Sunday, November 29, 2009

Soba Noodles and Squash

Soba noodles are great. Compared to normal pasta, they cook faster, have more taste, and cost about the same. You should be alert when you cook them. They're done more quickly than you'd think, and they're nicest when they're still chewy. This recipe takes 30 or 40 minutes, but it's incredibly simple. It serves 3 or 4 people.

  • 1/2 pound soba noodles
  • 1 large or 2 small delicata squash, chopped into 1-inch pieces and seeds removed (don't peel it, though)
  • 5 large collard leaves, chopped
  • 3 chilies of a level of spiciness that you like, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 tbs. mirin
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tbs. peanut oil
  • 1 tbs. grated ginger
  • pepper

Put a pot of salted water on. While it comes to a boil, mix together in a large bowl all the ingredients but the noodles, squash, and collards. When the water boils, cook the soba noodles till they're done, about four or five minutes. Drain them and put them in the bowl, and stir them up.

Meanwhile, start steaming the squash. About 10 minutes later, start steaming the collards as well. When they're both tender, add them to the bowl. Mix and adjust the seasoning.

Duchesse de Bourgogne

Brouwerij Verhaeghe, Duchesse de Bourgogne
Belgian reddish-brown ale
Vichte, Belgium
6% Alcohol
Rating: 4/5

Bizarre! It's first sour, then sweet, and it has more in common with soda than with most beers. Don't take this as criticism; it's great, even if it doesn't taste like beer.

Alaskan Smoked Porter

Alaskan Brewing Co., 2009 Smoked Porter
Juneau, AK
6.5% Alcohol
Rating: 3/5

It's not bad, but I would never really choose it. The smoke flavor is just overwhelming.

Hale's Ales Mongoose IPA

Hale's Ales, Mongoose IPA
Seattle, WA
7% Alcohol
Rating: 4/5

If you had to reduce beer in the Northwest to one style, it would be the IPA, and if you had to reduce Northwest IPAs to one beer, it might as well be this one. Don't expect anything unusual from this beer, but drink it if you want a well-made IPA. It's incredibly hoppy, but it's not over the top and it makes fine drinking.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head, 90 Minute Imperial IPA
Milton, Delaware
9% Alcohol
Rating: 5/5

It's simultaneously more flavorful and mellower than the usual IPA. Whatever "balanced" means, this beer is balanced.

By the way, I've added in the percent alcohol not out of love for statistics but because it seems like something I might want to know if I were choosing a beer.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Kale or Collards with Peanuts and Garlic

As promised, here's another recipe for greens. Lindsay and I adapted the recipe from Simply in Season, a Mennonite cookbook, and we spiffed it up by adding chili-garlic sauce, soy sauce, and vinegar. Two people could eat this as meal, along with some rice. It could serve twice as many people as a side dish. It takes about thirty minutes to cook.

  • 1 bunch kale or collards (about 10 giant leaves)
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced or crushed
  • 1 tbs. peanut oil
  • 2 tsps. whole cumin seeds (or a smaller amount of ground cumin)
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tbs. chili-garlic sauce, such as Huy Fong's (or just use fresh or dried chilies)
  • a bit less than 1/4 cup peanut butter, possibly more
  • 2 tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • salt, pepper

Cut the stems out of the greens and chop them roughly. Heat the peanut oil over medium heat in a big skillet than can be covered, and add the stems, the chopped onion, and some salt. Let this cook while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, stirring occasionally to keep things from burning. Chop the rest of the greens roughly. Mix up the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar, along with about two tablespoons of water to thin it out (but don't worry if it's still thick--when it gets hot, it will unclump).

When the onions have browned a little, turn down the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, cumin, cardamom, and coriander. Cook this for about a minute, stirring, and add the greens, the chili-garlic sauce, and a bit more salt. Add about 1/4 cup of water, turn up the heat and stir this up. Once the water boils, turn the heat to low and cover, maintaining a simmer. Cook until the greens are tender, about 5-10 minutes for kale and 10-15 minutes for collards. Uncover and add the peanut sauce. Stir it until it heats up and coats the leaves. Add a little bit more water if it's stubborn. Taste it; add some more peanut butter, depending on what you think. Grind some pepper over the whole thing, and add some salt if it needs it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel

Weihenstephan Brewery, Hefeweissbier Dunkel
Dark Wheat Beer
Freising, Germany
Rating: 5/5

This beer was a present from Lindsay for my birthday! But my love for it goes beyond sentiment. It's deliciously smooth and toasty.

Barely Cooked Chard with Lemon and Parmesan

This year my CSA has loaded up my box with greens. Few can match me in my love for spinach, chard, kale, and collards, so it means something that I had so much of them that eating them was a burden. I've picked up some new tricks for greens, now. This was one of my favorites. Its basic outline--greens with olive oil and lemon juice--is unremarkable, but as always, adding a ton of Parmesan cheese makes it great. This also straddles the line nicely between cooked and raw. It's more substantial than a salad, but it's still as refreshing as one. It serves two and is really quick.

  • 5 large chard leaves
  • 1 or 2 large cloves garlic, julienned
  • 2 tbs. pine nuts (optional)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Parmesan cheese
  • olive oil, salt, pepper

Cut out the stems from the chard and cut them into inch-long pieces. Start this cooking in a bit of olive oil (use as little as possible--you'll be adding more) in a big pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, pine nuts, and a bit of salt, and give this a stir from time to time as you prepare the rest of the dish.

In a jar (or a bowl), combine the lemon juice with equally much olive oil. Grind in some pepper and add in lots of Parmesan cheese. Shake this up.

Cut up the chard and add it to the pan, along with some salt (greens need a lot of salt!). Stir for about thirty seconds. The goal is to stop cooking the chard at the first sign of wilting; remember that it will keep on cooking after you remove it, so err on the side of taking it out too soon. Remove everything into a large bowl, pour the dressing over, and toss.