Beer Vinegar

I was going to post this yesterday, but since is was April 1, I figured you’d all think I was pranking your or something. I mean, seriously, beer vinegar? Yes, beer vinegar!

Beer Vinegar

I suppose I have been on this make-everything-at-home hobby for a few years now. I’ve made mustard and crème fraiche from scratch, so it was only a matter of time before we at the Schneiderbach household would start dabbling in home brewing. To be fair, Eric has brewed before and even applied to several big-name breweries straight out of undergrad. When he didn’t land the dream job, though, he went to grad school for what we all affectionately refer to as poop engineering. So far, this has turned out to be rather lucrative since no one else wants to engineer poop, quickly making him the only rising star in his industry. I kid, I kid.

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Anyway, our first single-gallon batch of honey lager turned out tasting pretty great, but we messed up the bottling and it came out rather flat. If you’re ever faced with the problem of having an undrinkable gallon of beer hanging around, I say convert that alcohol to acetic acid, which is exactly what I did. The process is super easy and we’ve been splashing our honey lager vinegar on our salads all week long.

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Beer Vinegar

There are no exact measurements here. You could use any kind of beer – preferably one that tastes good to you. This also works for wine. You’ll notice a thin layer of sludge growing at the bottom of your homemade vinegar, but don’t worry, this is just the bacteria that is doing all the work for you. You can use this to seed your next batch of vinegar, or just toss it out when your vinegar is ready.

1) Find a clean jar or other glass vessel (you could also use any other non-reactive container) and clean and sanitize it.

2) Pour a small amount of a raw, unfiltered vinegar (like Bragg’s apple cider vinegar) and swirl it around to coat the surfaces of the container.

3) Fill the container with your beer and top it off with a bit more raw, unfiltered vinegar.

4) If using a jar, put the lid on and shake lightly to combine everything. Or you could use a sterilized spoon to stir it all around.

5) Cover with cheese cloth or a towel and let it sit for about a month and a half. If you have a vessel with a narrow opening at the top, you might want to periodically lightly stir the contents to allow proper airflow. A warmer environment and lots of air flow will produce vinegar faster than something cool and stagnant.

6) After a month and a half, check it. If it smells like vinegar, take a sip. If it tastes good, use it! If it isn’t acidic enough, let it sit a bit longer. Mine seemed to be perfect after about two months.

 

Not Quite Potato Salad with Fresh Turmeric Root and Mustard Seeds

Well, this is a doozy of a photo, but I took it quickly and then ate this salad before I could realize that it was out of focus. Oh well, you get the, um, picture.

I finally got around to purchasing Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty, which is one that I know I will be cooking out of for some time to come. The cookbook focuses on vegetables, and every single of one of the recipes looks amazing. This recipe is not from the cookbook, but it is certainly inspired by it. It was a clean-out-the-fridge kind of salad that really worked well, and as such, I haven’t included precise measurements but guidelines below.

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Not Quite Potato Salad with Fresh Turmeric Root and Mustard Seeds

inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty

baby potatoes, thinly sliced
fresh turmeric root, thinly sliced
green beans
asparagus
zest of lemon
juice of fresh lemon
mustard seeds
cloves crushed garlic
serrano or other pepper
extra virgin olive oil
fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400. Bring a pot of water large enough to fit all the potatoes to a boil and slice the potatoes and turmeric thinly. Boil the potatoes and turmeric for about 2 minutes – since they’re thinly sliced, they’ll cook quickly. Drain the water and let the potatoes and turmeric dry in a strainer. Coat the potatoes and turmeric in a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper, then spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until they are golden brown and crispy.

Bring a separate pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the asparagus and green beans for 1 minute. Drain and cool in ice water.

In a mixing bowl, combine the potatoes, turmeric, green beans, and asparagus. Add the lemon zest and juice.

In a mortar and pestle, smash the garlic and serrano pepper with a bit of kosher salt. Use as much garlic as you like. Heat a pan over medium heat and toss in the garlic/serrano mixture, mustard seeds, and olive oil. Sauté until fragrant and the mustard seeds start to pop. Pour this mixture over the vegetables and stir it all together. Taste and add salt if necessary. Top with fresh chives.

 

Asparagus, Butternut Squash, and Blood Orange with Spicy Za’atar Vinaigrette

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook the other day about how hard it is to eat healthy, in part because of all the conflicting information that exists about what exactly is considered healthy. This article is a year and a half old by now, but the message still rings true, and I laughed the entire time while reading it. When I was in college, and the Atkin’s diet was the fad of the moment, my roommate told me she was trying to cut back on carbs and then proceeded to order a bagel for breakfast. Now, many fad diets say it’s not necessarily the carbs that are killing us, but the gluten. There is so much conflicting and constantly changing information out there. How is the healthy eater to cope?

