Beer for a Year, month seven…

Rhubarb Beer Jam & dinner……

Hey beer lovers!  This months beer is Summit Sága IPA described by Summit as a beer with “Epic hop character”.  I love anything that is referred to as “epic”!  Usually I am not a fan of big hoppy beers, but this one is so clean & bright & fresh, that the first sip I had, I knew I liked it!  Further description from the Summit website says “Named after the Norse goddess Sága, drinking companion of the God Odin. With a divine tropical fruit hop aroma and clean, assertive bitterness.”  Assertive indeed!  Give it a try, it’s a great beer for summer!

In scouring the internet for recipes that contained beer, I came across this one, on the Tasting Table website but originally adapted from the Paul Virant’s cookbook, The Preservation Kitchen that had another of my favorite things…Rhubarb!  And, since last weekend I cut my teeth with my first jamming experience, I thought this would be a great idea!  But what to use this jam with?  I can’t just give you the jam, with no direction as to how to use it, can I?  So, I started thinking about dinner.  I knew this jam, no matter how much sugar went into it, would be more on the savory side.  I wanted to use it as a sauce more so than a jam.  And I wanted Pork.  We actually had some Pork Tenderloin, in the freezer, leftover from the gorgeous Crown Roast we had for Christmas dinner.  All I did to prep the Pork was tossed it in Olive Oil with salt, pepper & garlic.  I then threw it on the grill.

So I mentioned I was thinking about dinner…this week we picked up our first CSA share from Natura Farms.  In that share we had baby Rutabaga & Garlic Scapes, amongst other things.  I was super excited about the Garlic Scapes as I keep hearing about people using them for a variety of things, even pickling them!  I tweeted out the other day questions as to what to do with the Rutabaga and Garlic Scapes we had received.  The lovely Emily Anderson said I should try pesto with the Garlic Scapes (as did a couple other food friends) and maybe a Gnocchi with the Rutabaga?  Oh yes, that sounded wonderful!  So those were the two other additions to this meal, not to mention the Brown Butter Ice Cream with candied Raspberry Chipotle Bacon that I made…but that’s another post!

Okay, so first let’s talk about the Jam.  Now, I said that I wanted it more sauce-like right?  So yeah, I basically did my own thing with this one.  If you read the original recipe, you’ll see they strained the mixture, but I like texture and left mine a little chunky.  I used the same ingredients, but I didn’t can it.  I put it in a jar, planning to use it for dinner and try freezing the rest for a future meal.  So here’s my recipe:

Rhubarb Beer Jam

2 cups of Rhubarb, diced

1 cup of Summit Saga IPA beer

1 1/2 cups of Sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

The juice from 1/2 of a lemon

1 tablespoon of butter

First thing you’ll do is clean & cut your Rhubarb, into a small dice.  Place that into a saucepan and add the beer.  Get this going good and hot and then add the sugar & lemon juice, zest & butter.  The butter helps with reducing the amount of foam the mixture creates, but because I didn’t make an actual “jam” I didn’t really need to use it.  It was also not in the original recipe, but I remember doing that with my Strawberry Jam session last week.  I LOVE butter and will use it any chance I get!  Alright, moving on.  So your mixture should come to a small boil (enough to encourage the mixture to reduce, but not enough that you can’t get anywhere near it for fear of being splashed) and from there I just kept using my potato masher and smashing the mixture down and let it reduce by almost half.

This makes about a cup and a half so you really have almost three meals use out of it, if you aren’t canning it.  Otherwise, I would recommend using the smallest jam jars you can find.  That way you aren’t pulling a big jar out and then having to use it all up over the course of a week.  The original recipe also talks about the red hue in the end result.  Mine obviously wasn’t that color but I think that is because I used a more greener variety of Rhubarb.  I also thought that some herbs would be good in the jam, maybe Thyme (I love Lemon Thyme) or Tarragon?  I kept those out, the first time in, but might do that next time around.  I also think a heavier beer would work great too.  In keeping with the Summit theme, their Horizon Red Ale would be great with this.  The original recipe used a wheat beer, but didn’t say what brand.  I think this jam/sauce would be great as a base for a unique flatbread or bruschetta.  Have fun!

