Spiced Solstice Porter

The tl;dr version of this recipe is that it comes directly from Scott Russell.  Not just his web-published 2010 Holiday Porter recipe, but he was kind enough to collect the grains at the Lebanon Brew Shop for me.  I met up with him at the shop for an Oktoberfest event where I ground the grains and secured the hops and yeast. The two ways this recipe strays from Scott’s original is that the shop was out of the White Labs Bedford English Ale (WLP006) yeast and I used White Labs Whitbread II Ale (WLP017) on Scott’s suggestion. And rather than only use 1/2 ounce of two separate hops, I substituted Galena for the Goldings to limit waste and save a few bucks.

This is kind of a beer drinker’s mulled wine!

Continue reading “Spiced Solstice Porter”

Adrift — An Off Course Porter

(Maldon, England 2007 | Photo: Rick Scully)

I first became aware of Edmund Fitzgerald Porter through Scott Russell‘s book North American Clone Brews. He and I were working together at the time, and he told me it was possibly his favorite American porter.

A year or so later while visiting family in northwestern Pennsylvania — not too far from the beer’s home turf of Cleveland — I found this gem at the local package shop, and found out for myself just how tasty it is.

This beer recipe was intended to follow the American Homebrewers Association article “50 Commercial Clone Beer Recipes,” where they printed one recipe per each American state. Great Lakes Brewing’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter was Ohio’s representative, and it is a worthy candidate.

Continue to the recipe… Continue reading “Adrift — An Off Course Porter”

Second Branch Ale ❤️❤️ Bell’s Two Hearted Ale Clone

Recently, I was reading a good friend’s beer blog, where he pondered the meaning of seasonal beers, and it helped light a fire under me to start brewing now when the conditions are good, in order to have beer in the winter when it can be a little more challenging to brew ales — which require warmer temperatures to ferment.

Inspiration also found me in the form of “mor beer plz” written on the chalkboard handles of the (empty) beer taps in our kitchen. There was also a sad face emoticon (not pictured).

To be fair, Sarah didn’t just drop … subtle … hints, she was a partner in this brew from start to finish. We completed the brew in record time, and she was able to go to her fiber spinning group’s monthly gathering on time. There were ❤️❤️ making this brew, and we had much fun brewing it together.

It was also exciting because it was our trial run with the FastFerment system I was given as a gift last year.  The try-out was overdue. Hopefully there will be a review of the product after we have had a chance to sample the finished beer.

Read the recipe… Continue reading “Second Branch Ale ❤️❤️ Bell’s Two Hearted Ale Clone”

Vanilla Wedding Cake with Mocha Filling

 

Vanilla Mocha Cake - exteriorOur friends Joe and Sarah recently got married, and one of the highlights of the celebration was their amazing wedding cake. I wanted to shove a few illicit pieces in a napkin and bring them home, but good manners got the better of me, so I decided to try to recreate it at home while it was fresh in my mind. The key elements were: a light, slightly chewy white cake, a rich layer of mocha frosting inside, topped with light and tangy vanilla frosting.

This was a new form of cake construction for me as I’d never made a true white cake before, and I found it’s easier and faster than I’d expected. I love the way the plain white frosting hides the decadent mocha layer inside.

Serves 12

Ingredients

Cake
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened

Mocha Filling
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3 oz. milk chocolate (I used a Fair Trade chocolate bar)
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup cold-brewed coffee concentrate OR equvalent from instant espresso powder
1/4 cup milk, warmed (may not need all – see instructions)
8 oz. powdered sugar

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. powdered sugar

Preparation

For the Cake
Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans by first buttering, then flouring, and then lining them with parchment paper. Whisk together the milk, egg whites, and vanilla in a small bowl.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 20 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat in the butter, one piece at a time. Continue to beat for about a minute, or until the mixture looks like moist crumbs. Pour in the milk mixture, reserving 1/2 cup and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about a minute.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to pull up any un-mixed flour. Add the final bit of milk and stir again briefly, about 20 seconds. Scrape the batter into the cake pans, dividing evenly and spreading the mixture in each pan. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached.

Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then run a thin blade around the edge of each cake and turn them out onto wire racks. Peel off the parchment paper, and allow the layers to cool completely before assembly.

Mocha Filling
Vanilla Mocha Cake - InteriorIn a heat-proof or microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter and milk chocolate together using a double boiler, or by microwaving for short periods of time and stirring frequently. Sift in the cocoa powder and sugar and add the coffee, then begin whipping the mixture with a hand mixer or whisk. If the mixture is too stiff, slacken it a bit with some warmed milk, adding just a little at a time. Continue to whip until the filling is light and fluffy. Then refrigerate for 15-20 minutes to allow it to firm up a bit.

Frosting
Whip the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla together until smooth and some air is incorporated, then add the sugar a little at a time. Continue to whip until the frosting has doubled in volume.

Assemble
Make sure both of your cake layers are completely cooled before assembly. Otherwise you will, quite literally, have a “melt-down.”

Place one cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Using a flexible spatula, give the mocha filling a good stir before spooning it into the middle of the first cake layer. Gently spread the filling towards the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch margin all the way around the cake (this will prevent brown streaks in your outer frosting).

Gently place the second cake layer on top and center it. Frost the entire cake with the vanilla frosting. I find it easier to work from the top down, spreading the frosting around the top and down the sides of the cake with a thin metal spatula. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the filling and frosting to firm up before slicing. Serve with coffee.

Tattoo You Two – SMaSH Beer

Home brewing doesn’t have to be difficult – this simple recipe is one of our favorites for beginners.

One of the most interesting projects The Club decided to do this brew calendar is a SMaSH beer, with participants brewing the same recipe. One of the members developed the recipe and we are all charged with following it. The idea is that the differences will be with water and each brewer’s method — and to some extent the freshness of the hops used — and we will see just how different each beer will still taste when we convene on April 16 to compare.

There will be other slight differences; for example, I got a late start and decided I will keg my SMaSH and bring a few growlers. Others may be bottling their beers.

So far — we just racked to the secondary — this beer tastes and smells great. It is super light yellow and clear; however, I missed my target OG. I hope to learn from this experience: How does one determine the efficiency of their set up so that they better hit their targets? The short answer is maths, but my take-away is that I need to do some research on my mash efficiency.

If you are wondering about the name of this brew, it is because Sarah and I each got tattoos the morning before we brewed. My tattoo is an elaborate sleeve of hops, a flower, and two bees. Sarah’s is a bee that matches one of mine.

Surprisingly, this was the first time Sarah has joined to help with the brew day. She has always helped with racking, bottling, etc. I enjoyed her company and her assistance was greatly appreciated!

To view the recipe, continue reading.
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Cold Oatmeal

Ah, winter. Time for hearty, sustaining foods that get us through long dark days. Ironically, it’s the time that I turn to one of my favorite breakfasts, cold oatmeal. I’ve never been a fan of hot cereal – something about the warm, gluey texture just puts me off. But I discovered I do like oatmeal served cold, with plenty of fruit.

