Here’s why your craft beer may taste different these days

With the air getting cool, it’s the perfect time of year to warm your body with a tall glass of beer. Even Pumpkin beer if you’d like.

Whether you’re a true fan with a sensitive palate or not, the current state-of-hop-emergency may affect your buzz.

But before we go there, you need to know what a hop is?

A hop is used to flavor a beer, and the flavor you get depends on when you add the hops. If you add them at the beginning, the beer will be bitter; if you add them toward the end of a boil, they will produce more of an aroma than a taste.

EVERCREECH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: Jazz Tupman holds up some hops which are used to brew beer at the Wild Beer Co brewery at Lower Westcombe Farm on February 11, 2016 near Evercreech, England. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
EVERCREECH, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 11: Jazz Tupman holds up some hops which are used to brew beer at the Wild Beer Co brewery at Lower Westcombe Farm on February 11, 2016 near Evercreech, England. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Hops sound pretty great, right? So why are we in a state-of-emergency? Well, the craft beer world is currently suffering from a major hop-shortage. Last year, Europe experienced a serious drought, which didn’t allow farmers to grow the hop-crop, causing this hop-tastrophe.

Our favorite beers all come from hops, even our famous, locally-brewed ‘Chancellor’ from Tequesta Brewing Company, who ironically, just celebrated its yearly, ‘Hop Week’. Tequesta Brewing Company (big sister to Palm Beach Garden’s Twisted Trunk), explains that Europe’s drought has not only made it hard to find European hops, but has also caused the price of American hops to rise.

Tequesta Brewing Company brewer and owner Matt Webster started home brewing at age 21. He has been brewing professionally since 2008, and keeps six to seven beers on tap at all times. TBC brewery and bar is located on U.S. Highway One in Tequesta. (Bill Ingram /The Palm Beach Post)
Tequesta Brewing Company brewer and owner Matt Webster started home brewing at age 21. He has been brewing professionally since 2008, and keeps six to seven beers on tap at all times. TBC brewery and bar is located on U.S. Highway One in Tequesta. (Bill Ingram /The Palm Beach Post)

TBC also says that it is much harder to acquire mosaic, citric and galaxia hops — three of the most popular varieties.

The brewery has a hop-purveyor who gets European hops for them, brew-master Matt Webster explained. The crop was so bad that the purveyor couldn’t complete the order, and the brewery had to turn to American hops.

Not that there is anything wrong with American hops. In fact, other Palm Beach County breweries like Due South in Boynton Beach aren’t affected at all by the hops shortage because they already brew with American hops from places like Yakima, Washington. For TBC, though, German hops is go-to source and they want to stay who they are.

Left to right: Ashley Doane, Delray Beach, Ashley Hayes, Laurie Schuster, Nancy Colman and Michelle Hershey, all of Boca Raton, gathered at the Saltwater Brewery bar following their yoga class at the Delray Beach craft brewery on Sunday, August 23, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Left to right: Ashley Doane, Delray Beach, Ashley Hayes, Laurie Schuster, Nancy Colman and Michelle Hershey, all of Boca Raton, gathered at the Saltwater Brewery bar following their yoga class at the Delray Beach craft brewery on Sunday, August 23, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

So are we in a hop shortage? Yes. Will our favorite local breweries still produce our favorite drinks? Yes. Is Tequesta Brewing Company still putting out great beers? A for sure, yes.

And finally, should we worry about the lack of hops? Not just yet, so head over to your favorite local craft brewery and grab a pint, especially while your favorites are still on tap.

Less is more in fashion, beauty and… cake?

Less is more when keeping up with the latest social, fashion and food trends these days.

Take ripped jeans, for example. Instead of a subtle rip across one knee on a good pair, everyone from fashionable men to busy, I-just-need-something-to-throw-on moms are exposing an entire knee — and even a little thigh.

Then there are celebrities and beauty influencers posting selfies that embrace their natural skin with hashtags like #nomakeup and #naturalbeauty.

And while women are enjoying the skin they’re in, they also embracing the hair they’re under.

