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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dark Lord Day

Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds Brewery.  It's Willie Wonka meets Beer Fest.  It's a modern day Beerstock. It's Christmas in April and we were there. 

A Russian Imperial Stout, 700 calories a bottle, brewed only once a year, this event should be on your Bucket Lists just after 'live in New York City for a year' and just before 'bungee jumping off the Golden Gate bridge'.  Imagine thousands of beer lovers from all over the world sharing, trading and testing beers together.  New friends are made, old love solidified and many other stories and faces I can only remember in the pictures.

The Russian Imperial Stout was clearly the beer of the day.  Dark, thick, rich, tasty- completely lived up to the legend.  Th description on the bottle really sums it up best - A motor oil consistency, hellishly smooth yet divinely burnt and vinous.  The first sip coats your palate with a palatial charred fruit and chocolate blanket.  Alcohol burn wiggles its way down your throat with a thick body.  Oh sweet Jesus.

The other side of the day is hundreds, even thousands, of other beers available.  Some on tap, and some from random strangers' coolers.  I only wish we could remember all of them!  I fell in love with Bells 9,000 thanks to some great guys from Kentucky.  And there was the Goose Island Night Stalker that will make a reappearance in our fridge too.  Oh, and the St Peter's carbonated porter in the really cool bottle which turned out to be a great breakfast beer!

Super big hit was the pretzel necklaces.  Let's face it, you need a snack while sipping all day and there is nothing better than tilting your head down to find a crunchy treat.  Be forewarned though- sharing tends to be not optional... you WILL have random strangers asking for a bite - let go of your defenses and germ phobia - you'll have no choice but to go with it.

It was worth the 6 hours spent in the line waiting to buy just a mere 3 bottles per ticket -early arrivers where rewarded with 4 bottles; this became a real point of contention to the crowd.  Why would you short change and punish the people in line who didn't cut to the front.  Plus, you know how many Golden Tickets you sold... so what gives.  Three Floyds needs to get a handle on the organization of this event.  That said, it's worth a visit even if you don't score one of the famed Golden Tickets.  Get in early, plan for a day of tailgating and bring a designated driver!  Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds - it's an adventure to experience!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Basil Mint Ice Cream

My Sister-in-law was visiting when I made this ice cream. For reasons we won't go into here (can you say libations??), she only had the opportunity to enjoy one spoonful.  That one little tiny scoop, that morsel almost too small for a mouse, presented itself so boldly, so decadently, so triumphantly... she has claimed this to be her new favorite ice cream!  Thus, this recipe must live on.

Once again, this is not an entirely new concept -a savory herb being used in a sweet.  But it is another Fat and Happy original!  I wouldn't necessarily want a humongous dish of this- but it's so fresh and creamy with a hint of mint to brighten the nutty-basil overtone... a small dish is just the perfect size.

This is a superb dessert for a holiday party.  I paired it with Orange Anise Cookies at Easter, but I could see a strawberry pie with a reduced balsamic drizzle or dress it down with a simple Chocolate Bubble Cookie.
But plan ahead so you are not limited to just one spoon!!!!

Tips and Techniques:  Dress this up with a few leaves of basil when you serve it.

Basil Mint Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup half and half
2 jumbo yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup loosely packed basil, chiffonade
1 stem of mint leaves, whole (about 5 leaves)

Begin to warm the cream and half and half over medium heat.  Whip the yolks with the sugar until fluffy, pale and doubled in size.  Temper the eggs with the warm cream.  Now add the eggs into the cream pot, stirring with your whisk. 

Scrape the vanilla bean, add to the cream and eggs.  Use your whisk to help distribute the vanilla.  Add in the basil and the mint, Be sure to stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium -high heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon.   (Run your finger on the back of a spoon, if it's thickened- you'll be able to draw a line in it.)

Remove from heat and cool in an ice bath, stirring often.  Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator overnight or for 24 hours.  This will allow the basil to steep and will produce a creamier ice cream.

Place in your ice cream maker and process according to manufacturers directions.  Home made ice cream does not last as long as the store-bought, preservative-laden kind; it's best to enjoy within a week.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quinoa Pepper Salad with Parsley Vinaigrette

Keen-wa.  Let's just admit it- none of us would have ever pronounced this word (Quinoa) in this manner.  I know the correct pronunciation and I still struggle with it.  Does it matter?  Depends on who you are.

