It hasn’t worked for me with kale or spirulina, but I’m willing myself to love eggplant. As you know, if you have been reading this blog, eggplant and I have a fraught relationship–a bit like Donald and Melania. Eggplant recipes, especially ones that tout their […]
We have a lot of things to thank Julia Child for beyond the fact that she popularized French home cooking here in the U.S. She made cooking cool. She pioneered a cooking show genre that has exploded into the countless cooking shows that eat […]
Anyone out there who doesn’t like artichokes? I don’t see any hands.
I think artichokes are a bit like avocados. Even served simply without a whole lot of fuss, both vegetables generate a lot of buzz around the table. Carrots and celery certainly don’t get that kind of respect. Why is that?
I found this recipe for Grilled and Smothered Artichokes in Cara Mangini’s excellent cookbook, The Vegetable Butcher. (Available on Amazon) I loved it! I think I enjoyed it as much for its bounty of artichokes as for the beauty of its presentation–charred artichoke quarters dressed in a tart lemon-garlic vinaigrette and garnished with beautiful caramelized lemon wedges hot off your grill. Your guests will be wowed. I was.
I have to confess that Mangini first got my attention with her book title. The concept of a vegetable butcher is a clever turn of a phrase. Mangini defines a vegetable butcher as “a trusted professional who breaks down vegetables with knife lessons, insider tips and approachable preparations.” Apparently that is exactly what she did when she worked at Mario Batali’s Eataly in Manhattan. In the introduction to her book she writes: “At Eataly, customers walked right up to me with their produce for purchase and I would clean it, peel it, slice it and prime it. I shredded cabbage, shelled fava beans, shaved celery root and prepped case after case of baby artichokes.” I think that’s a great concept. Wouldn’t you love to have a vegetable butcher as a lifeline when you shop at Whole Foods, for example? “Excuse me. I’m thinking of acquiring my first kohlrabi….”
No! Wait! I just looked it up. Whole Foods already has a produce butcher at its 43,000 square foot Bryant Park New York City location. For $1 a pound, they will prep your produce and whisper cooking directions in your ear. (Note the kindergarten-esque graphic advertising the various “cuts” below the lighted Produce Butcher sign shown in the photo below. “Minced” made me laugh out loud. And where is grated and cored? Shredded? Heaven forbid you would want a brunoise or a batonnet.) I know that, if I ever make it to the toney Bryant Park produce butcher, I’m going to ask her to prep a durian right there in the middle of the store. Maybe that is a bit of schadenfreude on my part, but, like my alter-ego Bart Simpson, I do thrive on chaos. ( Jimmy Kimmel tries durian.)
But, back to the book. Mangini presents more than 150 recipes and discusses the preparation and seasonality of almost 100 vegetables in her book. To be sure, she discusses mainstream vegetables like carrots and celery and sweet potatoes but she also showcases some not-so-mainstream vegetables like kohlrabi, rutabagas, and fennel. You don’t have to be a food adventurer to enjoy this book but a careful reading will definitely help you broaden your horizons when you shop the vegetable counters at your local market.
So far, I’ve found Mangini’s recipes to be several cuts ( shameless pun. sorry.) above the norm, too. She’ll have your mouth watering with recipes like Cauliflower and Caramelized Fennel Soup, Smashed and Seared Beets with Chimichurri and Goat cheese Crema, and a Late Summer Ratatouille baked under a butter, parmesan and oat crust. Oh my!
Here is my adaptation of her recipe for Grilled and Smothered Artichokes.
Yields 4 Servings
- 3 medium artichokes (trimmed, peeled, quartered and choke removed)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 3 large lemons (2 halved and juiced, 1 quartered)
- 1 T. balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1/2 t. fine sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper (extra to taste)
- 1/2 cup loosely-packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (coarsely chopped)
- Coarse or flaked sea salt to taste (to finish)
- Kalamata olives to garnish
- Chopped parsley to garnish
- Prepare artichokes.
- In a large deep pan, put quartered artichoke hearts in a steamer basket over boiling water. Steam until the leaves of the artichoke pull away from the heart and the heart is easily pierced with a knife. This will take 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan and drain the artichokes.
- Whisk lemon zest, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, sea salt, pepper and three-quarters of the chopped parsley in a large bowl. Add the steamed artichoke quarters to the bowl of marinade. Let the artichokes sit in the marinade for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours to absorb the flavors in the marinade.
- Remove the artichoke quarters from the marinade and, over a hot bbq grill, cook the artichoke quarters until grill marks appear. (Watch the artichokes carefully while grilling. You want them to be charred but not burned to a crisp.) Flip the quarters and grill the other side. This will take 3-5 minutes. You want the artichokes to be completely tender. Transfer the grilled artichokes to a platter. Drizzle with some of the remaining marinade.
- Grill the lemon quarters flesh side down on your bbq grill until you see grill marks and the sugars from the lemons begin to caramelize.
