Archive for May, 2011

May 30, 2011

Braised Artichokes (a little How-to)

This week grocery shopping, I decided to part with my usual organized self and go without a list. I know, right? Scary.  I am not abandoning my usually weekly menu planning, I am just doing it a little backwards. I decided to go to the store and pick out the things that looked good, were in season or, in some cases, more affordable (let’s admit that has to be considered more and more these days).

The one thing I knew was that I wanted to make a new artichoke dish, and lucky for me artichokes are in season and they looked good. Making artichokes usually means bringing a pot of water to a boil, then cooking the artichokes for 45 minutes to an hour.  Not this dish.  Braising artichokes does not require boiling water or cooking for a long period of time.  Braising brings out amazing flavor that puts the artichokes over the top. Butter and mayonnaise, no need! Save those calories and grams of fat but get a punch of flavor.

First, how to prepare an artichoke… (on my blog I have some step-by-step photos and my wonderful friend Tara helped me – thank you!).

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1. Cut about 1/3 off the top of the artichoke.

2. Cut the stem leaving about 1/2 inch or so on the bottom.

3. Peel off the tough outer leaves. Peel the leaf bending it back and the good part at the bottom of the leaf will stay on while the inedible part will come right off.

4. Snip off the tip of the remaining leaves, to remove the thistles.

5. With a pairing knife trim off the outer portions of the stem and the tough/stringy green part left by the leaves you peeled.

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6. Now turn the artichoke on its top and quarter the artichoke.

7. On the heart is a line where the little hairs start to form. Following that line cut toward the leaves and cut out all the hairs along with the bloom in the center. (that inner part will bloom into a thistle flower if left on the bush).

8. Place the quartered artichokes in a bowl of lemon water to help stop the browning while you cut the rest of your artichokes

To prepare an artichoke whole, stop at Step 5 and steam or boil your artichokes.  Also you could use a spoon to dig out the middle bloom and hairs, then stuff the artichoke with a cheese bread crumb mixture, or a mixture of your favorite herbs and butter.

BRAISED ARTICHOKES

4 artichokes (1 per person)

2 scallions, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup water

salt and pepper

(add-ins: chopped kalamata olives, herbs de Provence, capers, tomatoes, a mixture of your favorite herbs, thyme, basil, oregano.)

Prepare your artichokes, and quarter them.

In a heavy skillet heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté the shallots for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and sauté until translucent.

Add the quartered artichokes and sauté for 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to Medium-low and add the wine and water. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes, until the artichokes are soft and a leaf pulls off easily. I like to brown the artichokes up a bit at this point.

I like to serve this with crusty basil-garlic bread or as a side dish to grilled pork chops or chicken.

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May 16, 2011

Ratatouille Pizza

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We (my daughter and I) call this pizza the sunshine pizza. It’s so bright and happy and with the roasted marinated peppers as rays of a sun.  This recipe for pizza dough, though, is the bomb. Definitely the best I found. This weekend I got a great opportunity to help out with a catering event. It was a lot of fun and I learned so much in such a short amount of time.  Thanks Anne, it was awesome! (visit her site@ http://annewilesgourmet.com/). There was so much great food! In particular, Anne had set up a grilled pizza station for guests to top their own pizzas. We finished them off on the grill. Such a yummy, fun idea!

So now my inspiration kicked in for this fantastic ratatouille pizza.  I originally saw this idea on www.morethanamouthfull.com. I must say I am not a big fan of eggplant, as much as I want to be, it’s just on the “ok” list for me. But on this pizza it is pretty fantastic mixed with the squash, red onion, peppers and fresh mozz and basil! Perfecto!

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Dough (by Marcy Goldman)

1 1/2 cup warm water

2 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast

2 tsp sugar (or honey or agave)

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

2-3 cups bread flour

Olive oil for brushing the pans and dough.

In a stand mixer. Mix the water and yeast and let it sit for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the sugar, salt, oil, cornmeal, all-purpose flour and 2 cups of bread flour and mix to make a soft mass.  Knead with the dough hook on the slowest speed of the mixer, dusting in additional flour as required to form a soft, elastic dough, about 5 to 8 minutes.  Form dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until almost doubled, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Gently deflate the dough, cover and allow to rest an additional 15 minutes.

Gently deflate the dough.  Press or roll out dough to fit prepared pizza pans.

If dough resists or otherwise retracts, let it rest for a few minutes, then gently coax it to fit pan.  Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top of dough.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

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Thinly slice a yellow squash, Japanese eggplant (it’s closer in size to the yellow squash) and red onion. Slice roasted peppers into thin strips and dice some sun dried tomatoes (you can use fresh thin sliced tomato and layer it with the eggplant and squash.

Brush the crust with olive oil and sprinkle some fresh oregano, or brush with a garlicky cream sauce.  Leaving about an inch from the edge of the crust alternate the eggplant and squash (tomato too if you are using fresh) once around. This is where my daughter got excited saying “hey, it’s a pattern!” Next layer some onion slices. Now alternate another layer of eggplant and squash until the pizza is completely covered. Lay the slices of peppers, we liked the sun pattern, you can do whatever way you’d like. Sprinkle a mixture of your favorite cheeses or mix and top with fresh mozzarella, basil and salt and pepper.

Bake 15 minutes, and then reduce heat to 400 F.  Bake another 15 – 20 minutes until cheese is melted and lightly brown.

Or cook your pizza on the grill – 450-500 degrees and cook the pizza on both sides just a little. Dress your pizza with toppings and then finish it off on the grill until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden.

May 2, 2011

Swiss Chard and Oyster Mushroom Pasta

This post is in celebration of my first Great Basin CSA Basket (CSA – Community Supported Agriculture). Great Basin Basket CSA is a partnership of local farmers who provide seasonal produce grown locally to their CSA members (like me!). It’s the freshest produce and it tastes so much better than anything you can buy in the store. If you have not tasted fresh produce that was picked when it was ripe, rather than before it was ripe so it can travel hundreds of miles, then you should try out the Farmer’s Market this year, that begins June 11th. I’m so excited for my first experience with a CSA and I am super excited the Farmer’s Market begins soon!

The following items came in my CSA basket: Swiss chard, asparagus, and oyster mushrooms (the rest came from Trader Joes, the next best).

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1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch swiss chard, cut into thin stripes
5 oyster mushrooms, sliced
1-2 shallots, diced
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
12 mini heirloom tomatoes
4-5 asparagus spears
2 Tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
1 pinch salt and black pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup whole wheat spaghetti

Cook pasta according to the directions.

Meanwhile mince the garlic, dice the shallots, slice the mushrooms and chard, dice the asparagus, quarter the tomatoes and measure out the balsamic vinegar and blue cheese.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic and crushed red pepper in the oil until just fragrant, 1 minute or so. Add the Swiss chard to the garlic and stir until wilted, 3-5 minutes. Transfer the garlic and chard to a bowl. heat a little more olive oil and add the mushrooms, shallots, and asparagus. Saute until cooked through, 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat, add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and noodles and stir. Gently toss the blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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