27 December 2008

Yalumba Barossa Bush Vine Grenache 2007

Playing catch-up here but I should not neglect to mention that on the night of the excellent Chickpea-Carrot soup, E. came over and brought an excellent bottle of wine. The (take a breath) Yalumba Barossa Bush Vine Grenache 2007, which was very smooth, incredibly flavorful and an excellent complement to a nice hearty soup and salad. Worth remembering and picking up.

26 December 2008

DIY Hot Wings and Bleu Cheese

In one of my intermittent mass-cookings, I found myself with several odds and ends and not quite knowing what to do with them. There was horseradish that had been sitting in vodka for a week, hot peppers about to go bad, and chicken wings that I'd thawed but was now unsure how to handle. So, of course - horseradish+peppers+chicken wings=hot wings! I'll do this in three steps.

First, I made the horseradish pepper sauce

Horseradish Pepper Sauce

  1. Peel and slice up a bunch of horseradish
  2. Cut off stems from peppers
  3. Put in food processor
  4. Add some white vinegar
  5. Blend
  6. Repeat, adding white vinegar until desired consistency is reached
  7. Refrigerate

Then, I poured the sauce over the chicken wings, threw 'em in the fridge and let them sit for a couple days (overnight would be fine). This would also work well with, e.g., extra-firm tofu or seitan.

The wings themselves are easy - crank oven to 350 for 10 minutes, and put the wings on a baking tray in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

The Bleu Cheese dressing is actually a Bleu Brie dressing - there was a full mini-wheel of it on sale for $1.99 (!) at Harris-Teeter. Totally improvised, but took my inspiration from the ingredients list on the bottles of Ken's Dressings and online.


  • Bleu/Bleu brie cheese
  • White vinegar
  • Full-cream yogurt
  • Mayonaisse


  1. Combine in bowl
  2. Blend until desired consistency
  3. Chill in refrigerator

Wish I were more help here, but just have some bread and taste as you go along.

So, remember - if you have a hankering for trashy foods, you can probably do it yourself and pretty cheaply. Back of the envelope, the ingredients used for this meal probably cost me $2-3.

21 December 2008

Chickpea-Carrot Soup

I had been excited from when I saw this recipe from 30 Bucks a Week, to make chickpea soup. Of course I couldn't just leave well enough alone and follow the recipe, so I modified it a bit in procedure at a few points, more or less doubled the batch, &c. Many thanks to P. and T. for a dynamite recipe!

  • 4 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 3 cups collard stock (or other veggie stock, but collards work well - use the stems and boil down until the broth is a dark golden brown)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • white wine and balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 large carrots
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Chop carrots, onion and one clove garlic coarsely and blend in food processor into very small pieces
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot and add garlic.
  3. Sauteé for a few minutes and then add the carrots and onion mixture.
  4. Let the combination cook down for 5-10 minutes, and then add vinegar to cover bottom of pot
  5. Let the vinegar begin to cook down, and place chickpeas and 1 cup collard stock food processor and blend until chickpeas reach a creamy consistency. This is not hummus, so add more liquid if you need to.
  6. Add the chickpea puree to the pot and bring mixture to a boil.
  7. If it seems too thick, add more vegetable stock until it becomes the soup-like consistency you desire. Add salt and pepper to taste, cover and simmer for a few minutes.
  8. Serve and enjoy!


Spectacular, actually, if I don't say so myself - and I do.

19 December 2008

Brooklyn Flemish Gold

Tyler's in Carrboro [guys - pretty that website up there a bit, will ya?] boasts of their being the only bar in North Carolina currently featuring the Brooklyn Brewmaster's Reserve series, a collaboration between Brooklyn Breweries and Brasserie d'Achouffe. On my previous visit they were between kegs, but yesterday they were featuring the Flemish Gold. I'm not always the biggest fan of the Belgians, but their goldens generally get it done if they can avoid the wineyness of their co-nationalists. This beer does that and more - a nice bright nose is followed by a perfect golden ale, full of citrus flavors, effervescent and with a nice full mouthfeel. It finishes clean and with a very nice bitterness (this would probably be the dry-hopping, here). Never sweet or overly alcohol-tasting (nor should it be at 6.5% ABV), it isn't an overly complex beer but it's very, very tasty. Get it while it's still there.

