Sunday, June 12, 2011

Blog the 17th...recipe the 14th

Foodbuzz My book club read  The Owl and Moon Cafe by Jo-Ann Mapson. It was not a food intertwined with life type of read, but rather a life sprinkled with food book. It is, simply put, a story of a family of four generations of women. Their lives are intertwined by the cafe, the customers, and the life that breathes from the cafe itself. It was a quick read...very much a beach book..for anyone interested in a summer reading idea. There were many food connections throughout the book, however there were no out and out recipes mentioned. Baked goods, (cookies, lemon bars, cakes) were a primary focus, yet one of the first dishes mentioned was an artichoke soup.

So my focus never strayed from the artichokes. I love the plump meat from the leaves and the inner prize of the heart. I am happy to eat them marinated, grilled, sauteed, on a train, in a box, with a fox, well you get the idea. While visions of artichoke were dancing in my head, dear husband took me out for a date night. Just to digress for a moment...we have the standard date night, local restaurants, out for a drink etc., but this was full blown dress-up he was taking me out for the night. The best part for me was he made all the plans (with me in mind) and I sat back and enjoyed. We began the evening at a swarmy, charming bistro called Raoul's, We started off sharing a pate, and an artichoke, (with a vinaigrette dipping sauce) dear husband had a steak au poivre, and I ordered (literally the best I've ever had) sauteed soft-shell crabs. They were layered on marble-sized potatoes which exploded in our mouths....really a fabulous meal. I was whisked off to a jazz show, and then we meandered around NYC on a gorgeous late spring evening. Alas I digress...back to the artichoke. I have never had an artichoke so moist and dripping with flavor, so I knew I had to experiment with them that weekend.

Here is what I did:
Trim outer leaves (bottoms especially), slice tops off, open artichoke and scoop all of the pointy parts and hairy parts out. (when you look into the artichoke you will clearly see each of these parts).
If you don't have a steamer do as I did with lovely results. Place a colander into a larger pot that has some water in it. ( not so much that it is touching artichokes) Squeeze some lemon juice on the artichokes so they don't brown. Steam the artichokes upside down for a solid 45 minutes. Keep checking the water levels refill as needed. You know when artichokes are done when a knife can easily pierce through. Let cool and serve with dipping sauce
The vinaigrette is as follows:
1/4 cup good olive oil
3 tablespoons mustard (anything you have on hand but the nicer the mustard the nicer the dip)
salt and pepper to taste
whisk until it should look velvety

Artichoke part 2....
My kids loved stuffed artichoke so here is what I did this weekend:
In a food processor add
1-2 garlic cloves
fresh herbs
the stem of the artichoke
one thick slice of tomato
1 cup bread crumbs ( I prefer seasoned)
a drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Process until crumbly. Add olive oil in chute until bread crumb mixture is moist but not drenched.
Trim outer leaves( bottoms especially), slice tops off, open artichoke and scoop all of the pointy parts and hairy parts out. ( when you look into the artichoke you will clearly see each of these parts) Stuff the artichoke with the bread crumb mixture, over stuff the artichoke if you need to. Place artichokes into a pot with about 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil making sure water doesn't evaporate, add more if needed. Simmer covered for 45 minutes. Place entire covered pot in oven for another 30 minutes at 350 degrees. (Keep checking water levels) Take cover off and cook for another 10 minutes or so to crunch up tops. Serve with above dipping sauce, or sauce of choice. Enjoy.
the fruit of our labor

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