Tag Archives: cooking

Homebrewing for dummies: Brooklyn Brew Shop simplifies brewing craft beer at home

Homebrewing for dummies: Brooklyn Brew Shop simplifies brewing craft beer at home
Photo: Brooklyn Brew Shop

Left: Brew mix kit; Right: full brewing starter kit with flavor mix. (Photo: Brooklyn Brew Shop)

After attending culinary school and working with food for an occupation for around seven years now, it’s pretty safe to say that I enjoy cooking (just don’t talk to me about pastry). To complement my culinary studies before culinary school, I got into the basics of wine and pairing it with food. Then the craft beer craze came along a few years back so naturally, I was inclined to learn all about the intricate flavors of the many styles of beer out there and their pairing possibilities. Needless to say, I got hooked and still am a craft beer fanatic.

This year, I decided to add onto this breadth of beer knowledge. I knew what ingredients went into beer and how it’s supposed to taste, but wondered how it really it all comes together to make “the perfect pint”. How do hops, grain, water and yeast marry to create a sudsy love child of deliciousness? And as far as I knew, home brewing required lots of large equipment and space which I don’t have in my small, one bedroom apartment.

And then I stumbled upon the beer making starter kit by Brooklyn Brew Shop (brooklynbrewshop.com) which had everything I needed to make a gallon of craft beer and it attracted me immediately.

I swear that they made this an unofficial ‘Brewing for Dummies’ package because if you know how to heat up water on the stove, then you can make these beer recipes. My first experience with the BBS kit was fun and very easy — they provide extremely detailed directions (with pictures and timelines) on their website and even have step-by-step videos for almost every flavor they have available. Included in the starter kits are just about everything you need to make the beer: grains, hops, yeast, the fermenting jug, tubing, chambered airlock, a thermometer, racking cane, and even equipment sanitizer. The only other items needed are a large pot, decent-sized strainer, a large bowl, funnel and bottling vessels (e.g.: beer bottles and a capper). The starter kits ($40) come in one- and five-gallon kits in a range of flavors like Smoked Wheat (my first batch), Bruxelles Black, Chocolate Maple Porter and Everyday IPA, to name a few.

The result of my first crack at being a bona fide homebrewer? Palatable success. The smoked wheat actually tasted like a smoked wheat beer! It was light, with just the right amount of carbonation and a hint of smoked malts. I was just overjoyed that I didn’t screw it up — and so were the friends with whom I shared it.

Photo: Brooklyn Brew Shop

Various flavors getting delicious in the fermenting jugs. (Photo: Brooklyn Brew Shop)

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Casablanca in a bowl: Moroccan spiced carrot soup

Casablanca in a bowl: Moroccan spiced carrot soup

Here’s looking at you, carrots.

In keeping with my culinary exploration of flavors from around the globe, I decided that my next sojourn would be to the fabled land of Morocco. But being that I can’t afford the airfare, this trip would have to take place in my kitchen.

Moroccan food has always appealed to me because of its use of vibrantly colored and flavorful spices. The cuisine reflects Moorish, Mediterranean, Arab and Berber influences, its dishes even more heavily spiced than those of the aforementioned locales.

Cinnamon, coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, ginger and saffron are just a few of the many spices often used in Morocco’s signature tagines, couscous dishes, pastillas, soups and sides.

Besides the meat- and lamb- heavy main dishes, Moroccans use a wide range of fruit and vegetables in their cookery. That’s why I’ve chosen this flavorful carrot soup as the vehicle for my “spicy” fix.

Great for any time of the year, this brightly colored, puréed Moroccan-spiced carrot soup is creamy, bursting with flavor, easy to prepare and also quite healthy. The featured ingredient is chock full of dietary fiber, antioxidants and vitamins — namely, beta carotene and vitamin A, which is great for eye health.

(Though unfortunately the urban legend that eating lots of carrots will allow one to see in the dark isn’t true.)

Feel free to play around with the spices in this soup, adding more or less of whatever pleases your palate, or throw in a different combination of flavors typical of Moroccan cooking. And instead of orange carrots, why not grab some purple, red or yellow carrots to give it a colorful makeover?