By adding yogurt, the slimy/gluey texture is transformed into a thicker, richer yogurt taste. Making this ahead of time takes just a couple of minutes while I’m preparing dinner or waiting for my evening tea to steep. And in the morning I can grab it quickly on the way to work.

Make the day ahead. Serves 1.

Ingredients

1/4 cup Scottish oatmeal (more finely ground than steel cut oats)
1/2 cup milk (dairy, soy, almond, coconut…)
1/3 cup yogurt*
1/2 apple, cut into chunks (or fresh fruit of your choice)
Handful of dried, sweetened cranberries (raisins, dried cherries, dried apricots, even dates would be nice)
Walnuts or almonds, roughly chopped (optional)

*I prefer a slightly sweetened yogurt such as Green Mountain Creamery maple or vanilla. Or use an unsweetened yogurt and sweetened milk, or add a little honey or maple syrup to taste.

Preparation

The night before, cut up the apple and place in a portable container with the other ingredients except the nuts. Stir thoroughly to make sure the oats are moistened with the milk. Place in the refrigerator.

The next morning, throw in a handful of nuts if you like, stir again and enjoy!

CoCo Porter

I like brewing beer, for sure, but I love brewing beer with friends even more. Too many cooks may spoil a stew, but they add something when it comes to beer. When our dear English friend Chris Mear said he would be visiting and bringing his fiancé who makes wine with him, I suggested we have a brew day whilst they were here. I decided to brew something dark as I had promised Sarah, and settled on an interesting recipe I found on Brewer’s Friend by someone who goes by Jeremydgreat. I chose this recipe not just because I promised a dark winter beer for my wife, but also because I had cocoa nibs that had been in my supply kit for at least a year. Plus, if you haven’t already, check out the name of Chris’ website. When it came time to brew we had a rainy Autumn day on our hands, which was just perfect. Chris and Amelia were great helpers, and my only disappointment is that I wasn’t able to share the final product with them. The name of the beer is a reference to brewing with company, and stands for Company Cocoa Porter.

I am sure I made some slight modifications to this recipe but not enough to change it. I rounded the grains to quarters, and used half the amount of cocoa nibs as the recipe originally suggested, which the recipe’s author also did with future batches. Rounding up a bit meant I was right at the capacity of my mash tun and had to run off some of the wort immediately to add all the grains. This may be the last batch I brewed with a 5-gallon mash tun as I tire of doing that!

Fermentables

  • 12lbs American – Pale 2-Row
  • 1.75lbs American – Wheat
  • 0.75lb American – Caramel / Crystal 90L
  • 0.75lb American – Chocolate
  • 0.75lb United Kingdom – Chocolate
  • 0.75lb American – Carapils (Dextrine Malt)
  • 16.75lbs Total

Hops (pelletised)

  • 0.5oz Nugget (60 mins)
  • 0.25oz Cascade (30 mins)
  • 0.25oz Tettnanger (5 mins)

Other Ingredients

  • 4oz Cocoa Nibs (Secondary)

Yeast

  • White Labs – English Ale Yeast WLP002

The strike was at approximately 156ºF with a 60-minute boil time. We sparged using the fly method and water at 170ºF for approximately 45 minutes. The beer spent 1 week in the primary, and 4 weeks in the secondary as I got busy. I then racked it to my keg system. I met most of the same targets that Jeremydgreat did, and the resulting brew was not too chocolatey and absolutely delicious!

Southwest Soft Tacos

Have I mentioned that Mother has been spoiling us with homemade dinner? Ever since Rick broke his foot earlier this year, and now that we’ve also been starting a new business, making dinner once a week has been Nancy’s way of helping out – and it really is a huge help.

This week, she made slow-cooked pork butt, which became pulled pork sandwiches at first. But what to do with 7 pounds of leftover meat? A few ideas came to mind, one of which was tacos.

This recipe is a (possibly odd) fusion of flavors from traditional beef tacos and fish tacos, but it worked, so I’m writing it up here. Makes 6 tacos – serves 2-3.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cooked tender meat, shredded or pulled (pork, chicken, or a meat substitute)
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced thin
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Chili powder
  • 12 small corn tortillas
  • 1 cup Green or red cabbage, wilted
  • 2 oz. Sour cream
  • Chipotle in adobo OR chipotle hot sauce
  • Salsa – your choice (I used canned peach salsa for some sweetness, but any style is fine)
  • Freshly chopped cilantro (optional)

Preparation

Shred the cabbage and salt it generously. Let it stand for a couple of hours, then wash thoroughly in a bowl with cool water, to remove excess salt. Drain and spin in a salad spinner to remove excess water.

In a medium skillet, sauté the onion in olive oil until soft, then add the shredded cooked meat and a couple of dashes of chili powder (to taste). Cook on medium heat until the meat is warmed through. Turn off the burner but leave the pan on the stove to keep the meat warm until serving time.

Combine the sour cream with one chipotle pepper OR 2 Tablespoons hot sauce (or to taste). If using a pepper I recommend pureeing in a food processor for even heat throughout the sauce.

Thoroughly wash the cilantro to remove grit, then chop roughly.

Just before serving, layer the corn tortillas on a microwave safe plate between damp (not soggy) paper towels, and heat on high for 20-30 seconds to gently steam them.

Serve buffet style. Use a doubled layer of corn tortillas per taco for structure and top with the meat. Lay out the cabbage, chipotle sour cream, salsa, and cilantro, and let everyone assemble their tacos with the toppings they like best.

 

Creamy Cassoulet

Until a year ago I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Chevrolet and a cassoulet, but after my last two visits to Trealy Farm in Wales I am all about the cassoulet. If you didn’t guess a cassoulet is very closely related to what Americans call casseroles, at least in name. The latter are usually baked in an oven, and in my limited experience the former are done on a stove top. Both are designed to be made in a single cooking dish, which makes them ideal for busy people.

This specific recipe is based on a dish I had at Trealy Farm in March 2015, and I modified it only a bit. A little web research indicates that there are many sausage and chickpea cassoulets out there, so please feel free to experiment. Personally I plan to add some mushrooms to my next one based on this recipe on Soup Club.

The recipe below took me all of 30 minutes from start to finish so it really is an ideal mid-week quick supper.

INGREDIENTS

1 lb pork sausage links
15 ounce can of chickpeas
1 large yellow onion diced
3/4 cup whole milk or cream
Small bunch of kale, stalks removed and rough chopped
1 1/4 cup (uncooked) brown basmati rice
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp canola oil

PREPARATION

I really do think the rice cooker is one of the most important pieces of equipment in a kitchen. It makes it nearly impossible to over or under cook rice, plus the the rice can be made ahead of time and the machine will keep it warm without allowing it to become sticky and or gluey. This is why this step in the recipe is first. I prefer brown rice for the added nutritional benefits, but any rice will do. However if you use brown rice it will take longer to cook, so plan accordingly. In our rice cooker, brown rice takes 2 hours. If you want to have this dish during the work week, consider programming your rice cooker to start before you get home so it is ready when you get home.

