How to: drink beer

Pretty much every time I go out for beers with my friend Sarah, I go, “Wait, what are hops? Are those the ones I like? Do I like lager? What’s an ale?” I don’t know why. She has never claimed to know very much about beer.

The original idea for this post was: It’s hot out this week and I don’t feel like cooking. I should do a “How to: drink beer” post and it will be like, open a beer and put it in your mouth. But then I realized that was dumb and not funny.

I spent a while today reading pretty much every single beer article on The Kitchn, and now I am a beer expert. (I also read this extraordinarily awesome Men’s Health slideshow.) I know things like:

-Hops are the flowers of the hop plant (related to hemp); they make things bitter. (Dear self, for future reference, you really like hops.)
-Lager is like normal beer—Budweiser, Miller, etc. (There are good lagers out there, though!) They are made with bottom-fermenting yeast, and they ferment at colder temperatures. Lagers are described as crisp, clean, etc.
-In contrast, ales are made with top-fermenting yeast and are “robust” and “complex.” (They are better than lagers. But NO JUDGMENT.)
-IPAs (India Pale Ale) are hoppy ales. I like them. A lot. They are hoppy because hops are a preservative, and they were brewed to withstand the trip from England to India (by boat, back in the day). Pale ales in general are made with paler malt—less roasted. I can’t even get into malt right now. OK, fine:
-Malt is actually malted barley. That is pretty much all I comprehend about malt. I don’t even know if it’s the same stuff as in bagels. Hold on. OK. Malt is “the term used for maltose sugar extracted from sprouted barley,” according to Epicurious (trustworthy). So it seems like it is probably the same thing. (Update: It’s the next day and I am still ridiculously confused by this. Help.)

I have totally lost the thread of this post. Right now I’m drinking Tenacious Traveler, from the House of Shandy Beer Co. It tastes like ginger and lemon (it tastes more like a shandy—beer+lemonade—than it does like beer); it’s really, really weird. You can’t really taste anything other than the ginger and lemon. I am mostly just mystified by the fact that they had it in my utterly sketchy East Harlem bodega. I’ve never heard of it before. But the label has a guy with a mustache, so that’s nice.

I have a very minor obsession with seasonal beer, so I may start commenting on them here. (The minor obsession just means that I usually get the seasonal beer when it’s on tap. But I think everyone does this. Also, this is more true in the fall, when I am on the ever-important quest for pumpkin beer.) Good night.

I theoretically love you

The vegetable dish for the week: potato and pea curry. This sounds like everything I would love (well, I really love potatoes). It is actually very good, but:

1. As with every single thing I’ve ever made, ever, the flavors are muted. Probably the fault of old chili powder and old turmeric and old (well, new, but made with old spices) garam masala. Oh, whoops, I never actually added the garam masala. (Also I just spelled that mamasala, which I like better.)

2. There are way too many potatoes. It tastes more like a carb course than a vegetable course. So it’s sort of weird to eat with rice on the side. It isn’t vegetabley enough.

3. There’s SOMETHING about it. I don’t know. Not enough flavor? DEPTH OF FLAVOR? (That’s a concept I don’t really understand.)

But I do like it, and if you want to, you may make it. Just add more spices. Or fresher spices. I think I’ll probably make it again, and/or experiment with it; it is a good combination of things.

I diced my potatoes and tomatoes into approximately half-inch dice (this is pretty small; I wanted them to be close in size to the peas. They’re bigger, but pea-sized potato pieces would be a little insane).

I have a very hard time taking photos of white food.

Continue reading

This is harder than I thought it would be

Wow, so dramatic. The title of this post refers to making more Hare Krishna food: lobia, or black-eyed peas in tamarind-ginger sauce. (Sorry, I don’t know how to link to a particular part of the page. Help?) I’m in a food rut and nothing sounded good except more interesting bean-based dishes, so that’s what I did (and a vegetable recipe that I hope will be better than last week’s—last week’s turned into such a debacle that I couldn’t even post about it).