- Arrange the grilled lemon quarters on top of the artichokes. Arrange some Kalamata olives artfully on top of the dish. Garnish with remaining parsley and sprinkle salt and pepper on the dish. Serve immediately.
Which “vegetable” is actually a berry, has the highest nicotine content among all vegetables, and is 95% water? (Hint: Chinese ladies once used the dye extracted from this vegetable’s skin to polish their teeth to a then-fashionable gray hue.) It’s the eggplant. Who knew? (Don’t […]
This is the easiest vanilla ice cream recipe ever.
You should make it now before you are priced out of the vanilla aisle!
During normal times, vanilla, approximately 80% of which is produced in the hardscrabble African island-nation of Madagascar, is the second most expensive spice in the world (saffron is first).
If you haven’t been paying attention, though, these aren’t normal times. Along with the myriad other crises du jour, we’re in the midst of a real vanilla crisis. The price of vanilla beans has skyrocketed in the last five years from $11 a pound in 2011 to $272 a pound this month–a result of the growing world demand for natural vanilla, the devastating Cyclone Enawo with its 130 mile-an-hour winds that destroyed as much 30% of Madagascar’s crop last year, and cut-throat international competition for Madagascar’s crop. Add political instability and unremitting poverty to the mix and it is understandable that desperate Malagasy farmers have been pushed to the edge–harvesting under-ripe beans for a quick sale and short circuiting the normal lengthy curing process to the detriment of vanilla bean quality. And then there are the vanilla thieves…
Grow your own? Not likely. Vanilla thrives mostly in the tropics. Even there, it takes three years for a vanilla plant to mature and produce a vanilla orchid flower. If that isn’t daunting enough, a vanilla bean pod is only produced on an orchid plant when the flower has been hand-pollinated (there is no proper bee pollinator on the island) and the vanilla flower is only open for one part of one day. Once pollinated, the flower produces a vanilla pod that takes eight to nine months to mature. Then, it takes another six months of the bean pods to properly cure. No instant gratification here.
Here are two photos of a vanilla plant–a Madagascar-grown plant and my plant. You can tell which plant is mine. There. Is. No. Flower.
Trust me. It isn’t that I haven’t given it the old Blue Cayenne college try. I have been diligently growing this vanilla orchid plant in my tiny backyard greenhouse for about five years. In those five years, I’ve had one tiny flower bud. One.
And oh did I pamper that little bud. I kept the vine in a protected corner of the greenhouse. I whispered honeyed words of encouragement to the sweet little bud. I watered it with Trader Joe’s best bottled water. To my delight, the little cream-colored bud swelled and I could see flower petals forming. My vanilla bud was living the good life and it seemed to thrive. (Woo-hoo!)
And then one dark morning my vanilla dream crashed. I found the unopened (and unpollinated) bud lying shriveled and lifeless on the floor of my greenhouse. Juliet had to cover her innocent little ears.
Here is a recipe for vanilla ice cream adapted from the New York Times’ 4200+ recipe collection. Whatever the expense, it is worth using quality vanilla in this recipe.
Here is a product recommendation, too. I am using Massey’s Madagascar Vanilla Paste for this ice cream and for many of the things I’m cooking right now. You can substitute it one for one for vanilla extract. It is pricey but sublime–full of tiny vanilla seeds. As a result, your ice cream will be flecked with vanilla beans, a visual enhancement that I’m convinced improves the enjoyment of your ice cream.
Here is a link to the vanilla paste offered on the Amazon site : Massey Vanilla Bean Paste at Amazon
The paste is also available at Sur La Table and through King Arthur Flour. At the moment, as your personal shopper, I can tell you that the best price is at Amazon–$18.99 for 4 oz.
I’ve found that my 4 oz. bottle has lasted me quite a while, but this vanilla ice cream recipe may be a costly game changer.
Yields 1 Quart
- 2 C. heavy cream
- 2 C. half-and-half
- 1/2 T. vanilla bean paste or the seeds of 1/2 a vanilla bean
- 1 C. granulated sugar
- 1/2 t. salt
- Heat cream, half-and-half and vanilla in a saucepan until it comes to a simmer. When it begins to simmer, immediately take it off the heat.
- Add sugar and salt to the heated liquid and stir until the sugar is dissolved. This will only take about a minute. (You can taste the ice cream batter at this point and adjust the sugar and/or salt to your taste. Be advised, though, that the batter should taste very sweet. It will mellow as it is churned and frozen in your freezer.)
- Refrigerate the batter for several hours until it is very cold.
- Prepare in your ice cream maker according to your manufacturer's instructions. Serve immediately or put into an airtight container and freeze until the ice cream is hard.