Select a large frying pan, and heat the oil in it. Fry the sausages in the oil until cooked through. One really can use any sausage they want, but a pork-based one will give up some of the oils needed to help make the creamy sauce. The first time I made this dish I chose an Italian style lamb and pork sausage from a local farm, Tamarack Vermont Sheep Farm.

Once cooked through, remove the sausages and add the diced onions to the hot pan. Sauté the onions and then add the chickpeas. Cut the sausages into chunks and then return them to the pan before adding the kale. Reduce the heat to low, and cover the dish to allow the kale to wilt.

At this point the rice is ready, and the dish can sit until you are ready to serve. When you are ready to serve, simply stir in the milk or cream to make the sauce. Ladle the cassoulet over a serving of rice in a bowl and enjoy.

Remember that this is a starting point for a very flexible dish. If you have a red pepper in the house, chop it up and add it. If you have mushrooms slice them up and add them!

Anniversary Trip to Montreal (2014)

As a gift to ourselves for our 12th anniversary we decided to spend a long weekend — coinciding with the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend — in Montreal. We go to Montreal on average about once a year, always trying to do new things. This trip we decided that other than staying at our favourite hotel, we would explore parts of the city we hadn’t seen before, and try new restaurants as well.

Thursday

Knowing we couldn’t check in to our hotel until around noon, we tried to time our drive Thursday morning to arrive around lunch time. The drive up was quick, with almost no traffic, so we still arrived earlier than anticipated. We decided to drive directly to one of the places suggested by our friend Nick K for lunch, and then to check in. We parked the car, and walked the few blocks to the restaurant, Bouillon Bilk.

Autumn Mural
Autumn Mural

This place has one of the most stark decors I have ever seen. Nothing on the all-white walls. Tables dressed with white cloth and white napkins. The only colours in the place were the dark suits nearly every patron was wearing. The waitress was very nice, but she had a little difficulty translating certain things on the menu which we couldn’t figure out on our own. Unlike many places we have eaten before there was no menu in English. We appeared to have arrived at the end of the lunch rush, so despite a packed house when we arrived, the food came out quickly and the restaurant emptied slowly. Sarah had a lovely parsnip soup, and I had what I called a deconstructed Reuben sandwich without the thousand island dressing or Swiss cheese. The plate included a veal sausage, a pork link, and some smoked meat, with a delicious sauerkraut that was significantly less tangy than any I had previously. We shared a Big Ben Porter from Brasseurs du Monde. When we exited the restaurant it was raining and the wind had picked up significantly. We made our way to the car, and then to the hotel which was only a few blocks away.

Old Montreal Cobblestone Streets
Old Montreal Cobblestone Streets

We checked in to our room, unpacked quickly, and used the WiFi to plan our afternoon. We decided to go to the Musée McCord, which was about a mile down the road on Rue Sherbrooke. For some reason I had forgotten to bring any sort of coat, but luckily Sarah had remembered to bring the windbreaker/raincoat we share.

We arrived at the museum with about 2 hours to wander before they closed. There was a brief queue at the entrance, and we used that time to decide to pay to see the exhibition Music – Quebec: From Charlebois to Arcade Fire, which ended up being quite informative. We were given an audio tour kit with headphones, and made our way through the exhibit, which was set up so that one could listen to excerpts or full songs, as well as video. There was also plenty of information to be read. The exhibit was scheduled to close on Monday, which may have also explained the number of people.

Bonsecours Market Dome
Bonsecours Market Dome

Once we were done with the Music exhibit we took in two of the permanent collections the museum had to offer. First we viewed Montreal – Points of View, and then Wearing our Identity – The First Peoples Collection. The former showed a bit about how the landscape of the city had changed over the centuries, and the latter had some very interesting articles of clothing from the native people.

After the museum we made our way back to the hotel to regroup. The original plan had been to go to the Bontanical Gardens that evening; however, we decided to postpone that another day due to the weather. We did decide to keep our dinner reservation though, so after cleaning ourselves up a bit we started out for the restaurant.

Graffiti Lock
Graffiti Lock

The last few trips to Canada we had paid the outrageous fees that AT&T required to roam, but we checked before we left and our new provider Cricket Wireless said they didn’t offer roaming in Canada (despite being a subsidiary of AT&T and using their network), so we decided to download an app that had maps that didn’t require connectivity. Every once in a while we stop and check the map, only to find we had passed our turn. We eventually found the restaurant, and were only a few minutes late, so we were able to be seated.

I don’t recall now who suggested Maison Publique or if they had actually visited the restaurant, but based on the connection with Derek Dammann and Jaime Oliver we decided to give it a go. [Edit: Jason Merrill, the head chef at Worthy Burger and Worthy Kitchen suggested the place!] My first suggestion for anyone wishing to go to this place, is to study the menu on the website before you leave and have your order ready. Not because the kitchen is slow — it is tapas style, so dishes come out as they are ready — but because there are no menus, English or French.

The waiter, Felix, who is more of a maître d, greeted us and asked us for our drink orders. I asked if there was a menu and he pointed to the wall of hand-written items on the wall in the other room. While Sarah washed her hands I went to check out the menu and noticed it was in French, and it wasn’t easily decipherable. I felt bad for the two women sitting below the menu as group after group of people hovered over their table staring at the menu.

Thinking I might try a drink instead, I walked to the bar — the place has a neighbourhood English pub feel to it — only to notice the taps coming out of the wall were not labeled. Back at the table I informed Sarah of my dilemma, and she too attempted to decipher the menu. Still in the dark as to choices when she returned, she asked Felix to recommend a pale ale, and he suggested a local gypsy brewer, Ghost Farm, which he said was “nice and hoppy.” We decided to ask Felix for food suggestions as well, and eventually settled on the pork flank (belly) with lentils, and the venison chop, which was not on the menu, and a Caesar’s salad. All the dishes were excellent, but the venison was amazing. Rare, it melted in one’s mouth. We enjoyed our meal, and the warnings about the way the food and drink options are displayed is not intended as a criticism, but a heads-up to those who may wish to go there.

Notre Dame de Bon Secours Chapel
Notre Dame de Bon Secours Chapel

After our meal we spent some time chatting about beer and Vermont with Felix before starting our walk home. It had been a long day, and despite spending half of it in the car, when we made it back to the hotel we found out that we had walked nearly eight miles. Back at the hotel I did some Internet research to start planning the next day’s activities.

Friday

In the morning we had the continental breakfast the hotel provides, and then made our way to Old Montreal. Surprisingly to me the historic district was someplace we had not visited in all of our trips. In fact, I can’t say I was even aware of it until this past summer when I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, where he made fun of the people in period dress.

Bon Secours Chapel Detail
Bon Secours Chapel Detail

We were there before many of the shops had opened and the artists that set up shop in Place Jacques-Cartier. We wandered around for a bit, and spent some time chatting with one of the artists. Having only had a light breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and pan au chocolate, we were getting a bit hungry, and the plans were to try an old favourite, Le Réservoir. Before setting off we stopped off for a coffee to warm us up, only to find that the mocha latte Sarah had ordered tasted like Swiss Miss. To make it up to her, we stopped by one of the Juliette et Chocolats on the way to the brewpub, where Sarah enjoyed an amazing hot chocolate.

