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Wednesday
May252011

Braised Artichokes

10 Artichokes, cleaned, down to heart/bottom, stems aside

One lemon, peeled and cut in half, reserve peel

1/4 cup olive oil

1.5 medium onions sliced into rings

3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin on the bias

2 celery stalks, sliced thin on the bias

Herbs, your choice:  Today  two dried stems of sage, two  dried branches of winter savory, 1 tsp thyme

Salt to taste

1 tsp of whole black pepper

2 ample cups white wine

2 ample cups water

 

Cleaning an artichoke:  Don't get discouraged, it is work.  The first one will take you about 5 minutes after that you will take 2 minutes tops per artichoke.  Before you start, squeeze the lemon halves into a bowl of fresh cold water, leaving the halves in the water once juiced.  First take 1/4" off the stem and peel the fibrous threads off the stem.  Next with your hands peel away the baby leaves along the base of the artichoke.  Using a sharp knife cut the top half of the artichoke off.  Discard leaves.  This next part I do with my hands, I find it easier, but feel free to cut through with a knife…I peel away all the outer green leaves and discard.  Grasp the pale yellow leaves of the heart in a tight pinch and twist out.  You should now see the fuzzy "choke".  With a melon baller or a pairing knife remove, just the fuzz.

Once your artichokes are cleaned and soaking;  Place the oil in a wide round or oval pan/pot.  I have a 4 quart braiser that works beautifully for this.  You want something large enough that the artichokes will lie in one layer.  Into the oil add the onions, carrots and celery, sweat over med heat.  You want the vegetables to soften, not to brown.  This will take 10 to 20 minutes depending on your heat. 

Add the herbs, salt and pepper, and toss with the vegetables.  Check your lemon peel for pith (the white, bitter part of the lemon)  Scrape away any excess pith and add the lemon peel to the braising vegetables.  This would be a good place to substitute preserved lemons(mine weren't ready). 

Pull the artichokes out of their cold water bath and cut off the stem, just leave about 1/4" attached to the heart.  Place the artichokes in one single layer over the braising vegetables. Add wine and water to the pot.  Snug the artichoke stems into the gaps between the hearts.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit snugly inside the pot, rub with a little olive oil and place oil side down directly onto the artichokes.  Bring to a boil then lower to barely a simmer.  Cook for 35 minutes then turn over for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size of artichokes.  Test for doneness with a knife.  Artichoke when pierced should fall back off knife easily.  

Sunday
Apr172011

Ragout of Baby Artichokes

I hate giving you measurements for this recipe.  It is more about balance, and equal parts potato and artichoke than about actual number of artichokes and potatoes.  Also, when I made this today I had two tomatoes that were in the fridge that needed to be used.  Normally I use some crushed tomato.  Also, this is another of those recipes that Maman would say, "That is not how I make that."  I know, Maman.  This way works for me.  Further this is not a quick veg. to put on the table.  You make this because you love artichokes and they were on sale today and you thought you would treat your (fill in the blank) who also loves artichokes.

9 Baby Artichokes

9 Baby Yukon Gold Potatoes

1 small can of tomatoes, diced

1 large Onion

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 tsp Herbs de Provence

2 Tbsp Water

First you need to clean the artichokes.  A cleaned baby artichoke is easily half the size of the untouched one. Have a pot of water with lemon juice standing by.  I turn it on when the first "cleaned" artichoke goes in.  Artichokes discolor quickly, when done cleaning one rub all over with a cut lemon and then into the lemon laced water.

I start by trimming the end of the stem, and peeling down the stem.  There will not be a lot left, use a light touch.  Then peel the outer leaves.  You are going to take at least 2 layers of the large leaves off.  Then lay the artichoke on the cutting board and chop the top half of the artichoke off.  Next using a sharp paring knife, "pare" away the dark green.  Take more off the top and angle so there is not as much coming from the base or the "heart" of the artichoke.   Voila!   See pix below.

 

By the time you finish up your water should be coming to a boil.  Put the last artichoke in, cover and turn off the heat.  While you get the rest of this dish ready the artichokes will continue to lightly cook. 

In another pot drizzle the olive oil.  Chop the onion and sauté over medium high heat.  Cut the potatoes into one inch cubes.  I had baby Yukons on hand, most I cut into 6 pieces, the smaller ones got cut into quarters.  Large bite size and uniform in size is what you are trying to accomplish.  Add the potatoes to the onions and sauté for 2/3 minutes.  Add salt, pepper and herbs, then add the canned tomatoes and juices too, cover, lowering heat to medium.

Back to the artichokes.  Drain and run under cold water.  Now cut each in half and remove the purple tipped pointy leaves, and scrape out the fuzz that sits in the middle of the heart.

Quickly stir the potatoes then add the artichokes and cover again. 

Lightly stir all together, artichokes are delicate, be gentle.  Ensure there is enough water in the bottom of the pot so as not to burn, if not add the water.  Cover and continue to cook over medium low heat for about 30 minutes. 

Sunday
Mar202011

Green Beans for Chloe

Kids and vegetables.  Why is this such a tough one? Part of the deal with the kids was that we were going to cook a balanced dinner for the Mom's, and yes that meant a vegetable and a salad.  I got a lot of scrunched up noses when I said that part, as well as resigned agreement. 

Before we cooked them it fell to Chloe to snip the ends of the beans, all 3 lbs.  I think she talked Carolanne and Nicholas into helping her with a few, but giving credit where credit is due...she snipped a whole lot of them. 

So Chloe is waiting to make these at home with her Mom, and because the Mom's got here for dinner, Chloe didn't get to see how we finished the beans. 

Once the ends of the beans are snipped, put the beans into a cooking pot that has a lid.  Add about 1 inch of water to the pot and 2 tsp of salt.  Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil.  Let the water boil for about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave covered until you are ready to serve dinner. 

