Category Archives: Kitchen Trials and Tribulations

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

Picture Perfect: Lemon Tart with Raspberries

Don’t let his good looks fool you.

The other day was, simply put, not my day. It began something like this:

Erina, “Do you think Duke still needs to wear the harness when I walk or run with him? I don’t think he does….he’s such a good boy. I mean, he’s perfect!”

Matt, “I don’t know…it’ll depend how much he pulls when he sees something he wants.”

Erina (dismissively), “It’ll be fine.”

5 minutes later I clipped up the “perfect” Duke, sans harness, and grabbed the bottle of champagne and my bottle of water (my new secret anti-hangover device..bring a bottle of water and chug it like it’s my job). We trotted up the hill, en route to our friends CJ and Nadia’s house and no sooner had we turned onto their street (which incidentally is down hill, on a wet sidewalk, covered in moss), than Duke took off. CJ is after all his most favorite person and in his opinion there is no greater place on earth. I had done exactly what they preach you should not, never ever, not even a little bit do in puppy school and had wrapped the leash around my wrist. I went flying, the champagne went rolling, Duke kept running, and the next thing I know I’m being dragged along on the sidewalk, my pants ripped, my knee swollen, and my ego very bruised.

It gets worse.

Upon being scolded by CJ for my less than surgical cleaning of said wound, I was promptly sat in a chair, hydrogen peroxided to the hilt, wrapped and taped up, and then plunked with a bag of peas and my ever-expanding knee in the middle of the action. On the plus side, people did bring me champagne, so nothing wrong with that.

If you asked me, Mr Hippo had it coming…

A few hours later I decided to hobble around the kitchen and make a pizza. And what a beautiful pizza it was. Fresh dough, sautéed jalapeno cheddar sausage and mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella…I could go on. I cooked it perfectly on the pizza stone, spinning it to make sure it was done just right, and pulling it out at exactly the right moment. I topped it with garden fresh chopped basil, and then I went to cut it.

Perhaps it was being shaken up from the fall, or perhaps it was the champagne, or maybe it was the universe telling me to slow the hell down, but here I am cutting it and the pizza board (which is only 80% on the counter, but who notices that kind of thing) slips, the pizza goes flying and suddenly there is beautifully sautéed jalapeno cheddar sausage and mushrooms, and buffalo mozzarella, and garden fresh chopped basil all over the god damned kitchen floor.

CJ offered me her gluten free pizza, Nadia assured me that she’d just swept and it would be fine to eat, and Matt ordered take out. I was utterly defeated and went gingerly home, crawled into bed (at 6p), pulled the covers up over my head, and pouted for all I (and that beautiful pizza) were worth.

Don’t worry Mom…I’ll watch the table of beautifully prepared food for 30!

This Lemon Tart is the absolute antithesis to my dreadful Sunday. It is beautiful, and perfect, and sinfully delicious. My mama made it first, and we quickly scarfed it up, oohing and ahhing over the perfect combination of sweet raspberries, tangy lemon filling, and crunchy crust. This travels very nicely so is a great dessert to bring to a dinner or an event. Make it when you need to be picture perfect, and tied up in a bow.

Lemon Tart with Raspberries
Adapted from “William Sonoma Desserts”
Serves 8

Magnifique!

Butter Cookie Dough, 1 disk at cool room temperature (recipe follows)

2 Eggs

2/3 C White Sugar

12 oz Cream Cheese, room temperature

1/2 C Sour Cream

2 tsp Lemon Zest

1 Lemon, juiced

2 TB Flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 carton, about 6 oz, raspberries

  1. Put the dough disc between 2 large sheets of parchment paper and roll out into a 12-inch round, 1/4 inch thick. Fold the dough round in half and transfer to a pie plate. (A tart pan with a removable bottom would be better, but I don’t have one of those). Unfold the round and ease into the plate, patting firmly into the bottom and up the sides. Trim the edges to form a 1/2 inch overhang. Fold the overhang back over itself and press into the sides of the pan. Freeze for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, line the crust with foil, fill with pie weights, place on a baking sheet, and bake for 12 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and continue to bake until set and slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  2. In the food processor, combine the egg and sugar and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the cream cheese, pulse to break it up, and then process until smooth, about 15 seconds. Add the sour cream, lemon zest and juice, flour, and vanilla and process just until smooth, about 20 seconds. Pour the filling into the partially baked crust.
  3. Bake until the top looks firm and is set when you gently shake the pan, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 1 hour. If using a tart pan, remove from the pan. If using a pie dish, leave as is. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight. Spoon the raspberries on top of the tart just before serving.