We have had difficulty in the past with timing our visits to Le Réservoir, so we checked their website before we left the hotel in the morning. The website indicated that they were open on Fridays from noon to 3 a.m. so we felt comfortable making the long walk. Naturally, we arrived and they were closed with nothing but a vague sign and a phone number on the door.

Interior Burger Royal
Interior Burger Royal

We opted to try a new place we had passed on the way named Burger Royal based on the menu and the number of people inside. We (I) have a tendency to over plan things, but are rarely disappointed when the plans change unexpectedly. I jokingly like to say the universe is looking out for us when such things happen. And this was no exception as we had a delicious lunch of burgers and mac-n-cheese. The only downside to this restaurant is the lack of a beer menu, but in hindsight I think it was probably for the better that I didn’t imbibe so early. Especially with the size of the burgers and sides. I think I would have needed a nap had I had a beer too.

Sexy Salt Shakers
Oh! Canada!

After lunch we made our way around the corner to Rue Duluth to visit a few of our favourite shops. The first one, a nice little Tibetan shop was inexplicably closed with no indication whether they would be open the rest of the weekend, so we went to the little Waldorf shop named Le Grande Ourse: Jouets Pour la Vie. This shop, as have mentioned in previous travel journals for Montreal, is primarily a toy shop but also has a small collection of Quebecois yarns.

After Sarah selected a few skeins for a project, and we left to meetup with a friend who lives in Montreal. Our friend Jill was kind enough to agree to meet at a coffee shop, Café Névé, in The Plateau even though it wasn’t close to her. This is a tiny little unpretentious neighbourhood cafe that appears to be popular with the twenty-somethings. We arrived a few minutes early and it was packed with hipsters and their gadgets, but a table soon opened and we enjoyed our lattes while Jill grabbed a bite to eat.

Parc olympique de Montréal
Olympic Park Tower

After our catch-up we made our way back to the hotel to freshen up and grab the car for our evening adventure to the Montreal Botanical Gardens for the Gardens of Light exhibition. Having spent all day walking, and being realistic about our ability to hike all the way to the gardens and back, we decided a car trip was in order.

Many readers may recall that we have been to the botanical gardens on previous trips, and will point out that I mentioned earlier in this report that we were supposed to be trying new things, but there is so much to see and do at the Montreal Botanical Gardens that we always try to find time to visit.

Chinese Lantern Festival
Chinese Lantern Festival

We arrived at about 6.30 and had a hard time finding a place to park. Once we did there were queues at the parking kiosks. My only complaint about the Botanical Gardens is the parking price is outrageous at $12, so take the Metro if you can. There were also queues to purchase tickets. The place was packed with people and prams, and we wondered what we got into. However, despite the elbow-to-elbow crowds the exhibition of Chinese lanterns was well worth it. We meandered through the rocky paths with the rest of the visitors, and I snapped as many photos as I could. Each turn exposed some new amazing creature made of stretched material and illuminated from within. Other parts of the gardens were lit up, and some places even had trees illuminated from below with lights timed to music being broadcast from speakers in the trees.

Elephants
Elephants

Exhausted after another full day of walking (11 miles according to the pedometer!) we drove back to the hotel, parked the car. But we decided we weren’t so tired that a few beers weren’t in order, and headed out for a nightcap at one of our favourite brew pubs, Cheval Blanc. We consider the Cheval Blanc our “local” when we visit Montreal as it is literally 2 blocks from our hotel. As I’ve said in previous travel guide entries, the atmosphere is a cross between a 1950s diner and a Chinese Restaurant, but it works.

Interior Cheval Blanc
Interior Cheval Blanc

What didn’t work this visit was the lame DJ who took to the sound system shortly after we arrived. An older white guy with a scruffy beard and a bald head hidden under his purposely-askew baseball cap, he bobbed and weaved, and made faces. Whatever. As a radio DJ — and an older bald white guy with a scruffy beard — I too like to bounce while I play my music. What was embarrassingly bad was his proclivity for abruptly stopping songs shortly after they started. Just as we were having a laugh and enjoying a song from the the film Madagascar, he’d stop, mid-beat and start some other song. But we enjoyed our beers and bar snacks, as always. It wasn’t the DJ who chased us away, it was our long day.

Saturday

Läika
Läika

We woke up refreshed Saturday morning, and had a some coffee and yogurt before walking up Boulevard Saint-Laurent to meet Nick, Jen, and I.A.K. for breakfast at their suggested spot, Läika. We had a nice stroll and arrived a few minutes early in case we needed to get on a list or something, only to find the place was open but mostly empty. When our friends arrived we grabbed a few chairs and piled them around the small, round table where we chatted and caught up while perusing the menu. I like to tell people that all the best places I have ever been to in Montreal were recommended by these lovely folks, and Läika was another winner. Sarah had crêpes and I had the eggs Benedict with prosciutto. Jen and I.A.K had to run to make I.A.K.’s yoga class, but Nick stayed and we chatted some more. After paying the checks we all walked together for a few blocks before saying our goodbyes.

horse
Horse and Carriage

We had decided before breakfast to explore more of Old Montreal. We made our way there, walking off breakfast by walking along Boulevard St Laurent. We made a brief stop for more coffee, and meandered our way to Place d’Armes square in front of Notre-Dame Basilica. The Place d’Armes was filled with tourists snapping photos and surrounded by horse-drawn carriages, the drivers of the latter calling out to anyone who even looked at their horses. We continued to people watch as we finished our coffees, and watched as a newly wed couple exited the Basilica. People gawked, took photos, and cheered.

Notre-Dame Basilica
Notre-Dame
Basilica

We’d had no plans to enter the church, and confirmed that when we saw the length of the queue. Instead we walked down the eastern side street, and spied a shop that specialized in Tibetan and Buddhist arts and jewelry! This was fortuitous as my mother-in-law, Nancy, had specifically asked us to buy her some earrings. She had requested them from the shop on Duluth that was closed, so we were very happy to find this place.

We continue to window shop our way through Old Montreal, eventually making our way to our destination, Château Ramezay. The Château is a wonderful little museum with rooms full of displays and exhibits covering centuries of Montreal’s history. We wandered from room to room, and read every one of the plaques. My feet were killing me from all the walking we had done, but I was enthralled by the exhibits.

Interior Château Ramezay
Interior Château Ramezay

Most of the displays were permanent, but the last room had an exhibit on crime and punishment in Quebec. Fascinating and terrifying. We then went downstairs where actors would normally reenact the lives of the people who would have lived and worked in the house. After poking our heads into the gift shop, we took some time to take in the gardens in back. There was a small fee to tour the inside of the house, but the gardens are free, and looked like a great place to relax, read, or have lunch.

As I mentioned before, my feet were sore, and we were both a bit tired, so we made our way back to the hotel, to rest up and decide on our plans for the evening. On our way back we noticed at least two brew pubs of interest, and decided we would try at least one of them for our evening nightcap.

