Inspiration Is A Bitch

The title says it all. She acts like she’s in love with you. She’ll say all the right things. The moment you can’t “make it rain”, she’ll turn her back on you. At that point you should probably just give up. I mean it’s probably a bad idea to reach in your pocket and pull out handful of quarters, and throw em at her screaming “I may not be able to make it rain, but I can make it hail”……Wait….Wait….Wait…..I think I’m veering off topic before I ever get on topic. This isn’t supposed to be a blog about bad strip club memories…No the inspiration that’s a real bitch is that little voice that encourages you to write, cook, brew beer, or engage in whatever creative activities you may have. Inspiration comes and goes with out warning. Lately inspiration has been sticking around. As long as I am feeling it, this blog will be better updated. Will it happen? Who knows. Like I said inspiration’s a bitch.

Today’s actual post is about a country that has inspired more than a few people, Italy. Italy has long been high in the ranks of great wine countries. For good reason no doubt. I love a good Chianti or Barolo as much as the next alcohol snob. These days Italy is changing. It’s still first and foremost wine country. Lately they have been rising fast in the ranks of good beer countries. Forever it seemed all Italy was on a beer map was a handful of boring generic Euro lagers. The times they are a changing and a growing craft beer scene, not unlike our own, is taking root – Italy’s Craft Beer Awakening. Sadly none of these great beers are available around here. As breweries are able to grow and prosper, I’m sure well see them on store shelves soon enough. When that day comes, it will be a blessing. After all, most breweries willing to jump through the hurdles to get on Texas shelves fall in love with us and stick around a while.

While Italy hugs it out with a new found love of beer, we can fall in love with a beer inspired Italian menu:

Panzanella Salad

1 small red onion
1 half of an English cucumber, or a few baby cucumbers
1.5# Tomatoes, a mix of heirlooms preferably.
1 bunch fresh basil
1 day old loaf of crusty Italian bread, cubed
3 TBSP + more extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP sherry or red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Chiffanade the basil by cutting it in thin strips. In a large bowl combine the oil, vinegar, and basil. Take the onion and slice it in half. Cut the onion into thin slices. Take the heirloom tomatoes and core them, and dice or slice them up. Slice the cucumber into thin slices. Combine that in your bowl with the vinaigrette. In a pan heat a bit of olive oil. Add the bread and lightly toast. When lightly toasted add to the rest of the ingredients. Toss salad and season with salt and pepper. The longer it sits, the better the flavors will meld together.

Tuscan Inspired Kale and White Bean Soup

Olive oil
1/4# pancetta, diced
1 onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
1/2# hot Italian sausages, removed from their casings
1# Brined white beans, such as navy or cannellini – recipe follows
1 bunch Kale, washed and cut into a thick chiffonade
12 oz IPA, such as Stone IPA or 60 Minute IPA
1/2 quart chicken stock
Water to cover
3 sprigs oregano
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt and Pepper

In a large pot heat, up the oil. Add the pancetta. Brown off the pancetta. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Sweat the vegetables. Add the garlic and sausage. Render off the sausage. When sausage is rendered, drain off the fat. Add to the pot the beans, kale, IPA, chicken stock, herbs, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Add pepper to taste. Let simmer covered for about 1 hour, or until beans are tender. Check seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper. Serve alongside some crusty Italian bread.

Brined Beans
1# dried beans, picked over and tiny rocks removed
4 quarts water
5 TBLS kosher salt

In a container mix the salt and water together until the salt is dissolved. Add the beans. Soak beans for 8-12 hours. Pour off water. Use beans as you would any soaked bean.

linguine Con Vongole e Birra
1# Linguine
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil + more
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Red pepper flakes
12 oz beer*
1 can diced tomatoes, drained**
1# clams, rinsed and scrubbed
1/2 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Water should taste like the ocean. Following package directions, cook linguine 1 minute less than recommended. While pasta is cooking, heat up a saute pan with the olive oil. Add the garlic and lightly brown it. Add red pepper flakes, as much or as little as you like depending on heat level desired. Add beer, tomatoes, and clams. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook six minutes, or until most but not all clams are open. Add the pasta to the pan. Cook the pasta and the sauce for 1 minute, or until the clams are just cooked through and the pasta is al dente. If the sauce is too tight, add some of the pasta water. Add the parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.

*for the beer, Belgian pale brews work well such as: Belgian style pale ales like Green Flash Rayon Vert or Maredsous blond. Trippels like Boulevard Long Strange Trippel or St. Bernardus Trippel. Belgian strong pale ales such as Duvels

**Adding a can of tomatoes makes a red clam sauce. If you want a white clam sauce, omit the can of tomatoes. Instead add one seeded and diced Roma tomato.

Italian Cheesecake

Amaretti cookies, or your favorite crisp cookie, ground
2# Ricotta cheese
1# Marscapone cheese, or American cream cheese
1.5 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
6 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 Tsp vanilla extract
2 TBSP fresh orange zest
1 TBSP Orange Blossom Water
Wild Berry Sauce, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350f. Drain the ricotta cheese in a cheese cloth lined strainer, for about 30 minutes. Heavily butter a 9inch springform pan. Coat with the ground cookies, shaking off excess, and set aside. With a mixer, cream together the ricotta, marscapone, and sugar. Add the salt, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, orange zest, and orange water. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off. Leave cheesecake in the oven for 30 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Top with wild berry sauce and serve.

Wild Berry Sauce
2 cups mixed berries, such as raspberries and blackberries
2 TBS sugar
1 TBS Balsamic vinegar

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Let macerate for at least 30 minutes.

I almost always find myself listening to music when I cook. Music offers its own inspiration. With an iPod loaded with over a 1000 albums, I have plenty of music to choose from. I also love introducing folks to great music that is new to them. After all I’m not a selfish hipster. Yes my iPod is loaded with bands/musicians most people have never heard of, but unlike hipsters I don’t aim to keep it to myself. As long as I keep chanting “I’m not a hipster” I can make it happen right? Me living in denial aside, I offer up some good music to cook by, the Italian edition:

Lets start off with some Italian music. I don’t have much in the way of music from Italy. My Italian collection is exclusively metal. If metal is what you need to get the blood pumping, I offer a couple of great Power metal bands:

Thy Majesty

They are an over the top power metal band, in the best since. Their music comes packed with soaring male vocals, plenty of neo-classical guitar solos, and a healthy dose of symphonic elements

Rhapsody Of Fire

They are the godfathers of Italian metal, as well as the originators of the Symphonic power metal style oft associated with Italian metal.

Lets be honest we are dealing with Italian cuisine here. Italians and Italian cuisine are very sexy and sensual. I have a deep love for metal. This is sexy food, and when cooking sexy food you just gotta have some sexy baby makin’ music blasting:

The Weeknd

Abel Tesfaye, AKA The Weeknd, has the greatest R&B voice this side of Michael Jackson. He could sing the U.S tax code, err I guess that should be the Canadian tax code…Damn Canadians…. and women would be falling at his feet to get in bed with him, I have no doubt.


~ by thebrewgeek on Wednesday, October 17, 2012.

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