Beer Tasting: IPAs

Vaughn and I had a very informal beer tasting last night...we were mostly just enjoying new beers and taking a few notes as we sipped. I'm not as educated in beer as Vaughn is, but I took a stab at sounding like I knew something. Here goes nothin'!


Mikkeller Warrior Single Hop IPA: 6.9% ABV, color of orange blossom honey, faintly hoppy nose with slight malt aromas, starts with a bite and ends with a caramel finish.

Mikkeller Cascade Single Hop IPA: 6.9% ABV, same orange blossom honey color, clearer (bottom of the bottle last time), sweet bottle conditioned Vienna malt in the nose, starts with a bite that doesn't fade quickly, funky earthy flavor like figs that aren't quite ripe (sweet but green), we don't think it survived the journey judging by the funk.

Southern Tier Un*Earthly Imperial IPA: 11% ABV (!!), smaller, tighter head, paler orange color, citrusy nose, sweet sweet sweet, slight brown sugar taste, very complex flavor from the hop bill however thin body, pretty easy drinking for the alcohol and hop content.


Sweet Tomato Tart with Rosemary Apricot Glaze

Hooray for rainy days!

A couple weeks ago Vaughn was working on a beer and I was making pie crusts. I took a big scoop of his spent grain and incorporated it into the wheat pie crust that I was making. The crusts went into the freezer for a rainy day...like today!

Sue, my mother-in-law, bought a couple pecks of tomatoes at the Evanston Farmer's Market this past Saturday and needed to use them soon before they go bad. Flipping through Barbara Kafka's cookbook, Vegetable Love, I came across an interesting recipe for a Sweet Tomato Tart. How could I resist? The pie dough recipe is my own since I couldn't find a recipe that incorporated spent grain. It turned out very well!

Whole Wheat Pie Dough with Spent Grain
Yield: 2 8-inch crusts

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2-1 cup spent grain
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
1 Large egg yolk, beaten
1/2 cup ice water
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Combine AP flour, WW flour, spent grain, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until combined.
2. Add chilled butter and vegetable shortening. Pulse until it resembles course meal.
3. With the food processor running on low, slowly pour in the ice water until the dough starts to form into a ball.
4. Remove the dough and place into a zip top bag. Form the dough into a ball and press into a round disc.
5. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
6. Place dough on a floured surface and roll out until about 1/4 inch thick.
7. Place dough in a pie or tart pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes or seal with plastic wrap and freeze for later use.

*Before using the crust, blind bake in a 400 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes.

Sweet Tomato Tart
Yield: 8 servings

4 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced thin (I used 8-10 plum tomatoes)
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons orange zest (I didn't have oranges so I sprinkled orange juice over the layers)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons currant jelly (I used rosemary-apricot jam because it was on hand)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Slice tomatoes and let drain in a strainer or colander
2. Combine lemon zest, orange zest, and brown sugar in a bowl.
3. Layer tomatoes in the bottom of the cooled crust. Start from the outside and work your way in, overlapping slightly.
4. Sprinkle half the zest/sugar mixture over the first layer.
5. Add a second layer of tomatoes
6. Sprinkle the rest of the mixture over the second layer.
7. Add the third layer.
8. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly on a rack.
9. Turn the broiler on low.
10. Heat the jelly in a small pan over low heat or in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
11. Brush the top of the tart and crust liberally with jelly.
12. Place under the broiler until the jelly just starts to bubble.
13. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Hope you enjoy this recipe!


Off to Belgium in Our Minds

My husband Vaughn's birthday is this Saturday and plans are in the works for his special dinner. We were thinking of going to the Hopleaf, but since there will be six attending we figured it would get too expensive. So instead, we are going to cook a Belgian feast and accompany the spread with Belgian brews.

Why Belgian? First, Vaughn brews beer and the Belgians are renowned brewers. Second, Belgian food is delicious. The food has a strong French influence, with a hint of German and Dutch cuisine...mostly French, but it lacks all the pretentiousness.

To prepare, we have been looking for Belgian recipes and cookbooks. We ordered Everybody Eats Well In Belgium by Ruth Van Waerebeek and Maria Robbins. This book sounds delicious and gets rave reviews, even from people who live or have lived in Belgium. Bonus: it's in English and the measurements aren't metric!

We also found The Belgian Cook-Book by Mrs. Brian Luck and published in 1915. It has authentic recipes, although some of the terms are a little hard to get used to. For instance, she writes "pips" instead of "seeds". We enjoyed this quote from the preface:

"A shelf of provisions should be valued, like love-making,
not only for itself but for what it may become."

I will write more once we figure out Saturday's menu and I'll most likely post some photos, so check back soon!


Recollections of My Childhood and Thoughts on Seasonal Produce

No matter the season, it is always summer in the produce section of your neighborhood grocery store. Even on the coldest days of winter, when the mercury dips below freezing, you can find a plethora of produce that makes you forget there will be a foot of snow waiting for you on the car by the time you get through the checkout. We have become a season-less nation thanks to imports from warmer countries, hydroponics, and hothouses.


Growing up, I was well aware of the seasons. I grew up on a a small farm on the far side of east Cleveland. There were no chickens scratching or pigs wallowing (at least not when I lived there), but there were fruit trees - hundreds of them.

My dad was hired on in the early 1980's to help take care of small farm for the owner, Marian Ginn Jones, daughter of Frank Hadley Ginn and wife of William Powell Jones. We lived on the farm in the little gatehouse at the end of the drive. Mrs. Jones, a wonderful old woman, let us roam around, climb the apple trees and eat any of the produce. Growing up on the farm spoiled me rotten when it came to food.