I tend to follow an eating doctrine that falls somewhere between those touted by Michael Pollan and Michael Ruhlman. Pollan says to “eat food, mostly plants, not too much”, and Ruhlman, from what I gather, would say something like “eat what feels good, all in moderation”. For us, that means eating largely vegetarian at home (in large part because good, ethical meat is expensive) and allowing ourselves to indulge once in a while without guilt. That indulgence can be meat in the form of a giant burger, sugar in the form of a giant cake, or beer in the form of, well, a giant glass of well-crafted brew. These things taste good for a reason! And when did eating become so political?

Anyway, one thing that I tend to eat a lot is cucumbers. Most of the time, I just sprinkle it with some apple cider vinegar and salt and call it a day, but sometimes, when I’m feeling fancy, this happens:

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Sliced cucumbers, a drizzle of nice olive oil, greek yogurt, a sprinkle of za’atar, and some additional ground sumac. So that happened this morning, and since I had the za’atar out and was feeling frisky, I made a spicy za’atar vinaigrette with a serrano pepper and shallot. And then this happened:

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Ever since reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I feel pangs of guilt when eating asparagus out of season, but this winter has been so long that I have been splurging lately. As for the za’atar, you can make your own following Heidi’s recipe, or sometimes you can find a mix in a spice store.

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Asparagus, Butternut Squash, and Blood Orange with Spicy Za’atar Vinaigrette

1 bunch asparagus
1/2 small butternut squash, sliced into sticks
1 blood orange

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 teaspoons za’atar
1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 small shallot, finely diced
1 teaspoon whole grain or dijon mustard

Steam the asparagus and butternut squash until tender. The asparagus should only take a few minutes, and the butternut squash just slightly longer. I steamed them separately so as not to overcook the asparagus. Slice the blood orange into supremes, or just peel and section if you’re not into all that work. Arrange the asparagus, butternut squash, and oranges on a plate.

In a small mason jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, za’atar, pepper, shallot, and mustard. Shake well and pour over the vegetables. You’ll have extra dressing – save it for a salad or other use. Sprinkle sea salt over the whole thing before serving.

Citrus Salad

I recently discovered that I like grapefruit. No, love grapefruit. The pink variety, specifically. All these years I thought that I didn’t like grapefruit mostly because I loathed grapefruit juice, but I should know better than to judge a fruit by its concentrated juice counterpart.

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These bright pinks ones are my favorite. So juicy and mildly sweet. I’ve mainly been eating them in two iterations: on their own as breakfast or in a salad for lunch or dinner. This version is my most basic one – the one that I make when I don’t have much time – but I often jazz it up with avocados, sesame or pumpkin seeds, or some lightly blanched green beans or asparagus. With a simple vinaigrette, the salad makes for a nice contrast to the cold, snowy scenery outside.

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We went on a couple fun trips within the last couple months. I piggy-backed on a work trip of Eric’s to El Paso to visit White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns, and for Eric’s birthday, we paid a visit to his birthplace – Puerto Rico. In Carlsbad, we went on a fun wild cave tour that had us crawling through crevices and rappelling down underground cliffs. We were also planning on camping at nearby Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but unseasonably cold weather forced us indoors. We still had a weekend’s worth of camping food, though, so we still cooked our meals on the camp stove inside the hotel – and only set the smoke alarm off once!

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Puerto Rico was a week-long adventure. We flew to nearby island Vieques and drove around stopping off at whichever secluded beach we wanted. Back on mainland PR, we drove around the island the rest of the week, stopping in Ponce, Boqueron, Rincon, Arecibo, and of course, San Juan. Oddly enough, we barely stepped foot on a beach once we left Vieques – too much other fun stuff to do!

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Citrus Salad

*As mentioned above, there are many ways to spruce up this salad to make it heartier. Add sliced avocado, blanched asparagus or green beans, and cashews or seeds.

1/2 pink grapefruit, peels removed and segmented with no membranes
1 blood orange, peels removed and sliced into rounds
1 head butter lettuce
1 tablespoon red wine or champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon good extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt

Wash and dry the butter lettuce, then tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Prepare the fruit and arrange them atop the lettuce. Mix the vinegar, oil, and salt together and pour over the salad.

Herby Garlic Soup

I’ve received more winter weather and wind chill advisories from my iphone weather app than I’d like to think about lately. Talking about the weather may be a little overdone, but seriously, this has been a harsh one. Oh, and I am running a half marathon on Saturday–a day for which the weather forecast keeps getting colder and colder and snowier and snowier. Good thing we have a trip to Puerto Rico coming up in just one week. In the mean time, garlic soup.

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This garlicky broth is not at all as harsh as it sounds. And for a 15-minute broth, this one packs a lot of flavor. In fact, I may ditch all my other vegetable broth recipes and just stick to this from now on.