My last piece of advice on this recipe: If you have a food processor, use it. It will surely save your hands from all of the chopping required and will cut your prep time in half.

Bil hana wish shifa’!
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Stop the insanity: Ridiculous kitchen tools (and saner alternatives)

Stop the insanity: Ridiculous kitchen tools (and saner alternatives)

Who needs knife skills when you can hack your food to bits with the Slap Chop? (Image: vxla via Flickr Creative Commons)

Single-use kitchen tools, or “unitaskers,” are one of my biggest pet peeves as a cook and culinary instructor. Why waste money on multiple gadgets that only do one thing when you really only need a few (including your own pair of hands) to do a multitude of tasks?

I expected to find a good amount of stupid kitchen tools when doing research for this piece, but even I was surprised at the volume of crap that’s out there. And you know what perplexes me the most? That people buy these things!

Without further ado, I give you my top picks for the most inane, least useful kitchen gizmos and simpler, more sane alternatives to them:
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Top Chef Podcast – Just Desserts season 2, Ep. 1: Soda shop sweets and fairy-tale treats

Top Chef Podcast – Just Desserts season 2, Ep. 1: Soda shop sweets and fairy-tale treats
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Top Chef Just Desserts is back with a vengeance this season with a new cast, new challenges and a new hairdo for Johnny (a more deflated-looking version than his former bouffant). But one thing for sure that hasn’t changed: the bitchery! (Yes, I made that word up. Deal.)

We could already see some of the strong personalities come out in episode one, like the very forthright Orlando Santos whose shop is named “Orlando’s Chocolate Treats” (I swear these jokes write themselves), Sally Camacho who is the head pastry chef of WP24 (a Wolfgang Puck Restaurant) at the Ritz Carlton in L.A., and Chris Hanmer, the youngest American to win the title of World Pastry Champion (in ’04). And then there were those who left us scratching our heads, asking, “How did they get on this show?” (*cough* Craig *cough*)

Of course, the chefs were thrown right into the first Quickfire challenge right after their little meet-and-greet. The chefs had to pair up to create a “modern soda fountain treat” at a Soda Jerks ice cream shop. Some looked avant-garde and chic, while others’ desserts just looked — as James Oseland would snootily quip — too “pedestrian”.

We also learned a new term this episode, “NFG” which stands for “non-functional garnish.” It’s something I have been very vocal about in past seasons of Top Chef and basically means, “if you can’t eat it, then get it the heck off of that plate!”
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Pimp out your kitchen library with these ridiculous celebrity cookbooks

Pimp out your kitchen library with these ridiculous celebrity cookbooks

There seems to be an influx of cookbooks “written” by celebrities (and those who think they are) in the past few years. Maybe it’s because they want us to see that they’re “real” people too, making their own meals for their families, trying to dispel the preconceived notion that the hired help does it all for them. Or maybe it’s because they need to finance a new vacation home.

Either way, for anyone in showbiz with at least a D-grade listing, authoring a cookbook is a requirement for their 15 minutes of fame — slotted somewhere between meeting Leno and releasing a sex tape. Keep reading to find out which ones are the most ridiculous and which one is right for your kitchen (or bathroom) library.
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Top Chef Podcast: Finally, the finale! Top Chef Masters 3, ep. 10 recap

Top Chef Podcast: Finally, the finale! Top Chef Masters 3, ep. 10 recap
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This is it kids, the episode many of us have been eagerly awaiting: the finale! (a.k.a.: The episode where they’re finally allowed to cook their own food — no crazy challenges included.)

The remaining chefs included Mary Sue Milliken, Traci Des Jardins and Floyd Cardoz, and they were challenged with creating a three-course meal for the judges’ as well as some familiar faces from Top Chef Masters seasons past. With the help of their sous chefs, they were to draw from their own favorite food memories for the first two courses, but for the third course, each had to recreate a favorite dish of one of the judges. Thank goodness Gael Greene got to stand in for Danyelle Whatsherface for this challenge, otherwise, who knows what Traci would’ve had to cook up.

