Our artichoke harvest has been meager so far this year: one lonely bud. The girls’ enthusiasm to eat it buoyed it straight from the back yard onto this week’s menu, where it was luckily joined by a larger bag of artichokes from our CSA.
I always end up feeling that artichokes are worth the work, don’t you? I usually take the easy way out and steam them in eighths, but at least once a year I roll up my sleeves, clear my counters, and set to work cleaning and slivering artichokes for this recipe. When you’re done, the deep, haunting flavor of any passable artichoke is magnified by caramelization, teased out by rosemary, and slathered across a gorgeous pile of pasta. I confidently assert that this recipe is worth the hour it takes.
Here’s a decent photo tutorial showing the steps for reducing a healthy-looking artichoke to a very-tasty shadow of its former self. You can use artichokes of any size for this recipe–baby artichokes won’t have the thistle-blossom choke in the center, but if you use a larger artichoke you can just scoop out the choke with a paring knife or grapefruit spoon as you go. Thinking of the task as meditative rather than repetitive helps.
I like my friend Knox for lots of reasons, one of which is that everything he cooks (and bakes, and preserves) is divine and he always shares his recipes. He always has good ideas, and several projects up his sleeve at once, so you won’t be surprised to learn that among his many accomplishments, Knox is the granddaddy of Soup Swap. (What, you haven’t held a soup swap yet this year? It’s not too late! The rules are here.)
And I think it was at Knox’s first soup swap, more than a decade ago, that he made us The Best Tomato Sauce for the first time. There were lots of us, and lots of frozen soup, packed into Knox’s tiny house, and in characteristic fashion he breezily served steaming bowls of pasta to all of us crowded onto the couch and floor and standing in every corner and doorway. The sauce was incredible. I squeezed after him into the arms-width kitchen and wrote down his instructions on a now-battered-and-stained recipe card.Continue reading →
A new dish has come into my life recently. I mean, it’s an old dish, maybe very old, and maybe you’ve been eating it for breakfast or dinner all your life, but I’ve only gotten to know it in recent years. And I’m a little obsessed. It’s called shakshuka.
It’s a Tunisian dish, or an Israeli or a Libyan dish, depending on who you ask. All I know is that I’ve been loving a version from my local bagel shop (which also inspired that caramelized onion hummus recipe). Shakshuka is a mildly spicy stew of tomatoes and peppers, adorned with a poached egg. In this recipe, adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, the eggs are poached right in the tomatoes and peppers, making for a one-pot meal of the most delicious sort.Continue reading →
I was trying to decide whether to make you black sticky rice pudding with coconut milk or chocolate cookies tonight. But J, scrolling back through my recent posts, said that I haven’t been feeding you enough protein. (That’s a dad talking, there. Fair enough, though, since yesterday’s “recipe” was for ice cubes.)
Thank J, then, for this heartier fare. We’ve been making this dish for more than a decade and it is always satisfying. It’s a quick dinner and our regular answer to the question “how am I going to cook down of some of these greens to make more room in the fridge?”
The core ingredients are, as you may have cleverly deduced, beans (white ones) and greens. The spare supporting cast includes a small onion, garlic, chile flakes, white wine and rosemary. These bit players can be swapped or omitted depending on availability. I most recently made this dish with lacinato kale, but any kind of hearty green will work. I have been known to combine kale, chard, beet greens and radish tops when the fridge is full to bursting.
I usually joke that mine is the ability to cook when it’s messy (it’s always messy), but in truth I think it’s that I like to eat. So as I cook, I ask myself, does this taste good? What would make it better? Do I want a finely chopped vegetable here, or big chunks? This description makes my cooking sound more planned-out than it usually is, but I just mean that these are the things that go through my head on the fly. I believe that constantly thinking about the end product and tasting occasionally as I go increase my chances of producing something delicious. (There are plenty of failures too, of course–I’ve been thinking lately that I should start taking pictures of those as well for an Emmy Cooks bloopers reel.)
