A Week of Artichokes!

A couple weekends ago on a trip to the mercato (farmer’s market), I ran into a Sardinian guy selling artichokes at the can’t-be-beat price of €7,00 for 20 artichokes (that’s about .46 american cents each).  The only stipulation was that you had to buy twenty – or ten for €5,00, but why get 10 when you can get 20 for €2,00 more?!?  Needless to say, we were eating artichokes all week – and loving every minute of it.  Here’s what we made:

Artichoke Pasta

Pasta with artichokes

Orecchiette with sundried tomates, toasted pinenuts, basil, capers, olives, mozzarella

Directions:  toast pinenuts in a dry frying pan, swirling frequently.  Add a little oil, garlic, onion and sweat till transparent.  Add finely sliced artichokes, chopped sundried tomatoes, olives, capers and a couple ladles of pasta water.  Cook on low till desired consistency and artichokes have cooked through.  Add more olive oil if sauce seems dry.  Stir sauce into cooked, drained pasta and add diced mozzarella.

Artichoke Risotto

Slice artichokes finely and cook in a pan with garlic, onion, and olive oil, adding a cup or two of stock or water as onion starts to brown.  You can use whatever kind of rice you prefer and either prepare it separately, or add it to the artichokes and cover with stock or water until rice is cooked.  Serve with plenty of grated cheese.

Pan Roasted Artichokes

Prepare as above, adding pinenuts and olives if desired and serve as a vegetable side dish.

Steamed Artichokes with Hollandaise Sauce

Steamed Artichokes with Hollandaise Sauce

Steam whole artichokes, almost covered with salted water in a large pot for 30-40 minutes or until soft.  Meanwhile, prepare hollandaise sauce.  I know that seems like a lot of butter, but trust me, it’s worth it!  I like my hollandaise extra lemony.  The real fun of this dish is in how  it’s eaten:  Dip artichokes leaves in sauce and scrape the meat off each leaf with your teeth.  To die for!!

Cold Artichoke Salad

Hard boil eggs and separate the yolks.  Slice raw artichokes on a mandolin, add crumbled egg yolks, flakes of parmigiano (parmesan cheese), dress with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Happy Easter

Here are some of the eggs I colored this year – couldn’t find any white eggs, but the brown eggs actually worked just fine, and they have neat dark specks that white eggs don’t have. I also blew the insides out of three eggs and made Christmas ornaments out of them. The red didn’t come out in the picture below, it’s really an awesome red and I painted it with clear nailpolish to make it shiny.

Weed Woman to the Rescue

I’ve been trying for years to get these sensitivity plant seeds to grow with no luck whatsoever.  Then my Mom, affectionately known as The Weed Woman, suggested I try putting the seeds in a wet paper towel in a plastic baggie and setting them in the sun for a couple days.  Needless to say, it worked like a charm and I am now the proud mother of several sensitivity plant seedlings (as evidenced below)!

It was a good thing I tried this trick with a bunch of the seeds because about half of them were duds!  This is a good technique to use on old seeds of dubious expiration date.  It’s so disheartening to plant and water and sun your seeds and have nothing pop out of the ground.  This method speeds the sprouting up and eliminates those days of heart wrenching worry.

I’ve now got a new batch of purple beans in my mini-greenhouse.  I secretly think these are magical beans – because they’re purple, the beans are a special glossy red, and the box says they grow really tall.  My suspicions were further confirmed by Weed Woman Herself, who assured me that they turn green when you cook them!  I’ll keep you posted on further magical properties as I discover them…

UPDATE:  It should be known that Weed Woman is an endearing term Mom earned for her extraordinary weed arrangements, which I’m positive are the envy of even Martha Herself.

OH MY GOD, THE BLENDER!!

Luca bought me my very first blender a couple of months ago. I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s been sitting in its box in our bedroom until yesterday when I got a craving for crepes. Let me just tell you, I’ve never actually owned my very own blender. I’ve used other peoples’ blenders:  in college to make mudslides and daiquiris and whatnot, and in Las Vegas I accidentally broke my roommate Jen‘s blender making chocolate soy milkshakes..I must admit that I’ve been suffering from blender envy for a good decade now.

For the inaugural run of the blender, we made crepes – and I can assure you that it was a liberating experience.  Since then, we’ve been experimenting with a variety of crepe recipes, and our favorite so far is one adapted from the King Arthur Baker’s Companion.  (Julia Child‘s was too heavy – too eggy and too buttery for our tastes).  This version makes plenty of crepes for two people craving something sweet and satisfying.  It’s quick and easy (though the cooking part can be a bit stressful, but after the first couple, you get the hang of it).  We like to fill our crepes with nutella or lemon and sugar.

Ingredients

1 cup AP flour
pinch of salt
6 oz milk
2 eggs
1/4 stick of butter, melted

Method

1. Dump all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth.  Let batter rest 30 minutes.
2. Heat a small pan and lightly grease with butter.  Holding the pan in one hand, pour in just enough batter to barely cover the surface of the pan.  Make sure to rotate the pan as you pour the batter in to evenly distribute the batter.  Allow to cook until the edges start peeling away from the sides.  Using your fingertips, quickly flip over and cook for another minute or so on the other side.
3.  Slide your crepe onto a plate, fill and roll or fold into quarters and voilà!

Next Year’s Garden

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This is how I want my garden to look next year.  Aren’t these the most amazing rows of zinnia and iris that you’ve ever seen?

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Look at the color!!

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This woman plants the same thing every year and her flowers last for a ridiculously long time – she’s got blooms from May through the end of October.  *So jealous*.  I don’t know how she does it because she doesn’t even live that close to her garden – I always see her going to and from her flowers on an old orange Vespa with her harvest basket precariously balanced between her knees.

I hopelessly abandoned my garden this year after planting herbs, rhubarb and tomatoes.  The cuore di bue (ox heart) tomatoes below are about the only thing we harvested – they were really good, but most of them ripened while we were on summer vacation.  Here we prepared them with garlic, olive oil and basil and ate them with rustic bread and fresh ricotta that our mountain neighbor made.  I think always having colorful flowers would be a great incentive to pay more attention to what’s going on in the garden.

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Va beh (oh well).  Better luck next year.

Franco’s Funghi

francofunghi

Pictured above is Luca’s Dad, Franco with his harvest of the day (our dinner tonight!)  It’s mushroom season here in Piedmont and we’re lucky enough to have an expert scavenger in the family.  Not to brag or anything, but these were the most flavorful mushrooms I’ve ever eaten.  They were so freaking good (of the porcini variety).  We’ve actually been eating them all week (apparently when the mushrooms are out, they’re OUT).  On Monday with steak, on Tuesday in Ratatouille, and tonight baked in the oven with sliced potates, onions and rustic pancetta.  Too bad for you that Internet isn’t more multi-sensorial, or I’d send you all a whiff and a taste.  You’ll just have to use your imagination (or come visit!).

The area we live in is actually internationally reknowned for it’s mushrooms – we’re five minutes outside of Alba in the Langhe region, which is the White Truffle Capital of the World.  It’s always pretty easy to get truffles around here in season – they’re still expensive, but in these parts there are no added shipping fees, so that helps.  There are actually two truffle seasons – Fall is the more important White Truffle season (late September through mid December) while Summer is the Black Truffle season.  Experts say that the white truffles are more fragrant and flavorful, but we’ve had some extremely awesome black truffles that were much better than many of the more expensive white truffles.

funghi

Here’s Franco in October of 2005 with the fruits of a successful mushroom scavenge:

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