Lots has been happening here and we are ready to share the great news with you all.

Andrew built me a deck garden, and my seedlings are aching to get in it. This week looks like it is going to be unseasonably cold, so I’ll be waiting until next week to transplant them I think. Get ready for some great photos!

Our outdoor composting is going great–I’ll have posts on both the composting and the garden this week (along with a post on my favorite gelato place in NYC…yum!).

Andrew officially entered his first homebrewing competition! His contender is DELICIOUS. The competition goes down June 15, read all about it at Bklyn Foodie.

And finally, last week I was a guest blogger at Great Performances’ blog, The Dish. If you don’t know what Great Performances is, they are the folks behind Mae Mae Cafe, Wave Hill Cafe, and Sotheby’s Terrace Cafe, just to name a few. They also have their own organic farm upstate, Katchie Farm. They featured my recipe for Hazelnut Pesto with Angel Hair Pasta–check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks guys!

I often get asked the question, “What’s your favorite beer?” Anybody who knows beer knows how difficult it is to single out one beer as the favorite. Instead, I usually name my two favorite styles: Porters and Stouts. I just love really dark beers with a rich malt forward taste. This cloning attempt is of one of the best Porters, Fuller’s London Porter.


From the Jan-Feb ’09 issue of
Brew Your Own magazine

5 gallons, all grain
OG = 1.054
FG = 1.015
IBU = 30
SRM = 46
ABV = 5%

Ingredients:
7.5lbs Halcyon pale malt (I substituted Maris Otter)
1.5 lbs Brown Malt
1 lb English crystal malt 75L
1.3 oz Fuggle hops (60 min)
.67 oz Fuggle hops (15 mins)
Wyeast 1968 or White Labs 002 yeast

Procedure:
Mash at 153 degrees for 60 minutes at a mash thickness of 1.3 qt./lb. Boil for 60 minutes. Ferment at 62 degrees.

I’ve had good results with most beers by making a large yeast starter before hand. In lieu of not having a large enough erlenmeyer flask for a half-gallon starter, I’ve improvised by using a Whole Foods carboy.

Milling

Sweet Wort

Hop Plugs

This session turned out great and I can’t wait for a side-by-side tasting in a few weeks. This coming weekend’s brew session will include a Dunkelweizen. I’ve already pitched the yeast starter, and came home yesterday to a discover that the krausen had built up so much inside the carboy that it managed to blow out the foam stopper and made a yeasty mess all over the place. (Luckily, the carboy didn’t break.) I added some Fermcap foam control so I don’t come home to that mess again. Those pictures will be in next week’s Dunkelweizen post.

I’m just going to say it: these brownies are AMAZING. They are super rich, super dense, and super good. The office devoured them, and I think they could be my best baked creation yet. Now of course I didn’t invent Guinness Brownies, but I did create this recipe for mighty fine ones. I made them in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, but they are perfect anytime, especially with a Guinness, a latte, or plain ol’ milk.

Yields 3 dozen decently sized treats

What you need:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup milk chocolate chips (I used Nestle)
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate bars
(I used 1, 100% Hershey’s unsweetened baking bar and 1, 60% Ghirardelli bar)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Hershey’s)
1 cup agave nectar
4 eggs (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups Guinness Extra Stout (also at room temperature and head skimmed off)
powdered sugar for dusting (optional, but a nice touch)

What to do:

–Preheat the oven to 375°
–Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish/pan (or use parchment paper)
–Whisk together flour, salt, and cocoa powder
–With a double boiler (or make your own with two pots, the bottom pot filled with water, the top pot in the bottom pot, but not touching the water), melt the chocolate bars and milk chocolate chips with the butter until smooth.

You don’t want to burn this delicious chocolate melted goodness, or it will get clumpy.

–In a large bowl, whisk together the agave nectar and eggs. This is not pretty looking, and it will NOT get frothy (like sugar does). I like agave because it is natural, unprocessed, and tastes great in baked goods. Use sugar if you’d prefer, and whisk with eggs until frothy.