Okay, so let’s talk about the Rutabaga Gnocchi!  I have never made Gnocchi.  Yep, I can’t quite believe that myself! But this isn’t your usual Gnocchi.  It’s actually a very delicious way to use Rutabaga!  I found the original recipe on a food blog called Food and Passion.  I also found another recipe for Turnip Gnocchi on a food blog called Well fed, flat broke that sounds really good!  I might try that one this fall.

So the original recipe called for Spinach, but I decided to use Mustard Greens.  We have this flourishing in our garden right now and I am trying to use it as often as possible.  I’ts heartier than Spinach, so it might need to cook a bit longer than if you were to use fresh sautéed Spinach.  The original recipe used frozen Spinach.  Here’s what you’ll need to make this:

Rutabaga Gnocchi:

1 cup of finely grated Rutabaga (I used a “baby” Rutabaga about the size of an orange)

1 cup of flour

1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1 cup of Ricotta cheese

2 cups of fresh Mustard Greens (washed thoroughly) or Spinach, finely chopped

2 eggs

1/2 nutmeg

Olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of fresh chopped garlic for sauteeing

You’ll start by grating the Rutabaga, because it’s somewhat like Zucchini in that it will release a bunch of water, you’ll also want to squeeze it all out.  I used my box grater to grate the Rutabaga, but the original recipe said to use a Microplane if you have one.  I do, but didn’t know how to change the blade…  Set the grated Rutabaga aside once grated.  Take the Mustard Greens or Spinach and remove any longer stems.  I chopped mine up, as small as I could, so that you don’t have huge chunks of it in your Gnocchi.  Get a sauté pan going on your stove and when hot, add a drizzle of Olive Oil and throw in your greens.  Spinach won’t take but a minute or two to cook, but you’ll want the Mustard Greens to go a bit longer.  Just before you pull it off the heat, add the salt, pepper & garlic.  Set this aside for now.  You’ll want to get a big pot of water going on the stove for boiling the Gnocchi.  Once it’s up to a boil, carefully add a good handful of salt tot the water, just like you would do with pasta.

In a larger mixing bowl, add a half cup of the flour, the eggs, ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg and a bit of salt & pepper.  (you could even add in any fresh herbs you have like basil & chives) Now back to the Rutabaga…take a couple of paper towels and wrap the Rutabaga in it.  Squeeze to release as much water as you can.  Then place it in the bowl with the other mixture.  Once the greens have cooled, you can try to chop them up again if you feel you they are still too big.  Add this into the other mixture as well.  Once you’ve mixed everything up real good, grab a plate and put the other half a cup of flour on it.  Using a teaspoon, make small balls out of the Gnocchi mixture and place onto the floured plate.  Roll them around so they are fully coated in flour and carefully place five or so into your boiling water.  They are done when they pop to the top of the water.  Use a slotted spoon to remove them and set aside.  Looks like alot of work, but its really very easy!

The original recipe said to top the hot Gnocchi with Olive Oil and more parmesan cheese, but again, I wasn’t about the take the easy way out with this either!  In our recent CSA share I mentioned we got Garlic Scapes.  I decided to make a Pesto out of that for the sauce of the Rutabaga Gnocchi!  Many of you might be asking what Garlic Scapes are…you are not alone!  In the past, most people have thrown them away.  They are the curly tops that grow out of the garlic planted in your garden.  Don’t throw them out anymore!  Make this instead!  Anyway, I found this recipe here, on the Epicurious website, and doctored it up to my liking.  There were quite a few Garlic Scape Pesto recipes out there when I googled the name.  I found recipes made with almonds, pine nuts, walnuts…I chose the recipe here because it had Pistachios, one of my very favorite nuts!  Plus, I think it added to the bright green look to this pesto!

