Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Keeping in Tuna...

There are a number of recipes in my house that have been made so many times that they just come naturally. I don't need a cookbook, I don't need to think much, I can just pull it together because I've made it a gajillion times.

Tonight's dinner is one of those meals, which in my house we just call "Tuna Pasta". I originally got the recipe from the excellent Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan. If you don't own this book, you should. The pasta section alone is worth the book, but everything in it is great.
Tuna Pasta is penne pasta with a simple tuna and tomato sauce. It sounds basic, and it is, but the flavors (garlic, tuna, tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper) work so well together that it's just perfection. In the time that you can make something like spaghetti from a jar (if you count the pasta time) or tuna helper, you can have something really good.

Tuna Pasta:
1 lb penne pasta
4 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp minced garlic
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp butter
2 cans olive-oil packed tuna, drained and flaked
chopped parsley to taste (I like 3-4 tbsp or more)
salt (coarse kosher!) and pepper

Begin boiling water for pasta. Heat olive oil over med/med-lo heat, and add garlic. Cook until golden and fragrant but not brown. Add tomatoes (with juice) and bring to a simmer.
When water boils, add pasta. A few minutes before the pasta is done, take tomatoes off heat, and add butter, stirring to melt. Add tuna, and combine. When pasta's done, drain and return to pot. Add sauce, and stir to combine. Add chopped parsley, fresh ground pepper and salt, and stir again. Serve.

Now that's a simple dinner, but again, it's really good, and it works perfectly when you're worn out from a day of working for the man, and you just want to get dinner on the table.
With respect to the parsley, I use italian flat leaf since I think it tastes better and has a better mouth-feel, but you can use the curly kind. The curly kind can have more sand in its nooks and crannies, so you probably need to wash it a bit more than italian, but if you wash it like you'd do spinach, you should be ok.
You may be tempted to substitute either vegetable oil packed tuna or water packed tuna. If you must (and you really shouldn't, since the tuna is the focal point of the whole shebang, and so you should get the best you can), go for the water packed over the vegetable oil packed tuna. The veg oil tuna is a little cat-foody in texture, if you ask me.

Some pics:

Finally, if you've made it this far, apologies for the lame pun in the title. It was either that or "you can tuna piano...", but I figured that one had been done to death.

Monday, October 20, 2008

On a roll...

I must be on a roll, because beer #2 is almost ready to have the yeast pitched, cooling off as I type this.
Tonight I made a "Columbus IPA", from the book Secrets of the Master Brewers, by Higgins et al. This trio also wrote the Homebrewer's Recipe Guide, which, as I've said before, I really dug.

The recipe was from Dan Gortemiller of the Pacific Coast Brewing Company, and one reason it appealed to me was that it was an extract beer, and at this point in my life I don't know that I'm all that interested in going all-grain. I think it'd be cool to say I'd made one, but the time involved, etc, it's just not all that appealing to me. So sue me.

Anyway, the recipe:
9 lbs light malt extract syrup
2 lbs crystal malt
4 oz columbus hops (13.9% alpha)
1 tsp irish moss
ale yeast
yeast nutrients

Steep grains for 20 minutes and discard. Off heat, add extract and hops, and boil for 20 minutes. Cool and pitch.

My brew store sells malt extract in 3.3 lb bags, so I went with 9.9 lbs of extract instead of 9.
I couldn't find columbus hops at my brew store, so I went with a combination of millenium hops (15% alpha) and Yakima magnum (13.1% alpha). I'm thinking "close enough". I also went with a smack pack of American Ale yeast, so there's my nutrients right there.
So, call it a "Yakima Millenium IPA", although it's probably not going to be very pale. For some strange reason, the recipe calls for 6 gallons of water, not the usual 5. I understand evaporation, but the boil is so short, surely a gallon of water won't get cooked off?

It's late, and there's not much more to write about, so I'll post a couple pics and that'll be that.

2 lbs of crystal malt:

4oz of hops (that's a lot of hops)

A taste of honey...

A reader (thanks Ian!) had a comment on my last beer entry, asking about using honey as the priming agent for your bottling. I originally started writing my reply as a comment, but figured it was a good topic for a blog post, so here's Ian's original question:

does the honey as the primer add flavor, color. I will be ready to bottle my first batch this coming week and i say the recipe and the honey primer sould neat

I think the honey would add additional flavor, but I'm not so sure about color (considering you're adding somewhere around 1 1/2 cups of honey (plus water) to 5 gallons of beer).
The recipe I have for the bridal ale calls for 1 1/2 cups of honey as priming sugar, but I'm probably going to cut it back to 1 or 1 1/4 cups, since last time this beer was wayyy over-carbonated.
I have a book ("Designing Great Beers", by Ray Daniels) that points out some of the special concerns with honey. Honey has a delicate flavor to it (a good thing) and it has living organisms in it (not necessarily a good thing). So, you can't just add the honey to cold wort/beer.
This causes a problem, since boiling it for a long time would pretty much wipe out the flavors that honey imparts (and yes, I realize that the recipe I have has me boiling the honey right from the beginning. Next time, I'll add the honey later, so it doesn't boil as long). The Daniels book has a suggestion from the National Honey Board that is kind of impractical, but I'll post it anyway:
1. Dilute your honey to the gravity of the wort with water
2. Conduct a hold for two and a half hours at 176deg F under a CO2 blanket.
3. Add this directly to the beer at high krausen.

Like I said, a little impractical, since I don't think most people are setup to do the hold step (and I'm assuming "high krausen" means when your beer is fermenting hard).

But none of this addresses bottling. What I did for bottling was to combine my honey with about a cup of water in a saucepan, and I boiled it for a couple minutes. I figure that's long enough to kill whatever micro-organisms are present, and won't kill all the flavor. I'm using a "mountain honey" that seems to have more flavor than the kind that comes in the little bear bottle, so maybe that extra flavor will stick around.

I personally think a bigger issue with honey is that I wonder how it matches up sugar-wise with something like plain corn sugar. Typically, people add about 3/4 cup of corn sugar when priming for bottling. According to wikipedia, honey has 82.12 g of sugar per 100g of honey.
If corn sugar is "all sugar", then it's still not double the sugar of honey, so I don't know that my recipe's 1 1/2 cups of honey is right, if you're trying to carbonate a beer (and that would explain my over-carbonation problem).
This is a long winded way of saying, I think I'd go with about 1 cup of honey for my priming (which is what I plan to do), and I plan to boil it in a cup of water for ~5 minutes. That should do the trick, and next time, I'll play with the honey in the wort to see if I can keep it out of the boil for a while to better preserve the flavors).

One final thing I learned is that honey doesn't add much in the way body (since it's still mostly sugar), just some flavor and alcohol (more alcohol than the equivalent amount of malt, apparently).