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With lots of watercress and chives, this soup has nice herby, savory notes. The beans and carrots make it hearty, too. It’s just good.

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Herby Garlic Soup

1 head garlic
10-5 peppercorns

1-inch knob of ginger, sliced into 4 slices
2-3 bay leaves (optional)
4 cups water

1/2 cup cannellini beans, cooked
1/2 cup borlotti beans (or other heirloom bean), cooked
2 carrots, sliced thinly
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 bunch watercress, chopped
chives, sliced (optional)
salt, to taste

In a saucepan, combine garlic, peppercorns, ginger, bay leaves, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. After five minutes, remove the ginger and simmer another ten minutes. Strain out the garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves (set the garlic and peppercorns aside; discard the bay leaves).

Pour the broth back into the pot and add the beans, carrots, and zucchini. Bring it back to a boil and then immediately remove from heat. This should be just enough to take the raw edge off the vegetables but still keep them crisp.

Salt to taste, and garnish with chives and watercress.

As for the garlic and peppercorns, combine with a bit of water in a blender and grind until smooth. Use a spoonful here or there to make a vinaigrette, or mix it with tahini and more herbs to make a vegetable dip. The garlic will taste mellow and sweet, almost as if it’s been roasted.

One Bowl of Veggies, Day 5: Pulled Pork Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Slaw

Day 5. (days 1, 2, 3, and 4) We’ve reached the end, and we’re going to go out with a bang. A big porky bang.

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Pulled pork has become one of our favorite indulgent meals because it’s so easy to make it good. I don’t cook meat that often – it’s expensive, often time consuming, and when it tastes good, it’s not particularly healthy. Yes, there are plenty of healthy boneless, skinless chicken recipes out there, but I’d just as soon make something vegetarian that tastes equally good, if not better.

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Pulled Pork Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Slaw

I made this pulled pork in the slow cooker, but you can also do a braise in the oven, which is faster. To do that, follow the first steps of browning and adding the braising liquid in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Put the whole thing in a 350-degree oven for 2-2.5 hours. After two hours, check it. If it pulls apart with a fork, it’s done, if not, keep cooking.

1.5 pounds bone-in pork loin
1 tablespoon neutral oil (like grapeseed or canola oil)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 onion, quartered
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 dried avocado leaf (optional)

mixed veg
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uice of 2 limes

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon honey

corn tortillas

If your slow cooker has a removable pot, pull it out and heat it over medium-high heat. If not, heat a pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil. Generously season the pork loin with salt and pepper, then brown each side of the meat in the oil. Be sure to get a deep brown color on each side.

Once every side is browned, remove the pork from the pan and set aside. Add the garlic, onion, and cumin to the pan and stir it around in the remaining oil. Let cook for 2-3 minutes. Add a splash of the apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan, scraping up all the leftover brown bits. If you’re doing this in a separate pan, transfer everything to your slow cooker now and add the rest of the vinegar, water, red pepper flakes, Mexican oregano, and avocado leaf. Season this sauce generously with salt, then add the pork back in. Otherwise, add the remaining ingredients to your slow cooker pot while it is still on the burner. Bring the liquid to a boil, then move the pot into the slow cooker.

Cook in the slow cooker for 5 hours. At this point, the pork should be falling off the bone and tear apart easily with a fork. Remove the pork from the slow cooker and pull it apart using two forks. I usually do this in a large bowl, then pour a bit of the braising liquid over the pork and stir it around. I like to keep the braising liquid by straining out all the other stuff. I will water it down and use it as a base for soups, and you can freeze it to save for later.

To make the slaw, combine lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, and honey in a small bowl. Whisk it all together, then toss the mixed veggies in the dressing.

To make the tacos, warm the tortillas in a dry frying pan or over a gas flame. Add the pulled pork and some of the dressed vegetables. Eat.

One Bowl of Veggies, Day 4: Kale + Mixed Veg Salad with Coconut-Lime Dressing

Day 4. (days 1, 2, and 3) Are you sick of veggies yet? In anticipation of the fatty, porky tacos that are to come tomorrow, today we have a kale salad. You might have noticed that I make kale salads a lot. They’re just good.

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We’re back from Louisville and had so much fun driving around rural Kentucky to taste bourbon. Our favorite of the day was at the Heaven Hill Distillery; they make the Elijah Craig 12-yr bourbon that went down nicely without the aid of water. Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve had the prettiest distilleries with a lot of old buildings; Buffalo Trace is pictured below.

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This picture is of Willet Distilleries bourbon aging warehouses… they look like eery old prisons.

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With our newfound educations, we felt a lot more comfortable ordering bourbons at the bar!

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We ate at Chef Edward Lee’s restaurant in downtown Louisville called Milkwood. It was so delicious, and the cocktails were perfect. The octopus bacon was a killer starter, but the pork burger was what we thought about the rest of the night.

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And now… back to healthy food for the week!