Garlic Scape Pesto:

10 large Garlic Scapes, diced (remove & discard the top seed pods)

Fresh Basil (as much as you want to add or leave it out)

1/3 cup Pistachios

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon of Lemon juice

1/3 cup Olive Oil

Salt & pepper

Place all ingredients, except Olive Oil, into a food processor and puree.  Once mixture looks like the picture above, and while the food processor is running, add in the Olive Oil.  Taste the mixture and add salt & pepper as needed.  You’ll end up with about a cup and a half of pesto that should keep in the fridge for about a week.  Now, the original recipe (man I’ve said that a million times in the post…) used this with pasta, and added about a cup of pasta water to the mixture.  I took some of the water I boiled the Gnocchi in and used that the loosen the sauce a bit.  If you use it on pasta (it would be great as a dip, or again as a base for flatbread or Bruschetta) just be sure to add a bit of the pasta water to make a sauce.  Isn’t it a gorgeous Pesto?!?!  It was really good on the Rutabaga Gnocchi!

There you have it!  I was a whirling dervish in the kitchen today and managed to use four new recipes, that’s a first for me!  I hope you’ll try at least one of these!  Today I will finish up that Brown Butter Ice Cream with candied Raspberry Chipotle Bacon that you’ll see in a post next weekend that highlights my #OinkOuting adventure earlier this month.  If you are liking what I am making these days, post a comment and share this blog with your friends!  I am going to be adding a Facebook Page for my blog later this week as well!

Until then,

Shawn

Chronicles of a crazy 20 days!

Wow, it’s been a CRAZY month so far and it’s only the 20th of June!  I constantly complain about the months of May & June, as every year, they completely derail me with field trips, the end of school, parties etc.  This year, I threw in a couple extra new events, just to challenge my strength…or because I am crazy.  I know the days have been ticking by, still no post since last month….and now that I’ve had the chance to catch my breath, I thought it would be fun to, instead of the usual post, do a little recap of my activities!  Yea!  Hope you enjoy the ride…….

June 2, 2012#TECHmunch, an event I had been anxiously waiting to attend.  It is a one-day conference for food bloggers, sponsored by BakeSpace.com and was held at Studio 514 in Minneapolis.  You can read more about it here.  Because I have never learned the art of “sitting on my hands” (like they used to say in Girl Scouts so you wouldn’t volunteer for everything!) I decided to volunteer to help with set-up the day before and during the event!  All kidding aside, let me just share one piece of advise I have learned over the years…if you really want to make the most of an event you plan to attend, volunteer to help.  It exposes you to (work, which oddly enough, I actually enjoy-so be prepared if signing on in this capacity) many more people than if you just came as an attendee.  I met & got to know better, some really great people (Babette, Tammy, Lisa, Brenda, Meghan, Emily, Joy, Cathy, Stephanie, Scott, Molly & anyone I forgot (so sorry!) and all the food-famous speakers & panelists!) that hopefully over time, I will become better friends with!  I helped with the manual labor part of set-up the day before, something of which after my years of banquet management/service I am very familiar with.  The next day, I was assigned to help with AV.  That stands for Audio-Visual….yeah, for those of you who know me, not exactly my forte. Ha!  I managed through and the only real glitch of the day ended up not even being my fault!

The day consisted of seven different topics:  Eating your way to the top; a Fireside chat with Andrew Zimmern & Jason DeRusha, Mastering your Story, with Daniel Klein of the Perennial Plate.  SEO for food writing; with experts in the field of SEO Lee Odden, Joshua Unseth & Erik Deutsch.  A panel discussion on creating, distributing and syndicating mouth-watering content with Shaina Olmanson, Zoe Francois, Amanda Rettke & Brenda Score.  Design & Page Optimization with the Geek Girls, Meghan Wilker & Nancy Lyons.  Lessons in partnerships & monetization with Babette Pepaj and Erik Deustch. And finally, a session titled, How to get on a Food Editor’s Radar, with Stephanie March, Lee Dean, Rachel Hutton & Joy Summers.   It was a GREAT event and I was thrilled to have been able to attend.

