Monthly Archives: June 2012

Prickly Business: Grilled Artichokes with Caesar Aioli

We all have those “scary foods”. The things we’re afraid to make because we failed at it once before, or because as my Uncle said to my Aunt upon his first bite, “This is not how my Mother made her pot roast”, or because we’ve just freaked ourselves out that they are “hard” and there they loom in the back of our subconscious, little culinary demons teasing and taunting us when we least expect it.

Mine are rich, indulgent foods that I’ve enjoyed at multi-course dinners and wish I could ask for seconds of, if only that were acceptable. They are foie gras, and sea urchin, and carpaccio and all generally politically incorrect and offensive foods. Up until a while ago hollandaise was also on that list, but I’m proud to say I triumphed over that one with a little help from my friend Chelsey, and a big pile of Crab Cake Eggs Benedict.

Alas, I digress. We all have our culinary ghosts, and it’s easy to become paralyzed by them.

“Oh no…I never cook pork.”

“I can’t make a pie! Are you crazy?”

“You want me to de-vein what?”

The truth is you can, and you should. Cooking at its most basic form is just reading, and with a little confidence, and liquid courage to boot, you’d be surprised what you can accomplish in the kitchen.

Rumor has it artichokes are top of many people’s Scary Foods List. Perhaps it’s their prickly exterior. Or the stupid $3 a piece price tag at the local organic market. Maybe it’s how long they take to eat, or how long they take to cook. Whatever the reason, I’m here to tell you that You. Can. Cook. Artichokes.

If I were cheesy I would say this is a representation of the culinary mountain that you are going to climb. But I’m not. So this is just a picture of Mt Rainier from my early morning lap around the park the other day.

This recipe is for steamed and then grilled artichokes served with a Caesar inspired aioli. That said, there are countless things you can do with artichokes, so once you master this try exploring and seeing what else you’d like to do now that you’ve conquered your culinary mountain and are standing proudly on top.

What are your other Scary Foods?

Grilled Artichokes with Caesar Aioli

The perfect side to a summer supper of burgers: Grilled Artichokes

Tip: Costco sells artichokes very affordably (about $5 for a bag of 4).

  1. Thoroughly rinse artichokes to remove any dirt.
  2. Many recipes suggest cutting off any prickly tips of the leaves, but I seldom do because I’m lazy, and I don’t think it’s necessary. If you do want to cut off the tips, grab a pair of kitchen scissors and cut off about ½ inch of each tip, so it’s no longer sharp and pointy.
  3. Trim the stem so it’s about 1” long.
  4. Fill a large pot with water, set a steamer basket in the bottom, and add the artichoke(s), tops facing up.
  5. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to maintain boil.
  6. They will start to emit a delicious smell after about 10 minutes, but they typically take 30 – 45 minutes to cook pending on the size, and what level heat you’ve got it at. I’m impatient, so I tend to keep my heat very high and just occasionally add more water to make sure there’s enough in the pan.
  7. To test the artichokes, try pulling off an inner leaf. If it comes off easily, try eating the meat of the leaf via scraping your teeth along. It should be tender, yet not mushy, although you don’t want it to have any real “bite” to it. If it’s not done, add back to water and test again at 5 minute intervals.
  8. Meanwhile, preheat grill to high, clean grates, and rub with a bit of olive oil on a paper towel.
  9. Once the artichokes are done cut in half and allow to cool slightly.
  10. Using a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works well because of the serration) scrape out the “choke” or that scary fuzzy stuff inside. Everything you don’t want should come out fairly easily, but if not you could easily cut it out via tracing the perimeter with a knife.
  11. Add to grill and without moving so you’ll get those sexy grill marks cook until slightly charred about 3-5 minutes.
  12. Serve with Caesar Aioli, which I just did a Caesar Dressing for and then pureed a bit longer to thicken up. Would also be delicious served with some melted butter and lemon juice.
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21 Comments

Filed under Entertaining, Health Conscious, Kitchen Trials and Tribulations, Lactose Free, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Like It Was Yesterday: Dungeness Crab Dip with Grilled Braided Bread Sticks

I have a terrible memory. Fascinatingly bad really, for someone so organized and obsessively high functioning. And I’m not even saying this so you’ll exclaim, “No you don’t, Erina, you have an amazing memory! It’s like the best memory of anyone I know,” like I used to do when I was a teenager and would feign wishing I had bigger lips so people would exclaim “You wouldn’t want bigger lips! Your lips are perfect…and super big! You practically look like Angelina Jolie!”