Butter Cookie Dough

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/4 cups cake flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 1/4 cups unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 TB vanilla

  1. Sift together the flours and salt into a bowl. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on low-speed, beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture and mix just until a moist dough forms. Form the dough into three equal disks and wrap separately in plastic. Chill until firm, about 45 minutes. Storage tip: You may store the disks, wrapped tightly in plastic, in the fridge for up to 2 days, and in the freezer for up to 1 month.

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Filed under Desserts, Entertaining, Kitchen Trials and Tribulations, Make ahead, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

What Old Spice Man and Amanda Knox have in Common

Tonight I attended a dinner where the lead speaker was Jason Bagley (Creative Director at Wieden & Kennedy), the mastermind behind the hunk-a-hunk-a burning love Old Spice Man.  Also in attendance was David Marriott, the man currently being heralded with having a critical role in shifting Amanda Knox’s  public persona from “she-devil” to “all American girl” being penalized for anti-American sentiment by a corrupt Italian legal system.

Jason’s talk was on: “HOW TO ABSOLUTELY 100% GUARANTEE SOMETHING GOES VIRAL (MAYBE).”

Now, since it’s my shameless dream to become a famous food blogger like the lovely Molly Wizenberg of Orangette, or perhaps even better yet, become a famous food critic who travels the world eating in amazing restaurants while still miraculously maintaining my size four (ha) figure, I paid close attention.

He had ten tips for how to absolutely 100% guarantee something goes viral. Unfortunately for me…the ones I really liked are still a bit out of reach (hire a team of geeks and get random celebrities like Michael Bolton and Fabio to do TV spots for you), but there were a few that also resonated that I’m going to try to employ into my blogging.

Note: This is where you, reader, come in.

  1. Be Nimble – It’s easy to start overthinking something like a blog. “Who’s reading it? Is anyone reading it? It can’t just be my mom reading it…can it? Do people think I’m funny? Do they think I’m pretty? Do they like my food?” The more that little voice goes off in my head the longer it takes for me to post. So resolution #1 – Don’t get so hung up on being perfect. Just Shut Up & Cook.
  2. Be Controversial – It’s not my nature to be controversial (unless you count Foie Gras or pink headbands at funerals), but I’m going to try to stretch the limits a little bit here. Even the title of this post is beyond my comfort zone. I promise I won’t make penis cupcakes or anything like that…but get ready for some wild times here at ‘ol Shut Up & Cook.
  3. Keep the Conversation Going – This is your blog too. Tell me what food you love, what you hate, what you can’t seem to figure out. A new reader from Pennsylvania is interested in, “Healthy breakfast muffins! I have eaten the same quinoa carrot muffin every morning for too long now!” What do you want to talk about? Come on….comment people! Please?

And with that I’m going to curl up with my man and my dogs…no recipe, no distraction, no crappy iPhone picture,…and commit myself to Jason’s last piece of advice as it applies to this blog and my pursuit for it to be your favorite (and your friend’s favorite…and your friend’s friends favorite), which is:

Fail Harder.

You should just see how terrible some of the Old Spice ads were before Isaiah Mustafa graced us all with his devilish good looks and gorgeous abs.

I’m going to take a deep breath, hit “Publish”, dive into bed, and definitely, not at all, not even a little, feverishly check my site stats to see how many of you have read this thereby satisfying Jason’s ABSOLUTE 100% GUARANTEE SOMETHING GOES VIRAL.