Pickled Radishes

At the market yesterday, I needed to pick up some onions and carrots, the former because I'm out and the latter as I'm gearing up to make the Chick Pea Soup recipe from Brooklyn food confederates 30 Bucks a Week. I'm not much of a fan of carrots on their own so I thought about the other uses that I could put the surplus carrots to and it occurred to me that pickles would be the way to go. Sandwhich makes a lovely pickled carrot and I might need to go there just to have some so I can backwards engineer.

So it was with pickles on my mind that I stumbled upon radishes bagged up and priced to move, past their sell-by dates. I love radishes in pretty much any form, and have had some excellent Asian radish pickles, so this seemed like a perfectly fortuitous set of circumstances.

I saved the pickling for the end of a productive evening of cooking (burrito assemblage, in part), and it was a snap. I pulled together a semi-consensus of online recipes and added a couple of twists; haven't had them yet - letting them steep in the fridge for a bit - but they sure look pretty.


  • 2 cups radishes, sliced, ends removed
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tblsp salt
  • several dashes herbs of choice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8 cloves


  1. Slice radishes; set aside
  2. Place one clove garlic and four cloves in each of two medium mason jars; slice open garlic a bit if it's a large clove
  3. Combine vinegar, salt and sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. I only had turbinado sugar so I needed to put it on the stove at low heat for a while to get the big crystals dissolved; fine processed sugar should dissolve with a whisk
  4. Add herbs to vinegar mixture
  5. Pour vinegar mixture over radishes in a large bowl; stir until all are covered
  6. Transfer radishes to jars, and then cover with vinegar mixture. Top off each bottle with enough white vinegar to cover the radishes
  7. Put in fridge, let sit for a couple hours/days, and enjoy!

The radishes are outstanding. Just really, really tasty.

16 December 2008

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Thighs

Spencer Ackerman has led me right before in combining bacon with other meats, so I figured that wrapping chicken in bacon would be a good call, too.


  • ~1/2 lb. pepper bacon
  • 3 chicken thighs
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup mead (or other white wine - I had mead)


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Wrap chicken thighs in bacon; 3-4 per thigh, whatever it takes to mostly cover
  3. Chop onion
  4. Slice one slice bacon; put in pan along with other preferred cooking fat (e.g., bacon drippings, butter, etc.)
  5. Sauteé onions until they begin to brown
  6. Add chicken and let cook for 7-8 minutes
  7. Flip chicken, add mead/wine and cook for 5-7 minutes
  8. Place in oven for 10-12 minutes
  9. Serve and enjoy


Well - just about what you'd expect:
Totally excellent.

15 December 2008

Food Policy

Matt Yglesias (again) makes a fine point about the United States' food policies:
The United States could urgently use food policy reform. Right now, we have a lot of subsidies to food growers. That’s questionable economics. But what’s more, we subsidize people to grow food that’s bad for public healthy in ways that are environmentally unsound. That’s terrible. If we’re going to subsidize farming, we ought to be subsidizing people for growing healthy crops in a sustainable way. On the merits, this is a no-brainer — there’s obviously no public interest in taxpayer subsidies for high-fructose corn syrup — but the politics is another matter.

He then goes on to discuss the particular politics of it, but I'll stick with the opening sentiment first. It really is a much better idea for so, so many reasons that if the Federal government has to be in the business of subsidizing agriculture - and there's a pretty good argument that this is the case - then it should be doing so in a way that encourages people to eat healthier rather than less-healthy foods. Yglesias points out that while it's all well and good for, e.g., Oregon's farmers to grow for local farmer's markets, the geography of Iowa - lots and lots of amazing land, not that many people - means it couldn't do the same. Which is true enough. But we don't have to go that far: even if we keep subsidies at current levels, subsidizing Iowa's farmers to grow a healthy mix of crops rather than all-corn, all-the-time would be a better way to go. Because we don't eat that corn: it goes into feed, mostly, and then some ethanol. And the feed goes into artificially-cheap-and-abundant meat - beef, primarily - which then goes into your colon and gives you cancer. Or just heart disease!

