Category Archives: beer

There’s a beer in my breakfast

Malted Millet Granola 2

It may sound strange to you, but in my brain, there’s not anything especially unusual about coming up with a recipe. It’s sort of like deciding which way to drive through a neighborhood in a new city: I see my options, and I choose. I might drive on the sidewalk every now and then, and there are the invariable wrong turns, but it’s still just driving.

Then, once in a while, I come across an ingredient that takes me a little outside my comfort zone. That’s what I love about the cookbook I’m working on right now, Pike Place Market Recipes. About half the recipes are mine, inspired by the market’s shops, and the rest come from restaurateurs and purveyors there – and in general, these days, they’re the ones bringing new foods into my life.

Last week, I cooked with malt for the first time. I was testing a Reuben recipe from The Pike Brewing Company. The concept is simple: You take a corned beef brisket, braise it in beer, then smother it in malt syrup, an ingredient used to make some beers, and roast it again until the syrup caramelizes into a thick, glossy sheen on the beef. The resulting sandwich is unusual: rich, salty, and tinged with an earthy, sweet flavor not intrinsic to your typical Reuben.

Golden malt syrup

Walking into a brewing supply store and saying you’d like to buy a cup of malt is like asking a fire truck for a drink from its hose. Somehow, when I went last week, I envisioned it sounding more normal to ask for two cups. The guys at the counter at the store near me stared at me anyway, gobsmacked by the concept of putting malt into anything but a giant plastic vat, but eventually we found a suitable container and the malt wound its way home to my kitchen. And resting on the counter, after four of us had downed an entire brisket’s worth of beef in one meal, was exactly one cup of leftover malt syrup.

Malt is the best way to convince non-beer drinkers that beer is a good thing. Dip a finger in, and it comes out coated with something akin to honey but more full-bodied. It’s sweet without being sugary, earthy without tasting like earth. It’s what honey might taste like if it was made by warthogs, instead of bees. And it’s a darn good substitute for honey in homemade granola.

This cookbook thing? It makes for busy days, that’s for sure. But it sure is a delicious ride.

Malted Millet Granola 3

Malted Millet Granola
Okay fine, you win: this is a strange-sounding granola. But think about it: Malt, the syrup derived from grain (often barley) that gives beer its sweetness, has been used as a sweetener for centuries. Why not use it in place of honey or maple syrup? I made this granola with breakfast in mind, but patted one batch into an even 1/2” layer and didn’t stir it as it cooked. The result? Well-packed granola chunks perfect for snacking.

You can buy malt syrup at any good brewing supply store.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: About 15 loose cups granola

1 cup golden malt syrup
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 18-ounce container (6 1/2 cups) old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 cup raw millet
3/4 cup sliced almonds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats, and set aside.

Combine the malt syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, place the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the honey mixture, and stir to blend. Divide the granola between the two baking sheets, spreading it into an even layer on each sheet, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring the granola after 15 minutes (and every 5 minutes thereafter) and rotating sheets top to bottom and back to front halfway through. The granola is done when it’s uniformly golden brown. (Note: The malt caramelizes quickly, so once the granola starts to brown on the bottom, watch it carefully and stir when it starts to brown.)

Let the granola cool to room temperature on the baking sheets. Break apart and store in an airtight container.


Filed under beer, Breakfast, recipe, snack, vegetarian

A stew for the heart


Sometimes, I eat because it tastes good. I eat because the caramelized skin of a well-roasted chicken triggers a pleasure mechanism in my brain, because pureed kabocha squash tastes like everything that’s good about the earth itself, and because a good stinky cheese sings up into my nostrils as it hits the heat of my tongue.

Of course, I also love eating things that look good. Chomping into a well-made pain au chocolate reveals (literally) thousands of microscopic layers, culminating with the perfectly dry, crisp shatters that envelop the exterior. Just a week or two ago, I had a charcuterie plate at Mistral Kitchen made up of whimsical piles of thinly shaved meats, each a little porcine tornado almost (but not quite) too pretty to eat.

Food can feel good, too. I’m drinking tea right now, and I like the way the peach flavor rolls down the center of my tongue, while the ginger flavor unfurls toward its edges. I like the way a good braised hanging tender separates in my mouth, each thread of beef so soft I don’t really need my teeth. (Still, I’m glad I have them.)