–Slowly whisk in the chocolate/flour/salt mixture, leaving it a bit lumpy.


–Pour in the melted chocolate, and mix slowly with a wooden spoon.

If you trust where your eggs come from (mine are from Stone Barns), then by all means, give this mixture a taste before you load it with Guinness.

–When this is combined (and a tiny bit clumpy, not perfectly smooth), whisk in the Guinness (remember to try to skim most of the head off).

–Pour the mixture into the baking dish/pan, and top with the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Don’t be alarmed if it looks more liquid-y than most baked goods on their way to the oven. It will create an ultra chocolate-y, dense goodness.


–Bake for 35-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out pretty clean. It has to bake for a longer period of time since it is so liquid-y.

About 15 minutes in

–When done, let the brownies cool and then dust with powdered sugar.

Sneaking a taste! Yumm


Enjoy!

This past weekend I set out with two goals in mind: brew five gallons of beer on Saturday and brew five gallons of beer on Sunday. Anything else I accomplished would be considered a bonus.

Grinding the Pilsner Grain

As an insurance policy to make sure that both brewing sessions would take place, I made two yeast starters in advance mid-week. I am still getting accustomed to blogging my every brew, and forgot to take pictures of the yeast starters. I’ll make it up to you this week.

Hands-free sparging

So as planned, I was in the Drewery (No that’s not a typo, I named my basement brewery after myself–Andrew’s Brewery didn’t have the same ring to it.) for the better portion of Saturday and Sunday while the rest of the tri-state area was experiencing torrential weather.Trees were falling down, shingles were flying off my neighbors’ roofs, and I was brewing my third and fourth batches of all grain beers; a Bohemian Pilsner and a Kolsch. Both recipes were taken from Brew Your Own (BYO) magazine from the Style Profile section.

Recirculating the Kolsch

For every style of beer I brew, I give it two attempts. The first batch I try brewing as close to the style (if it even fits into the style guidelines) as possible. The second batch I usually tweak based on the results of the first. If after two genuine attempts, I feel that neither recipe can be added to my portfolio, I abandon the style until the next year, or until a spot opens in my brewing schedule. My brewing schedule consists of nothing more than a list of recipes I want to brew and their ideal fermentation temperatures: I brew lagers in the fall and winter months and ales in the spring and summer months.

Kolsch Spent Mash

On the schedule for next weekend is a clone of the wonderful Fuller’s Porter. In the meantime, the Pilsner is fermenting in a 50 degree room while the Kolsch is fermenting at 60 degrees. In about two months, I’ll be bottling these brews, and I’ll give you an update on them then. Right now I’m bottle conditioning a Golden Lager (pre-prohibition style lager) and I’ll report back when I crack open the first bottle.

With the empty Pilsner grain sack

(Just a note: Charlotte has power back! She’ll be up and cooking by Wednesday, and you don’t want to miss her festive treats!)

This weekend was 48 hours of time-off I wish I could get back. Saturday was filled with down pours and almost hurricane-level wind gusts, but I ventured out early in the day anyway to stick with the weekend’s cooking plan. I was going to make Guinness Brownies and Irish Soda Bread for the first time, Tuscan Bean Soup from The Italian Slow Cooker, and I was going to attempt the homemade ricotta again.

As I was cutting the cheesecloth for the ricotta and about to bring out the Guinness, my power went out. This was at 4:30pm Saturday. It is 9:30pm Sunday and we are STILL without power. How am I posting? From Andrew’s family kitchen, where I’ve sought out light-filled refuge (allegedly by 11pm tonight we’ll back on). Anyway, Saturday’s cooking plan was shot to hell, and I ended up making dinner in the dark with flashlights, and trying to use up whatever was on its last leg in the fridge. I ended up making tacos, which were totally kick-butt.

I always have Smart Ground soy crumbles on hand since we try to not eat a ton of red meat, so I jazzed them up with 1/4 teaspoon of taco seasoning and stirred them up with red and green bell peppers. In the pantry I had these small taco-sized tortillas, so cooked them in a non-stick pan, put in some sour cream, my soy and bell peppers, sliced radishes (which adds a nice clean, fresh taste) and grated Vermont sharp white cheddar on top. Amazing, and simple, even with the lights off.