Once you are ready for dinner, empty the beans into a colander.  Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in cooking pot.  Add beans back in and toss till warmed.  Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the beans.  Toss the beans to coat with lemon juice.  Serve. 

This time Chloe, you have to eat them too!

 

 

Wednesday
Mar092011

Ratatouille

As I mentioned in the post, when my mother sees this she will say, "that is not the way I make my Ratatouille".  I know Maman.  I know Maman. 

A Ratatouille is stew of those plentiful summer vegetables.  When you all of a sudden have a bumper crop of zucchini, peppers and tomatoes; you are ready to go to work.  There is much debate about what goes into it.  In some houses there are carrots, my house, never.  In many houses there are no summer squash, mine often yes to summer squash.  Then to eggplant or not to eggplant.  Ratatouille purists say YES, eggplant! 

I have a love hate relationship with eggplant.  As a kid, ewe, icky, eggplant.  As an adult, whole new appreciations for eggplant.  Love it in a  Baba Gnoush.  Love it grilled with a little baslamic glaze.  Still haven't decided how I feel about it in a Ratatouille, but more often than not it still goes in there.  Then to peel the eggplant or not?  To salt it to bring out the water and bitterness of it, or not?  So many questions.  AND I have to say, depends on how much time I have.   When I have the time I peel the eggplant then salt it and set it aside, blot off the salt and moisture, then cook it. 

Many Ratatouille recipes call for sauteing everything together then  cooking more slowly.  That brings us to the next conundrum of Ratatouille.  Where did all this liquid come from?  In a traditional Ratatouille you are supposed to strain the Ratatouille, then reduce the liquid and add it back into the vegetables.  Who has the time?

Tonight, lets talk about how I make my best Ratatouille.  I am a sauté, layer, stew gal.  I also believe it is okay to use canned tomatoes, unless it is the heart of late summer and I have access to a plethora of home grown tomatoes. 

Side Note:  Have you ever notices how your gardener friends are generous to a fault with their plethora of pepper or zucchini, but when it comes to the tomatoes they are much stingier?  What is up with that?

When I am really trying with the Ratatouille I go ahead an peel the eggplant, cube it and toss it into a colander then generously toss with salt and set aside.  This time I did not peel.  I also try for equal parts of all vegetables:

1 Eggplant

1 large onion

2 bell peppers

3 small zucchini

3 medium summer squash

4 cloves of garlic

1 can whole tomatoes, 27 oz

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp Herbs de Provence

Olive oil, as needed.

 

As mentioned above start with the eggplant and put aside.

Chop onion into a large dice, put into a hot saute pan drizzled with olive oil.  Season with salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence.  Sauté 7 to 10 minutes.  Onion should start to color a little.  Put into a large Dutch oven over low heat.

Chop peppers into 1" dice.  Saute over medium high heat in a drizzle of olive oil.  Season with salt, pepper, and Herbs de Provence.  Saute 5 to 7 minutes, layer over onion in Dutch oven. 

Slice Zucchini into half moon pieces, about a 1/4" thick.  Sauté over medium high heat in a drizzle of olive oil.  Season with salt, pepper, and Herbs de Provence.  Sauté 5 to 7 minutes, you want a little caramelization.  Layer over peppers in Dutch oven. 

Slice Summer Squash into half moon pieces, about a 1/4" thick.  Sauté over medium high heat in a drizzle of olive oil.  Season with salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence.  Sauté 5 to 7 minutes, you want a little caramelization.  Layer over Zucchini in Dutch oven. 

Go back to eggplant, shake colander out.  Give eggplant a very quick rinse, then blot dry.  Sauté over medium high heat.  You will need a little more olive oil than previous batches.  Season with pepper and herbs only.  Sauté till a little color is on eggplant.  Layer over summer squash. 

Slice 4 cloves of garlic over eggplant.  Add canned tomato.  Toss, or "touille" all ingredients together allow to continue cooking over low heat.  Taste your vegetables.  Most ratatouille are stewed together over low heat for an hour or so.  Your vegetables as good and soft at this point.  Some people prefer and quick toss then done, still crisp.  I like to let mine stew for about an hour.  I find that if I sauté on fairly high heat, then stew on lower heat, a lot of the liquid is gone, not a soupy Ratatouille.  I am not a fan of soupy, so this is good.  This is also one of those dishes that is never bad.  You will figure out how you like it best.  Tell me what has worked for you in the past and what about your Ratatouille you didn't like.  Keep in mind, Maman, on top of the garlic, would freshly grate a touch of nutmeg, 4 or 5 scrapes across the micro plain is all. 

Keep in mind this is just as good served cold as hot.  Great in omlettes, crepes, quiches, or one of my favorites?  As a base for a couple of poached eggs.  With the acidity fro the tomatoes it "cans" well and it freezes like a dream. 

Friday
Feb112011

Kaese Spaetzle

This is the easy part.  You will need a casserole dish and some leftover Spaetzle.  Gisela rendered out some ham bits and onions to go over the Kaese Spaetzle but at the table remembered that as a child her mother would make a tomato sauce to go over the Kaese Spaetzle, new one for me to try.

Leftover Spaetzle (we used about 2 qts)

2 Tbs butter

8 oz Jarlsberg, grated

4 Tbsp grated parmesan

 

In a casserole dish cube up the butter into pea sized pieces and spread evenly along the bottom.

Spread half of the Spaetzle into the dish, distribute evenly.

Top with about 4 oz grated Jarlsberg.  (Gisela says any Swiss, but used this one)

Layer with remaining Spaetzle  and then 4 more oz of Jarlsberg.

Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

 

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or till golden.