No, the truth is my memory is shit. Not for the day-to-day mind you, I am capable of keeping 50 projects running simultaneously at work, remembering the most minute detail about each, but for major life events like my 8th grade graduation. Or some bunny we apparently had growing up. Or my uncle’s wedding.

So I find it strange, though maybe I shouldn’t,  that I have an impeccable memory when it comes to food. I remember with aching clarity the first time I had Saag Paneer, while visiting my friend Madeline in Toronto. Each little bite of cheese a seemingly glorious, hidden prize, and each piece of spinach scooped and scraped up until there was nothing left. I remember getting lost in Florence and unknowingly stumbling upon a famous pizzeria that slung the most perfect slices for 1 Euro a piece, and were sold out and shut down by noon each day. I remember the first time I tasted Sweet Breads in a little NYC restaurant, the savory, smooth, rich flavor dancing across my tongue as I quickly did the math in my head that if I skipped the taxi back to my hotel I could maybe order another plate. Simply put, I remember food, the way my brother Ben remembers everything else. With excruciating detail, and a general state of shock that others don’t remember it exactly the same way.

This, in case you’ve never seen one, is a Flying Squirrel.

A few months back we had dinner at one of our local pizza joints, Flying Squirrel. The pie’s were yummy, as always, and the Caesar salad an expected ringer. What blew me away though, what I ate much more than my share of, what I thought about for weeks afterward was their Dungeness Crab Dip served with Pizza Dough Bread Sticks.

It was rich. It was sinful. It was sumptuous. And I couldn’t get it out of my head.

A few weeks ago l got the ingredients to try to recreate it. I cheerfully exclaimed to Matt what I was doing…what I was about to undertake…what potential greatness awaited us and he looked at me with a blank stare.

“What crab dip? We got crab dip at Flying Squirrel? Okay…I guess I don’t remember it.”

I was flabbergasted…how could you forget this? But alas…he had. And despite my beseeching requests that he try to remember as I described it in painstaking detail, he did not. Perhaps it is better that way. He can remember major life events, history, politics, and birthdays and I can remember our meals.

My rendition was nearly as good and a perfect appetizer when paired with Grilled Braided Bread Sticks and Champagne. It makes a big batch so I actually split it between two dishes and served it two nights in a row at two different parties, each time greeted with great acclaim. If you don’t have time to do the bread sticks you could skip them and just do toasted french bread instead, but they are a lovely complement.

Dungeness Crab Dip
Adapted from Food & Wine
Makes two large appetizer dishes, enough for 12 easily

Unforgettable Dungeness Crab Dip

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 tablespoon dry vermouth
3/4 cup cream cheese (6 ounces), softened
1 cup Beechers Flagship Cheddar (or something equally sharp and delicious)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons minced chives
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
Salt and pepper
Dash of Tabasco
1 1/2 pounds jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any bits of shell

  1. In a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until just beginning to brown, 4 minutes. Add the vermouth and cook until nearly evaporated, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, chives and tarragon. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and a dash of Tabasco, and scrape into a large bowl. Fold in the crabmeat, maintaining the large pieces of meat. Spread the crab dip in a shallow baking dish, two dishes, or 12 shallow ramekins pending how you want to serve it.
  2. Preheat the broiler. Position a rack 10 inches from the heat. Broil until the dip is heated through and the topping is golden, about 2 minutes; shift the baking dish for even browning. Serve warm with Grilled Braided Bread Sticks.