Much like the rest of the season, there was minimal drama — the horrible L.A. traffic that held up Floyd from prepping being the worst of it. Instead of the heat and strife we see during a regular Top Chef finale, there was lots of love and gushing over one another going on in kitchen.

When we do get another Top Chef incarnation, tune in to Bravo every Wednesday at 10 pm EST/9 pm C, check out our own live Tweets during the show (Jeff: @JeffHouck, Katie: @culinarypirate), and listen to our podcast here every week!

Listen to the podcast here! (Scroll to bottom and use player on the post.)

Tonight’s Top Chef Masters preview: It’s getting harder and harder to cook

Tonight’s Top Chef Masters preview: It’s getting harder and harder to cook
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On tonight’s episode of Top Chef Masters:

These Quickfire challenges are getting crazy! Last week, they had 12 minutes to prep a cheese-based appetizer, while tonight, the chefs only have 7 minutes to create their dish — looks like they have to use high-end ingredients: foie gras, caviar, etc. What’s next? A 2 minute Quickfire?! In the words of Glenn Frey, “The heat is on.”

I am very happy to announce that there will be yet another hottie gracing our TV screens tonight: Adam Levine! Oh yeah, and the rest of the Maroon 5 band members will be there too. (While they’re all very talented, there’s a reason that Adam is the face of the band.) I’m also excited that Gail Simmons from regular Top Chef will be sitting in as guest judge — because apparently Ruth Reichl is pulling an Anthony Bourdain again this episode (as in, not showing up).

The chefs must prepare a vegetarian meal served family-style for Maroon 5 and the judges. The twist? (Spoiler alert because this isn’t mentioned in the preview video.) They have to cook on a tour bus!

Preview video highlights:

  • Hugh: “I’m making the most elaborate cat food of all time.” I guess we’ll be seeing his mug on cans of Fancy Feast in the near future.
  • She seems to be rather tame in the preview video (below), but I’m hoping Danyelle doesn’t desperately throw herself at Adam Levine like she did to Curtis last week (there’s a reason they put her at the end of the table).
  • For as much bragging as these chefs will be doing to their kids about meeting Maroon 5, I’m hoping they got their autographs or something to bring home. Telling your kids, “Hey, I met Maroon 5!,” just won’t cut it.

Check out the preview videos below.

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Tune in to Bravo tonight at 10 pm EST/9 pm C, join our Twitter party during the show (Jeff: @JeffHouck, Katie: @culinarypirate), and listen to our podcast here tomorrow! (You can even download us on iTunes!) Check out our fellow Top Chef fanatics, Please Pack Your Knives And Go and All Top Chef, for the latest news (and some laughs).

Seven Minutes to Compose a Dish

It’s Maroon 5

Tonight’s Top Chef Masters preview: Dollar menu madness

Tonight’s Top Chef Masters preview: Dollar menu madness
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On tonight’s episode of Top Chef Masters:

For the Quickfire the chefs must channel their former college selves and create a meal with budget of $1. If their ingredients came from Wal-Mart, I’d say it’d be an easier task, but knowing Bravo’s hookup with Whole Foods I think they might have a harder time trying to stretch that dollar.

As for the Elimination challenge, the heat is on as the chefs must man the lunch rush at a Farmer Boys fast food joint (it’s like McD’s but with better quality food). They have to cook main and side dishes for 100 people that don’t require utensils to eat, and each order must be completed in less than two minutes. I’m sure at least a few of the chefs will reveal that they’ve formerly worked as a fast food burger flipper when they started out in their cooking careers — and you know there will also be those who are completely lost in this type of kitchen environment.