Château Ramezay Gardens
Château Ramezay Gardens

Back at the hotel, we lazed around on the bed. Sarah started knitting but soon gave in to the desire to nap. I continued to research places to eat. We eventually decided that the tapas place we passed on our way back from Maison Publique on Thursday was of interest. The website I had found was only in French, but with the help of Sarah — and Google Translate — we were able to figure out many of the dishes on the menu, and that they had a 5-dish special that was quite reasonable.

The restaurant’s name is Barraca, and in addition to being a tapas restaurant, they are also a “Rhumerie.” We arrived a bit early for the Saturday night dinner crowd. We took our time with the menu as we decided on the five dishes we would want.

Interior of Barraca
Interior of Barraca

The menus were a challenge to read, and not just because they were only in French. The restaurant is quite dark in an ambient way, but the menu design is what the main issue was. Lots of small, black lettering on a beige background. As it was, I needed to use the flashlight on my phone to read it. The waitress was helpful with the words we couldn’t decipher, and we eventually decided on our drinks and tapas choices. Sarah is more of a fan of liquor than I and chose the national drink of Brazil, the caipirinha. I opted for a glass of wine as a change.

Tapas at Barraca
Tapas at Barraca

As is often the case when I am hungry and go to a tapas place, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I thought five dishes wouldn’t be enough, but they ended up being just right. And they were all perfectly prepared and delicious. We really enjoyed our visit to Tapeo a few years ago. The atmosphere was wonderful, the service was great. But for the money, and convenience — Barraca is much closer to our hotel than Tapeo — I think I would recommend Barraca to friends. Plus, Barraca feels more like one’s neighbourhood place. Cozy. Tapeo feels a bit posh. I felt under dressed when we went.

Sated, we left and wandered down Rue Mont Royal. The street was bustling with activity, and people were in good spirits. The buses running their routes flashed “Go Canadiens!” across their marquees, reminding all that hockey season was back. The weather was only slightly brisk, but we were warm from the meal and the drink. We decided to try out one of the brew pubs we had spied earlier, and made our way to Le Saint Bock based on its extensive beer selection, and specific brew suggestions from Scott Russell.

Aztecian Mural
Aztecian Mural

By this hour of a Saturday night, Montreal’s night life was in full swing. The streets were packed with groups of people looking for fun. Younger people spilled out onto the sidewalks in front of bars and clubs to smoke cigarettes. We made our way into Le Saint Bock, and saw a small line just inside the door. The music and the chatter was loud but someone greeted us right away. We gestured that we were two, and he peered around the crowded space. We expected a wait, but he waived us on. However, the space he had in mind would have required us to climb over a group of other people and would have had us stuck in a corner. We very quickly decided that perhaps Le Saint Bock would have to wait for another trip. We thanked the man, and left.

Luckily our other choice, L’Amere a Boire, was only a block away. We walked up the hill, and saw a crowd of people. We thought we were in for the same issue, but it ended up the outside crowd was at an establishment next door. L’Amere a Boire has a more modern decor, and is split up into a few levels. One enters at a level with lots of little tables, and nooks. The bar is down one level below that, and then a staircase rises up beyond the bar to another level. There were stairs going up from that level too, which we thought lead to a rooftop level, but we didn’t investigate. All of the seats were taken with the exception of a raised two-top right by the door.

Château Ramezay Fountain
Château Ramezay Fountain

Sarah held the seats while I investigated the beer menu. Luckily the local free wifi was available, and with a quick search I was able to translate the words I needed to make my decision. I chose an “LNH” — which stands for Lager Noire Houblonée — a delicious black lager that tastes similar to a dry, nutty stout for myself, and an American pale ale called “Fin De Siècle” (end of the century?) for Sarah. We also tried their house cask ale, “Amère à Boire” and their oatmeal stout named “Muesli.” We enjoyed the beers and the bar staff was very nice. We also liked the glassware so much, we inquired into purchasing one. When we learned they were only CAN$6 each we opted to buy two. Probably a good thing as they have become our favourite drinking glasses at home. Full of good beer and cheer we walked the few blocks back to the hotel, and called it a night.

Sunday

I started this article mentioning that this trip we endeavored to try places and things in Montreal that we hadn’t before. For the most part we did, and oddly enough the times we tried to go to some of our old standbys — such as Le Reservoir or the Tibetan shop — our plans were foiled. But Sundays in Montreal, for us, are all about tradition. And today being our twelfth anniversary, we embraced the tradition.

Beer Score
Beer Score

We packed up our stuff and checked out of our hotel around 9 a.m. and made our way to our favourite intersection: Boulevard Saint-Laurent & Avenue Fairmount, in the Mile End neighbourhood of the city. Being early on a Sunday the streets were nearly empty when we parked the car.

Still early for the start of brunch at Lawrence, we walked across the street to Dépanneur AS. Over the years we have spent time in a many corner stores looking for our favourite Québécois brews, and Dépanneur AS is our go-to shop. This little store has a great selection of local and regional beers, including a wide selection of Dieu du Ciel! offerings. The dépanneur is run by a sweet little old lady, but she knows very little about beer, and speaks nearly no English. Thankfully another gentleman (her son?) is on hand to help answer any questions, and offer suggestions. We spent nearly 30 minutes combing through the selection before lugging boxes of beers to the car, and joining the small queue forming in front of Lawrence.

Full English Breakfast at Lawrence
Brunch at Lawrence

We have been to Lawrence three or four times by now, but only for brunch. We love the food, the service and the bright, light-filled dining area. Based on the quality of food, we plan to go for dinner next time. However, this time we were here for brunch, and we indulged ourselves in delicious beignes and coffee, sausage sandwiches, and a full English breakfast.

The beignes sparked a conversion between us and a young couple next to us. I saw the woman spying our sweets and asked if she wanted one. She thanked me and politely refused, but she was intrigued enough to ask the waitress to bring her a mixed order. Before we began speaking we had heard them switching seamlessly between French and English. They playfully teased one another in the queue and continued to laugh and poke fun of each other while they dined. After we spoke they were curious how we Americans ended up in this Mile End restaurant, and we told them the short version of our traditions and that we were celebrating our anniversary.

While at Maison Publique on Thursday, we were told by Felix that one of the co-brewers from Ghost Farm was involved with Lawrence, so we inquired. It ends up the main brewer was not there but his partner was, and he took the time to chat with us about beer in Quebec and Vermont.

Selection of Breads
Selection of Breads

We left Lawrence with smiles on our faces, but ready to make our way home. We had at least one more traditional stop, a small boulangerie called Guillaume. On our last few trips it had been a few doors down from Lawrence, but that store front was dark. While at the dépanneur we asked and were told it had moved a short distance down St-Laurent, so we walked. There was a short queue made up of people and dogs, and it moved quickly. While Sarah ordered various sweet and savory breads and treats, I made friends with an English bulldog and a one-eyed Jack Russell terrier.

Our quarry in hand, we made our way back to the car and began the tradition of negotiating our way our of Montreal. Something we — or more accurately I — have always had trouble doing. After a brief stop at a Petro-Canada in an attempt to find a SIM for an iPhone for a future trip, we set off.