Over the past few years, a vast amount of women have publicly committed to big chops and no-heat hairstyles, encouraging other women to do the same. In most cases, these women have found that their natural hair texture — before chemicals, dye and styling products — is much more satisfying to their taste, looks better and feels better, #NaturalHair.

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Just a little curly motivation for my girls that are transitioning to healthy hair. I've done it all! Different colours, flat ironed without heat protectant for years etc. I've gone from healthy curls back to damaged several times as well. The best tips I can give you are 1) Start with a cut/trim – to me, it does more than start your healthy hair process, it's a psychological move that tells you that you're actually willing to go all in! ( kinda like cutting credit cards to get out of debt! ) even the smallest trim will make a difference! 2) Find inspiration! Look for images of other women with curly hair that is similar to your hair texture, this will keep you motivated ( be realistic! ) 3) Deep condition like it's going out of style! This will help those damaged curls immensely! 4) Enjoy the process! If you do a big chop, enjoy that stage! Trust me, when you look back you will regret not rocking that look as much as you could have..try to own it! If you're uncomfortable with a teeny fro, play with bold accessories to distract a bit until you just don't care! 5) A bun gets boring after a while so keep yourself entertained with different #protectivestyles and try the #wiglife if you get tempted to touch the flat iron or bleach during the transitioning process! Good luck! Tag a friend that needs some inspiration ( I have a natural curly hair playlist on my YouTube channel with my healthy hair journey etc if you want more details and tips 😉 YouTube : MissCharmsie ~ direct channel link in bio ) #naturalhair #curlyhair #damagedcurls #transitioninghair

A post shared by ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀Charmaine 👩🏽‍🦰 (@charmsie) on

So, yes, it was only a matter of time before the “less is more” craze would venture into fine dining, and fine desserting.

We’re in a season of natural beauty exposed, where people are not only appreciating a more unfinished look but paying for it as well. Now, you’ve got the naked and semi-naked cakes. A two, three, four or more tier cake with buttercream filling, some fresh fruit or flower garnishment — and that’s it.

But make no mistake: Just because minimal vibes are trending doesn’t mean people are paying less. Not for jeans, not for hair or skin products, and surely not for the naked cake.

photo: naked cake
Vanilla naked cake with fresh strawberry filling, strawberries and flowers for a Bed and Breakfast in Loxahatchee made by Diva-Licious Cake House in Palm Beach County. Photo provided by The Diva-Licious Cake House.

Pricing may start at about $7.50 per serving but it all depends on what you’re looking for. Will you be including fresh flowers or sugar flowers? What flavor do you want? Will the cake have three layers or five?

“Naked wedding cakes, to the average eye, seem to be something that requires less work, but that’s not it,” Janderyn Makris of Earth and Sugar tells us.

Her naked cakes start at the same price point as any other cake from her bakery because the amount of time spent on it is the same.

You’re probably wondering, “how can that be true if a naked cake has very little or no icing on its exterior?” Well, there are careful skills and techniques to consider, like layering the cakes with particular amounts of buttercream filling so that the final product is not lopsided.

For frosting lovers, this is a good thing. They shouldn’t turn away from a slice of naked cake because there may be even more filling in a naked cake than a normal one.

“The naked wedding cake must be clean,” Marian Meyers of  Diva-Licious Cake House emphasized. But clean doesn’t necessary mean flawless.

photo: naked cake
A naked cake from The Sugar Monkey before it was ‘dressed.’ Photo provided by The Sugar Monkey.

 

It seems the idea of being ‘natural’, or ‘naked’ for the cake’s sake, is more about exposing and embracing flaws rather than covering them up. Are freckles on a nose just as beautiful as a contoured face? Are naked cakes as beautiful as desserts fully decorated in fondant and props? I’d say so.

Feast of the Sea wants to spoil you with tasty seafood this weekend!

Indulging in the best seafood Palm Beach County has to offer doesn’t mean breaking the bank on an impulsive dining experience or special occasion.