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Eat. Breathe. Love. – Baked Artichoke Dip

MorningMimosas

Morning Mimosas in Walla Walla

I recently watched Julia Robert’s Eat. Pray. Love. and felt that while it was cute and moderately interesting it was not the brilliant and awe-inspiring story the critics had made it out to be. For those of you not familiar with the plot, Elizabeth Gilbert, successful NY author who seems to have it all wakes up one night and realizes she doesn’t want to be married anymore. What ensues is her personal struggle to figure out who she is, via three-month stints in Italy (Eat), India (Pray), and Bali (Love).

While I can’t claim to be nearly as tortured as Elizabeth, or as glamorous as Julia, I am at an interesting moment in my life. I am soon to be completing a one year contract doing work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. However, in a move so uncharacteristic I’m questioning it myself I have NOT immediately lined up the next project. Rather, I’m hoping to take one month off before beginning my next adventure February 14th. Now, to most people taking one month off at some point in their late 20s or early 30s doesn’t seem so crazy. But, we’re talking about me here. The person who has blissfully had her life scheduled in 15 minute increments since the day I turned 14 and got my first Day-Timer. I am a person who craves order and control, and I’ve very purposely built a life on that.

So…upon assignment completion I will be kicking off my own little mini version of Eat. Pray. Love. Being a rather unsure agnostic I knew the Pray part wasn’t going to work so well, so I’ve changed it to Breathe.

Eat. – Here forth commences one month of totally indulgent cooking. I’m going to make sauces that take forever, I’m going to make so many muffins I don’t know what to do with them, I’m going to discover grocery stores in Seattle’s International District that I never even knew existed and I’m going to finally bite the bullet and try to make foie gras.

Breathe. – Does anyone else find breathing impossible? I do. I often realize as I’m falling asleep at night that I haven’t taken a single deep breath. So…I’m going to do yoga or Pilates every day and I won’t even ask the instructors if they have a speed class available.

Love. – They say that having a partner by your side makes the uncertain times that much easier. I couldn’t agree more. My lovely husband has been an absolute champion for this little adventure. What’s more…when I suggested to him that as part of this chapter I should perhaps take a cousin trip to Puerto Rico he totally agreed! So that’s how this experiment will end. One week in Puerto Rico with my lovely cousins.

Just some of the gang.

Just some of the gang.

This fall, as a sort of precursor to Puerto Rico, five first cousins set off for Walla Walla, WA. Arriving from Seattle and Portland we had an absolutely blissful weekend full of food, wine, laughter, dancing, and entirely ridiculous quotes that would make sense to no one else but us. We didn’t so much cook for the weekend as much as “melt stuff” but it was perfect all the same. This baked artichoke dip is sinfully delicious even if a bit ghetto. Make it ahead of time so that your guests don’t know what’s in it.

If bread, cheese, and artichokes don’t say “love” I don’t know what does.

Baked Artichoke Dip

1 medium-sized round loaf bread (cheap is okay)
1 can artichokes (well-drained and coarsely chopped)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded + more for topping
2/3 cup mayo (don’t even bother with the light variety)
1 TB Lemon juice

Baked Artichoke Dip

Baked Artichoke Dip

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Carve out the round loaf of bread, reserving “filling” so that you can use it as crostini later. Cube filling into 2-inch chunks.

Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and transfer to waiting bread bowl. Top with extra Parmesan cheese.

Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes, or until brown and bubbling. For last 10 minutes add bread chunks until lightly toasted. This is the perfect appetizer for a winter gathering.

**All photos by my lovely cousin Annie Laurie Malarkey.**

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Filed under Comfort Foods, Kitchen Trials and Tribulations, Make ahead, Seasonal Cooking, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Too Busy To Shut The Blinds

...tick tick tick

Those who know me, know that I am nothing if not planful. (which yes, I know, is one of those fake, obnoxious, corporate words, but I like it.)

I plan what I’m going to wear, what I’m going to eat, I plan out my vacation allotment nine months in advance, and forecast my spending for each month on the 1st. I plan when I’m going to get gas, when I’m going to write thank you cards, and when I’m going for a run. My husband has, on more than one occasion, informed me that my lack of spontaneity is a detriment to our marriage.

Whenever I feel an absence of a plan, or am asked to weigh different options to form said plan, I quickly run through each scenario and do a cost/benefit analysis to determine my final decision. [am I sounding like fun, or what?]

