Posts Tagged ‘booze’

It’s a funny thing to be, as they say, a carnivore, an omnivore, that unique creature that is as at home eating leaves and seeds and beans and roots as it is feasting off the murder of some creature that once roamed (albeit stupidly) across this great land of ours. The arguments for either side (Vegetarians/Vegans: Animals shouldn’t be hurt, they have feelings too. Carnivore/Omnivore: Screw it, if it bleeds, it’s on my plate) are compelling. But let’s be honest here. The front teeth, the large beaver-like buck teeth and the grinding and masticating molars are pretty much built for veggies. You wouldn’t be able to eat a carrot without them front chompers and you wouldn’t be able to get your nuts and seeds all ground up. It’s just what we’re made for. (now, those pointy teeth, that’s a whole ‘nother bucket of fries. It sure as hell ain’t for eviscerating a lettuce.)

For the longest time, I was of the opinion that dinner was MEAT>VEGGIE>DESSERT. A potato, a salad, a side of peas or spinach and you’re set. As long as you had the meat there. Well, kids, it just ain’t so.

Do you realize, you can eat vegetarian and not even know it?

Let’s say you make spaghetti. You whip open a box of pasta and a jar of spaghetti sauce. Boil pasta, heat sauce. Plop it on a plate and look at that. No meat touched that plate (that all changes once you throw your pound and a half of unverified ground beef into the pot, but I digress). That is just one example. There is an infinitude of awesome food that you can make that’s vegetarian, hearty and you’ll never even notice that you haven’t eaten a bite of meat.

Take for example tonight. Hannah and I had creamed mushrooms on toast and a half a bottle of a really nice wine. The only animal product came from the butter and the cream, and since we know exactly where those came from, we know the animals weren’t harmed in any way and they live happy lives. We can be proud of that.  Me?  I’m full and ready to pass out to some Doctor Who.  David Tennant will always be The Doctor for me.

But the best recipe we have for a meal that we constantly go back to, week after week, month after month is Chana Masala from Molly Wizenberg.  Absolutely fantastic.  You have onions, and tomatoes (and if you can get the San Marzano ones on sale, please do.  Lordawmighty. We also like Muir Glen Fire Roasted, diced tomatoes) and chickpeas and the only animal product that is in this meal is the post cooking addition of sour cream or yogurt if you are so inclined (which I am, thank you very much) – if you’re a vegan, or partial to abusing the acidic properties of ingredients (which Hannah is, thank you very much) a squeeze from a lemon wedge is just fine too (or so she says). Add a Brooklyn Lager to that meal and an awesome Astoria Pita, and you will eat until your guts burst and you pass out from pure and utter simplistic bliss.

We follow her recipe to a T, using about 5 shakes of cayenne pepper as the only deviation.  Sometimes that doesn’t even happen.  We’ve made it so many times that I think we skip a step every time.  It’s never the same way twice.

What I mean to say is, it’s in our regular rotation and, as a die hard meatosaur, as someone who will, when left to his own devices, eat three enormous hot dogs in rapid succession, that’s saying something.  Actually, I kind of want it now.

Damn these blogs.

Molly’s recipe follows, exactly as she has it on her blog.  I just copied and pasted it, with apologies to Molly.  (But for real, go check more of her recipes.  She’s never let us down.  Her book is good too!)

Chana Masala

When I’m not hovering next to him with a pen and paper, Brandon makes his chana masala by feel, tasting and tweaking, stirring and sniffing. The recipe that follows is our joint effort to make his rendition reproducible, and to make it user-friendly for those who love a good, prescriptive recipe, myself included. You should feel free, however, to taste and tweak as you see fit. It’s the Brandon Way.

This chana masala can be served in two different styles: with a half-cup of whole-milk yogurt to smooth and soften the flavors, or sans yogurt, served with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of fresh cilantro. I prefer the former, but Brandon leans toward the latter. Either way, this dish is even better the second—or third—day.

Good-quality olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 Tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish
A pinch of cayenne, or to taste
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6-8 Tbs plain whole-milk yogurt, optional
A few lemon wedges, optional

Film the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven—preferably not nonstick—with olive oil, and place the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, stirring, and add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Add the cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garam masala, and cardamom pods, and fry them, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely. Pour in the juice from can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves, using your hands to break them apart as you add them; alternatively, add them whole and crush them in the pot with a potato masher. Add the salt.

Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne, and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another 2 Tbs water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Stir in the yogurt, if you like, or garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro. Serve.

Yield: About four servings


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This weekend is prime tomato season, so we’re putting up sauce for the winter!  We’re also making another batch of Bread And Butter pickles and lordy-lou the house already smells awesome from Hannah’s Buttermilk Bread.

* Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce
* Bread and Butter Pickles
* Finishing touches on Limoncello
* Paella with Chicken and Fresh Littleneck Clams
* Spanikopita with Braising Greens and Fromage Blanc

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In the broken heart of New Orleans, there stands a public house that goes by the name, The Pirate Alley Cafe.  There are sandwiches and drinks and colorful characters that exist, just off the beaten path, two blocks from Bourbon Street and directly next to the landmark Presbyterian Church.  It was here, several years ago, that I was first introduced to Absinthe, or rather a pastiche of the elixir, known colloquially as “Absente.”

A poster, a parody of a 19th Century painting advertising the absinthe-like drink, caught my eye, and I, along with my companions stopped in for a drink of the mythical muse of the artists.  My love affair with the green fairy began with a bang and a whiz and the assumption that I was hallucinating, when in fact there were no hallucinogens in the faux-absinthe.  There are no hallucinogens in real absinthe.  But that’s a tale for another time.

I’ve tried several kinds of Absinthe in my day.  Absente.  La Fée.  And a brand that hadn’t been branded yet.  It was an absinthe that a friend of a friend, a distiller, was making at behest of his boss.  It was a powerful beverage.  It was terribly herby and had so many essential oils in it that it made our paper cups that we so classily were drinking from by the time I had finished one serving, I was actually speaking to myself on 23rd Street all the way back to my apartment in Astoria.  This is actually a good thing: if you’re talking to yourself, people tend to leave you alone on the train.  It also works if you smell bad.

This absinthe has since been refined. It is called St. George Absinthe.

Sazerac Ingredients

Hannah and I bought a bottle of it, at great expense, though it is taking us a very long time to get through it.  Why would this be?  So we don’t have to buy another bottle of it?  Because we aren’t big drinkers?  Because it’s not great?


Nope.  Well, maybe so we don’t have to buy another bottle.  But mostly, it’s because of the Sazerac.

The Sazerac is a terribly romantic drink, named for a cafe in New Orleans in the 1850s.  You have one sip and can imagine Poe in his Baltimore haunts drinking until his brain thought up the “Cask of the Amontillado” or “The Gold-Bug”.  It has the sort of properties that will let you sit down on a Sunday afternoon, have one (or two, if you’re feeling particularly like you’d like to be numb.  It is pretty potent), and do the New York Times Crossword.  This may, as we later discovered, be the precise reason why we could not complete it this week.  Perhaps that is neither here nor there.

The Green Fairy is but an element to this very strong drink and it’s barely there.  If you want to drink Absinthe of it’s own merits, by all means, but this is neither the time nor the place for it.  This is the place to talk about the herb undertones swirling through the bittersweet whiskey; to talk about how that first swallow burns, even though you’ve given it a few good sniffs before imbibing; to talk about how the licorice mixes ever so subtly with the lemon essence, which mixes ever so gently with the bitters and the sugar and the whiskey.  It is the place to talk about a complex drink that is terribly simple to make and even easier to drink.  It is the place to tell you how to make it:

Final Sazerac

The Saint George Sazerac

Yield: 1 glass

•    1 sugar cube
•    6-7 dashes of Angostura Bitters
•    1 tbsp water
•    2 shots, St. George Whiskey
•    splash St. George Absinthe
•    Lemon peel for garnish
•    Equipment:  A muddler (the end of a wooden spoon will suffice) and an extra glass.

Place your spare glass into the freezer to start on a good chill.  While that glass is chilling, you can start on the drink.

In your unfrozen glass, place your sugar cube, bitters and water.  Bash that all up with the end of your wooden spoon until the sugar has either dissolved completely, or mostly dissolved.  Pour in the whiskey.  Stir to blend.

Once your other glass has gotten a nice layer of frost on it, pull it from the freezer.  Pour the splash of Absinthe into the bottom and swirl, coating the sides of the glass.  I would now say pitch the remaining absinthe, but that seems terribly wasteful so I’m going to tell you to find a Hannah and give it to her.  It’s not even a shot, so it’s no big deal.  Pour in your Sazerac from the other glass.  Spritz with the lemon peel and garnish.

Be merry.

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