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Kale + Mixed Veg Salad with Coconut-Lime Dressing

1 bunch lacinato kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 can full-fat coconut milk

zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon honey
mixed veg

To prepare the kale, remove the stems and roll the leaves up into a tight bundle, then finely shred the leaves. Place the kale in a large bowl and mix in the olive oil. Massage the leaves until they are all coated.

In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, lime zest, lime juice, red pepper flakes, and honey.

Toss the kale with the veg and dressing.

One Bowl of Veggies, Day 3: Miso Soba Noodles

Day 3! (days 1 and 2) Here we goooo. Soba noodles. Miso. Vegetables.

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Miso Soba Noodles with Mixed Vegetables

1 9.5-oz package soba noodles
2 heaping teaspoons mellow brown rice miso or white miso
4 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
3 teaspoons water
mixed vegetables

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles for 3 minutes. Strain the noodles and rinse under cold water to remove all the starch.

In a large bowl, whisk together the miso, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and water. Add the noodles and a few scoops of the mixed vegetables and toss it all together.

One Bowl of Veggies, Day 2: Creamy Coconut Soup

It’s day 2 of having a big bowl of vegetables in the fridge (see day 1 here). Today’s recipe is super easy. Simmer coconut milk with some aromatics and then add your vegetables to the pot. Done.

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Què màs? Well, Eric and I are heading to Louisville this weekend to drink our way through the Bourbon Trail. We have an ambitious plan of visiting four (maybe five, if we can handle it) distilleries on Saturday, including Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, Heaven Hill, and Willet. We’re quite excited. I’m making a big batch of quinoa patties to sustain us between distilleries, and I’m loading them with veggies. Broccoli, rapini, and butternut squash are getting mixed in for maximum health benefit in addition to herbs and parmesan cheese. This trick of ours – bringing quinoa patties to munch on – also helps us cut down on eating-out costs while we travel. Win-win.

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Creamy Coconut Soup with Veggies

1 13.5-oz can full-fat coconut milk
13.5 oz water (just use the can to measure this)
1/2 inch knob of ginger, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 stalk lemongrass
salt to taste
mixed vegetables
handful of toasted pepita seeds

In a pot, combine the coconut milk, water, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. To prepare the lemongrass, remove the tough outer leaves and cut off the ends. Cut it into 4-inch pieces and smash it with the back of the knife. Simmer the mixture for 20-25 minutes, being careful to never let it boil.

You can heat the vegetables in the microwave for a minute or two to warm them, then place them in a bowl. Ladle the coconut broth over the vegetables and top with toasted pepita (pumpkin) seeds.

Popcorn, 3 Ways

More iPhone photos in this one… sorry. Sometimes I just can’t be bothered to pull out my SLR and take a proper photo. So anyway, this was dinner a couple weekends ago. Popcorn, a bottle of wine, and a Breaking Bad marathon. Thankfully we have finally finished watching Breaking Bad; now we can have our lives back. I will admit to having a small hole in my heart for about two days after we watched the finale, but it healed quickly.

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Anyway, back to the popcorn. My new obsession is sichuan peppercorns. The red ones are more readily available, but the green ones are my favorite. This popcorn was made with the red variety, though. Both versions cause a similar mouth numbness that is just… so. cool. The numbing effect is perfect with spiciness. The red ones have more of an anise flavor, while the green ones verge more toward minty-ness in a way.

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Another relatively recent discovery is dried curry leaves. I found these at a grocery store in Little India in Chicago, but you can order them online easily. I ground them in my spice grinder with a little turmeric and it adds this sort of grassy curry flavor to the popcorn.

The other thing that I love on all popcorn is something green and fresh. Usually this just ends up being an herb, but I had some finely processed asparagus from a dumpling-making session and found that those were great also.

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Popcorn, 3 Ways

This recipe doesn’t really have exact measurements, just ratios. Just sprinkle things on until the popcorn tastes good is my general rule. If you need a tutorial on popping popcorn, there is a great one over at Simply Recipes. I always pop mine on the stove top in a big pot. You can top it with butter, which is of course amazing, but if you want something slightly healthier, pick up an olive oil spray canister and just spray the popcorn. Then mix all the spices together in a bowl and sprinkle it on with salt to taste. Toss the popcorn and top with fresh greenery.

Curry + Pea Shoots

2:1 ratio of ground, dried curry leaves and ground turmeric
finely chopped pea shoots

Spicy Sichuan Peppercorn + Black Pepper

2:1:1 ratio of ground sichuan peppercorns, freshly ground black peppercorns, and red pepper flakes
finely chopped green onions

Truffle Salt + Cheese

truffle salt to taste
parmesan cheese
finely processed asparagus

[for the truffle salt + cheese popcorn, I actually like to microwave it for 15-30 seconds to allow the cheese to melt over the popcorn. yum.]