Artichoke Stuffed Artichokes

When it starts to warm up, and spring is in full swing, we dine alfresco. Our tiny house doesn’t have a dining room, and our “table for two” is never large enough for the number of people eating on any given day. So we take it outside.

Eating outside is wonderful but has some drawbacks; like keeping hot things hot. This is why I shift my cooking to things that are best served at ambient temperature. Unless we have cocktails prior to dinner; because if we have cocktails, then no one really notices that the steak is a bit cold.

One of my favorite dishes is this artichoke stuffed artichoke salad. It is very simple, and is a wonderful way to use up those half-full jars of pickled and marinated veggies in your fridge.

-Wash and trim artichokes and place them in either a steamer or a pan/pot of water with a lemon or two squeezed in it. Don’t fully immerse the artichokes, but use enough water that it won’t evaporate completely before the artichokes are cooked. Place on medium heat and cook covered until you can easily pull a leaf off. Remove from heat, drain and let cool.
-Cut the artichoke in half and use a spoon to remove and discard the choke {the part that has those hairy bits}. Lay the artichoke halves on a platter face up {or alternatively, you can brush with oil and char on the grill, then place on a platter}. Dress with a bit of your favorite vinegar and olive oil. Set aside

-In a large bowl combine your salad ingredients. I like to use, canned artichoke hearts, tomatoes, roasted peppers,red onion, celery, olives, fresh bell peppers, and any cooked rice or barley or grain I have in the fridge. You can use virtually anything you have hanging in the fridge or pantry. Toss together with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and place a generous scoop into each artichoke half.

-Serve cold or room temperature

Roasted Banana Peppers

Sometimes my garden overproduces at the most opportune time. Recently guests came up to the ranch for a visit at an hour which isn’t quite lunch, while being too early for dinner. The time of day where one begins to feel peckish. what to do? what to do?. I went a bit spanish; using the abundance of banana peppers to create a delicious and simple addition to afternoon tapas.

Roasted Banana Peppers
as many banana peppers and other fresh (smallish) peppers you can gather
olive oil
sea salt
sherry vinegar

Preheat oven to 400F. Place peppers in large shallow pan. Lightly coat in olive oil. Roast until the peppers begin to blister and soften. Remove from oven and immediately splash with sherry vinegar. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Serve warm or room temperature

Zucchini-Chevre Spoon Bread

A few days back; Mike, fresh from visiting our long neglected garden presented me with an enormous zucchini. Confession I sorta only grow zucchini for flowers. Occasionally, a few squash survive. When they do grow this large, I use them for bread. Sometimes sweet, sometimes savory. This spoon bread is a great side dish. It also rocks, scooped warm and soft, as a bed for caramelized onions, sunny side up eggs and crispy bacon. Best.Breakfast.Ever.

Zucchini Chevre Spoon Bread

4 large eggs
6 oz olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chevre
1/2 tsp freshly grated pepper
1 Tbs honey
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp fresh or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups all purpose flour
1 lb (about 3 cups) grated zucchini
1 cup grated cheese (mix of asiago, parmesan and provolone)*
*use your favorite flavorful cheese…if you use a salty cheese, modify your salt to 1/2 tsp

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl, set aside. In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the eggs and olive oil until pale (about 5 minutes). Add the salt, chevre, pepper, honey garlic powder and thyme. Mix for about another minute at as high speed as you can without splashing. STIR in the flour until fully incorporated, then stir in the zucchini and cheese. Bake at 375F in an 9″ buttered cake tin or cast iron skillet. Bake for about 45-50 minutes. This is a spoon bread, so it will be soft, but should not be jiggly. It will set as it cools as well. Serve warm.

Chard & Ricotta Pie

When we are up at the cabin, I don’t always have a full larder. I do however, have a garden and a few cheats in the freezer. This invariably leads to simple and creative dinners. I was able to whip this up in a snap. Mostly because, our garden overflows with chard.