"Found It!" Mural
“Found It!” Mural

To make a very long story short, we moved very slowly in city traffic, made one wrong turn while trying to get on the freeway. We thought we missed a turn off of 33 only to find out we had inadvertently taken a short cut. And we sat in traffic for over an hour at the border only to to be practically waived through once we saw a customs agent. We stopped at Vermont BBQ at our exit on I-89, and arrived home to a happy dog and a wonderful anniversary present from Sarah’s mother. Sarah, Nancy and I enjoyed our BBQ and talked about our incredible trip. We have already marked our calendar to visit again in June 2015 for Mondial de la bière.

Scully Summer SunSessionAle!

This beer was brewed for our annual summer party. It was designed to be easy to brew, and at 4%, easy to drink over a long day.

  • 5 lbs. Marris Otter (UK) 2-row malt
  • 2.5 lbs Organic (CAN) 2-row malt

Ideally I would have preferred to use all of one malt rather than mixing the UK and the North American, but the guru was on holiday and so there wasn’t as much in stock — and I really needed to brew today in order to have the beer ready for the party on 16 August.

A low-temperature mash of 149° or so used to create a thin mash using 1.2 quarts per pound of grain (10.8 qts = 2.7 gallons) for 75 minutes maximum to ensure a light color.

Sparged with 15 quarts (3.37 gallons) of water based on 2 quarts per pound of grain.

Boil was 60 minute boil exactly to avoid darkening the beer. 1 oz. of Bramling Cross (all 7.8% AAU) hops were added at the beginning of the boil, 1 oz of Bramling Cross was added at 30 mins from completetion of the boil, 1 oz of Bramling Cross was added at 15 mins from end, and 1 oz of Bramling Cross was added as the pot was removed from the stove. I said it was an easy recipe, didn’t I?

I used the SO-5 dry yeast for a more neutral yeast profile. The beer was left in the primary for 1 week and then racked to a keg.

Double Sunshine Daydream

This Imperial IPA recipe is based on a clone found on www.brewtoad.com. I have dubbed it “Double Sunshine Daydream” because I would be dreaming to believe I could come close to Sean’s masterpiece. I didn’t change the Brew Toad recipe up too much, other than using Citra with different AAU than the author’s source, and a bit more of the Columbus at the start of the boil. I still am under the AAUs of the original, but I expect it to still be bitter and fragrant. I also chose to blend a U.S. 2-row pale malt with the Crisp pale malt I had success with in the American India Pale Ale recipe from 2013.

At ~8% ABV this is a nice, big, Imperial IPA. The OG was ~1.070.

FERMENTABLE INGREDIENTS

  • 6.0 lbs Crisp pale (mash)
  • 3.5 lbs of Briess U.S. 2-row pale (mash)
  • 2.5 lbs. Briess Vienna Malt (mash)
  • 1.0 lb. Flaked Oats (mash)
  • 1.0 lb. Corn Sugar – Dextrose (boil)
  • 0.75 lb. Briess Carapils® Malt (mash)
  • 0.38 lb. Weyermann® CARAMUNICH® I (mash)

Mashed in at ~150°F using 15.9 qts (~4 U.S. gallons) for 75 minutes maximum in an effort to achieve a lighter color. I sparged with 16 quarts (4 U.S. gallons) of water at ~165°F. The boil was 60 minutes exactly to avoid darkening the beer.

HOP SCHEDULE

  • 1 oz. Columbus (19.5 AAU) for full boil
  • 1 oz. Citra (13.3 AAU) at 20 mins from end of boil
  • 2 oz. Citra (13.3 AAU) at 5 mins from end of boil
  • 3 oz. Citra (13.3 AAU) at removal from heat
  • 2 oz. Citra (14.5 AAU) upon racking to secondary (dry hop)

The original recipe called for Wyeast 1056 (White Labs 001), but I decided to use the SO-5 dry yeast for a more neutral yeast profile.

The primary fermentation was 7 days. I allowed the beer to stay in a secondary for 2 weeks, and bottled at the end that time.

Coconut Creme & Raspberry Cake

Coconut Creme Cake

It’s March in Vermont, and as much as I’ve been trying to deny it I’m in the mood for warmer weather. I’ve also been dreaming of the amazing coconut raspberry cake I had last summer while on vacation (in Edinburgh) at The Kitchin, a Michelin-star-rated restaurant that served the best meal I’ve ever had. While the chef, Tom Kitchin, does publish recipes, he doesn’t publish his method for this particular item, so I’ve been scouring cookbooks and websites, trying to find something that resembled what I ate.

I really couldn’t find anything that reminded me of that awesome cake, until I came across an overly-complicated version on the Food Network. The coconut custard seemed right to me, but the frosting and filling looked too heavy, so I cut back the butter and used the custard as-is without adding more heavy cream. My trusty Cook’s Illustrated book had an interesting recipe, but it called for “cream of coconut,” an ingredient I couldn’t find at any of my local markets.

My own attempt here is adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated Coconut Layer Cake, Bobby Flay’s coconut cake with coconut filling, and my memory of Tom Kitchin’s delectable creation. It’s more formal than the Cook’s version, but less complicated than Flay’s, and I added back the raspberry element which was missing from both of those. The best part of making this is your house will smell like a tropical paradise!

Tools
Stand mixer, 2 9-inch cake pans, medium sauce pan

Coconut Custard
4 eggs, separated (see instructions)
1 14- oz can coconut milk, separated (see instructions)
3 T cornstarch
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t coconut extract

Cake
4 egg whites
2 whole eggs
1/4 cup coconut solids
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups filtered water
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t coconut extract
3 cups pastry or cake flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 t salt
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened

Frosting
3/4 cup coconut custard
1 stick butter (softened)
4 T cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Finishing Touches
Raspberry jam
Shredded sweetened coconut

PREPARATION

First, the Custard
Open the can of coconut milk and spoon out two generous dollops of the coconut cream (approx. 1/4 cup) from the top into a medium mixing bowl (this will be for the cake). Empty the remaining contents of the can into a medium saucepan, add the milk and extracts, and heat to a simmer.

Separate 4 eggs, placing the yolks into an empty mixing bowl and the whites into the bowl with the reserved coconut cream; set the egg white mixture aside (for the cake).

Whisk the egg yolks together with the corn starch and sugar until lighter in color and smooth. When the milk mixture has simmered, remove it from the heat and pour a few tablespoons into the egg yolks, then quickly whisk to temper the eggs. Add the warm milk a little at a time and continue whisking until about half the milk has been added, then pour the egg mixture back into the sauce pan with the rest of the milk, whisk again and return the pan to the heat. Heat the custard until it just starts to bubble, whisking as you go. When it boils the heat will activate the corn starch and thicken the custard. Remove from heat and pour the custard into a mixing bowl, stir to cool somewhat and set aside. When the custard has reached room temperature place it in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Make the Cake
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Spray the cake pans with cooking spray, and add a circle of parchment paper to the bottom of each.