Make Ahead The recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated overnight. Return to room temperature before broiling.

Grilled Braided Bread Sticks

1 loaf store-bought pizza dough, I use Trader Joes
Flour
Olive Oil

  1. Remove bread from refrigerator and allow to rest lightly floured surface for 30 minutes.
  2. Slightly press out the dough, until it’s an 8″ circle.
  3. Divide into nine even sections.
  4. Using your hands, and gravity, allow each piece to stretch out until it is about 12″ long and 1.5″ side.

    Pizza dough, ready for braiding.

  5. On a floured surface take three pieces, press the tops together, and then braid until the end. Press ends together.
  6. Transfer to a cookie sheet and brush each side with olive oil.
  7. Get grill as hot as possible and allow to heat for another 10 minutes, scraping off the grates and carefully rubbing with olive oil on a paper towel.
  8. Reducing heat to 3/4, add the bread sticks to the grill, and cook until lightly browned and puffy, about 3-5 minutes per side, pending on the heat of your grill. Watch carefully to make sure they don’t burn.
  9. If you like, once done feel free to top with grated parmesan, or red pepper flakes, or roasted garlic, or whatever suits you.

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Filed under Comfort Foods, Entertaining, Make ahead, Seafood, Uncategorized

Total Control: Vegetarian Carbonara with Summer Greens

Her single command thus far….”Sit”, which she does eagerly and quite brilliantly (or so I’m told).

My life is a little nuts right now. It’s all good, and I’m very lucky, but things are a little crazy. I have my husband, my family, and my friends with whom I want to spend time. I have my job, my food blog, and my volunteer work with puppy rescue.  I have many wonderful trips to look forward to this summer including a wedding in Vermont, a clambake in Massachusetts, and girl’s wine weekend in Walla Walla. I have my meager attempts to get some sort of exercise to balance out said food blog and wine trips, not to mention my book club, my horseback riding, and my laundry. I have lots and lots of laundry lately it seems.

Happily chewing on an elk antler…and my running shoes…and my coffee table…

So it will come as no surprise that what seemed like the most logical decision, the most sensible way to go, was to get a puppy. In all honesty, I’m blaming this one squarely on Matt. He found a darling Neapolitan Mastiff puppy in Tacoma on Wednesday, emailed me in Boulder about it on Wednesday night, and by Thursday at noon she was happily chewing on Duke’s ear and quickly climbing the ladder to Number One Cute Pup In Town if you ask any non-biased person. To be fair, I didn’t exactly kick her out of bed for eating crackers either.

She is incessant in her need to be near Duke and he graciously obliges…I think he even likes it.

So this Monday night when I realized this was my only night off this week, and my fridge was exploding with goodies from our Hand Farmed Organics CSA and another box was arriving tomorrow [insert panic and self loathing at thought of throwing away organic vegetables HERE], I figured I’d better get cooking. A little quiet time in the kitchen always calms my nerves, and the self-righteousness that comes with making a delicious meal out of what’s in your fridge is hard to beat.

We try to do Meat Free Mondays, but honestly we usually don’t. Add that to the list of things that have gone to the wayside in our busyness. But tonight I succeeded, creating a sort of Vegetarian Carbonara and triumphantly using all the chard, spinach, and radishes up. It was surprisingly delicious, light and yet satisfying, and on the table in less than 30 minutes. A perfect meal when all you really want to do is play with the new puppy, and ignore the piles laundry building up in your temporarily empty guest room.

Vegetarian Carbonara with Summer Greens

Vegetarian Carbonara with Summer Greens

Serves 6

Carbonara is typically made with pancetta or bacon, but I didn’t have any and thought a vegetarian twist on the Italian classic might work. The radishes give it some nice bulk, and when the beaten egg is slowly added as you vigorously toss the pasta you get a rich sauce you’d swear had heavy cream in it.