Enjoy tasty crustaceans, live music and culinary demonstrations on Saturday, Oct. 22 at the 3rd annual Feast of the Sea Seafood Festival at Meyer Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach. General admission is free from 11 a.m. to 4 pm. and you’ll pay under $8-$12 a dish. Get more info on other feast festivities here.

Photo: feast of the sea west palm beach
Photo Cred: Feast of the Sea on Facebook/Chasin’ a Dream Photography

This year will be the first time award-winning chefs from restaurants such as Table 427Ristorante Santucci and Sandpiper’s Cove compete in hourly competitions called “knife fights.” Sounds intense, right?

While you’ll have a great time tasting bites of food and cheering on talented chefs for free, there’s a chance for you to join in on the exclusive part of the festival if you’re interested.

Starting at 6 p.m., the daytime feast turns into a private, grand tasting where the culinary marksmen from around town step it up a notch and create sparks in front of the crowd. Tickets will run you between $100 and $175. Get them here.

And there’s not a bad spot on the waterfront because this showdown will be projected on a large LED wall. After four rounds, the last chef standing will be crowned the “2016 Maestro del Mar” and be gifted with a $5000 check. Again, intense.

Photo: Feast of the Sea West Palm Beach
Photo Cred: Feast of the Sea on Facebook/Chasin’ a Dream Photography

 


The Deets:

What: #FOTS16

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22

Where: Meyer Amphitheater

Cost: Free to attend, $45 to taste and $100+ for a seat at the night show. 

Burgers and beer are besties, so don’t miss this exclusive dinner.

If you love a delicious hand-crafted burger and have got a thing for quality craft beer, the $55 you’d spend on this exclusive, four-course dinner will be worth it.

Burger Bar is holding its final Summer Tasting Dinner on Wednesday — an exclusive event limited to only 20 guests.

Expect a four-course tasting menu that features Twisted Trunk’s craft beers, which pair perfectly with what’s on the chef’s menu for the evening.

Photo: burger bar
Burger Bar is at Donald Ross Village, Palm Beach Gardens. (Palm Beach Post file).

Want to know what’s on the menu? Here’s a preview:

Second Course: Twisted Trunk’s Watermelon Saison served with a chili-glazed pork belly slider, pickled watermelon, sea salt aioli and micro cilantro.

To reserve your seat at the table, purchase a ticket here or call 561-630-4545.


Twisted Trunk will provide the locally brewed suds. (Palm Beach Post file)
Twisted Trunk will provide the locally brewed suds. (Palm Beach Post file)

The Deets:

What: Burger Bar and Twisted Trunk Brewing Co. Craft Beer & Food Pairing

When: Wednesday, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Where: Burger Bar, Donald Ross Village, 4650 Donald Ross Rd, Palm Beach Gardens

Cost: $55 gets you a seat at a table for 20, and a four-course meal.

Three dishes we loved at The Regional Kitchen and Public House

The Regional Kitchen & Public House at CityPlace is spacious but cozy, eclectic but soothing and elegant with a reasonably priced menu.

Here are three bites we loved during a media tasting this week at downtown West Palm’s buzzy new restaurant:

Fried Chicken Thighs, $9

Executive Chef Lindsay Autry is well known for her buttermilk-marinated Southern fried chicken.

“It’s not greasy. It has a light coat on the outside that’s perfect for someone who’s craving fried chicken but doesn’t want to feel guilty afterward.” Kathleen Devaney, Social Media Producer for The Palm Beach Post

Rocky Road Bar $10

dsc_3067
Rocky Road Bar photo provided by The Regional Kitchen & Public House

Pastry Chef Sarah Sipe made this sweet confection for the visiting press and lucky for you it’s a permanent menu item. It includes toasted house-made marshmallow, almonds and a chocolate sauce. We also sampled a yummy coconut cake.

