Friday, April 1, 2011

Presto Pesto...and our Book Giveaway Winner

First some bookkeeping: We are happy to announce that the winner of Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite is CC. Congrats CC — we'll be contacting you by email — and thanks to everyone who entered!

Now on to Mike the Gay Beer Guy's April post

It’s spring time ... well it’s supposed to be. I think the weather in the Midwest is so much less stable than the East or West; it seems that every other day is something different. Like one day it is 70 degrees and sunny, and then the next day it’s below freezing and on the verge of snowing (yeah, for REAL! As I’m writing this, it was 65 yesterday, this morning it is in the low 50s, and tomorrow, when I’m planning to brew, it’s going to be a rainy 40 and falling for the next few days)(UPDATE: As I’m editing the post, Kansas City received a few inches of snow this past weekend... for REAL!?!?! And keep in mind it was in the 60s this afternoon)(And update from Janet, as I put this online, the East Coast is expecting up to a foot of snow, no joke!)

But let’s be positive, spring weather is around the corner. And when it’s spring time, my thirst for beers changes drastically. No longer do I crave anything high in alcohol, nor anything with a big, malty backbone or spiced up with a whole bunch of hops. Key words become crisp, clean, easy, and most important, social. OK, you can call me out: “social” doesn’t exactly describe beer. BUT, when I’m hanging out with friends or family for late spring and summer dinners, sitting under the stars, or watching the baseball games, beer suddenly becomes a part of the atmosphere.

I have a few standard warm-weather beers styles I go to. The easiest and most successful is my wheat beer. It’s a relatively simple recipe, pairs well with sooo many dishes, and best of all, it’s very low in alcohol, easy drinking, and easily entertains a crowd for one of those warm days and cool evenings!

So what to serve? One of my favorite warm weather pairings are pasta dishes. My mom used to make a pasta salad with tomatoes and cucumbers and all sorts of other fresh veggies from our garden. Anyone who knows me realizes that I didn’t inherit a green thumb like my mother... my thumbs are black as death! BUT I’m proud to say that I do have a basil plant. I am so excited that it has not only survived the winter, but that it’s generally in good health, and, well, still alive! Um... PESTO?

4 cups FRESH Basil... yes, you can go to the supermarket and buy pre-packaged, but it’s not the same as cutting it from your own plant. If you don’t have a garden, try a farmers' market!
Feel free to experiment a little too: try Thai Basil form the Asian market, or maybe Arugula, or some other green? My plant has exploded with leaves, so I have enough for this batch.
A few cloves of garlic... maybe 3 or 4?
⅓ cup pine nuts... or sunflower seeds
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup EVOO
Salt/Pepper to taste

Put the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and cheese in a blender or food processor. Blend until everything comes together in the form of a smooth paste, scraping down the sides of your bowl every now and then.

Once everything has come together, you want to emulsify the EVOO into the basil mixture; add the EVOO through the opening in the top of the blender in a slow and steady stream so that it incorporates into the basil mixture evenly. Taste and season appropriately! The pesto will keep for a day or two, but I think it’s better to eat it right away.

Although you can use any pasta, I think it’s better with something a bit wider than spaghetti! This makes about a cup of pesto, which is enough to use for 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main course!

I have to give a big thanks to my friends C, S, and E. Not only did C and S invite me into their home, but they let me use their high powered camera from their business... E works for them, so it was perfect timing; the three of them finished their work day with a delicious meal!

Mike’s Wheat Beer

So I must confess... the best wheat beer I ever made was the one where I cut ALL the corners! These are relatively simple recipes, so cutting corners is easy to do, in my opinion. Here is the result. For information on how to make this a fruit-wheat beer (such as raspberry or blueberry... hahaha or you could say blue-beery... ok sorry), check my blog! The address is at the bottom of this post!

OG 1.043, FG 1.009, ABV 4.5%, IBUs 17
4 ½ pounds Base Malt
4 ½ pounds malted Wheat
1 oz Tettnanger hops at 4% AA (or something else?), 60 minutes
Yeast of your choosing
Mash grains at 150* F for 60 minutes. Sparge and lauter as usual...there is always the
possibility of a stuck sparge, so use rice hulls as appropriate. For hopping, simpler is better. If you’re going to drink this straight up with a neutral ale yeast, maybe try something more interesting, like East Kent Golding, or Styrian Golding, or even an American “C” hop. If you’re going to use a more flavorful yeast, keep the hop rather neutral. (if you plan to use the Weinhenstephen yeast, which commercially is WLP300 or WY3068, keep the reins in on your fermentation temp...too high and you get all sorts of over fruity nastiness!) If you’re planning to add fruit, keep both the hops and yeast neutral so the fruit flavor shines through.

In the past, the best yeasts I’ve used have been US-05 and my house Pacman strain. For
a discussion on all of these factors (“all” being fruit and yeast), check out my blog at:

- Mike TGBG

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