I had this weird idea that I had seen tamarind paste in my grocery store before, but of course I was wrong and it was guava paste. I ended up buying a box of whole tamarinds, and then discovered I probably shouldn’t have bought sweet ones, but I didn’t know there were different types of tamarinds. So this dish probably didn’t come out the way it was supposed to.

I own a lot of black-eyed peas now. I’m not sure if I like them.

That was step one in the unexpected difficulties. I soaked my black-eyed peas overnight and, the next day, boiled the water they were in and then added some ginger, turmeric, and chili powder. I then left it to cook for a while.

Continue reading

I’m having mixed feelings about this ice cream

Jacqui and i made ice cream in her very exciting ice-cream maker. I’d never done it before and now I understand a lot about life that I did not previously understand.

However, the ice cream itself is a little weird. When we tasted it, Jacqui decided she didn’t like it and gave all of it to me; I was like, what, this is awesome! but now I’m eating it and have to agree that it is kind of weird. It’s blueberry ice cream, from a book by Melissa Clark (I am madly in love with her and not even in a platonic, admiring-her-cooking-skills sort of way), and it has a very blueberry-ful flavor but is maybe too milky and not sweet enough? Or maybe blueberry ice cream is just inherently weird? I’m trying to pretend I’m eating strawberry ice cream to see how it compares, and I think I’m probably just not used to blueberry ice cream.

Anyway, long and uninteresting introduction aside, Jacqui and I had an Important, Friendship-Defining Question during the making of this ice cream.

Blueberries and sugar cooking briefly.

Continue reading

Don’t worry, I’m not calling these tortas

It is so late in the week that I can’t remember why I decided to make non-tortas for lunch this week. I think it was because I found this bread I really like at my supermarket but have run out of things I want to put on it. (One week of turkey is really all I can handle.) So I decided to use them to make totally inauthentic tortas. Or cemitas. I don’t know the difference; I’m very sorry. (You know what’s weird? This is not the first time I’ve looked at that link.)

So I think the main quality of cemitas and tortas is the bread they’re made with, so I completely failed from the start. It occurred to me later that I probably could have done it right—there is an amazing-smelling Mexican bread store literally right next door—but I went the whole-wheat route because I suffer from extreme, constant hunger.

Anyway. These are sandwiches inspired by tortas. I used Goya refried beans, because I was lazy, and mozzarella cheese, because I had a lot left and didn’t think I would be able to get through a whole ball of Oaxaca cheese before it went moldy. (They taste and feel very similar to me—or at least they do when you buy the inauthentic, un-fresh kind you get in supermarkets—so I didn’t worry about it too much. But now I feel like if they are really that similar, I should have just bought Oaxaca cheese and used the leftover for baked ziti. Would that have been weird? I have a feeling I will find out at some point.) I used a quick recipe to make pickled jalapeños rather than Pati Jinich’s recipe, because by the time I realized they would be sitting in the fridge all night anyway it was too late and I had none of the ingredients for Pati’s (probably better) version. Or I didn’t want to scale down a recipe that called for three pounds of jalapeños into one that used no more than six jalapeños.

Pickling. Don’t breathe.

Continue reading

If it’s meant to be, you will find him.

I met a very wise Hare Krishna on Saturday while my family and I were looking for our Hare Krishna cousin at the Hare Krishna festival in New York. He gave us that nugget of wisdom (see title) instead of telling us where our cousin was. I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. Nevertheless we did find him in the end; I suppose it was meant to be.

We were coming from brunch so we didn’t partake of the free feast, but everything looked amazing and chickpea-ful and saucy and spicy and warmening. (Hare Krishnas are vegetarian; my cousin preached at us a bit. Then I had a cheeseburger for dinner.) So when I was deciding what to cook for the week, the only thing that appealed was something Hare Krishna-esque. I found this AMAZING website with tons and tons and tons of fascinating and beautiful vegetarian Indian recipes, and I might make nothing but recipes from this website for the rest of my life. (I hate summer, and never really want to eat anything; I am not big on salads. So I’m probably just going to cook recipes from hot countries all summer.)

