoes spontaneous fermentation in the bottle for at least 6 months.  Fonteinen's Oude Geuze can be stored in cool cellar for 10 years after bottling while it's acidity softens and it becomes more complex.  

This was one of my favorites.  Reviews on Beer Advocate describe tastes of lemon, straw, and tart apples.

Jolly Pumpkin Artizan Ales' Oro de Calabaza (8%)
  From Jolly Pumpkin's website: Oro de Calabaza (The Golden Pumpkin) Brewed in the Franco-Belgian tradition of strong golden ales.  Spicy and peppery with a gentle hop bouquet and the beguiling influence of wild yeast.

Brasserie Cantillon's Rose de Gambrinus (5%) - Raspberry Lambic
  From Cantillon's website: I was preparing a barrel of raspberry beer. The beer coming out of the small hole in the middle of the stave was marvelous.  "It has the colour of onion skin", said a voice behind me.  It was Raymond Coumans. He was admiring the colour of the raspberry lambic reflecting in the red copper of the buckets used to empty the barrels. At that time (1986), "Raspberry-Lambic" already was synonymous with a sweet, artificially flavoured beer. This is why we decided to distinguish our beer from the other raspberry beers. Raymond proposed to call it a rosé, dedicated not to Bacchus but to Gambrinus.  The process to make this beer is identical to the one to make Kriek. When young, the Rosé de Gambrinus will still present its full fruity taste. Later on, the lambic taste will become dominant at the expense of the fruit taste. 

This thing is crazy.  Supper fresh raspberry aroma and amazingly tart and zingy on the palate.  It is almost, almost, too sour.

Rodenbach Grand Cru (6%) - Flanders Red Ale
  From Rodenbach's website: It is claimed that "character matures over time". This wisdom applies in every respect to RODENBACH. Since 1821 RODENBACH has been brewed according to a method that requires passion and time. Just like fine wines, RODENBACH develops its unique character and unrivalled taste range through the two-year maturation process in oak vats. RODENBACH, the unique Flanders Red-Brown beer.

(The above is more of a sales pitch than a description.  One reviewer on Beer Advocate says of the Grand Cru, "Grand Cru is probably the most famous of the West Flanders red ales. It's made with Vienna malt and 5 yeast strains. It's then aged in massive unvarnished oak casks for over 2 years. Then, it's blended with other 2 year old ales, no young ale addition. There's no fruit in this beer. All fruit flavours are imparted by its unique house blend of yeast strains.")

Mmm.  The Grand Cru is nice and caramely without being too sickenly sweet.  And at only 6% you can drink a lot of it without being knocked for a loop.  This is one of my and Sarah's favorites.

HaandBryggeriet's Haandbakk (8.5%) - Vintage Flanders Oud Bruin (2006)
  From HaandBryggeriet's website: This is our new Haandbakk Vintage 2006 (our sour ale) and it was bottled 22 march 2008. This is an historic moment for us as this is the first time for more than hundred years or much longer that a brewery in Norway has made a sour beer using wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria. This beer was brewed in sept. 06 and has since then been aged in oak barrels until bottling day. The beer is blended for roundness but is still very sour and a little bit acetic. We think our first attempt has  been a great success and we will definitely try this again. 8.5% alc. 20 ibu. Serve at 8-12C. This beer is not pasteurised and will develop further with aging. Haandbakk is a beer with a rustic style rather than a smooth and polished product.

I liked this one the best out of all we had that night.  Similar to Grand Cru in that it is not too sour and not too sweet but is much more complex.  Deep caramel and balsamic vinegar aromas and flavors.  Yum.

Russian River Brewing Company's Consecration Ale (10%) - American Wild Ale/Oak Aged Belgian Style
  From Russian River's website: ...not much to say for itself.

Consecration was the beer that convinced Sarah that she wanted to carpool up to Anderson Valley, sleep in a wet campsite, and spend the day with a bunch of muddy beer guzzlers.  Russian River brews this and ages it in oak barrels for up to six months with currants.  It is distributed locally (100 miles or less) so is difficult to get a hold of it in Santa Cruz.  We typically have to go up to the City Beer Store in San Fransisco to get any, or hope that Renny has made a weekend trip up to Sonoma and is willing to share a bottle.

