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Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Artichokes Redeemed

When Greg and I were dating in New York, we used to have a number of ingredient-themed dinner parties for select guests and roommates. New York was great for this, where dinner parties weren’t just dinner parties but adventures into exquisite new foods, and Fairway (the mecca of foodies) was just a few blocks away. There was a squash night, a duck night, and an ill-fated artichoke night.

The artichoke-themed dinner party was a disaster, and the only edible dish was a soy-based artichoke dip which used jarred artichokes. The roasted artichoke hearts were prickly with an uninspired dipping sauce, the steamed artichokes were bland, and the artichoke pasta was only acceptable because we used artichokes from a jar. I distinctly remember FDS (a former roommate and unlucky guest) cautiously nibbling away at the outer peels, uncertain of which pieces were to be discarded and which pieces to be consumed. We swore off fresh artichokes that night. (That said, FDS seemed to enjoy everything we made.)

Three years later, perched atop the reduced-price produce rack at Stop and Shop, was a box full of baby artichokes. There were easily 20 of them, for only $1.99, and our inner adventurers just couldn’t resist.  This time fresh artichokes delivered.

Sauteed Baby Artichokes and Tomatoes

~20 baby artichokes
12-15 cherry or grape tomatoes
grated hard cheese to taste

Prepare the artichokes by peeling off all of the outer layers until you reach the soft pale yellow inside. Be liberal in your discarding, as any ambiguous pieces will likely be too tough to eat. Save the outer peels for broth (see below).Quarter the artichoke hearts, and immediately place in a large bowl of water with lemon juice. This will keep the artichoke hearts from browning before cooking–this happens fast.

When all of the artichoke hearts have been prepared, heat a large skillet with 2 T of butter and some oil. When the butter has melted and the pan is hot, drain the artichokes, and toss them and the tomatoes into the skillet. Season liberally with salt, cover and let simmer.  Check often, stir often, and taste often (for doneness, of course!).  When the artichokes look/taste mostly done (you’ll know because they are soft), add crushed red pepper, and lemon juice. When the tomatoes are blistered, they are done.

Serve with freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkle of hard cheese (e.g. pecorino romano, parmesan, etc.) This can also be served with pasta or garnished with basil or oregano.

Artichoke Broth

Discarded outer artichoke peels
6 c water
2 bay leaves

Homemade vegetable broth is one of the easiest things to make, significantly cheaper than store-bought varieties, and contain all known ingredients and nothing processed. We regularly make a big stock pot full, store in 1-qt containers, and freeze until ready for use. It can be used as a base for other soups and curries or as a special addition to quinoa or rice.

We made artichoke broth the same way we make regular broth — bring all ingredients to a boil, salt liberally, and let simmer for some time. The longer it cooks, the more flavorful it is. We were in a rush to make some quinoa with dinner so we cooked it for only 20 minutes or so, but even that was enough to lend a nice artichoke-y flavor to the quinoa.

If you don’t have artichokes, you can use an onion, a few carrots, and a few stalks of celery instead. Typically, we store the outer onion layers, carrot peels, and the inner parts of celery in the freezer until we are ready to make stock. We typically use the carcass of a rotisserie chicken as well, which does add extra flavor, but vegetable stock is just as good. The key thing to remember is, pre-packaged broth is never as good as homemade!

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Pillow-y potatoes

We have a favorite gnocchi place in New York — Max Soha in Harlem. This is quite an exceptional restaurant overall with extremely good pasta at very affordable prices (and not just for Manhattan). They have an excellent black linguine with seafood, and the lamb ragu also comes highly recommended. But the gnocchi at this place is truly phenomenal, beautiful puffy pillows of potato, dressed simply with tomato, basil, and some homemade mozzarella. Delicious. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, do stop by. But take note, it’s cash only.

The first time we made gnocchi was one step short of a smashing success.  That step, of course, was to stop while we were ahead.  This was one of our more ambitious evenings, in which we decided to make regular potato gnocchi, sweet potato gnocchi, and ricotta gnocchi.  The first item was easy to make, quick, and delicious.  Sweet potatoes, however, are much wetter than their less-sweet cousin, and so our gnocchi recipe ended up requiring about four times as much flour–which is about four times as much as the recipe called for!  So after spending an hour kneading spoonful after spoonful of flour into sweet potato mush, all the while terrified that we would still need more flour, we finally quit when our dough had formed into a dense, chewy hockey puck.  Worth mentioning now that the key to good gnocchi is to go easy on the flour.  So, dejected, we postponed the ricotta for another time–which ended up being another spectacular failure.  This time, not enough flour, and our cute little ricotta balls instantly dissolved in the boiling water.

Two years later, revisiting potato gnocchi proved yet again successful.  So until we get a better sweet potato or ricotta gnocchi recipe, we’re sticking to this one.

Gnocchi with Herb-Infused Olive Oil

1 lb Idaho potatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
up to 1 cup flour
drizzle of herb-infused olive oil*

Peel the potatoes before cooking. Pierce potatoes several times with a fork or knife to release steam as they cook. Microwave the potatoes on high for 15 minutes. Let cool. (It’s possible that microwaving is not the best way to cook potatoes for gnocchi. We found they were a bit dry and very potato-ey. Boiling may be a better choice.)

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, grate them using the coarse side of a box grater. (Alternatively, a food mill will also work.) The goal is to flake the potatoes so there is enough air between potato flakes for a fluffier gnocchi.

Stir the egg into the potatoes. Add the flour a spoonful at a time, kneading in between each addition until the dough is dry enough to handle. Roll the dough out into one-inch diameter dowels, ensuring even thickness throughout. Cut dowels into half-inch pieces, dimpling/rolling with a fork.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook gnocchi in batches for two-three minutes at a time, until gnocchi float to the top. Remove and set aside. Drizzle with herb-infused olive oil and serve. And enjoy.

*Heidi calls this “magic sauce“, “as versatile as a little black dress”. It is a garlic-herb infused olive oil, delicious drizzled on top of a plate full of fresh gnocchi.

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