Of course a food blogger conference isn’t complete without amazing food, which you see a bit of above.  We had beautiful pastries donated by Patisserie 46 and gorgeous berries from Driscoll’s Berries.  Fresh squeezed juices  were provided by Whole Foods, Joia Life donated some of their amazing natural sodas, Bull Run coffee helped us all stay fueled up and I cannot forget that Sangria…made by Scott Pampugh.  A backyard picnic lunch was catered by Tastebud Catering and included Chicken & fresh Corn off the grill (with a couple of amazing butters to spread), two awesome salads (a carrot slaw I NEED the recipe for!) and a refreshing Basil Lemonade that I am totally recreating at home!  Dessert, decadent chocolate brownie like confections was sponsored by (and eaten early by many of us standing in line for lunch!) Bogart Loves.  An afternoon nosh, consisting of pita breads, hummus, olives, cheese and roasted veggies was provided by Whole Foods and served along with more of that magical Sangria.  We had swag bags donated by and filled with nourishing snack bars, natural produce bags and awesome coupons from Land O’ Lakes &. others.  (sorry I didn’t link any of those….& hopefully I am not missing anyone but holy crap we had a lot of great sponsors that day!!!)

A geeky moment of the day, pictured below, is where I asked the legendary Scott Pampugh (who was also volunteering that day) to take a picture with me.  We are both from Winona, MN (that automatically makes us kindred spirits right? Although he was a Cotter boy…I won’t hold that against him!) and if you don’t know much about Scott, he’s out to change the landscape of food as we know it.  Read more about him here.  The day finished off at Fulton Brewery, where attendees got to tour the facility, dine on Hola Arepa & Anchor Fish & Chips food trucks, conveniently parking outside and of course drink beer!!  There’s gonna be a #TECHmunch in Philadelphia in October…hmmm maybe I need to plan a trip out to see the Pennsylvania relative contingency!

   

I got a day to rest up, (although I spent most of it standing in my kitchen prepping for dinner the next night!) after being on my feet at that event for 13 hours, before my Dad and his family, packed into their new RV, rolled into town.  We got him for one night, and he requested his Mother’s Rhubarb Pie.

 Oh that pie.  What did I ever do before that pie… Want to make this pie?  Check out my previous post with recipe here.  And this time I made it with homemade pie crust, another first for me.  He said “his Mother never made it better” which I guess means he liked it.  🙂

This is my almost 7th grader, just after finding out she tied for first place in overall books read for the year with her class.  When I look at this picture I just want to wail…she is growing TOO damn fast.  It truly takes my breath away.  The kids last day of school was June 7th and took the day off to hang out with them.  They both had carnivals, and my daughter had a 6th grade graduation picnic that I helped with.  It was bittersweet watching her with her classmates.  I know that next year I won’t be able to volunteer like I had this past year, going on field trips etc.  I also know that Junior High is tough, not like grade school.  At the beginning of this year I felt like there was no way she would be ready to take on the challenges of 7th grade, but now, I feel differently.  My baby, growing up so fast

   

On Sunday June 10th, we went to our first ever Minnesota Twins game.  Yeah, I know, lame.  Lame that we hadn’t gone in the last two years!  I had bought tickets through the kids school and as luck would have it, ended up sitting right next to our close friends and their kids!  It was a HOT day and I worried about us actually making it through the whole game (at one point I looked over at my daughter, and if you have kids, you’ll know the look she gave me…something between “I am about to puke or I am about to pass out”)  It was a bit terrifying, but we persevered and made it through the game!  The pictures above are of my first ever Big Ginger a delicious drink made with 2 Gingers Whiskey & Ginger Ale (again lame, that I work at the hotel, connected to The Liffey and haven’t had one yet!) and the Nacho Helmet helped!  (seriously $14 well spent!)
  

June 12th brought another day I had been looking forward to for a long time, my #OinkOutings trip!  I had been so looking forward to my Oink Outing, not only because I love pigs…(loved them since Wilbur & love to eat them, in any form), but also because I had never been on a pig farm. I had no idea how pigs were birthed, raised etc. I’m happy to tell you that my expectations were met! I was well-educated that day & although it wasn’t the life I pictured, (Wilbur) I was happy to see the care taken by the Bode family both towards their pigs and staff that tends to them, 365 days a year. They are meticulous about the safety of those pigs, so that the end result, that bacon or pork loin you are cooking for your family is the best quality & safest it can be. Technology has changed pig farming; helping farmers raise pigs that are lean & delicious. Something dictated by consumer desire for leaner meat while still preserving the flavor.

