Friday, May 21, 2010

Grilled lemon artichokes with spinach and fettucine

I used fresh artichokes to make this recipe because that's what I had on hand; you could also use canned artichoke hearts to shorten the prep time, but they won't have the smoky depth of flavor that you get from grilling fresh artichokes.  For more information about preparing the artichokes for cooking, go here.  Basically, you need to get rid of all the poky parts; you'll know if you missed any because you'll stab your fingers and it will hurt way out of proportion.

1 lb baby artichokes, trimmed and stemmed, with outer petals removed
5 oz fresh spinach
8 oz fettucine noodles
fresh Parmesan cheese

1/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. olive oil
1 T. Dijon mustard

Heat up your grill (I used my panini press so I wouldn't lose any artichokes through the barbeque grill grate, since they sort of fell apart as I was preparing them.  You could also use a George Foreman or other countertop grill.  But seriously--I love my panini press and I use it to grill constantly, not just for think about getting one.  :-)

Boil prepared artichokes until fork-tender, approximately 10 minutes.  Drain artichokes and immerse immediately in cold water to prevent further cooking.  Drain again once they've cooled; toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper (I use a Ziploc bag for this and just dump everything in together so I can be sure things are evenly coated).  Grill artichokes for about five minutes or until they're visibly browned. 

Start cooking your pasta.

Toss the artichokes with the dressing and let sit for half an hour or so, if possible (or you can just eat right away).  Toss with cooked pasta, several generous handfuls of torn-up spinach, and another generous handful or two of fresh Parmesan.  Voila!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Roast Garlic Soup

This soup comes from Martha Stewart Living.  Despite the large quantity of garlic, this soup is a mellow velvety broth (picky eater-approved!).  It makes an elegant first course for a fancy meal; alternately, pair it with a loaf of crusty bread and a green salad for a weeknight meal that requires only minutes of prep time.  I like to snip fresh chives over the top to give it a little extra pizazz.

Roast Garlic Soup
serves 4

2 garlic bulbs, cloves separated (about 40)
1 large russet potato (12 oz), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large yellow onion (12 oz), trimmed, peeled, and cut into wedges
1 1/2 t. ground sage
1 T. olive oil
1 1/2 t. coarse salt
freshly ground pepper
1/3 c. apple juice (or sherry if you prefer)
3 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 t. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400.  Toss whole garlic cloves, potato, onion, sage, oil, 1 t. salt, and a pinch of pepper in a large ovenproof skillet or dish.  Cover and transfer to oven.  Roast, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.  (I use a Corningware baking dish for the oven step and then transfer to a stockpot for the stovetop steps.)

Remove pan from oven; stir in 1/3 c. water.  Cover, return to oven, and roast until potato is deep gold brown and garlic and onion are very soft (about 30 minutes).  Transfer garlic cloves to a plate, let cool slightly.  Squeeze garlic from skins into skillet; discard skins.

Heat skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sherry or juice and cook, stirring to scrape up browned bits (this is where the flavor is!) about 1 minute.  Add stock and 1/2 c. water, bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly. 

Puree soup in a blender in batches, or use an immersion blender in the dish itself (my preferred method).  Heat over low heat; stir in lemon juice and remaining 1/2 t. salt, and 1/4 t. pepper. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

artisanal-style pizza

This is honestly the best pizza I've ever had in my life.  The original recipe comes from Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix via May 2009's Martha Stewart Living.  This recipe has a delicate crumb and a perfectly crunchy crust--use a preheated baking stone for best results.  And I'll be honest with you--you need toppings that are worthy of this crust! We have also found that this works very well if you refrigerate it after the first rise, making a perfect choice if you have afternoon church--just divide, cover with plastic wrap, and stick in the fridge, then take it out when you get home while the oven heats up.

Dough (makes 4 12-inch pizzas)
2 1/4 t. active dry yeast
2 c. warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
5 to 5 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. fine sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil, for greasing bowl
**scroll down for topping suggestions**

Dissolve yeast in warm water, let stand for 5 minutes.  Stir in 3 c. flour and the salt, stirring until smooth.  Stir in additional 2 c. flour, adding flour (up to 1/2 c.) 1 T. at a time, stirring until dough comes away from bowl but is still sticky (I use my KitchenAid stand mixer for all this).

Turn dough out of bowl and onto a lightly floured surface, kneading with floured hands.  Fold the dough back over itself, repeating until it's easily to handle and less sticky, about ten times.  Knead normally until dough is smooth, elastic, and soft, but still a little tacky, about 10 minutes.

Shape dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat.  Cover with plastic, let rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume (2-3 hours; when pressed with finger the indent should remain).

Place pizza stone in oven and preheat to 500 for an hour.  Scrape dough out of bowl onto floured surface, cut into 4 pieces, and shape into balls.  Dust with flour, and cover with plastic.  Let rest 20-30 minutes until dough relaxes and almost doubles.  Turn over a baking sheet (we like jelly roll pans) and cover it liberally with cornmeal.

Holding top edge of 1 dough ball in both hands, let bottom edge touch work surface.  Carefully move hands around edge to form a circle, as if turning a wheel.  Hold dough on back of your hand, letting its weight stretch into a 12-inch round (Neil likes to toss it at this point, but I always ruin it, so if he's not home I just stretch it). 

Transfer dough to inverted baking sheet (on cornmeal side).  Arrange toppings, then carefully slide the dough off the baking sheet and onto the hot stone.  We find that this generally requires two people with metal spatulas (see picture).  Bake pizza for 12 minutes or until crust is crisp and golden brown; remove from oven with peel and serve hot!


Our favorite combination (pictured) is pesto, grilled eggplant (brush cut eggplant with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, grill on panini press or George Foreman-style grill for 4-5 minutes or until done), red onion rings, shaved Parmesan, and black olives.  In summer, we add thick slices of heirloom tomatoes (Brandywine is our favorite).  We also make one with olives, peppers, onions, and mushrooms for the kids, who aren't crazy about eggplant.  Our favorite jarred sauce is Classico Traditional Sweet Basil. 

other suggestions from the MS Living article:
  • tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil
  • tomato sauce, oregano, garlic
  • tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, gaeta olives, salami
  • fresh mozzarella, ricotta, parmigiano-reggiano, arugula
  • parmigiano-reggiano, red onion, rosemary, pistachios
  • smoked mozzarella, fennel sausage, oven-roasted onion
  • fresh mozzarella, mortadella, garlic
  • heirloom tomatoes, pecorino, dried oregano, pancetta