1 lb pasta, whatever is in the cupboard

3 TB Olive Oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced

1 bundle of radishes, about 6, washed and thinly sliced with a mandolin

1 bunch chard, washed and coarsely chopped

1 bag spinach, washed

1/2 cup chives, thinly sliced (this seems like a lot, but is delicious and gives it a nice kick)

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup good parmesan cheese grated, plus more to taste

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick pan over medium-low heat, cook the garlic in the olive oil until just beginning to turn golden, 2-3 minutes.
  3. Increase heat to medium, add the radishes and the leeks, and cook until turning translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
  4. Add the chard and spinach, returning heat to low, and cook until wilted and radishes and leeks fully cooked, another 5 minutes.
  5. To assemble take the warm pasta (you don’t want it too hot or the egg will scramble), and vigorously tossing with tongs slowly add the beaten egg, until it creates a rich coating.
  6. Add the chard/spinach mixture, chives, and the parmesan and continue tossing vigorously until all nicely mixed and coated.
  7. Serve with additional parmesan to taste and truffle salt.

23 Comments

Filed under Cheap Eats, Health Conscious, Pasta, Seasonal Cooking, Vegetarian

Table for One: Pizzeria Locale in Boulder, CO

There is something so utterly pleasing about dining alone. You can go exactly where you want, when you want, and you can almost always get a seat, even at the poshest and happening of restaurants. Not only that, you can sit there for hours, enjoying a lazy dinner, where your only required company and conversation is the feasts and flavors in front of you, the people watching around you, and the juicy speculation of the restaurant life that exists off the floor.

This evening I enjoyed a dinner for one at Boulder’s tres popular, Pizzeria Locale; a self-described, “…contemporary pizzeria, inspired by the traditional pizzerias of Napoli, Italy” that Food & Wine recently recognized as having one of the best sommeliers of 2012. With their fresh, local ingredients, gracious and knowledgeable staff, simplistic yet inspiring space, and exceptionally good pizza, it is, in a word (or four), pretty damn near perfect.

Seated at the bar where you can watch the kitchen gents craft pizza after pizza, salad after salad, the evening began with a glass of their prosecco, generously served in a wine glass. The Bisol 2009 Prosecco, “Jeoi”, from Veneto Italy ($9) was the perfect pairing with their seasonal salad of grilled onions, pea shoots, radishes, and goat cheese.

At the waiter’s urging I chose the Maiale pizza for dinner, a red sauce based pizza with “mozzarella di bufala-parmigiano reggiano-prosciutto crudo-arugula” ($16).

Tangent: Really good red sauce to me is like getting in a super sexy sports car with a 5-speed after driving your minivan around for years. You don’t really notice it if it’s average and unoffensive, but if it’s good, it is knock-your-socks-off-good and Pizzeria Locale definitely achieved fifth gear on this one.

One of the never-ending stream of 20/30-something gentlemen waiters who all referred to me as “Miss” suggested the Chianti which was an exceptional pairing with the salty prosciutto, fresh arugula, and indulgent buffalo mozzarella.

My only regret of the evening was the few slices of pizza I took back to my hotel room that will be delicious cold for breakfast, but not as good as if they were warmed up and enjoyed with another glass of wine. Tip: To successfully reheat Neapolitan pizza, without it getting soggy, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, add the pizza to a cast-iron skillet, and reheat in pan for 3-5 minutes.

Highly recommended as the perfect destination be it for one or twenty, when craving exceptional ingredients, prepared simply, in Boulder’s aptly described 25 square miles, surrounded by reality.

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Filed under Restaurant Reviews

Like Father, Like Daughter: Grilled Shrimp with Lemon, Garlic, and Garden Herbs dipped in Sriracha Mayonnaise

Grilled Shrimp, Blasted Asparagus, Grilled Bread with Roasted Garlic, and Quinoa Salad

“Honey! It’s Dad!! You’re on SPEAKER!!!”