“The coconut cake is the chef’s grandmother’s recipe — it was delicious! But, the Rocky Road Bar complemented with a light almond chocolate ice cream was it for me. The best part? It’s glutenfree.”  Corvaya Jeffries, Social Media Reporter for The Palm Beach Post

Pimento Cheese $11

DSC_1434.jpg
Pimento cheese and home-baked club crackers photo provided by The Regional Kitchen & Public House

The Regional offers pimento cheese prepared table-side, a la guac. It’s amazing.

“Rich in flavor and almost addictive. I’d indulge in Chef Sarah’s home-baked club crackers and Chef Lindsay’s pimento cheese over a cocktail and be satisfied.” Julio Poletti, Entertainment Reporter for The Palm Beach Post


The Deets:

What: The Regional Kitchen & Public House

Where: CityPlace, 651 Okeechobee Blvd, West Palm Beach

Cost: Expect to pay between $5—$14 for an appetizer and $15—$28 for an entree.

Can Curbside Gourmet create America’s best breakfast?

Curbside chef/owner Matthew Somsey. (Contributed by Curbside Gourmet)
At the window: Curbside chef/owner Matthew Somsey. (Photos contributed by Curbside Gourmet)

Can a convoy of 50 competing food trucks come up with America’s best breakfast recipe? Thomas’, the English muffin people, are banking on it.

And that breakfast recipe just might have some Palm Beach County finesse to it. That’s because the convoy includes local favorite Curbside Gourmet.

The West Palm Beach-based truck chef/owner created a signature dish they call Surf and Turf Eggs Benedict. Chef Matthew Somsey topped their English muffin with braised pork belly, butter-poached New England lobster, a poached, local egg and a ladle of key lime hollandaise sauce.

Curbside Gourmet's competing dish: Surf and Turf Eggs Benedict. (Contributed by Thomas')
Curbside’s Surf & Turf Benedict.

The contest, which coincides with the 136th anniversary of Thomas’ English Muffins, starts with a 50-truck pool that will be narrowed during five rounds of public votes. Overall voting ends on Oct. 16, when just two trucks will remain in battle.

Round 1 ends Sunday, when the competitor pool is cut in half. The 25 remaining trucks will compete through Sept. 25. After that, 10 trucks will battle through Oct. 2, when the field is cut to five. Seven days later, two finalists will remain.

Food truck fans are allowed to vote once a day and will be entered to compete for a $5000 prize.

Curbside, the only Palm Beach County truck listed, is one of four Florida trucks competing. To vote for Curbside, find West Palm Beach on the U.S. map that appears on the battle page and click on the tiny truck. You will be directed to a sign-in page, then to Curbside voting.

Curbside Gourmet fans may want to step up their voting – the truck was not listed among the top 10 fan favorites on Tuesday. The truck’s chef has this message for Curbside fans:

“Tell them to vote everyday this week! And support their local food truck!”

 

First look: City Tap House brings eclectic beers and eats to CityPlace

City Tap House opened last month in the old Brewzzi location. (All photos: City Tap)
City Tap House opened last month in the old Brewzzi location at CityPlace. (Photo credit: City Tap)

CityPlace’s newest upstairs tenant is ideal for its prime space, and not just because its name feels right.

City Tap House opened early last month across from City Cellar, turning CityPlace into a hub of unrelated “city” spots. But what makes the newly debuted gastro pub a good match for the downtown West Palm Beach complex is its eclectic menu options, both in food and drink.

The craft beer-centric restaurant is an East Coast concept that aims for a corner bar, good-grub feel.  Part of the suburban Philly-based Table 95 Hospitality Group, it’s the first of the City Tap restaurants to open in Florida. The gastro pub breathed new life into the former Brewzzi space two years after that popular brew pub closed. The space is now appointed with barn wood and recycled steel and offers indoor and outdoor areas for dining, drinking and even sports-watching.

The beer list alone flows with local and regional craft brews arranged by styles, then listed by weight. Aside from pints and some higher-alcohol 10-ounce­­ pours, beer is also sold by 5-ounce sampler glasses, affording the curious and thirsty a chance to try out different brews.