It was a great day, getting to know everyone involved that advocates daily for the Pork producers of Minnesota. We started at Brackett’s Crossing where I met Chef Bryan who had cooked us delicious Pork Carnitas which we then had in that gorgeous taco shell pictured above.  From there we set out to Rebco Pork, the Bode family farm. Stay tuned for a post later this month, where I share more pictures of our adventure along with some great recipes using my favorite meat, pork!  We made a pit stop on our way down at Schmidt’s Meat Market were we toured their smoking facilities, sampled their delicious summer sausage & were treated to their award-winning Raspberry-Chipotle Bacon as a take home gift!  Stay tuned for a post later this month, where I share more pictures of our adventure along with some great recipes using my favorite meat, pork!

June 15th brought yet another birthday for me…sigh.  I am thirty-six this year.  LOL!  Really though, birthday’s aren’t a big deal for me.  I don’t expect to be lavished with gifts, but I do like to spend the day doing something I enjoy.  And, if you know me, that’s eating, drinking & shopping!  I decided We haven’t been to Stillwater in quite some time, so I thought, because it worked out that the hubby was on vacation that day, we were free!  I knew for quite some time that I wanted to check out a place called Swirl Wine Bar.  It is located in the sleepy and gorgeous little town of Afton, MN  So, that was stop number one.  There I purchased my first birthday present, a Redneck Wine Glass.  Yea, I know….don’t judge me.  I LOVE using jam jars to drink out of.  We were doing that before it was cool.  We also ordered a couple of glasses of wine, and three delicious appetizers which were devoured by the four of us.  I HIGHLY recommend making the trip and be sure to order the Grape & Brie Flatbread & the Truffle Fries…DELISH!
We then moved on to Stillwater, ducking into a few shops after strolling along the river.  One store we visited for another birthday treat was the Stillwater Olive Oil Co.  I love how these little shops have popped up all over and hadn’t actually been in one until that day!  They had many different varieties of Olive Oils, some infused and Vinegars-rich, syrupy aged Balsamic’s and a great variety of flavored white Balsamic’s.  We chose a bottle of Persian Lime infused Olive Oil and Sicilian Lemon white Balsamic vinegar.  The vinegar just exploded the second it hit my tongue… I thought it would be fun to start a hashtag to chronicle my day; you can find my posts by searching for #BirthdayNosh and the picture collage above was some of the deliciousness of the day!

Gorgeous Strawberries!  Ever since I was young, I wanted to learn to can.  It’s been one of those things on my food bucket list, that I have been scared to try.  All it really takes is patience and organization.  The Strawberry Jam I made this weekend was SO good!  Stay tuned for a future post on canning.  I plan to do a Rhubarb Beer Jam for my next ‘Beer for a Year‘ post, and just last week, we signed up for a CSA share from Natura Farms and they have Currents and Elderberries, so hopefully I will get the opportunity to use those in future canning endeavors.  I also plan this summer to make Chow-Chow; a pickled vegetable deliciousness I had back in Pennsylvania Amish country.  Again posts to follow…..

And finally, June 17th, Father’s Day…..

The hubby loves ribs, so I decided that I would break out the smoker and attempt to make a scrumptious dinner for him.  The weather forecasters said “a gorgeous day is on tap for Sunday” and guess what?  It rained on and off ALL day!  The picture above was taken by my daughter, as she came out laughing at me standing there with the umbrella.  Yes, I could have let it go, but seriously at one point it rained for over an hour.  I know this because I stood there that long…and for the first time ever, I was maintaining a consistent temp on the smoker and didn’t want to ruin that!  The things we do for love…..

Oh yeah, his present?  The gorgeous cookbookVolt Ink” written by brothers Michael & Bryan Voltaggio of Top Chef fame.  It was really a win-win gift. 🙂

So, there it is people.  The last crazy 20 days of my life.…hope you enjoyed following along.  I promise to get back on my regular schedule of posts, none of which hopefully will be this long!