Chard and Ricotta Pie
10 sheets filo dough
olive oil
grated parmesan
1 garlic clove–finely chopped
1/2 medium onion–finely chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
1 bunch (about 12 large leaves/4 cups chopped)–chopped–discarding stems
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp freshly grated parmesan
a few turns of the pepper-mill

Use an 8×10 pan. Layer the filo by brushing each sheet with olive oil, and a light sprinkle of parmesan cheese. The bottom layer should be 6 sheets. Trim the ends and set aside. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on low–toss in the garlic and onion. cook just until the onions begin to sweat and turn translucent. Do not allow the garlic to brown. Toss in the chard and allow to wilt, giving a good stir to evenly cook. After about 5 minutes, toss in about 1/4 cup of water and cover. Allow the chard to get nice and soft. allow to cool slightly. strain off the liquid and place in a bowl. add the ricotta, parmesan, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and pepper.
evenly spread into the prepared filo crust. Take the remaining 4 leaves of filo one by one and scrunch them in a loose accordion. Place on top of the spinach layer, making sure to cover the entire top of the pie. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a bit more cheese.
Bake at 375F for about 30-35 minutes. You will look for the filo to be nice and crispy. Serve warm or room temperature. This is very easy to crisp up in the oven for a “next-day” treat!

Eggplant Involtini

With the sun low and a slight breeze cooling the warm air, summer evenings are ripe for a picnic. We like to hitch the dogs, grab a well worn blanket, load a basket of tidbits and head out to: our garden, the beach, a park, a concert, or sometimes just the porch. A favorite tidbit, this time of year are these.

Eggplant Involtini
roasted peppers
fresh basil leaves
soft goat cheese
2 cloves garlic-peeled and smashed
1/2 cup olive oil
salt & pepper

Place the olive oil smashed garlic in a small saucepan and heat to warm. this process is to simply infuse the garlic flavor into the oil. Set aside and allow to infuse for an hour. Remove the garlic and store extra oil in the refrigerator. Slice the eggplant into slices no thicker than 1/4″. Layer slices between paper towels and let dry out for several hours or overnight. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. In batches, place the eggplant in the skillet. do not use oil, you will be dry frying. Turn when soft and brown and brown the second side. Remove from heat and place on plate and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cool, take a slice of eggplant and brush the top with the garlic oil to coat, but not saturate. Place a piece of roasted pepper across the middle, add a generous dollop of goat cheese. Give a quick sprinkle of salt and pepper, and top with a basil leaf. Roll overlapping the eggplant ends and place closure side down. brush a bit more olive oil over the top. Serve cold or room temperature.

Super Crispy Roasted Potatoes

I realize this favorite isn’t homegrown, harvested, highbrow, organic, or local. I’m not even sure I can say something as clever as canned at the peak of freshness. But when you are craving crispy crunchy roasted potatoes without time
to par boil and pre-roast, these are just the trick.

Crispy Crunchy Roasted Potatoes

canned whole potatoes–drained
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450F. Dry the potatoes thoroughly. Using a fork, score each potato with nice deep ridges. The potato may fall apart in your hands…no problem. Toss the potatoes into a oven safe casserole dish. Take the fork and gently smash the potatoes…not to pulverize, but to open them up a bit, but so that they still remain in one piece. The idea here is to create as many scraggly surfaces as possible…that is what gives you the crunchy bits. Drizzle olive oil over the top…be generous, but don’t let them swim in it. Use enough oil so that each potato has a light coating. Mix them up with your hands to ensure proper coverage. Generously sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and kosher or sea salt. Roast, uncovered for 45min to 1 hour. Check on them periodically and scrape from the bottom to prevent sticking (maybe a couple of times during the hour).

*these potatoes have been canned in water, so they will retain moisture for quite a long time. even when the outsides are good and crispy, you will still get a creamy interior.

**these are also really yummy with some herbs tossed in…rosemary is classic, but i love thyme with few sprinklings of lemon zest.

Fiori Fritti

Ever since I was a child, summer meant; long days in the pool, big family gatherings, and fiori fritti. Squash blossoms picked before the dew dried, were gently washed, stemmed, stuffed, battered, and fried.
I picked my first flowers of the season this weekend, and filled them with fresh chevre, basil & parmesan. After dipping them in really cold batter, I simply fried in olive oil. Delicious.