But this ability to envision the eventual dish fails me when it comes to cuisines that I am less comfortable cooking. Indian food falls into this category, which is why I appreciate starting with a good recipe that will rely less on my intuition and more on my ability to follow directions. So mostly I stick to recipes from Vij’s At Home. But dazzled by the success of that saag paneer I keep making (thank you, Kolpona Cuisine!), I decided to branch out to this aloo gobi recipe from the gorgeous vegan blog v:gourmet. I followed the recipe exactly, except for the splash of cream I added at the end. What can I say? My super power told me to.
Eggs are the original fast food, as far as I’m concerned. I have been reasonably successful in cooking other things too lately, but that doesn’t mean that eggs don’t continue to make a regular appearance on our table (often shortly after they make their appearance in our backyard chicken coop). Here’s the glorious thing about an egg: treated properly, it elevates any hodgepodge of leftover vegetables into a meal. Think of those chard stems!
So odds and ends often end up in little single-serving frittatas around here. To anyone who thinks they don’t have time to cook, I say, get an 8″ cast iron skillet. Two eggs, a few generous handfuls of vegetables, a pinch of salt and your meal is ready in ten minutes. And you know as well as I do that eggs aren’t just for breakfast. Fancy them up like this and you can serve them for any meal of the day.
The usual rule applies: use what you have. I was working with leftovers from that arugula salad I kept making, but you might have other tidbits in your fridge. The eggs cook quickly, so you’ll want to briefly cook most of the other ingredients first, then add the eggs. I usually cook the veggies, add the eggs for a few minutes, sprinkle a bit of cheese on top, and then broil the pan for minute or two to set the eggs. Fresh herbs are nice sprinkled on top after cooking (basil would have been perfect here if I had it). Usually I’d say to avoid wet ingredients like tomatoes on top of a frittata, but this little one cooks so fast that they don’t have time to melt into a juicy mess.
So keep this little preparation in mind. Next time you find yourself considering a fast food order, see if you have an egg handy first.
Have you ever heard of black garlic? I hadn’t until last week, when I happened across a small new bin tucked in with the mushrooms at my local co-op. The sign said “fermented black garlic.” What? The employees in the produce section were enthusiastic in recommending it but vague about exactly what it was. It looked like garlic, but was slightly collapsed and shrunken, and smelled like a sweet, lightly garlic-flavored soy sauce. It smelled good. Into my basket it went. Later I found that wikipedia link above and determined that I had purchased either a traditional Asian ingredient or a new-fangled food entrepreneur’s invention from California, or maybe some combination (see here for the California producer’s description of how the “magic” fermentation process occurs “behind the closed doors of our patented machine”). Apparently this stuff is all umami and antioxidants and a darling of the food cognoscenti, of which group I am not a member, so that explains why I had never heard of it.
Finding a new vegetable is a big deal for a serious eater. A new taste experience on the horizon! I started researching how to make the most of my intriguing head of garlic. In the end, I didn’t find a recipe that called to me, so I adapted a potato and rosemary focaccia recipe from Food and Wine, which had in turn adapted it from a Daniel Boulud recipe.
I made two medium-sized focaccias, and I used half a head of black garlic to flavor one of them. I roasted thinly-sliced potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, and a couple of minced cloves of black garlic, then I layered more sliced cloves of black garlic onto the potato-topped bread before baking it. I was a little worried that I might have overdone it with all that garlic. (The other focaccia was topped only with rosemary-roasted potato slices as a delicious control group.)So hey, it’s good bread. But the garlic flavor is quite mild, and in my opinion the black garlic’s flavor, at least as I prepared it, doesn’t live up to the bold promise of its alluring scent and striking appearance. But I like strong flavors, and the unexpectedly delicate garlic flavor may be a plus in your book rather than a disappointment. In any case, the midnight-black cloves certainly lend dramatic flair.
Here’s the important question: what should I do with the remaining cloves of black garlic? Have you used it in a preparation that you liked? Do you have some off-the-wall inspiration to share? I’ll give it another go.