On Sunday, we had planned to head to Muscoot Farms in Westchester for maple sugaring, but again, mother nature had other plans for us. With no rush to get back to my sans-heat home, we made Classic Belgian Waffles (from Emeril’s recipes on FoodNetwork.com) for breakfast and still got to at least use our maple syrup.

Since the recipe makes 8-10 waffles, we cut everything in half, which perfectly yielded 6 waffles:

1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk
non-stick cooking spray

Directions
Preheat the waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In 1 medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a second bowl use the wooden spoon to beat together the egg yolks and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved and eggs have turned a pale yellow. Add the vanilla extract, melted butter, and milk to the eggs and whisk to combine. Combine the egg-milk mixture with the flour mixture and whisk just until blended. Do not over mix. In third bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the waffle batter. Do not overmix! Coat the waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray and pour enough batter in iron to just cover waffle grid. Close and cook as per manufacturer’s instructions until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.



We didn’t have cake flour, so we substituted regular flour, which made them less fluffy (only a bit of a bummer), and they were still packed with sweet Belgian taste. We also dressed them with confectioner’s sugar, and of course, maple syrup. I think chocolate syrup, or if you are really feeling adventurous, melt chocolate with butter in a double boiler, would be even better.

Be on the look out for the Irish Soda Bread, Guinness Brownies, and the Tuscan Soup (it’s creamy without any dairy!). Soon as the power is back, I’ll be in the kitchen.

Dark Matter

On Monday night, I was one of the lucky guests to attend the Brooklyn Brewery’s release party for the newest addition to the Brewmaster’s Reserve lineup, Dark Matter.

Armed with a beer in one hand and goodies from Bedford Cheese Shop in the other, Dark Matter came across my palate with hints of vanilla and oak. It is quite enjoyable and surprisingly easy to drink considering the 7.5% ABV. It isn’t exactly a session beer, but after a few tastes, I was at the bar looking for more. Until the release of this beer, I was regularly drinking Brooklyn’s Cookie Jar Porter, but after tonight, I think Dark Matter is my new draft go-to. (See the official word on Dark Matter on the Brooklyn Brewery’s blog.)

Of course, one of the highlights of the night was talking with brewmaster Garret Oliver. This was my second time chatting with Garrett–the first was at a NYC Homebrewers Guild meeting last year. He is so smart and down to earth, and he always gives you the time of day.

Garrett and I

I also got to meet some great folks that are strong voices of the craft beer movement, particularly here in NYC. Thanks for all the warm welcomes from my fellow beer enthusiasts!

Some More BK Brews

This weekend I’ll be posting about the homebrew, so look forward to it!

Benvenuto a Foods & Brews! It seems more than appropriate that my first post on F&B be about making ricotta for the first time, a Saturday trip to various shops in Brooklyn, and meeting an Italian cookbook goddess.

You see, this Saturday was the first over 50 degrees day we’ve had in NYC since November, and naturally, the streets and parks were filled with folks getting their first glimpse of spring. Instead of taking my day to the park, I had already planned on paying a visit to the store-uprooted-from-Italy-and-planted-in-Brooklyn, D. Coluccio & Sons.

D. Collucio & Sons

This specialty store is in Dyker Heights, but it is exactly like a little store on the cobble-stoned streets of a small Italian town. From prosciutto di parma and their own olive oil, to fig preserve and my favorite biscotti, Pan di Stelle, this place has it all. This Saturday, it also had famed Italian cookbook author Michele Scicolone. Michele’s most recent book is The Italian Slow Cooker, which I am now in possession of and more than excited about. With recipes for seafood stew, pasta fagioli, creamy polenta with gorgonzola and mascarpone, a dozen ragus, and desserts like chocolate truffle cake, I’m pulling the slow cooker out of the closet, and will be reporting on the recipes here. (more…)