To the egg white/coconut creme mixture (reserved from the custard process) add two whole eggs, the milk, and the extracts, and whisk together.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Beat on low speed and slowly add the butter, one piece at a time. Combine until the mixture looks like moist crumbs, about 1 minute. Pour in the egg/milk mixture and beat on low until combined, then turn off the mixer, scrape the sides and bottom, and resume mixing on medium speed until the batter is lighter and fluffy, about 1 minute more.

Distribute the batter evenly between the two cake pans, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean, rotating once during baking. Allow the cakes to rest in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then flip the cakes out onto the racks, peel off the parchment paper, and allow to finish cooling completely, about 2 hours.

While the cakes and custard are cooling…

Make the Frosting
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese until very fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Slowly add the powdered sugar a little at a time. Add 3/4 cup of the coconut custard and continue whipping until well-combined and fluffy. Chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the cake.

The Grand Assembly
Remove the frosting from the refrigerator and let sit 5 minutes. Slice the two cakes horizontally, creating 4 layers. Reserve one of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake. Heat the raspberry jam in the microwave for a few seconds until warm, and stir to create a spreadable paste.

Place the first cake layer, cut side up, onto a serving plate. Spread this piece with a thin layer of jam, then dollop on 1/3 of the coconut custard and spread gently. Try not to mix the jam and custard layers; if the jam is too liquid you can pop the first jammed cake layer in the freezer for about 5 minutes to set up before applying the custard.

Place a cake layer on top and repeat: cake, jam (optional freeze), custard, until you get to the final cake layer. Finish the assembly by spreading the frosting over the top and all around the sides of the cake, and sprinkle on the shredded coconut. If you like a lot of shredded coconut you can press it on gently with your hand for a denser coating.

Put the whole cake back in the refrigerator and chill until time to serve.

Fish Tacos

Fish tacos just aren’t something we can find in Vermont, so I developed my own take on these. The cooking method is adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated Crunchy Oven-Fried Fish but the spice profile is decidedly more south-western. This is a great dish for two people to make together, one making the vegetables and the other preparing the fish. If cooking alone, make the vegetables and sauce first, then prepare the fish so that it’s not sitting around getting cold and soggy after coming out of the oven.

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients
For the fish…
2 large fillets firm-fleshed white fish (such as Tilapia, Cod, even Catfish)
3 cups breadcrumbs (home-made from stale bread, or large Panko-style)
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 4 T. all-purpose flour
3 T. mayonnaise
1 small can chilies in adobo (used for both fish and sauce)
1 T. chili powder
2 t. Old Bay seasoning

For the tacos…
Corn tortillas
Sour cream
1/2 head cabbage
2 onions
2 bell peppers
Olive oil

Procedure
For the fish…
Preheat the oven to 350F. Set two wire cooling racks into a baking sheet to create a raised cooking platform for the fish.

Prepare the dipping assembly line before dealing with the fillets. Spread 1/2 cup of the flour in a shallow dish, pie plate, or platter with a lip on it. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, mayonnaise, chili powder, Old Bay seasoning, and 2 tablespoons of the adobo sauce from the can (or to taste). When combined, whisk in 4 tablespoons of the flour until smooth, then pour this mixture into a second shallow dish. In a third shallow dish, spread 2 cups of the breadcrumbs.

Next, rinse the fish with cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Cut the fillets into taco-sized pieces about 1 inch by 2 inch rectangles (they won’t actually be rectangles since fish aren’t rectangular!).

Coat each piece of fish as follows: dredge in flour, then tap to shake off excess flour; place into egg/mayo mixture and coat; drop onto breadcrumbs, scoop breadcrumbs over the top and roll to coat, pressing lightly to pack the crumbs all around. Add more breadcrumbs to the dish as needed. (I find it easiest to use one hand for flour/egg steps and second hand for breadcrumb/wire rack steps.) Set each piece on the wire rack cooking platform as you go.

Bake the fish for 14 minutes.

Meanwhile, the person responsible for the filling will…
Core the cabbage and slice it into thin slivers. Similarly, sliver the bell peppers and onions. In a large skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, and add the onions when the pan is hot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the peppers and cabbage. Sprinkle with salt and cook for a few minutes more, until the cabbage is partially cooked but still a bit crunchy. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, make the taco sauce by whisking together some sour cream and more of the adobo sauce, to taste (you can even mash or blend these with a little milk if you like it hot!).

Just before the fish is ready, microwave the corn tortillas for 30-45 seconds, and cover with a damp paper towel to keep them warm and flexible.

To serve, place 2-3 pieces of fish in a tortilla, drizzle some of the spicy sour cream, and top with the sautéed veggies.

Yum!

Winter Bear Stout

This stout is my take on Scott Russell‘s clone recipe in his excellent book, North American Clone Brews. Not being a huge fan of Fuggles hops I opted for Styrian Golding, Kent Golding, and Bramling Cross.

Winter Bear Stout

5 gallons, all-grain

Ingredients:
7lbs Pale Malt
8oz Roasted Barley
8oz Dark (90ºL) Crystal Malt
4oz Chocolate Malt
1oz Styrian Golding
1oz UK Kent Golding
1oz Bramling Cross

Procedure:
Crush grains. Heat 3 gallons of water to 165°F. Dough in grains and hold 90 minutes at 152°F. Heat 3.75 gallons water to 167°F. Begin runoff and sparge. Bring to a boil, add Styrian Golding. Boil 30 minutes and then add Kent Golding. Boil another 30 minutes and Bramling Cross. Chill to 80°F and take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch Irish ale yeast, seal and ferment at 65 – 68°F for 2 weeks. Rack to secondary, condition 3 to 4 weeks. I transferred this to a clean keg and pressurized to 15 PSI for about 5 days before tapping.

OG: 1048

Eggplant Casserole

While trying to figure out how to use up some vegetables from our weekly CSA basket, we improvised the following, which was inspired by a time-tested eggplant Parmesan recipe and a cheese-less savory tart that mom makes.

Ingredients
1 large eggplant
1 bell pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
8 medium tomatoes
1 jalapeno
olive oil
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 slices stale bread
3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed
1 egg
1/4 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper

Preparations
Preheat your oven to 425F. Slice the eggplant thinly and salt well. Place in a colander to drain. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds. Lay the tomato halves on a baking sheet or in a glass baking pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with the oregano. Bake for 30 minutes or until the skins begin to brown and the juices caremalize. Place the tomatoes in a food processor, add the jalapeno and puree.

Rinse the eggplant slices to remove the salt and blot dry with paper towels. Arrange slices on baking sheets and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the slices once halfway through.

In a medium skillet, saute the onion and bell pepper in a teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until tender.

Toast the stale bread. In a microwave-safe container, nuke the butter and the garlic for 30 seconds, or until the butter is melted. Brush the garlic butter onto the toast, then tear the bread into pieces. Spread these on a tray and bake them in the oven at 300F until they are dried. Remove, allow to cool a bit and then place in a paper or plastic bag and crush them into breadcrumbs.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, basil, egg, and a quarter of a cup of the garlic breadcrumbs.