Brouwerij Fonteinen Oude Kriek (6%) 
   From Fonteinen's website: (translated again) Oude Kriek results from ripening cherries (both the flesh and the pips) in young Lambic. This process takes between 6 to 8 months after which the beer matures for at least another four months in bottle where spontaneous fermentation occurs.  The head of Oude Kriek is very sensitive to the concentration of oil in the cherry pits, and its color may vary from year to year.

This is not really similar to Fonteinen's Oude Geuze; the cherry just pops out of this one.

Oud Beersel Oude Geuze Vieille (6%) - Blended Lambic
  From Oud Beersel's website: Oud Beersel Oude Geuze is one of nature’s miracles. Oude Geuze is a blend of lambic from different years. One year old lambic is still readily fermentable. Two year old and three year old lambic main contribution is to the taste. Blending the lambic produces a sparkling beer that is made in accordance with time-honoured traditions. Oud Beersel Oude Geuze notable hop and fruit character is much appreciated by beer fans.  The taste of the Oude Geuze of Oud Beersel combines from way back a pleasant bitterness with a sour yet smooth character. The first mouthful refreshes the tongue and opens the way to the wondrous world of the spontaneous fermentation with its complex subtleties.

Blahdy blah...I don't remember much about this.  Middle of the road maybe?

Leireken Wild Berries Belgian Ale (5.2%) - Belgian(esque) Ale
  From Leireken's website: Leireken Wild Berries has a unique, slightly hazy, raspberry red body with a long-lasting foamy tan head and a racy nose packed with fragrant wild berries. (among other statements).

This one was unpleasant.  As one reviewer on Beer Advocate says, "Ew."  First, beer should not be made with "natural flavors" as is stated on the bottle.  In the food industry this usually means that some kind of synthetic chemical is being used; because "natural" doesn't mean anything legally.  Once you look at the ingredient's list you notice that they're not using "natural flavors", they're using fruit juice (fruit juice?).  I'm all for putting fruit into beer during aging, but fruit juice?  All you get is the sticky sugary sweetness, none of the tannin.  Bleh.  And they put sacharose in as well (extra sugar!).  Needless to say, this was sickeningly sweet and was just unbearable.  On top of all that it smelled like feet, rank and heavy, which was awful.

Here is Kate McDevitt's opinion immortalized in color:

You said it.

Last up:  
Brouwerij Verhaeghe's Duchesse De Bourgogne (6.2%) - Flanders Red Ale
  From Verhaeghe's website: (translated) 'Duchesse de Bourgogne is a sweet, fruity beer with a pleasant fresh acid-oak finish.  [Duchesse] is brewed with deep-roasted barley malt and hops perennial with a low bitterness level. After the primary fermentation and the second bearing the beer undergoes third bearing of approximately 18 months in oak vats. The tannins present in oak give the "Duchesse" the fruity character. After this bearing the "Duchesse" is blended with younger beer that is 8 months old. The result is beer with a full, sweet flavor and slight zing. A ruby red jewel of 6.2% vol. alc. that best served between 8 and 12 ° C. A perfect beer!

Definitely a dessert beer.  It has the tangyness of of less sweet flanders red but the residual sugar in this is still really high.  Some people may call it cloying, but I like it in moderation. 

Sorry for the super long post.  But I had to get it all in.

January 16, 2011

Roasted Zucchini Dip

Sarah made this dish way back in summer time...when it was warm, and dry.  We had gotten in a bunch of zucchini from the CSA and from Sarah's work and were looking for something to do with some  of it.  This is the result of that adventure.  The recipe is a modified version of a Baba Ganouj (eggplant dip) recipe we've tried in the past and liked.  It is also very similar to our standard Hummus recipe.

Roasted Zucchini Dip

3 medium or large zucchini or other summer squash, split and roasted
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
2 or 3 cloves Garlic
Lemon Juice to taste
1/4 Cup Tahini (sesame see paste)
1/2 - 1 tsp. cumin

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Split the zucchini hot dog bun style down the middle and place into a roasting pan on onto a cookie sheet.  Brush or drizzle with olive oil, dust with salt and pepper.  Roast until tender and starting to brown on top. 

Puree in a food processor the roasted zucchini, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and cumin.  Salt and Pepper to taste. 

For a nice appetizer smooth some dip into a shallow bowl and mound slightly in the center.  Drizzle olive oil around the outside and dust with fresh pepper.  Serve with thin toasts or crackers.