But, at any rate - the thing about subsidies is that they make it pretty easy to convince farmers to switch production: just make sure to guarantee that they'll get as much (or more) money for gorwing Crop X rather than corn, and they're good to go. There's no real sentimental attachment to millions of acres of feed- and ethanol-corn. And what would we do with all this stuff? Well, you know who needs lots of food, and food that it would be better to have healthy than not? Kids. And as the Federal government is already pretty deep into the business of school food and nutrition, it would not be a huge leap for them to become the facilitator/buyer of first and last resort for a lot of crops, which would then be directed to healthy school lunches. As a bonus, Federal subsidies of all school food could then have the effect of keeping expenses lower for school districts around the country, and of course the long-term public health benefits of kids eating a healthier, more diverse diet would be enormous.

12 December 2008

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron

Dogfish Head is one of the best breweries in the U.S., and is especially expert at complex, flavorful, high-alcohol beers. Their 60-minute IPA is a perfect citizen of the genre; their 90-minute IPA is a tasty treat that'll knock you on yer ass if you're not careful; and the Raison D'Etre is one of the more innovative brown ales of recent years.

Their Palo Santo Marron is a new entrant, an unfiltered brown ale aged in Palo Santo wooden barrels. The nose starts with a hint of banana, and the very full-bodied beer delivers, as promised, caramel and vanilla, finishing with a nice dark roast. The 12% ABV does not come through particularly strongly, and overall it's a solid beer.

Solid, but not spectacular. The word is that last year's batch was far preferable, more complex and balanced - this year's is a solid, tasty big brown ale but at ~$4/bottle retail, other cheaper or similarly-priced beers (including and especially Dogfish Head's own) deliver at a higher level. Maybe next year!

03 December 2008

Founder's Backwoods Bastard Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Ale

Ohgodohgodohgodohgod. This beer is... unique is a word that's thrown around a lot and thus cheapened, but I've honestly never tasted anything like this before. Saranac's Single Malt was sort of the same idea, but really... nothing like this. Founder's Backwoods Bastard Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Ale. Okay, lemme give a go at describing: pour it into a glass and give it a smell - bourbon with nice rounded edges. The taste stays bourbon, moves to vanilla and finishes with everything together. Neither hoppy nor malty, sweet or overly bitter, this beer is just singular. Highly recommended as a counterpart to a rich meal that will hold its own with the meal, with dessert, or by itself. Just, wow.

01 December 2008

Vidya's Garlic Pickle

My cousin Amanda and her husband Peter lived in Madurai, India for a while (Peter for several years across a couple of stretches) and among the wonderful things they returned with was serious cooking chops, and a book of recipes from their friend Vidya. The shining star of those recipes, without question, is the Garlic Pickle, reproduced below. I just made a batch and even my inexpert execution produced an obscenely tasty result.

Vidya's Garlic Pickle

Highly spiced preserves such as these are served as a condiment with rice meals. Prepare a batch and keep in the fridge. They last for months, getting better with time.


  • 6 to 7 cups of fresh peeled garlic (cloves should not be bigger than ¾ inches in length, and larger cloves should be cut into halves or quarters)
  • 2 cups of fresh Indian sesame oil (do not use Chinese roasted sesame oil)
  • 3 tablespoons fenugreek
  • ¼ cup tamarind concentrate
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons turmeric powder
  • 3 tablespoons black mustard seeds
  • 6 tablespoons red chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  1. Roast 3 tablespoons of fenugreek in 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, until the fenugreek turns reddish golden. In a blender, grind the fenugreek into a coarse powder. Set aside.
  2. Dissolve the tamarind in 1 cup of water, and set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining sesame oil, and fry the mustard seeds until they pop and turn gray.
  4. Reduce heat to medium, add turmeric and chili powder, and stir thoroughly.
  5. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute.
  6. Add the tamarind water and roasted fenugreek powder, and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat to a simmer.
  8. Add salt and sugar.
  9. Continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes on low heat, stirring gently.
  10. Cool the pickle mix, transfer it to a glass jar or other airtight container, and refrigerate. This pickle can be served right away, but it tastes better after one or two weeks or more of soaking in oil and spices. The recommended serving size varies depending upon an individual’s tolerance for spicy food, but a small servings of one teaspoon is a reasonable starting point. Garlic pickle can be served with any Indian dish, but it is particularly delicious with curd rice.