What does matter to me is this powerful little seed-like grain packs more protein per cup than any other.  It's light, fluffy, nutty tasting and easy to digest.  Great for summer salads, but try it in place of heartier grains (like rice and barley) in winter soups and stews.  And it cooks in 15 minutes!

So whether you call it keen-wa or queeno, its a little super food with super antioxidants.  Pick it up at Whole Foods, or check Costco; I just found a really great bag of Quinoa there last month. It's becoming more popular, so it should be getting easier to find.  It's a great staple addition for your pantry.

Tips and Techniques:  I often use canned beans for ease, but cooking your own does yield a better bean. Remember to plan a day head so your beans can soak overnight.

Quinoa Pepper Salad with Parsley Vinaigrette

1 cup uncooked quinoa, cook according to package instructions
1 can white beans, rinsed (navy, kidney or great northern)
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
1 orange pepper, seeded and chopped

Toss the above ingredients in a large bowl and set aside

Mix the Parsley Vinaigrette

3 cups parsley, cleaned and stemmed
1 cup Orange juice, fresh squeezed
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbls mustard
1/2 - 1 cup olive oil (may take more or less, add as needed while blender is running)
salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients into a blender, except for the olive oil.  Begin to blend on high, slowly add the olive oil.  You may or may not need a full cup.  It may seem like a lot of dressing, but the quinoa soaks it up.

Pour the vinaigrette over the reserved salad, toss.  Enjoy.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Orange, Apple and Fennel Mint Champagne Salad

Looking for a super simple, wonderfully light side salad?  I served this along side our homemade raviolis at Easter dinner. It comes together quickly, can be paired with pasta, with pork or even a burger.

The champagne vinegar mixes well with the orange juice and fennel without overpowering it, and the olive oil brings it all together.  Top it all off with the hint of mint and this little salad sparkles. 

Tips and techniques: I highly suggest using a mandolin to cut the fennel and apple if you have one available.  It's nearly impossible to get these this thin and even using a hand knife. 

Orange, Apple and Fennel Mint Champagne Salad
2 fennel bulbs and a few fennel fronds
2 oranges, one sectioned and sliced thin, one zested and juiced
1 large red apple, cut in four and cored
handful of mint leaves, torn
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
salt and pepper

In a medium sized bowl, add the juice of one orange, the orange zest, the champagne vinegar and salt and pepper.  Whisk together, while whisking- slowly add the olive oil.  Set aside.

Slice the fennel bulbs and the apple as thin as possible.  Add the sliced fennel, apple and oranges to the vinaigrette in the bowl.  Sprinkle with the fennel fronds and mint leaves.  Toss, serve immediately or let sit for a few minutes to let the flavors meld.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Koolotie Cookies (Anise Orange Cookies)

Kooloties ... Kahlaties ...Kalooties??  I don't really know the true spelling.  These are my Italian grandfathers traditional Easter anise cookies and I can't find reference to them anywhere.  That must mean it's a deep routed tradition that hasn't made it to the internet yet, how fun is that?

Let's get something straight off - you are gonna need to like anise flavor, a lot.  Sure, you can ease back on the amount of flavoring, or if you're like me, accidentally double it.  Easter is not the same without them for us; and this could be a new tradition for you and your family too.  New fat and happy traditions- they don't all have to be handed down by family.

Tips and techniques:  You can make these ahead and freeze them.  Enlist some help to get them all rolled out, it does take a few minutes to get them all done.

Kalooties, Easter Anise Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/8 cup Crisco
1 1/8 cup sugar
3 eggs
dash of salt
1 1/2 tbls of anise
1/8 - 1/4 cup of half and half

Mix the above well in a stand mixer.  Add:
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
Zest of 2 oranges, juice of one

Add 1/2 cup of flour, and 1/2 tsp baking powder at a time, until the dough is less sticky and ready to bake.  This is going to be dependent on the weather and humidity.  I would suggest you'll need about 2 more cups of flour total.  But do a test batch- cook two cookies and see how they come out.  Add more flour if needed.

Use a cookie dough scoop, scoop out a hunk, roll out evenly on the counter, into about a 4 inch long tube, place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  If you are having problems rolling them, sprinkle a little flour on the counter.

Make a loop by crossing the right side over the left.
Mix up one egg with a tsp of water- brush on the top of the cookies.  Bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees, or until they cookies begin to slightly brown.  Cool on a cookie rack.  Enjoy!  This makes about 4-5 dozen cookies, depending on how big you make them.


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