Fiori Fritti Batter

1/3 cup flour
1 egg
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1/4 cup sparkling water
2-3 ice cubes
more salt for sprinkling on the fried goodies when they come out of the oil

Whisk together the flour, egg, salt, pepper and sparkling water. add the ice cubes and place in the fridge while you heat the oil and prepare the flowers. the trick for a crispy batter is to have it very cold. Place about 6″ of vegetable oil in a sturdy pot—careful to leave another 3-4″ from the top of the oil to the top of the pan for safety. Dip the stuffed flowers in the batter and let the excess run off. Fry in the hot oil until begins to brown and is quite crispy.


Shaved Zucchini

Sometimes after a long weekend of heavy eating, I’ll prepare something really simple. This dish, bright and light, comes together rather quickly.

Shaved Zucchini

4 medium zucchini-about 4 cups
2 garlic cloves–peeled and smashed
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp dry thyme
zest from 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Shave the zucchini using a vegetable peeler. Make long strips and shave until you reach the heavily seeded part. turn and begin again. In the end, you will have a core. discard. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add the whole, but smashed garlic and let it brown. Remove the garlic (you are using it just to flavor the oil) and toss in the zucchini. Toss continually and allow the zucchini to cook through…this will take about 5-10 minutes. Add zest, thyme and lemon juice. Taste for seasoning–add salt and pepper to taste.

The Start to 2012 and Honey Roasted Carrots

Happy New Year! A well worn phrase with genuine intent. I find when spoken, it is always with a positive lilt; rarely a tone of indifference or sarcasm. No gifts to buy, no religious or political schism. Just the turn of the calendar giving us all a chance to

For 2011 my goals were: I will not judge in disappointment, as I am confident I too fall short of expectations others place on me. Rather than toss the years of the past I will carry them forward both as fond memories and retrospective caution. And I will eat more fruit.
For 2012, I have chosen a theme: dust Yourself Off. Simply, bootstrap mechanics. Get up, wipe off the dust, and give it another go. And. Eat more vegetables.

Honey Roasted Carrots
2 dozen small carrots-washed, peeled and trimmed
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp toasted whole cumin seeds

Warm the honey and vinegar to thin. Toss the carrots in the mixture and place on a lined sheet pan. Sprinkle with cumin seeds. Place in a 350 oven and cook until soft and caramelized, about 30-35 minutes. I also like to serve these, with some tooth to them, as a crudite with dip. You only need to cook them until they are softened but not colored–about 25 minutes. They are delicious with a simple tahini/soy sauce dip.

Fried Artichokes

Much like finding crawdads in Louisianna, brisket in Texas and barbeque in Memphis, you can find specialties in each Italian region. Rome is no exception. It also has something really special; the Jewish Ghetto. It is very small and virtually abandoned come dusk on Friday. It has a cuisine of its own. The most famous item is possibly the fried artichoke.

Carciofi alla Giudia
serves 4-6
4-6 chokeless or baby artichokes
olive oil for frying
salt and pepper
italian parsley (for garnish)

Fill a large bowl with cool water. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the water and stir. trim each artichoke, removing all tough outer leaves and trimming the stem (do not remove entirely). Toss the trimmed artichoke into the lemon water to prevent discoloration.
*if you cannot find chokeless or baby artichokes, you can use any artichoke, however, you must trim it to the tender leaves, cut off the prickly tops and remove the choke prior to placing in the water.
Heat at least 3-inches of oil on the stovetop to 325 degrees. Meanwhile, remove the artichokes from the water and place on paper towel to dry. Place each artichoke stem side up on the counter and gently push to flatten, being careful not to break the leaves. Place in small batches in the hot oil and cook until soft, but not browned. Remove from oil and place on paper towel or kitchen paper to drain and cool. Allow to sit at least 30 minutes, and up to 3 hours. Just before serving, heat the oil to 375 degrees and fry the artichokes, careful not to crowd the pan, until they are browned and very crispy. depending on the size of the artichokes this can take as little as 5 minutes and as long as 10 minutes.
remove from pan, drain slightly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with a garnish of chopped parsley and a lemon wedge.

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