The other day I came home from work to find that my husband had painted the window trim in our bedroom. This was one of those stupid chores that had caused more than its fair share of fights, so it was a noted completion. Due to the recent spit and polish, the blinds had been left off, and I was reminded by just how pretty it is with all the afternoon light pouring in. [The blinds were never up the 3 years before, not really consciously, but because we’d hung them up and then never bothered to do anything differently].

Unable to sit and simply enjoy how pretty it was I immediately began rehanging the blinds. While doing so I started contemplating whether or not each morning I should plan to add a minute to my a.m. routine and put the blinds up and down. I kid you not, I evaluated this for a good three or four minutes. “It’s worth it to just make this part of your morning routine, because think how nice it will be to get the sun returning from work.” “This isn’t even a habit worth starting, because you’re going to be too busy to do it successfully and you’re just going to slide right back into bad habits (e.g. blind non-opening). “Yes you will. “No I wont”. “Yes you will. “No I wont”. “I’m just too busy to shut the blinds!” When I actually realized I was feeling a twinge of anxiety about this debate and impending required decision I  burst out laughing with self-awareness (the kind one can only truly be capable of achieving if they’ve been junior league members of a decade of family therapy following parental divorce).

How truly ridiculous…feeling stressed about whether or not one can afford to open and close the blinds as they see fit. I realized too, that having come out of three weeks of house guests and endless engagements I had become “too busy” to do a lot of things….read, sleep, exercise, or cook or write in my blog.

Which is to say….here on August 27…I hereby do vow…for the next 34 days (e.g. September 30, it’s good to set realistic expectations) to not be “too busy” to make time for those things that truly matter.

Stay tuned for lots of fun recipes coming up! On the docket croquettes, velvet corn soup with crab and chili oil, and lobster risotto.

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One Cook Book a Week

There were a series of years, (more than I care to admit), where my love of things equine resulted in all Christmas, birthday, and “just because” presents being oriented around the horse theme. There were horse books, horse figurines, horse journals, Waterford Crystal horse head wine bottle stoppers, horse belts, horse sticker books, and of course, the horse calendar.

An equestrian to this day, I somehow seemed to evolve past what we will only refer to as “the horsey years”.

However, as my interest in cooking has grown, cook books seem to have become the replacement. Let me be clear.  I adore cook books. But I have now ended up with a bookshelf of them, and therefore thousands of recipes I’ve never even tried. The other day a wave of panic crossed my mind as I thought about all the recipes out there in the world and how I would never be able to make them all.

While I certainly won’t be able to make them all, I am determined to at least start cooking a representative cross-section of them.

So, here’s the challenge:

The Meal Plan will be back in full force. But each week will be based off solely ONE cookbook. My goal is to get through all of them (although we’ll see how it goes when I get to the really boutique and/or outlandish ones.)

Wish me luck…I’m going in!

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Bistro or BBQ? What kind of chef are you?

As one gets older we must decide what kind of person we will be and how we will let ourselves be defined. Will we be known for being funny, good in a crisis, thoughtful to a fault, relentless in our pursuits? Certainly to some degree we have control over how this definition comes to fruition, but there are some elements of nature that are undeniable.

One’s self in the kitchen is often a good metaphor for life. Are you the kind of chef who whips up whatever is in the fridge, a veritable MacGyver of cuisine? Or are you someone who dutifully plans each meal, follows each recipe to a T, and never allows yourself the freedom or permission to branch out.

At a unique cross roads in my work right now, I will be leaving a place and people that I love and going onto what I truly believe is the right decision for my career but which holds daunting challenges and unknown territory.

As per usual, when life gets messy I clean my kitchen (which is usually already very neat), pop open a bottle of wine, crank up the stereo, and start cooking. Feeling that in some sense I will be stepping into a role that requires more control and restraint than I’m currently used to I allowed myself a night of total fun and indulgence in the kitchen.

Rather than take you through each item, step-by-step, let me rather share with you what’s currently on my culinary wish list. Items that help explain the chef (read: person), I wish I might someday be*:

*Disclaimer: Haven’t yet tried these recipes….if you do, comment back and let us all know how they are!

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