For me, it’s Snickers bars, refried beans, candied corn, and vanilla ice cream. (No. I don’t eat them together.) We’re talking about comfort food today, or, as the dictionary defines it: ” food that is enjoyable to eat and makes the eater feel better emotionally.” […]
For the love of plums… I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold –“This is just to say” by William Carlos Williams William Carlos Williams […]
Yesterday I had the good fortune to get together with old friends. We ate a lot, laughed a lot and caught up on each other’s lives. Juliet got a lot of attention, too. It was a very good day all around.
Today Juliet is sleeping off the ecstasy of four glorious hours of being passed around, petted and sweet-talked. Look at that peaceful little face. Not even the miscreant squirrel who taunts her from the back fence could ruin her day today. (I’m having a pretty good day, too.)
This salad was on my lunch menu. The recipe first appeared in Bon Appetit Magazine in 2005, so I have been serving it to guests for a very long time. When I want to serve something really special to treasured friends, this is my go-to recipe. The honey and thyme-roasted Bosc pears add a sweet-savory flavor to the salad and the fan of beautiful roasted pears on the salad plate makes the dish pop visually. Bathe the butter lettuce in the shallot-verjus dressing and you have a tart foil to the flavor of the honeyed pears. Then there are the hazelnuts… What’s not to love?
And, as a side benefit, your kitchen will smell wonderful as your roast the pears on a generous bed of fresh thyme.
Although you can substitute white grape juice in this recipe, the original recipe calls for verjus. Verjus?
Verjus is French for “green juice.” It is the unfermented juice of unripened wine grapes. Typically, verjus is made using the unripe grapes that are thinned from the vines prior to the main harvest. Waste not. Want not.
I bought my verjus from Amazon. Here is a link: Amazon Source for Verjus .
Verjus has a long history. The gourmets among the Roman elite used it in their cooking and it was widely used during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Here is an intriguing quote from Platina’s De honesta Voluptate, the first printed cookbook, written in 1465. The following is a translation of article 26 of that volume:
“26. ON VERJUICE
What they commonly call acresta, I would call omphacium, on the authority of Pliny, and acor [verjuice], on the authority of Macrobius, for omphax, as I have said, means a still-bitter grape; therefore, I would rather call oil from an unripe berry omphacium than acresta, which I do not quite see as being from omphax. [Macrobius] thus defines verjuice: vinegar is sharper than verjuice, whose force it is agreed is greater than acresta, which soothes I>, which soothes the burning of the stomach more mildly and does not emaciate or weaken the body as vinegar is apt to do. Verjuice is wonderfully good for an unsettled or upset stomach or thirsty liver, if you use it raw, for it is less helpful cooked. We use it easily and healthfully against poison and in seasoning foods.”
Me thinks Platina could have used a good copy editor (and maybe a gastroenterologist and a food taster for that part about the poison. Just sayin…)
Try this salad. Your guests will thank you and ask for the recipe.
Honey-Roasted Pear Salad with Thyme Verjus Dressing
- 1/3 C. verjus or 3 T. white grape juice and 2 T. apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 C. grapeseed oil
- 1 large shallot (finely chopped)
- 2 t fresh thyme leaves
- Pears and Salad:
- 3 bunches (or more) fresh thyme sprigs
- 4 ripe but firm Bosc pears (about 2 1/2 pounds-halved and cored)
- 1/4 C. (or more) honey
- 1 head butter lettuce (coarsely torn)
- 4 oz. baby arugula
- 6 oz. blue cheese (sliced)
- 1/2 C. hazelnuts (toasted and coarsely chopped)
- Step 1 To make the dressing, measure all dressing ingredients into a bowl and whisk to blend. Season with salt and pepper.
- Step 2 To make the pears, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Use a large shallow pan like a cookie pan and scatter the pan generously with fresh thyme. Cut pears in half and core. Place pear halves with the cut side down on top of a solid surface and slice the pear halves into a fan. (Starting about 1/2 inch from the stem and being careful to leave the pear intact so that you can present it as a fan on your salad plates), slice each pear half lengthwise into 1/3 inch wide slices. Then, using the ball of your hand, gently press the sliced pear halves down so that they spread into a fan shape. Place sliced pear fans on the bed of thyme, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle generously with honey and bake until the pears are tender when pierced with a fork (about 15 minutes). Remove the pears from the oven and let them cool for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.
- Step 3 To assemble the salad: Toss the butter lettuce and arugula in a large bowl. Add shallot-verjus dressing and toss. Arrange a few dressed butter lettuce leaves on a plate. Place a roasted pear fan beside the lettuce leaves and garnish with a slice of good quality blue cheese. (I used Point Reyes Farmstead Blue.) Sprinkle with hazelnuts.
- Step 4 Enjoy.
Here is the link of the original recipe: Bon Appetit’s Honey-roasted pear and hazelnut salad
It is turn-on-the-air conditioner hot here in Huntington Beach. Even tiny Juliet who thrives on two long walks a day just stares at me in disgust when I pick up her leash. Here she is giving me some too-hot-to-walk side eye. It’s certainly not cooking […]