After an extensive deciding interlude, I settled on Bengali red dal curry (you’ll have to scroll down). (It was between that and pear dal, which I had never heard of before and thus was really intrigued by.) I also decided to do a vegetable thing vaguely following the Aviyal #4 recipe.

I ended up using regular brown lentils instead of red—I’m a little out-red-lentiled lately—but, spoiler alert, it came out fantastic and it’s definitely my biggest success with brown lentils to date.

I chopped my jalapeños, first slicing the tops off and carving out the inside using my paring knife to remove the ribs and seeds. I put them in my bigger saucepan with the lentils, water, salt, and turmeric. (It is QUITE salty, which makes it taste really good. I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe soon that actually specified the amount of salt, and this was a perfect amount for me. But if you’re not me perhaps you’ll want less.) I cooked it for a while while doing other cooking activities—I didn’t time it because the recipe was for red lentils and brown take longer, but it was probably somewhere around thirty to forty minutes.

After cooking

Continue reading

Strawberry-rhubarb tartlets

AKA the most beautiful and delightful thing to ever come out of my kitchen, I think. Usually I don’t like cute things, but these are awesome.

So I decided the other day, since it was rhubarb season, that I had to make something rhubarb (this is a yearly tradition that only happens once a summer). I wanted something single-serving because if it’s a whole pie or crisp, I will just sit there digging my fork into it endlessly. I am not worried about portion size or calories, more that this is disgusting and uncivilized and then if I have to feed it to anyone else, I have to be like, “Um, stay away from that corner.” And then people are like, “Ew, what is wrong with you?” and I’m like, “I live by myself.” So I decided I should try to make mini pies in my muffin tin, using the pie dough Jacqui and I made in our pie class. I wasn’t sure if this was a real thing, so I googled around and discovered that because of Pushing Daisies (a show I did not watch much and thus, according to the Consummate Dilettante, caused to be canceled) (note to the Consummate Dilettante: the reason I did not watch it much was that it was not very good), cup pies had a renaissance a few years ago. I.e., like three people made them and then they disappeared again.

I decided I would just improvise. I found various recipes for various strawberry-rhubarb-related things, mostly free-form mini tartlets; I finally chose to adapt the Brown Eyed Baker’s tartlets. (I have brown eyes too! CRAZY.)

I started out by chopping my beautiful rhubarb while, extremely belatedly, watching the finale of Saturday Night Live. (I was coerced; it sucked.)

Most photos courtesy of Marissa! Can’t remember which specifically.

My four stalks came out to approximately a pound and a half. (Look at my Twitter! Fairway Tweeted at me! Because I Tweeted at them first! It was cool.) I then sliced about half a pound of strawberries—half of one of the long giant containers—and left them on the cutting board …

No idea how Marissa managed this one but I kind of like it.

Continue reading

Survival sangría

Part of the mission of this blog is trying things that will probably fail, just to see if they don’t. That isn’t really what I meant. I mean… things that are long shots. Unlikely to succeed. Spectacularly charming messes.

Like me.

???

So the other day, I had fifteen minutes to get to a picnic to which I had promised to bring “alcohol in a subtle container.” (I think drinking in Central Park is illegal.) I then discovered that, according to the Internet, sangría should chill in the fridge for a minimum of four hours. So I was like, screw it, I will do it anyway, and people will probably drink it.

(Survival anything is something you make under adverse circumstances but that you really really need. See also: survival cheesecake. Well, that wasn’t a post. It’s something that happened in college in the worst-smelling kitchen of all time.)

