Oktoberfest Sausage Stew

Oktoberfest Sausage StewOcto-beer-Fest
Oktoberfest is wrapping up over in Munich, but for those of us here on the other side of the pond the party is just beginning. Given the number of 19th-century German immigrants who came to our country, you would think that we would have a better idea as to the proper time to partake in Oktoberfest but Americans, it seems, have decided that October is the time.

For the next month, you will easily be able to find any number of Oktoberfest celebrations and Beer Gardens that will quench any thirst for a good quality ale—as well as tasty fare to go along with it. For the beer aficionados out there, October can be a little like Christmas. For others who drink a beer once every two years or so, like myself, Oktoberfest isn’t that big of a deal. If we’re talking about cooking with beer, that’s a different story. If that’s the case, I’m all in…

Here’s the thing. I don’t like the way beer tastes when you drink it by the pint or from a bottle BUT I do like the way it smells. (I know. It’s weird.) This is why I like to use beer when I cook. It adds the flavor of the beer without making the recipe taste like beer. The best example of this is a recipe for Beef Short Ribs Braised in Dark Beer with Bacon and Red Onion that is a fall staple in my family. Of course, in my opinion, you can’t make decent fish and chips without using beer in your batter. Same goes for chili and let’s not forget that the only proper way to eat a Bratwurst is to boil it in beer first.

So for my Oktoberfest, I am going to search out all of the beer recipes I can find to test them out starting with this recipe for Oktoberfest Sausage Stew…it sounds like the perfect meal for a cool-weather dinner.

Oktoberfest Sausage Stew 
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine
Yields 6 Servings

This recipe is based on a traditional Hungarian sausage, tomato and bell pepper stew called lecsó (LEH-tcho). The beer adds a rich, dark flavor. Read more…

Caramelized Butternut Squash

Caramelized Butternut SquashFall Flow
The changing of the seasons is always a weird time food-wise, especially for us here in California. The calendar may tell you that it is fall but the 90 degree weather says differently. And, the thought of a succulent fall roast from a warm oven is off-putting. On top of that, we are blessed to be able to get whatever produce we want year-round unlike other areas of the country where certain produce can only be found seasonally. This means that there is less seasonality to our cooking and the chances of a cooking rut or ingredient boredom are high. Whenever I feel like I am in a rut or need some inspiration I head to the farmer’s market. And, if I can’t get there I camp out in the produce section and try to find something that sparks my interest.

I can’t quite explain it. There’s something about standing in the middle of botanic abundance that makes my inner farmer happy. The same thing happens when I am picking anything from my own garden. It’s the thought process that starts when you have to consider how you are going to use the homegrown wealth in front of you. It is also the same feeling you get when presented with beautiful examples of farmed art piled high in a vast array of colors beneath the tents of people who love working their land.

It’s been a while since I have been able to get to my Sunday farmers market and it is making me kind of itchy. I have also been struggling with the daily “What’s For Dinner?” grind. So, I know I am overdue for a trip. I need the therapy you can only find while loading more fruits than necessary into your market basket. I also need the thrill of the first squash sightings and the hearty greens that go with them. For me, that first taste of an in-season butternut captures more of fall than any pumpkin latte ever could.

As I sit here and write this I am beyond thankful for a responsibility-free weekend. I can already feel my creative culinary juices flow while the anticipation of a “fruitful” Sunday morning buzzes through my body.

Caramelized Butternut Squash
Adapted from Ina Garden and The Food Network
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…

Apple Pickle

Apple PickleIn An Apple Pickle
You may remember a few weeks ago I talked about going apple picking at my brother-in-law’s house. Well, fast forward till now and I am still trying to make my way through all of those apples. We’ve made a pretty big dent in our harvest but we still have a ways to go.

