Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Italian Family Classic
Minaste & Beans

This is a family classic. Something my Italian grandmother made, my dad made and something I made weekly for my mom when she was anemic and didn’t want to eat red meat in order to build up the iron in her body. It worked.

When I brought it in one day for lunch, a co-worker called this a "poor man’s Italian soup." It is not really soup, but I will say it is definitely economically feasible. It is increasingly hard to eat healthy for a low price, but four servings of this dish will cost you a total of about $5.

With only six ingredients it is easy to prepare. It is also extremely nutritious without sacrificing great taste, which we all know healthy dishes do sometimes. The spinach and beans will load you up with energy-providing protein and iron and your body will thank you for the amount of vitamins A, C, E and calcium you are getting with each spoonful.

It is hearty and best served on a cold winter day with buttered pieces of a baguette or semolina bread.

3 to 5 cloves of garlic
(The amount depends on your love of garlic; use a minimum of three average sized cloves – I love garlic, so sometimes I use five.)

2, 10-ounce packages of frozen whole leaf spinach
(I know this isn’t fresh spinach and I know you’re going to cut it as it cooks, so why not buy frozen cut leaf spinach or use the fresh version? You can do that, but it won’t taste the same. This recipe has been through decades of trial and error. I highly recommend sticking with the frozen whole leaf spinach.)

1, 15.5-ounce can of cannellini beans

Olive oil
(My grandmother, Philomena, didn’t keep measurements of ingredients like this one. Following her lead, I don’t either. I use enough olive oil to sauté the garlic; maybe cover the bottom of the pan. I do recommend the following as a caution: you can always add more olive oil, but I’ve never been successful at taking it out once I’ve added too much.)

Black Pepper

Putting It Together:
Peel and chop the cloves of garlic

In a two-quart saucepan, in between low to medium heat, sauté the chopped garlic in olive oil with some salt and black pepper (you can also add crushed red pepper flakes here for some heat)

Add the frozen spinach once the garlic is sautéed. As the spinach cooks, flip the frozen blocks over occasionally and cut the leaves with food scissors. Continue cutting the spinach as it cooks.

Add the cannellini beans once all of the spinach is no longer frozen. Look for movement or simmering in the pot then put it on low heat and stir occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Note: This tastes great when it is first cooked and it gets even better as a leftover after all the flavors have spent a night together in the refrigerator.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

1st Williamsburg Cask Ale Festival

On a blistery Friday night, in the greatest city on Earth, OC (Original Crunkster) Oliver Crunk, new friend Mike Z. and myself, met up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn to actively participate in the 1st Williamsburg Cask Ale Festival. The fest featured 15 or so cask ales. For those of you unfamiliar with cask ales, you can read all about them, right here. Cask ales tend to pack quite a wallop, so it may not be the best idea to arrive an hour before your drinking buddies and get started by yourself, ie: me. By the time O Crunk and Mike Z arrived I was in rather good spirits.
Although the details of what took place in the next few hours are still a little hazy, one thing that is without question, is that the beer selection was excellent.

Here are a couple descriptions that I wrote in my "notes" on the good ol' Iphone,
  • Dogfish 75 min.- Milton, DE- 7.5%, delicious
  • Ridgeway Reindeer Droppings- West Sussex, England- 4.7%, meh, tastes just like the name.
  • Eerie Railbender Ale- Eerie, PA- 6.8% Scottish 90/wee heavy- very mellow, chocolatey, smooth, delish
  • Brooklyn Backbreaker Ale-Brooklyn, NY Initial smell was like the reddish, purple Tootsie Pop, flavor is not as intense, but still very good. Never heard of this before
One of the standouts of the night was the Shawnee Bourbon Barrel Aged Entire. This beer was very unique and here is a review from Mr. Crunk himself:

The CT Cafe Pick of the Night was, drumroll please.............Stone Brewing Co.'s Sublimely Self Righteous Ale. This beer was the unanimous favorite. Hand's down. Hoppy, smooth, and motor-oil dark. At 8.7%, this brew will take you down if you let it hang around for a couple rounds, which, based on flavor, would be very easy to do.

That's it for the 1st Billyburg Cask Fest. Hopefully, we'll see you at the 2nd.

The CT Cafe wants to remind you that if your driving, don't drink and if your drinking, give us a call.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Coleslaw with a Soulful Kick

Easy to prepare, healthy eats are something people are searching for, but without a guide to the new age of nutrition it can be a failed pursuit. Even when that hunt for good health food is a success, finding a dish that also tastes great is the next challenge.

Here is an easy colorful side dish with a subtle sweet flavor followed by spicy kick. It is made up of nutritious vegetables that will go great with your next grilled chicken dinner (it is probably good for a barbecue and with fried chicken or diner-style cheeseburger and fries, but this is an attempt at eating healthy).

Carrot-Cayenne Coleslaw comes from “Vegan Soul Kitchen – Fresh, Healthy, And Creative African-American Cuisine” by Bryant Terry, an award-winning Oakland-based eco-chef.

I made the dish recently to go with a grilled chicken panini sandwiches on whole wheat rolls that were topped with mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes and fresh organic baby spinach.

This is a good beginner dish for those looking to get into raw food. Or it can be used to replace the fat-and sugar-laden traditional coleslaw made with refined sugars and mayonnaise.

It is also easy to prepare. I was able to make it with a toddler opening kitchen drawers into my knees, repeatedly telling me to “get out of town,” as I chopped the cabbage and grated the carrots.

Here is Bryant Terry’s recipe with my alterations in italics.

½ small green cabbage head, cored and sliced thinly
Chopped a third of a regular green cabbage
2 large carrots, grated
¼ small purple cabbage head, cored and sliced thinly
Chopped a third of a regular purple cabbage
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup champagne vinegar
Used 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon agave nectar or organic raw cane sugar
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
Did not use the sesame seeds
*used additional mustard, agave nectar, salt, cayenne by eyeballing since I was using more cabbage than the recipe called for

Putting it Together:
Place the green cabbage and carrots in one bowl and the purple cabbage in a separate bowl.

In an upright blender, combine the mustard, vinegar, agave nectar, salt and cayenne. While blending slowly add the olive oil. I put them all in a blender at once and used regular speed.

Add half the dressing to the green cabbage/carrots and add the remain dressing to the purple cabbage. Massage them both until wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes each. Cover, and refrigerate them for at least 1 hour or overnight. Remove at least 15 minutes before serving, combine them, add sesame seeds and mix well. Did not use the sesame seeds.

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