I chopped up 1 Gala apple and about half a pint (no… are pints the really small containers? Maybe half of two pints, then) of surprisingly ripe-looking strawberries. I put them in my bright red Nalgene, and then filled it to the brim with as much white wine as I could fit. (I bought extremely cheap wine—because I love you, dear friends—figuring that if you’re going to sangría-ize it the quality is maybe not so important. No offense, Barefoot Wine.) It was about 3/4 of the bottle. Maybe 7/8.

I poured in some quantity of sugar, without even remotely measuring, and added some lemon juice, hoping to counteract the sweetness of everything else and maybe add a dimension. (I finally figured out how to open my little lemon thing!)

Then… and this is the truly shameful part… I closed the Nalgene and SHOOK IT OVER THE SINK as if I were making salad dressing. I put it in the freezer for approximately three minutes.

Then we went to the picnic.

Douchey… or THE DOUCHIEST???

It was declared “drinkable” and “not bad.” Well, at the end of the picnic we found a full Solo cup (we’re still young, it’s OK), so someone didn’t like it, but I don’t know who. I was going to make disparaging comments about that unknown person, but actually they might just be a very classy person with good taste in wine.

So the point is, if you really need sangría, you might as well do this. But otherwise, well, you probably shouldn’t. Unless you’re so young that you’re allowed to have absolutely atrocious taste in drinks. (I think I still am? Well, I still act that way.)

Hummus pitas

Hello dear blog readers,

I wasn’t going to post about this because it is not a recipe, but then I took two very pretty pictures and wanted to put them on the blog, so here is a wonderful post about hummus pitas.

I spend 90 percent of my time (and 98 percent of my conversations with Jacqui) agonizing about what to make for lunch. The only remotely happy meat my grocery store carries is Applegate, and they are mad expensive, yo, so usually I go for vegetarian lunches instead. It is an ongoing problem.

This week hummus was on sale (I have been meaning to make my own but have finally accepted the fact that my “food processor” is not a real food processor, it’s just a very small thing with a blade that doesn’t really do anything, so I don’t want to put the effort into what will almost certainly fail… despite what is actually kind of the mission of this blog), so I made hummus pitas. (This post sounds like an SEO post. I have said “hummus pita” like 98 times.) (Note: You can tell how bored/procrastinatory I am feeling by how many superfluous links I add to my posts. OR AM I GETTING PAID? No, I am not.)

My lunch assembly line. (Sorry this is so dark. It was morning and there is no light in my kitchen. iPhoto and my brain couldn’t solve this.)

This involves:
Continue reading

COLD SESAME NOODLES!!!!!!!

Dear Sam Sifton,

You are the best person ever.

Love,

Julie

I just made his cold sesame noodles and then I died because they were SO GOOD and I was SO EXCITED THAT I MADE SOMETHING THAT TASTES GOOD. I AM GOING TO EAT THESE NONSTOP FOREVER.

Anyway, so it is ridiculously hot in New York these days and I decided I should try making cold sesame noodles, even though I’ve never actually eaten them. After extensive research I settled on this recipe, mostly because I love Sam Sifton (ah, the roller coaster of emotions when he was appointed restaurant critic, and then again when he stopped being the restaurant critic).

To go with them, I decided on an Asian-ish vegetable stir-fry with tofu. The stir-fry was made up; I figured it should involve snap peas, because I love snap peas, and baby bok choy. I also bought scallions and then discovered they weren’t in the sesame noodle recipe, so I included them in the stir fry. For the bok choy, I cut the ends off and then just sliced them; I broke up the stems a bit more so I wouldn’t have huge bites of them. (See note below.) For the snap peas, I de-stringed them—you just pull the little string thingy and they sort of unzip; it’s very satisfying—and broke them in half.

I stir-fried the baby bok choy, scallions, and snap peas with garlic, ginger, and a little soy sauce and toasted sesame oil (not enough of either, actually). I pan-fried the tofu until golden. For some reason I thought it would mingle with the vegetables, which would impart their flavor to it; but then I just ate it plain, which was sort of gross, but serviceable, I guess.

Continue reading