In the spring I would climb into my favorite apple tree by the drive and look out over my domain. Little pink buds unfurled their petals on the tips of gnarly gray apple branches to cast a rosy haze over the farm. This was the first and most exciting sign of spring.

Early summer warmth coaxed the petals to drop and blanket the ground with a carpet of pink and white. Little green apples began to form in their place and we would watch with anticipation as the green slowly turned to vibrant reds, yellows and blushed greens.

When the first of the apples were ripe, we would shimmy up the trunks and perch in the shade of the leafy branches as we munched away at the sweet, juicy, sun-warmed flesh. We would bash the fallen apples on the fence post and share our bounty with the horses, our little hands stretched out the way we were taught so the horses didn't mistake our fingers for carrots.

Apples were plentiful well into the chillier months of fall. My dad would load up the truck bed with bushels upon bushels of apples to take to the local cider presser and the fruit was magically transformed into thick, hazy, brown cider. "The good stuff" as we called it. A few years ago the presser was forced to close because of new pasteurization laws. Since it was a small operation, the owner just didn't have the funds to purchase the new equipment. No more of the good stuff.

Throughout the winter my dad would bring up gallon jugs of cider from the basement freezer for a treat. After spending hours in the snow making forts and throwing snowballs, we were greeted with mugs of hot cider and spent the evening around the fire.

Late winter and early spring was pruning time. My dad would spend the entire day, or as long as he could stand the cold, pruning back the trees. He would often greet us at the end of the day with a chilly hand down the back of our sweaters.

Then the cycle would repeat itself. There's something comforting about the repetition of the seasons and watching an apple go from bud, to blossom, to baby, and into my mouth when ripe.


To my readers, I challenge you to step back from the produce at the store and think about what you are about to buy.

Ask yourself: what's in season, where did the produce come from, will it be at its peak freshness and ripeness?

Shop your local farmers market or participate in a CSA program. That way you can be sure that the food you are buying is the freshest it can be instead of picked, packed, stored and shipped from another country halfway around the world .

Take your kids - or grand kids, nephews, nieces, cousins - to a pick-your-own farm so that they can experience where their food comes from. If you live in the Cleveland area, I highly recommend visiting Patterson's or Eddy's fruit farms - I would go there every fall with my family, friends, or on class trips.

Thanks to my dad, Dennis Mastrangelo, for the photos.


Photo Shoot with Chef Sophia Boesenberg

On Saturday morning I made my way to Skokie to meet up with Chef Sophia Boesenberg to take photos of her food. Sophia, a young professional personal chef, recently moved to Chicago from Portland where she received her culinary arts degree at Le Cordon Bleu. This was a great opportunity for the both of us - she needed photos for her cooking portfolio and I needed photos for my...well...photo portfolio.

I didn't ask for any kind of compensation since I'm just starting out in this whole food photography venture, but she did feed me and send me home with a partial wheel of Camembert! And I must say, the food was delicious.

Look up Sopie if you're in the Chicago area and in need of a personal chef for your next special dinner!

Here are the photos from the shoot:
(please note: display colors may vary)



I don't get it. Some of the images I upload get funky looking and are lot nicer in the original file.



It's so hard to buy a good peach from the grocery store these days.
They always look promising, but end up being bruised and mealy.

Fortunately, on our trip through Michigan, Vaughn's mom lead the way to a little fruit stand called Fruit Acres Farm Market & U-Pick. The stand is located in Coloma, conveniently located right off of I-94 at exit 39.

There was a bountiful selection of fresh, local fruits and veggies at very good prices. There were also imports, like bananas from Columbia and avocados from Mexico, but we were there for the local goods.

We picked up a half bushel of early peaches for an astonishing $10. What a deal! These were the juiciest, sweetest, most delicious peaches I have ever tasted (besides the ones from the farm I grew up on).

I spent a good chunk of the day prepping the peaches for freezing since we can't eat an entire half bushel before they spoil. Here's how I did it:

1. Wash the peaches, no matter how clean they look!

2. Blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds to soften the skin for easy peeling.

3. After removing from the boiling water, submerge peaches in ice water to stop them from cooking all the way through.

4. Quarter peaches and remove pit and skin.*

5. Slice into desired widths.

6. Place peaches into a labeled zip-top freezer bag.

7. Sprinkle citric acid, ascorbic acid, or lemon juice** over the peaches, zip up the bag, and toss to mix thoroughly.

8. Unzip, squeeze out all of the air, and re-zip.

9. Place bag into a baking dish, cookie sheet or whatever fits into your freezer and place the lot of it in the freezer.***


* There are two kinds of peaches: free stone and cling stone. The pit of the free stones will be easy to remove. If you find yourself with cling stone peaches, just cut around the pit with a pairing knife. If you try to pry the pit out of a cling you'll just end up mangling the fruit.

**Acid will keep the peaches from browning. I like Ball Fruit-Fresh Produce Protector. Follow the directions on the package.

***Why? So the bag doesn't conform to the wire rack in the freezer and get stuck. Also serves as a safety net just in case there are any holes in the bag.


I put five cups of peaches in each gallon bag. One bag = one pie! I have enough to make five pies...but that can get boring. Perhaps a cool peach smoothie made with yogurt and fresh mint and basil. Or a peach and mango salsa to serve on grilled chicken or pork. Better still, a bowl full of frozen peaches, slightly thawed, to munch on in summer's sweltering heat!

My next step: prepping pie crusts and freezing them!