Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Cook Like a Writer
With recipes, anecdotes and stories, The Book Posse brings a new twist to appetizers, soups, salads, and entrees. Check out beverages from hot coffees to cool cocktails and naughty indulgences. A special holiday recipes section will bring you new ideas for old favorites.
Together with five of my writing buddies, we came together as The Book Posse to bring you our take on cooking, author-style. Here's one of the recipes you'll find:
How To Make Good Coffee
Good coffee is simple to make but takes preparation. Two things are required: equipment and beans.
First, the equipment:
For the best coffee, in my opinion, try a French press. They’re not hard to find; look in the housewares section of any large store or in specialty cooking shops. They do break after a while (I’ve had three and the part that holds the screen down tends to weaken over time), so don’t feel like you have to buy the most fancy one out there.
A French press is simply a glass jar with a presser bar that has a circular metal flange, a screen and some kind of round press thingie (where it gets its name from, I suppose). When you buy it, take the lid apart. Unscrew the screen assembly from the center pole and pull it apart into its three pieces – but make sure you know what order to reassemble it. Wash everything in hot soapy water. If you buy one that can go in a dishwasher, and you have a dishwasher, run it through to sterilize it.
As for your beans, my favorites are Jamaican Blue Mountain and the New Mexico Piñon Coffee Company. Jamaican Blue Mountain is very expensive (if it’s cheap, don’t buy it because it’s not the real thing) but I recommend going to a specialty shop and trying some. It’s lovely stuff. Much more affordable is the New Mexico Piñon Coffee Company and their coffees are pure heaven; my favorite is their Chocolate Piñon whole bean. You can sometimes find it ground in canisters at Trader Joe’s; I usually buy it by the bag directly from the company.
The advantage to using whole beans is that they stay fresh longer. There’s a lot of debate about how to store the beans; do you put them in the freezer? Cabinet? Fridge? I store mine in the freezer. End of debate. (See how easy that was?) The theory is this: the oils in the beans will get stale and, over time, rancid; storing them in the freezer prevents this and keeps them fresh.
Grinders aren’t pricey; you can find good Krups grinders for about USD $20 in stores and on the internet. That’s what I like to use, but you might prefer the ease of ground beans. If you’re lucky enough to find a local store that carries them, you can buy them whole and grind them at the store. If not, the company will sell you ground beans.
How much do you use? That depends on your French press. I like the large presses; the biggest one I’ve had holds about 3 cups of coffee. Figure about a tablespoon-ish of beans per cup plus a tablespoon. (This is strong, granted; if you don’t like it that strong then use fewer beans.) Put the beans in the grinder and count to thirteen (you know, one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, etc.) while pressing the “grind” button.
Once you have your grounds, put them into the glass container of the press and pour boiling water over them. Fit the lid over the top but don’t press down yet. The purpose of the press is to move the grounds away from the liquid you drink; you want to let it steep first. Figure 3 to 5 minutes; I usually go by the color of the liquid. I like it dark.
A word to the wise: the coffee becomes more caffeinated the longer the grounds are in the water. Just because you’ve pushed them to the bottom doesn’t mean the coffee has stopped brewing. If you drink the dregs, you will be super-charged with caffeine. (Ask me how I know this? I had the misfortune of finding it out the hard way, in a meeting. One of my colleagues looked at me quizzically and asked me, “Have you had a lot of coffee today?” Since I always drink a lot of coffee, this was saying something.
Check out my compatriots' sample recipes too for a "taste" of things to come (sorry, couldn't resist the pun):
"Cook Like a Writer Cover Debut" by Denise A. Agnew
"Tasty Tuesday Cook Like a Writer" by Nancy Lauzon
"Changing the World One Recipe at a Time" by Selena Robins
"Cookbook a Comin'" by Kimberley Troutte