Then, every once in a while, I eat for my heart. I’m not talking about eating by cereal box claims, or eating however the Senate says I should. I’m talking about eating because it’s calming and emotionally nourishing. We all do it.

Take last May, for example. I’d just been released from the hospital, where I’d had a kidney biopsy. The doctor had said he’d call back in a week or two. We decided to go out, my husband and son and I, for a special meal that would let us sit and forget the previous 48 hours, if only for a few minutes. But when we walked into Spur, they informed us they didn’t allow kids. We got back into the car, and the phone rang. It was my nephrologist–already. My kidneys were on the verge of failing, and I needed treatment. I’d start infusions the next day.

That night, we ended up eating pho. We were confused, and nervous, and scared. It tasted good, but it wasn’t food for the heart. The next day, I started a six month-long course of induction therapy.

And guess what? It worked, people. The kids are healthy again.

Last week, the night before my treatment stopped, we went back to Spur, this time with friends. We drank, and laughed, and ate course after course, sharing each plate slowly and thoughtfully. The food was good, I think—but I’m not sure I really tasted it. That night, I was eating because it felt right to be in that restaurant, quietly celebrating an internal achievement.

You might agree that Thanksgiving is a heart meal, too. Whether you’re the cook or the dishwasher, there’s something about eating the turkey and the gravy and the mashed potatoes that’s . . . centering.

This year, we went to Colorado Springs, for a banquet hall Thanksgiving dinner sponsored by my grandfather. I thought I’d survive, not planning a big meal this year. Turns out I was wrong. I have trouble enjoying Thanksgiving without entering a kitchen. Turkey from a buffet table—even an incredibly impressive one—erases all the conduits of conversation that a Thanksgiving meal preparation necessarily provides. It’s fun, like a good dinner out, but to me, it sort of misses the point of Thanksgiving, which is not just to eat, but to eat together, and solve problems together, and make mistakes together. It also neglects Thanksgiving’s most important side effect: leftovers.

I’d planned to be a big girl about the whole no cooking thing. I even roasted a turkey the night before we left, and held a mini Thanksgiving here at home, just to be on the safe side. But I gave away the leftover turkey; there were no sandwiches. Digging through the refrigerator for a late-night dinner on Friday night, it was inescapable: I felt like I’d missed the holiday entirely. We’d had a giant meal on the allotted day, but there hadn’t been anything comforting about it.

When I came back to my kitchen this week, I only wanted comfort food. I made hot and sour soup, and huevos rancheros, and this buffalo stew. It’s the simplest of stews, made with the buffalo meat my husband gawked over when I sent him to the grocery store with a carte blanche for dinner foods. With only ten ingredients, it seems almost undercomplicated—but sometimes, simple is all my heart wants to eat.

I thought I might be alone. But when I phoned my neighbor today–a neighbor who had a thorough home-cooked family Thanksgiving–I happened to ask her what she was doing for dinner. “I don’t know,” she said. “But all I want to eat is beef stew.”

Buffalo Carbonnade 2

Jim’s Buffalo Carbonnade (PDF)

Made with buffalo stew meat and a good, hearty beer, this version of the traditional Belgian dish is quite stripped down—it’s delicious, but in no way fancy. I made mine with my husband’s homebrew (made with hops from our back yard, naturally), but any high-quality beer with some good body will do.

Note that this isn’t a recipe for a crowd—it’s just enough for two hearty servings. Double or triple it if you’d like, searing the meat in batches, then serve the stew over buttered noodles or polenta, with steamed or roasted carrots.

Time: 30 minutes active time, plus plenty of simmering
Makes: 2 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound buffalo stew meat, cut into 1 1/2” pieces (beef will also work)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 large onion, halved and sliced
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 cups good beer
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Heat a medium-sized soup pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Coat the stew meat with the flour on all sides, and season with salt and pepper. Add the meat to the hot oil, and cook until the pieces are browned on all sides, turning them only when they release easily from the pan, about 15 minutes total. Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, then add the onions, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often and scraping any brown bits up off the bottom of the pan, until the onions are deep golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Add the garlic and thyme, and cook and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the beer and beef stock, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Slide in the beef, cover the pot, reduce the heat to its lowest setting, and cook at a bare simmer for another 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is extremely tender. Remove the lid, and simmer another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid is thick and glossy. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Stir in the butter, and serve hot, over buttered noodles or polenta.