Top Chef Podcast listeners: We’re currently having technical difficulties (due to new site and server) with getting our podcasts on iTunes. Until further notice, please listen to them directly from the posts that we put up every Thursday afternoon on the CL Food & Drink site! We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for bearing with us. :-)

Preview video highlights:

  • Hugh: “…you’ve gotta be able to put something out.” And that’s what he said.
  • In the second preview video, it looks like some of the chefs need to ‘ketchup’! (Get it? Because they’re working in a fast food restaurant?) *crickets chirping*
  • Traci talks some shade about Mary Sue in the preview, calling her “annoying” and a “whirling dervish.” Hold onto your weave, girl, cuz them’s fightin’ words! (Seriously, I’ve cut a betch for less.)

Check out the preview videos below.

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Tune in to Bravo tonight at 10 pm EST/9 pm C, join our Twitter party during the show (Jeff: @JeffHouck, Katie: @culinarypirate), and listen to our podcast here tomorrow! (You can even download us on iTunes!) Check out our fellow Top Chef fanatics, Please Pack Your Knives And Go and All Top Chef, for the latest news (and some laughs).

The Buck Stops Here
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Order Here
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Top Chef Podcast – Masters Ep. 3: Guess I’ll go eat worms

Top Chef Podcast – Masters Ep. 3: Guess I’ll go eat worms
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Last night on Top Chef Masters:

I have to say that I love the fact that the chefs had to cook with live insects for the Quickfire Challenge. I mean, when do chefs get the chance to work with these odd proteins? Yeah, they’ve eaten brains and entrails and brains, but when have they ever scarfed down a scorpion? I also enjoyed their grossed out reactions when watching the guest judges sampling their dishes. Hugh ended up taking the win with his tempura fried crickets and sunchoke puree.

For the Elimination, the chefs were charged with creating a ten-course tasting menu for a charity dinner. Sounds easy enough, right? In the middle of cooking their dishes, the water gets turned off in the kitchen. Then Curtis walks in with a double whammy: the chefs have to plate up 30 minutes early and they must be the ones to serve the guests. Panic sets in, tempers flare and mild chaos ensues (definitely nowhere near the level of regular Top Chef, though).

Want to know what happened? Listen to the podcast to find out! (Note: This episode was a bit disjointed — to say the least. Just listen along, laugh and bear with us.)

The Fabio plea video for Katie (as discussed in podcast): A personal plea… from Jeff Houck on Vimeo.

Tune in to Bravo every Wednesday at 10 pm EST/9 pm C, check out our own live Tweets during the show (Jeff: @JeffHouck, Katie: @culinarypirate), and listen to our podcast here every week! (You can even download us on iTunes!)

Check out our fellow Top Chef fanatics’ blogs: All Top Chef gives us their uninhibited reactions and Please Pack Your Knives and Go is just plain hilarious. And check out TalkingTV’s rules for the Top Chef drinking game here.

Listen to this week’s podcast:
Download the podcast here.

Top Chef Podcast – All-Stars Ep. 10: Right on Target

Top Chef Podcast – All-Stars Ep. 10: Right on Target

top_chef_logo_lgIt was a very zany episode of Top Chef All-Stars last night, between the loud, crazy antics of the Sesame Street characters during the Quickfire and then the madness that ensued at the Target lock-in challenge. I was mentally exhausted after watching, to say the least.

The Cookie Quickfire with the Sesame Street characters as judges was fun and lighthearted (except for Dale whose name is never uttered with that phrase). For some reason, Blais just didn’t get that an ice cream blob doesn’t equal “cookie” — in fact, it doesn’t even qualify for “ice cream cookie sandwich status”. I really liked Dale’s use of sweet and salty in his cookie and thought it was a fun take on the challenge (despite his dislike for making cookies). And did anyone else catch Elmo calling Antonia’s brown splooge cookies “cow chips”. Get it? Because “chips” kinda sounds like “sh*t” when you say it really fast.

The Elimination Challenge was like one long Target ad. I liked the concept of cooking using only ingredients and utensils found at Target — but that was about it. They could at least have had a spending limit or challenge to feature Target’s healthy/organic products. And why in the heck was it at 3 a.m.?! Yeah, I get it that they wanted the chefs to have free reign of the store, but c’mon! No wonder Dale’s “stoner food” tomato soup and grilled cheese won — because that’s the only thing you’d want to eat at 3 a.m.
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