Until then,

Shawn

My Grandmother’s Rhubarb Pie……

My Grandmother’s Rhubarb Pies were famous…….always requested, savored & enjoyed by friends and family alike.  She had many gifts, most of which I didn’t know about until it was too late.  (she’s the one on the left holding me) She lived to be 91 years young….and during her amazing life, she raised five sons, who in turned gave her ten grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

She was a member of the Inter Se Club and Daughters of the American Revolution.  (how cool is that?!)  She was a volunteer at Goodwill Industeries for more than twenty years.  That one takes my breath away…  She loved to dance (I fondly remember her whipping around the dance floor at my wedding with her longtime companion Evan- at the time she was a spry 79…) she loved dogs, gossiping and crocheting friends & family members wonderful keepsakes.

My paternal Grandmother, Opal Mae Harshfield was proud of me.  Proud of how I started my own business, all the while raising my two kids, and remaining married (a small feat in my immediate family…).  Unfortunately I didn’t know this until  she was gone.  At her funeral, my cousin Holly (who I hadn’t seen since I was in grade school) came up to me and handed me this watch.  It had two incredible picture charms of my brother & I.  That moment shook my world…

How could I have let that relationship go?  Why didn’t I try to reach out more often?  I decided at that moment I would honor her by keeping one of her traditions alive.  The infamous Rhubarb Pie.  This one has no other fruits in it, just the Rhubarb.  It takes a brave baker to do that, with such a tart fruit.  Even I usually mix in some other fruit, like strawberries.  So, needless to say, I was a bit nervous as to how this was going to turn out.  After my first bite, I needn’t be……it was the perfect mix of sweet & tart.  That girl knew what she was doing alright….

Rhubarb Pie

3 eggs, slightly beaten plus one egg white for the top crust

2 tablespoons of milk, whisked into the eggs

1 cup of sugar plus another teaspoon for sprinkling the top of the pie

1/4 cup of flour

3/4 teaspoon of Nutmeg

2 refrigerated pie crusts

4 cups of Rhubarb, diced

1 tablespoon chilled butter

You’ll notice the recipe calls for pie crusts.  I don’t know if she always made it this way, or if it had been modified over time.  I will tell you that I have no problem using a pre made pie crust.  Don’t judge me, I just don’t have the time nor patience to make a flaky delicious pie crust from scratch.  But if that’s your thing, that will make this pie even more special!  I want to note that I didn’t stray from the recipe at all; unusual for me I know.  But the first time out of the gate I wanted make it as it was made by her.  Next time around, I might just add a few more spices, like cardamom and cinnamon.  And maybe do a crumble top…I love those!

So the first thing you’ll need to do is get your oven preheating at 400 degrees.  Grab out a cookie sheet and pie pan if that didn’t come with your crusts.  Be sure to grease & flour the pie pan before putting in your crust.  Clean & dice your Rhubarb, to the size you want.  I left mine a little bigger as I like the chunkiness of the pie that way.  Rhubarb has such a unique smell; you can smell the soil & bitterness of the fruit.  Nothing else like it, that is for sure…

Then you’ll take two bowls and combine the dry ingredients in a slightly larger bowl and the wet ingredients in the smaller bowl.  Add the wet to the dry & stir.

Then you’ll add the Rhubarb in.  Mix it all together and place into pie crust.  Dot the top of the pie with the cold butter bits.  Place the top of your crust over the pie and pinch the edges closed.  Be sure to vent the top of the crust.  Brush the top of the pie with the egg white and sprinkle with sugar.  Place pie on top of cookie sheet and bake for up to 60 minutes or until bottom crust is done and the entire pie is a deep golden brown!

Oh my gosh this pie……..what a beauty!  Like I said before, it is the perfect blend of sweet & tart, light and flaky crust…serve it slightly warm with just a bit of whipped fresh cream or a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream!

Happy Mother’s Day sweet Grandma Mae!

Thank you for passing down this recipe and many other wonderful things!

Until next time,

Shawn