Filed under Beef, beer, husband, recipe

Tito’s Recipe: Eurotrash Ale

Roasted two-row barley

When I made beer seeds last week, I mentioned something about brewing beer.

Yup, it’s true: We’ve got a little mini brewery bubbling away in our basement. I bought Tito a beer-brewing kit in 1999, and since the first couple of poorly engineered attempts back then (ask him about the time the gals living downstairs knocked on his door to ask why there was beer dripping down their walls), each batch has gotten progressively better. These days, his beer making skills are downright impressive.

Months ago, I promised to let him post his own beer recipe. This is probably the first of many. No guarantees on the quality or descriptions of the flavor, as it’s still fermenting in our basement, but I’d venture to say it’ll be comparable to the high-quality microbrews one finds in the Seattle area. It usually is.

If you’ve never brewed beer before and want to get started, print the PDF below and take it in to your friendly neighborhood beer brewing supply store – they’ll help you get outfitted, teach you the difference between wort and the wort on your finger, and explain why flavor and aroma hops are added at different times during the brewing process.

For inspiration, Tito recommends Stone Brewing’s Arrogant Bastard (no direct relation), Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA, or Pike’s Kilt Lifter Scottish Ale.

Eurotrash Ale (PDF)
Recipe 301 of 365

If Europe is the birthplace of beer, then America is the over-priced prep school where beer learned to roll its own and get away with a few tricks. Here’s a beer with (mostly) Euro ingredients and (minus the polo shirt) American style.

TIME: 2 hours brewing, 1 week fermenting, 1 hour bottling, 3 weeks conditioning
MAKES: 5 gallons

1 six-pack commercial beer (for inspiration)
1 lb. Two-row English Barley grains, crushed
6 lbs. English Wheat malt extract
2 oz. German Hallertau hops (3.9% acidity)
2 oz. American Willamette hops (4.5 % acidity)
1 packet Wyeast “Thames” starter yeast

First, open the inspiration and make sure it meets your standards. Next, start a large pot of water on the stove at medium heat. Although this makes 5 gallons (the standard homebrew batch size), you can make as little as 2 gallons of wort (quick definition: water undergoing improvement) and dilute to 5 gallons later. Steep the two-row barley (yes, it is grown in field with two rows) in the pot as the water warms. You can make life easier by encasing the grains in cheesecloth, like a big tea bag.

Barley steeping in water

Steep the grains for at least 30 minutes, adjusting the heat to keep the temperature of the wort around 150 F. Then, remove the grains (see, the tea bag was a good idea) and bring the wort to a low boil (212 F, unless brewing at altitude). For extra credit, “sparge” the grains to get more color and depth of flavor in your beer.

More inspiration. Once the wort has reached a gentle boil, stir in the wheat malt extract. Maintain a gentle boil for 60 minutes, during which the carbohydrates in the wheat and barley will breakdown into simple sugars ideal for fermentation. Add the Hallertau hops at the beginning of the 60-minute boil to add a bitter high-note flavor to the beer. Add the Willamete hops for the final 15 minutes to sharpen the aroma and after-taste of the beer. Hop timing can be adjusted to preference (earlier hops affect flavor, later hops affect aroma).

Hops simmering in ale

Inspiration running low? Thought so. There are six for a reason. After the 60-minute boil, immediately cool the wort to 75 F by placing the pot in an ice bath and by adding cold water (until 5 gallons total). Pop the starter yeast package and wait until it swells (ensuring a healthy yeast culture), then “pitch” the yeast into the wort and cap with an airlock. The one-way airlock will allow gas to escape during fermentation, while preventing contamination of the yeast culture.

Allow the fermentation to continue for about a week (or until your fancy hydrometer says the specific gravity has changed sufficiently… again, about a week), then add 5 oz. of dissolved sugar and siphon into bottles for conditioning. Wait three weeks, throw a big party, then repeat.

Brewer’s note: Brewing is ancient and simple. And easy. Just make sure you clean your equipment well, so the yeast can live in peace, and don’t listen to the guy at the homebrew store trying to sell you $300 worth of equipment. Oh, and there are good ingredients online at Seven Bridges.

This recipe is brought to you by Fahm House Brewing, a subsidiary of Tito Beverages, Inc. It might be subject to a copyright clause, but in-house legal counsel is drunk and not answering calls today. Typical.


Filed under beer, recipe