A 5-ounce sample of Tampa’s Cigar City Horchata ($3) allowed me to savor the vanilla-cinnamon notes of the Mexican-inspired spiced ale between appetizer bites without having to invest a full-size beer.

Crispy + fluffy: City Tap's corn and crab hushpuppies.
Crispy + fluffy: City Tap’s corn and crab hushpuppies. (Photo credit: City Tap)

Those appetizers were not too easy to pick, as the menu offers a solid range of starters, from Korean short rib tacos ($13) to charred Brussels sprouts ($8) to tuna carpaccio with yuzu-ginger dressing ($17) to Israeli hummus ($8).

We settled on a plate of corn and crab hushpuppies ($13) served with a citrus remoulade and honey-thyme butter. These proved to be knockout bites, crispy, flavorful and studded with crab and corn. They were so fluffy and delicious they needed no sauce, much less any kind of butter.

A Florida grouper ceviche appetizer ($14) offered bright, tropical flavors, nicely acidic hits from citrus and pineapple, richness from coconut milk and avocado and grassy notes from cilantro. With tortilla chips for scooping, the bite was complete.

Tropical flavors: a zippy, bright Florida grouper ceviche. (Photo credit: City Tap)
Tropical flavors: a zippy, bright Florida grouper ceviche. (Photo credit: City Tap)

City Tap House’s pimento cheese spread ($8), however, was a miss. Topped with a layer of nondescript bacon jam, the soft spread proved bland, even when spread on a caraway cracker. It took a tart pickle slice to give the bite a lift.

Our entrée choices did not disappoint. A dish of crispy suckling pig ($24), the night’s Daily Supper” special, offered a neat wedge of pulled, confit pork topped with a spot-on layer of crispy crackling. This pork wedge crowned a sweet potato and poblano hash and a ring of spicy apple sauce. The contrast of flavors and textures elevated the dish.

The City Tap Burger ($15) was a juicy bite. The Black Angus beef patty is topped with cheddar, pickled red onions and a pinkish “secret” sauce that leaked through the bottom bun – not ideal for those who like to pick up their burgers. No worries on my part – I used a fork and knife to scrape the bun aside and cut to the chase, the juicy patty which was cooked to true medium temperature. The side fries, of the “hand-cut” variety, were crispy enough.

citytapkoreantacos
Appetizers include Korean tacos.

We found interesting, yet vaguely Asian, flavors in the Duck Rice Hot Pot ($23), a composition of crispy confit duck (slow-cooked in its own fat), sauteed with Napa cabbage, garlic and peas that’s cooked with star anise and cinnamon-scented long grain rice and aromatics. The mixture is then deglazed with mirin, rice wine vinegar, Sriracha sauce, white soy sauce and sesame oil. The presentation includes  plenty of chopped herbs, green beans and an oozy poached egg. A vegetarian version of the dish, which is comforting and delicious, is offered as well. The white soy lends the dish a round hint of butterscotch for an overall addictive flavor.

 These dishes share the dinner menu with a variety of mussels, pizza, and heftier meat-centric options.

Those who venture to the heftier side of the menu, be warned: There’s one dessert that’s worth saving some room for. The ricotta fritters ($8) are simply sublime. The house-made ricotta becomes more flavorful as it air-dries for 48 hours. The soft cheese is mixed with flour, baking soda, orange zest, sugar and eggs, then deep-fried.  Hot and crispy outside, fluffy and decadent inside, they’re dusted with powdered sugar and served with a citrus-scented crème anglaise dipping sauce. Three words: Run, don’t walk.

These fritters completely outshone our two other dessert selections: a scoop of tangy-rich key lime gelato, and a chocolate pot de crème. Served in a coffee cup and saucer, the chocolate dessert sounded so much better when described by our server. It’s like a chocolate mousse topped with whipped vanilla crème fraiche, then crowned with a bruleed (torched) banana wedge that’s sprinkled with crumbled macadamia nuts. Yeah, go for the ricotta fritters.