The problem is, we’re kinda getting tired of consuming apples in the usual forms. Eating them straight, as part of a pie, as applesauce, or using the applesauce to make muffins is getting boring. Apples and pork are a no-brainer dinner combination. But, you can’t eat that every night. And, let’s not forget that, recent rainy days aside, it’s still pretty warm out. So, a slow-roasted meal is not the first that comes to mind in 90-degree heat.

I came across this recipe in the New York Times cooking section and I was beyond intrigued. After doing a little research, I was surprised how common apple pickle is. Considering how often I eat and or prepare Indian meals, you would think that these pickles would have crossed my path before now. But, apple pickle is a first for me.

The biggest hurdle to making these was the asafoetida. While we do try to stock as much variety as we can here at the store there will always be things that we just don’t carry. In this case, it’s asafoetida powder. So, I made a trip to my favorite spice shop and picked some up. I love spice shopping so “having” to go is actually a treat.

I made some changes to the original recipe based on research I did with a number of the Indian cookbooks I have in my collection. It’s pretty exciting to make these if only to get a break from the sweet side of apples…

Apple Pickle
Adapted from NY Times Cooking Read more…

Remembering

Remembering

Growing up, I remember my mother saying on more than one occasion that she would always remember where she was and what she was doing the day that President John F. Kennedy was shot because of the utter shock and, for lack of a better term, trauma, she felt upon hearing the news. The implausibility of that event created a memory that could not be erased. I never thought I would ever experience something that jarring but I was wrong. For my generation, the event that will forever be etched in our minds is September 11, 2001.

I am fascinated to hear other people’s stories about where they were and what they were doing that day mainly because they are all just so different, yet sadly similar. My story goes something like this:

We were just three weeks shy of our wedding on September 29. My then-fiancée and I were getting ready to go to work and had the news on in the background. The news was reporting that a plane had flown into the north tower of the World Trade Center. But, they had not yet figured out that it was a terrorist attack. For all we knew it was a tragic mechanical failure…

I was working in Santa Clara then for a technology division of Barnes and Noble and commuting from Oakland via Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor service. This meant I had to leave early to catch the train in Emeryville. I was listening to news coverage on the radio but still didn’t quite have a handle on the immensity of the situation in New York. So, I kept going on about my day per usual. I managed to find a parking space and right as I shut off the engine the announcement was made that the South Tower had collapsed. I had a moment of disbelief because I thought that couldn’t be right. I figured they had gotten something wrong so I got on the train.

At that point, we still didn’t know how many planes had been hijacked or where the next threat may have been coming from. The FAA was grounding every single plane flying over, or on their way to, the US in an effort to stop any more attacks. What you may not realize is while that was happening in the air, the same thing was happening with the rail lines. The FRA, which governs the country’s railways, called for an all stop across every single railway in the US. We were just outside of the Jack London Station when the first stop happened. For reasons that to this day I do not know, they released the trains about 10 minutes later. We were stopped again about 15 minutes after that and again released. The same thing happened a third time not too far from my stop at the Great America Station. Each time we stopped the fear level amongst passengers grew. We just didn’t know what was going on.

By the time I got to the office, I was shaking and confused and had no idea what I should be doing or where I should go. And, I wasn’t alone. The head office for Barnes and Noble is in a tall building on Fifth Ave in New York City. While I had been starting and stopping on the train, my colleagues in New York were watching the horror unveil in real-time from their office windows. Those of us who made it into the Santa Clara office that morning, packed ourselves into the conference rooms listening on speakerphones hanging on every word our friends and coworkers were using to describe what they were seeing—all while attempting to hold back their tears. It didn’t take long for management to close down the office and send us all home.

By the time I got back to our apartment, my now-husband was already there. His office was on the top floor of 4 Embarcadero Center with beautiful big windows and views of the Bay. They didn’t even let him in the building before he was sent home. We spent the day grateful to be with each other but heartbroken for those who lost their lives and for those they left behind.

There are many things I have forgotten and will forget during my 46 years but I know this. That fall day in September 2001, will be a memory I take with me always. I will never forget it.

We will never forget.