My father’s booming voice, a crescendo through the phone, culminated in what could easily be construed as a full shout, as when he is particularly excited he forgets that thanks to the invention of Alexander Bell, one needn’t yell all the way across the country to be heard.

Feverishly trying to find the volume down button and holding the phone out from my ear, I shouted back, “Hi! I’m great!! What’s UP???”, as when I am particularly excited I forget that thanks to the invention of Alexander Bell, one needn’t yell all the way across the country to be heard. Like Father, like Daughter…what can I say.

“Have you taken the shrimp out of the BRINE??”

“Another minute forty-five seconds! WHY?!”

“You’re really going to want to RINSE IT!”

At this point I simply burst out laughing. My dad, who semi-retired this past year and went from working nearly 80 hours a week to consulting part-time, has taken all the energy and enthusiasm and passion he had for his job and turned it into the kitchen. The result is one very lucky wife,  one very well fed teenage son, and one very happy adult, food-blogging daughter, who now gets phone calls from her Dad wanting to talk about shrimp for 30 minutes. Yes, we can talk about shrimp for 30 minutes, and I’m not sure which of us enjoys it more.

I’ve never been much of a Cooks Illustrated fan, finding a large number of the tasks they suggest seemingly annoying and high maintenance. I prefer to flip through pictures of Food & Wine, pick a recipe, then ignore half of it, and feign shock and dismay when it doesn’t turn out exactly as its pictured. Take brining…brining is the kind of thing I would almost always skip. I don’t know why…clearly it’s not that hard…but it just bugs me.

So when my Dad called to tell me he had recently made “the MOST succulent shrimp, I mean really Erina, the absolute best shrimp you’ve ever had” I promised to make the recipe, and follow the “CRITICAL” step of the brining and the “RINSING” (all of which he told me about in detail on our first call, and in the email, and on the recipe, and in our second call…because come on folks, this is SERIOUS stuff we’re talking about.)

Well, turns out, Father does know best. These shrimp are amazing. I might even say they are the most succulent shrimp, I mean really, the absolute best I’ve ever had. The brining is quick (30 minutes), and really does result in tremendously juicy shrimp. Furthermore, they take less than 5 minutes to cook making them  festive and utterly satisfying, yet very manageable, dinner party fare. We served them with Sriracha Mayonnaise, from the New York Time’s recent article, and there was not a shrimp left to be found in the house despite my Dad’s urging that I make “EXTRA” because they are “FANTASTIC leftovers!”

Grilled Shrimp with Lemon, Garlic, and Garden Herbs dipped in Sriracha Mayonnaise – Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Serves 4-6

Platter of awesomeness…these got scarfed up quickly!

Brine:

  • 2 lbs raw shrimp, tail on, shells off, thawed
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt (or 2 TB table salt)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 quarts cold water

Paste:

  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp garden herbs (oregano, basil, thyme, chives, whatever suits your fancy)
  1. In a large bowl combine the water, salt, and sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the shrimp and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mince garlic with salt to form a smooth paste. Combine garlic paste with olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh herbs. Set aside.
  3. When thirty minutes is up, drain the shrimp and RINSE them for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Return shrimp to large bowl, add the herb paste, stir to toss, and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours, stirring occasionally if marinating for the longer term.
  5. When ready to cook, light a grill and allow to get very hot, preheating for 15 minutes or so, and ensuring that grates are scraped clear. Meanwhile, skewer the shrimp, catching both the tail and body so they are securely on the skewer.

    Skewer the shrimp through both the tail and body to ensure they stay in place.

  6. Reduce the grill heat to 75%, and avoiding direct flame as much as possible, cook until just cooked through and pink, about 4-6 minutes total time (2-3 minutes per side).

    Sweet Nadia took this picture when I wasn’t looking…be sure not to cook the shrimp too long!

  7. Serve with Sriracha Mayonnaise, blasted asparagus, grilled bread, and quinoa salad.

24 Comments

Filed under Entertaining, Health Conscious, Lactose Free, Make ahead, Seafood, Uncategorized