REVIEW

CITY TAP HOUSE  

FOOD: B+

SERVICE: B

ADDRESS: 700 Rosemary Ave, West Palm Beach

TELEPHONE: 561-508-8525

WEBSITE: WPB.CityTap.com

PRICE RANGE: Moderate

NOISE LEVEL: Noisy at the bar, but the dining room is large enough to hold varying levels of noise. Conversation is possible.

FULL BAR: Yes, a full liquor bar; separate bar area. Happy Hour runs Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m.

HOURS: Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and offers a DIY Mimosa and Bloody Mary Bar for $18 with purchase of an entrée.

CREDIT CARDS: Major cards accepted

RESERVATIONS: Walk-ins welcome.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

WHAT THE GRADES MEAN:

A — Excellent

B — Good

C — Average

D — Poor

F — Don’t bother

A place to sip Pappy: Okeechobee Steakhouse unveils Bourbon Room

Twice the bourbon: Okeechobee Steakhouse owner Ralph Lewis says bourbon demand has increased. (Contributed by Okeechobee Steakhouse)
Owner Ralph Lewis has doubled the bourbon list. (Contributed by Okeechobee Steakhouse)

West Palm Beach’s most iconic steakhouse has unveiled a Bourbon Room for private dining and special functions.

The Okeechobee Steakhouse will break in its new bourbon-themed space at a special six-course, bourbon-pairing dinner next month that includes rare pours of Pappy Van Winkle.

The room, constructed on one side of the restaurant, can seat 28 people by day or night. It will accommodate parties of 10 to 28, says owner Ralph Lewis, whose family has owned and operated the steakhouse for nearly 69 years.

Palm Beach Post file.
Palm Beach Post file.

The designated bourbon space is a direct response to growing customer demand, says Lewis, who calls the space “a beautiful room.”

“Bourbon sales went back up again and we have a large, large variety of bourbon. We’ve always had a relatively good variety, but now we’ve doubled it,” he says, noting an increased demand on vintage drinks, such as the Old Fashioned.

Okeechobee’s expanded bourbon list includes intriguing and in-demand selections such as Angel’s Envy, Buffalo Trace, Hirsch Reserve, Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea and Willett Pot Still Reserve.

As for the bourbon pairing dinner, here are the details:

Six-Course Bourbon Dinner

When: Tuesday, Oct. 18, 6 p.m. to close

Where: Okeechobee Steakhouse, 2854 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach; 561-683-5151; OkeeSteakhouse.com

Cost: $150 per person

Menu: Six courses paired with various bourbons and bourbon cocktails. Dishes include poached pear salad, carrot ginger soup, smoked salmon crostini, prosciutto-wrapped lobster tail, all matched with drinks. The feast continues with a prime ribeye spinalis-wrapped tenderloin paired with an Eagle Rare Manhattan, and bacon-wrapped Bananas Foster matched with Prichard’s Double Chocolate and root beer float. As grand finale, attendees will toast with Pappy Van Winkle.

Football food: Make tachos, the lovechild of tater tots and nachos

Tachos are the lovechild of tater tots and nachos. (Credit: Oxmoor House)
Tachos are the lovechild of tater tots and nachos. (Credit: Oxmoor House)

Only those who truly love football and food with equal passion can appreciate a heap of Tachos. The guilty pleasure mashup dish is, in effect, the well-accessorized lovechild of tater tots and nachos.

Tachos shares the newly published “The Hungry Fan’s Game Day Cookbook” (Oxmoor House, $22.95) with other decadent, made-for-sports-watching dishes, such as Shepherd’s Pie Quesadilla Bites, an Irish-Mexican mashup.

BEST LOCAL SPORTS BARS FOR WATCHING FOOTBALL

The book’s author, sports mega-fan Daina Falk, who operates HungryFan.com, a site for sports-loving foodies, tapped into the game-day cravings of sports fans.

“There’s nothing better than cheering on your team at deafeningly loud decibels while chowing down on ‘sportsfood’ yummies,” she writes.

Which brings us to Tachos. Here’s the recipe. You’re welcome!

