A new look at cooking and home decorating...with an attempt to add more greens to the plate, more vegetarian options & hopefully lots of new ideas to explore

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stuffed Artichokes (Carciofi Ripieni)

These are an Italian classic. At first they might seem difficult, but remember difficult is not the same thing as time consuming. Though these take a few minutes to trim, the stuffing is ready in seconds and they are a great make ahead dish. Cook them fully then reheat them when you are ready to serve.

4 large (Globe Artichokes)
1 Lemon cut into thin slices

Fill a large bowl at least halfway up with water and add the lemon slices. Set aside. Trim about 2” off the top of an artichoke with a serrated knife. Peel off the first outer layer of green leaves and using a paring knife and vegetable peeler, trim the stem area of the artichoke. Repeat with all of the artichokes, placing them in the water once you finish.

To remove the choke from the artichokes, pry the leaves apart slightly and using your paring knife, scrape out the “choke”. Repeat with all of the artichokes, and place back in the water until you are ready to stuff.

4 Slices of white bread torn into chunks
3 medium cloves of garlic, peeled
1 heaping tablespoon of capers

Place all of the ingredients in food processor and pulse about 7 times to incorporate.

To cook-
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup white wine

Preheat oven to 400
Place the oil and wine in the bottom of a baking dish large enough to fit all of the Artichokes. Drain the artichokes then gently fill the center cavity and some of the other spaces with stuffing (divide stuffing among the 4 artichokes) Place the stuffed artichokes into the prepared baking dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for about an hour- 1hour 15 minutes or until tender.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The coldest week in February

This past week my mother lost her battle with breast cancer. I suppose it is best to tell you this sooner rather than later. There is no easy way to describe the events of the week and perhaps I best not anyway. I will say, though the cold New England winters are unforgiving, the people are kind and generous to a fault. We received many gifts of homemade dinners as well as offers of childcare. When all was said and done it was amazing to me how many lives my mother had touched and in such a variety of ways. A friend of my moms flew in from Florida to say goodbye, another mentioned what a wonderful listener my mom was. A cousin mentioned her spirit and told a story of my mom at ten years of age leaving New England alone and hopping on a train to visit an uncle in New York. Her mom thought she was still playing in the yard at the time. That certainly is a person with a lot of spirit.

As the week went by I thought perhaps it might be best if I gave my self a little time off from the blog. Maybe just settle in and cook my way through a new cookbook. Bobby Flays MESA cookbook looks like it could be a challenge. Then, I got an e-mail form a friend. Apparently her little daughter has been telling people that when she grows up she wants to be a chef just like Mrs. Pardo (but as you know I am not a chef). How cute is that? Well that is enough to lift ones spirits- so for the moment we shall continue to cook together….

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chocolate covered strawberries

2 pounds, plump ripe strawberries
8 oz chocolate (I am using about half milk and half dark chocolate)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Line a baking tray with parchment paper then spray it with a non-stick spray.
Place the chocolate in a microwave proof bowl and set the power to medium. Microware the chocolate for about 3-4 minutes. Once the chocolate is mostly melted remove it from the microwave and stir in the vegetable oil. Dip each strawberry in the chocolate then place on tray to set slightly. The chocolate will harden if the strawberries are placed in the refrigerator overnight.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Rack of Lamb with Mustard and Herb Crust

(Serves 2 just double the rec. for 4)

1 Rack of lamb, (about 1 ½ pounds)
½ Tablespoon Kosher Salt
½ Teaspoon ground pepper
1 Tablespoon canola oil for searing
1 ½ Tablespoons Dijon mustard

For crumb coating (Persillade, a French Parsley and garlic mixture) -
Place into a food processor
¾ cup parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 slices white bread
Zest of 1 lemon
Pulse 10 times or until the texture of oatmeal- then set aside.

Preheat oven to 400

Make the crumb coating first and set it aside. Score the fat side of the lamb with a crisscross pattern if you like. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Add the oil to a medium to large skillet or cast iron pan (a pan that can go in the oven). On the stovetop heat the oil over medium-to-medium high heat. Sear the meat about 3 minutes per side on top of the stove. Remove from heat.

Brush the lamb with mustard then coat the lamb with crumb mixture. Cook in oven for about 20 minutes or about 125 -130 for medium rare. Allow meat to rest 10 minutes or so before carving.
To sauce- you might choose from a variety of sauces, a simple pan juice sauce would be nice, a reduced wine sauce, mint chimicuri, or a warm chutney.

Valentines Dinner

I am so pleased this week because despite the dreary, rainy, wet, cold weather we are experiencing; there are two food events in the air. Fat Tuesday and Valentines Day. Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, is not celebrated with as much enthusiasm in my area of the country. The spirit of Fat Tuesday belongs to the area of New Orleans. Despite this, I persist in making Gumbo, hearty soups and buying up Andouille sausage.

Other than thoughts of Turtle soup and prior stops on cross country trips The French Quarter for Beignets and hearty Chicory coffee, I have also been thinking of Valentines Day. I cannot think of a better occasion for roast rack of lamb. With it I might suggest a side dish of white asparagus, some herbed couscous and sauce of your choice.