In a 9″ by 9″ baking pan, layer all of the ingredients as follows: One tablespoon of the tomato sauce spread around the bottom of the pan. One third of the eggplant slices, layered One third of the cheese mixture, dolloped around One quarter of the pepper and onion mixture, sprinkled on One quarter of the remaining tomato sauce, dolloped on Another third of the eggplant a third of the cheese mixture a quarter of the vegetable mixture one quarter of the sauce final third of the eggplant final third of the cheese one quarter of the veggies several dollops of sauce ultimate veggies breadcrumbs Bake covered at 350 for thirty minutes, then uncover and bake for 10 more minutes. Allow to cool for five minutes before slicing.

American India Pale Ale

This recipe came about as a desire to create a nice “session” IPA for the new keg tap set up Nancy and Sarah got for me for my birthday. At 5.2% ABV this is a little more than a traditional session beer, but it will do.  The target OG of about 1052 based on a mash of about 9 lbs.

  • 7 lbs. Crisp Pale Ale
  • 1 lb Light Crystal Malt
  • 1 lb light wheat (for body, for creaminess)

A low-temperature mash of 149° or so used to create a thin mash using 1.2 quarts per pound of grain (10.8 qts = 2.7 gallons)  for 75 minutes maximum to ensure a light color.

Sparged with 13.7 quarts (3.425 gallons) of water.

Boil was 60 minute boil exactly to avoid darkening the beer.  1 oz. of Galaxy hops were added at the beginning of the boil and
1 oz. of Citra hops were added in the last 10 minutes.

I used the SO-5 dry yeast for a more neutral yeast profile and I dry hopped with 1 oz. whole leaf of my own Chinook hops from the garden in the secondary.

Moroccan Lamb with Rice

This dish is adapted from several different lamb-with-dried-fruits recipes I’ve found on Food Network. Most of the dishes I came across had a ton of ingredients and so many individual steps that it looked like one would spend an entire day preparing it and dirtying up every implement in the kitchen. Complicated isn’t a way I like to cook, so I created this simpler approach to a classic. The rice with vegetables can be served separately and is completely vegan.

You’ll need an electric slow-cooker or a dutch oven for slowly braising the meat.

For the Lamb
3 lbs. lamb, cubed or small bone-in cuts like chops, trimmed of all fat.
2 cups dried fruits, pitted and chopped. Traditionally apricots and golden raisins are used, but figs, dates and even a handful of prunes or cherries would be tasty.
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 head fresh cilantro
1T honey
1T coriander
1T cumin
2t dried ginger
2t turmeric
1/4 t cinnamon
2t salt
1t freshly ground black pepper

Mix the spices together in a small bowl. Rinse the meat and pat dry, then coat with the spice mixture.

In the bottom of the slow cooker layer the onions and garlic, then the meat, and top with the dried fruits and drizzle the honey. Add the broth, place the lid on tightly, and set on high. Cook for 3 hours before testing the meat for tenderness. (If using a dutch oven layer the ingredients as above and place in a 275F oven.)

After cooking the meat should be very tender and pull apart easily with a fork. A total of 4 hours may be required depending on the size of the cuts used.

Meanwhile make…

Vegetable Rice
1 1/2 cups (dry measure) brown basmati rice
1 cup vegetable broth plus water to cover rice
2 zucchini
1 large or 2 small red bell peppers
2 medium carrots
1 onion
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
14 oz. can garbanzo beans (low sodium preferred)
1T olive oil
2t turmeric
1t cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In a rice cooker, cook the rice according to the machine directions, substituting the vegetable broth for part of the water required. On the stove, use a small sauce pan with tight-fitting lid, add the rice and broth and then cover with water by 1 inch, cook on low heat until water is absorbed.

While the rice is cooking, wash and dice the onion, zucchini, pepper, and carrot. In a large skillet or shallow enamel brasier, sauté the onion and spices in the oil for a few minutes, then add the zucchini, pepper and carrot. Cook for about 3 minutes until the vegetables begin to cook but are still firm.

Add the tomatoes (with juice). Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans and add them as well. Cook for a few minutes more until some of the excess liquid from the tomatoes evaporates, then turn off the heat and let stand uncovered until the rice is done.

A few minutes before serving, add the cooked rice to the vegetables and toss to combine. Cover with a lid and if the dish has cooled off to much put it on low to reheat for a few minutes.

Serving
Tear the leafy head of the cilantro bunch from the stems, wash thoroughly and spin to dry. Roughly chop the cilantro just before serving the dish.

On a large platter, place the rice to make a bed. Layer the lamb and pour all of the cooked fruit/onion mixture over the top, then sprinkle heavily with the cilantro and serve immediately.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant

Equipment
9-inch round cake pan
Sauce pan and stainless steel bowl OR microwave-safe dish

Cake
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup organic canola oil
1 cup brewed coffee, cooled
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Cooking spray or extra canola oil

Chocolate Glaze
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate (Check the label on the package to make sure you’re getting a truly vegan product. Some semi-sweet chocolate contains milk solids.)
1/2 cup chocolate soy milk or vanilla rice milk

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 375º. Spray the cake pan with cooking spray or wipe the inside liberally with oil.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar into a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. In a large measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk.

When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter, then quickly pour into the cake pan and place in the oven.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and set aside to cool for 15-20 minutes. Turn the cake onto a wire cooling rack and set out to cool another 30 minutes before topping with glaze.

To make the glaze, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, microwave oven. Stir the soy or rice milk into the melted chocolate until smooth. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and smooth the top with a spoon.
Refrigerate the glazed cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Slow-Cooked BBQ Beans

I was inspired to make my own barbecue beans after receiving a gift of Saint Louis BBQ sauce from a former coworker. You can make these vegetarian or carnivorous.

It is important to wait until the beans are completely cooked before adding the BBQ sauce, as the acid in the sauce can halt the cooking process.

Ingredients
2 cups dried pinto beans
1 large ham hock or 2 lamb shanks (optional)
1 medium onion
6 cloves garlic
1 cup (more or less) BBQ sauce
1/2 t. dried mustard (or 1 tsp Dijon)
1 T. maple syrup
1 t. salt, or to taste

Procedure
Rinse the beans thoroughly, put in the slow cooker and cover by 1/2 inch with boiling water, and turn the cooker on HIGH.

Peel and roughly chop the onions and garlic and add to the cooker. Cover with the lid and cook for 1 hour. The beans should start to get plump but will not be cooked yet. Top off with a little hot water if needed, enough to keep the beans just under the surface.

If adding meat, make sure it is completely defrosted first, then trim any excess fat from the outside and place on top of the beans. Cook an additional 3 hours, checking every hour to make sure the beans are still slightly covered with water.

Test the meat – it should be very tender and start to fall off the bone. When the meat is tender, lift it bone and all onto a cutting board and let cool slightly. Separate the lean bits of meat from the bone, fat, sinew etc, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add the meat pieces back to the cooker.

Add the BBQ sauce, mustard, and maple syrup, stir and let cook for 20 minutes. Taste, adding salt and/or more BBQ to your liking. If the mixture is too thin continue to cook it with the lid off, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the desired consistency.