TACHOS

The following recipe and note are reprinted from Daina Falk’s “The Hungry Fan’s Game Day Cookbook” with permission of Oxmoor House.

“You’ve heard of nachos. You’ve heard of tater tots. Combining them creates sheer taste bud amazingness in the form of what I call ‘Tachos.’ The key to this recipe is that the tater tots must be served really crispy and hot. This dish is goopy, so you really want your tots to hold up to the cheesy yumminess like tortilla chips would.”

6 ounces dried chorizo, diced

1⁄2 cup Negra Modelo, or another dark beer

16 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 serrano pepper, seeds and veins removed, minced

1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

3 cups tater tots

2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

1⁄4 cup salsa

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

Freshly ground black pepper, optional

GDC full cover 0602acj.indd1. Cook the chorizo over medium in a large saucepan for 8 to 10 minutes, until crisp and the fat has rendered. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to drain, and discard the rendered fat.

2. Heat the beer in the same saucepan over high for about 5 minutes to reduce it a bit. Reduce the heat to low, and add the cheese, stirring often as it melts into the beer. Once fully melted, add the fresh and canned chiles, 1 tablespoon of the green onions, and half the chorizo.

3. Bring to a simmer for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, bake the tater tots in a preheated oven according to package directions, making sure to cook them to their crispiest.

5. Place the tater tots on a large tray, and drizzle the cheese sauce on top. Dollop with the yogurt and salsa. Top with the remaining chorizo and green onions and the cilantro. Feel free to sprinkle with some freshly ground black pepper, too, and then serve immediately.

Makes 1 large plate

Lean, green and supreme: a belly-warming soup for drizzly days

Stray veggies mingle in this yummy green soup. (Photos: Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)
Stray veggies mingle in this yummy green soup. (Photos: Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

Here’s a soup that loves stray veggies, those dissed broccoli stems, the last of the spinach, that forgotten zucchini.

greensoup2 I call it my Random Veggie Soup because it transforms leftover, back-of-the-fridge produce into something delicious and healthy.

The beauty of this soup is that you can customize it with your favorite seasonings and stock. Of course, stock is not a required ingredient here. If you follow the flavor-building technique described below, you can make a luscious soup using just water.

One. Start by gathering and washing your random veggies, which can include herbs, stems, celery tops, even romaine lettuce. Separate the more dense veggies (carrots, broccoli stems) from those that will cook faster (spinach, kale).

Two. Chop aromatics (such as onion, garlic, celery, pepper, ginger) to taste. Drop aromatics into warm olive oil in a soup pot. Sprinkle in salt and pepper, plus your desired seasonings. (Sometimes I reach for warm spices like smoky Spanish pimenton, turmeric, cumin and/or Jamaican curry. Other times, I prefer lighter notes like coriander, cardamom, celery seed and dill.)

Three. Sauté aromatics over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. (Tip: I add chopped broccoli stems with the aromatics, so they can soften.) Once the onion begins to turn translucent, add no more than 1 cup of water to the pot, stir and cover. This is the flavor-building stage: flavors bloom as aromatics simmer alone, then in little liquid. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the broccoli stems are slightly tender.

Four. Add greens to pot, adjust seasoning and stir. If using zucchini, add now and stir. For a touch of acidity, add two or three grape tomatoes. Once veggies are well incorporated, add another 1½ or 2 cups of water to the pot, or just enough water to cover the veggies. Simmer for 15 minutes over low heat.

Five. Taste the broth for seasoning and adjust as needed. Once veggies are tender, scoop them into a blender with a slotted spoon, adding just enough liquid to cover. Blend at high speed, adding liquid as needed to achieve desired consistency. Serve into bowls, and drizzle with good olive oil and, if desired, croutons.

greensoup10I love a smooth, velvety soup, so I use a high-powered blender at high speed. But if you like a chunkier soup, use an immersion blender.

If you crave a creamier soup, add a splash of half and half and/or a dab of butter. For a vegan version of creamy soup, add ½ cup of cannellini beans.