17 February 2012

New Belgium Brewing - 1554 Enlightened Black Ale

New Belgium Brewing - 1554 Enlightened Black Ale was a gift from a friend who had recently been out west. If you can imagine the coffee-chocolate of a stout without being too rich or leaving a lot of aftertaste. It has an exceptional aroma and a very clean finish, but I'm starting to sound like one of those wine reviewers, so I'll just use New Belgium's own description of the beer.

"1554 Enlightened Black Ale redefines the phrase keeping time in a bottle. From an ancient, crumbling Belgian library book, our intrepid researchers found references to this obscure style dating back to the year 1554. Overcoming obsolete script and units of measure, our brewers discovered an ale with a surprisingly bright taste and a dry, chocolaty finish - one evocative of dark brews enjoyed in Belgium taverns 500 years ago."

15 February 2012

Super Bowl - Best Bar Nuts

Best Bar Nuts
11 oz can unsalted assorted nuts
1-2 Tbs fresh rosemary, finely minced
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 T brown sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbs unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on cookie sheet and toast in the oven until they are lightly golden brown, about 10 minutes - don't let them burn!
Combine rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt and butter in a sauce pan and heat on low until sugar dissolves. While the nuts are still warm, mix with rosemary/butter mixture. Toss thoroughly and spread on cookie sheet to dry.

Additional Ideas:
Add 1 Tbs of fresh lemon zest
Add 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Bench notes: This was from a contest of NYC bars a few years back (don't remember exactly, but I started making these in 2006), and it's still one of my favorites. I think it's the rosemary that really does it for me. This time I used 10.1 oz of Brazil nuts that were a gift at Christmas. They are one of my favorite nuts. I also added something this year that I hadn't before about a 1/2 tsp of sumac. It has a neat lemony/citric kind of taste to it and I've been waiting for something to try it in.

13 February 2012

Super Bowl - Citrus Couscous

Let's start by saying I've made several changes to this recipe by blending it with another couscous recipe I have some where in the back of my head.

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
Yield: 24

Pastry Cups
Vegetable oil cooking spray
Flour, for dusting
Two 9" unroll and bake store-bought pie crusts
Special equipment: 24-count nonstick mini-muffin pan; 2 1/2-inch round
cookie cutter

1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Zest of 1/4 large orange
Juice of 1/2 large orange (about 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice)
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup couscous
One 11-ounce can mandarin oranges in light syrup, drained and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook's Note: To toast the almonds, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 6 to 8 minutes until lightly toasted. Cool completely before using. 
For the pastry cups: Place an oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 24-count nonstick mini-muffin pan with vegetable oil cooking spray. Unroll the pie crusts on a lightly floured work surface. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut 12 circles of dough from each crust. Press the dough into the prepared muffin cups. Bake until light golden, 10 minutes. Cool completely before filling, 15 minutes.
For the salad: Bring the broth, orange zest, orange juice and cumin to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the couscous and remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan until the liquid had been absorbed and the couscous is tender, 5 to 6  minutes. Fluff the couscous and break up any lumps, using a fork. Toss together the couscous, mandarin oranges, almonds and parsley in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
For the dressing: Whisk together the oil, orange juice, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl until smooth. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until coated.

Bench Notes: As mentioned, I made changes, but was pleased w/the results - first, no cups, just couscous. I left the cumin out of the broth and used veggie broth instead of chicken broth (which I do quiet often). I substituted sultanas soaked in slightly heated orange juice
for the mandarin oranges. I added 1/3 of a diced red onion that I had slightly pickled in red wine vinegar and continued with the rest of the recipe. It was great room temperature and quite pretty with a nice mix of flavors.

12 February 2012

Super Bowl - Soppressata and Cheese in Puff Pastry

Soppressata and Cheese in Puff Pastry
Recipe Ina Garten

1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
12 thin slices soppressata salami
6 ozs Gruyere cheese, grated
1 egg beaten w/1 Tbs water, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.
Lay one sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and lightly roll into a ten inch square. Place it on the sheet pan and brush the pastry with the mustard, leaving a one inch border. Arrange the soppressata in overlapping layers on the mustard and sprinkle the grated cheese evenly on the soppressata, also avoiding the border. Brush the border with the egg wash.

Lightly roll the second piece of puff pastry into a ten inch square. Lay the pastry directly on top of the first square, lining up the edges. Brush the top with egg wash, cut three large slits for steam to escape and chill for fifteen minutes.
When the pastry is cold, trim the edges with a very sharp knife to amke a clean edge. Bake the pastry in the center of the oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes, turning once while baking, until puffed and brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes, cut into squares and serve hot or warm.
Bench notes: Chilling the pastry after you've put it together is important. I used Fontina because my deli only had smoked Gruyere which didn't sound good to me on top of salami. May try a different salami in the future. The top puffed up nicely and brown even though I forgot the egg wash the top, but the bottom didn't crisp up as much so that was unfortunate. Might try with a different salami or even ham and perhaps add a minced shallot.