For my Birthday this year, a night of peace and quiet. Chilled Cracked Dungeness Crab, Steamed Giant Artichokes, and an excellent champagne make this a dinner to savor. I love steamed artichokes. It has to be one of my many favorite vegetables, : ) when I saw these giant beauties at the Farmer’s market on Sunday I had to get a couple. The most commonly found artichoke in the United States is the Green Globe Artichoke. When purchasing artichokes look for those with light green leaves. The leaves should be tight and cling to the body of the artichoke. Occasionally Artichokes may be discolored by frost, but this does not affect flavor or quality, although as a benefit they may be sold at a lower price! To prepare for cooking, remove the stem and any tough outer leaves at the base of the stem. The next step is to trim the thorny part of each leaf off with scissors. I prefer simmering my artichokes to steaming. To simmer, simply place the artichokes in a deep pot and add enough water so that the base of the artichoke is submerged. I then add salt, two or three cloves of crushed garlic, a few branches of thyme and 1 lemon cut into slices. Simmer for about 40 minutes or until tender. The artichoke is cooked when you can easily pull the leaves away from the choke.
Artichokes are traditionally served with heavy sauces, such as mayonnaise, hollandaise or just plain butter. Several people have recently asked me to come up with a *healthy* dipping sauce, and I have finally made one that both Pete and I are happy with. It starts with a base of Greek Yogurt to which I added lemon zest, thyme leaves, parsley, a little garlic and grated shallot. It had a great mouth feel from the creamy yogurt and it was bright and flavorful with the addition of lemon zest and herbs.
Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!
Lemon Yogurt Dipping Sauce
½ cup of Greek Yogurt
2 Tbsp. of olive oil (Optional, but adds richness and takes the sometimes ‘yogurt-y’ edge off.)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, grated
1 Tbsp. shallot minced
2 tsp. thyme leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. Rice wine vinegar (adds a little tang and is not as acidic as lemon juice)
½ tsp. salt
A couple of drops of siracha
Pinch of sugar (optional, but sometimes necessary to balance the flavors)
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir. Taste, Season and Enjoy!
I never really understood why pop tarts were so popular amongst my friends growing up. Sure, it was an easy on-the-go breakfast item, but so are chocolate chip cookies. (Oh, come on, you know chocolate chip cookies are excellent with coffee. And they probably have less sugar than Pop Tarts too!) Pop Tarts didn’t make the cut because they don’t taste very good. They are sweet, that’s all. Skip forward twenty or so years, to Flo Braker’s ‘The Baker’ column in the San Francisco Chronicle last weekend. Now here was a recipe that I wanted to make!! She calls it a Fig and Berry Pastry Tart, but I call it yummy, healthy and good. It features a super easy cream cheese and butter pastry that I could make in the Cuisinart, a quick fig and berry compote for the filling and a simple confectioner’s sugar glaze to put on top. You could easily substitute your favorite jam or spread for the fig and berry compote. No one would be the wiser. I was super impressed by how well this baked pastry held up at room temperature. It lasted 4 days in our house and it was just as good on the 4th day as it was on the first day. The pastry was sturdy, easy to work with and delicious too.
Fig and Pastry Tart, Adapted from Flo Braker’s ‘The Baker’ Column in the SF Chronicle
2 ¼ cup flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp salt
2 sticks, (8oz) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 oz cream cheese, chilled and cut into cubes
1 pint figs, quartered
1/3 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, I used frozen
1 cup orange juice or water (I used water)
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice or water
To make the Pastry: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a Cuisinart or food processor. Scatter the butter on top and pulse until the butter is the size of small peas. Remove the cover and scatter the cream cheese over the dough. Pulse until the dough comes together in one large clump. Divide into two pieces, wrap and chill.
Filling: In a small sauce pan, combine all of the ingredients for the filling. Simmer until it is the consistency of a thick jam. Set aside to cool.
Glaze: Combine all ingredients; stir well so that there are no lumps and set aside.
Assembly: Remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap. Roll the first piece of dough out into a 10” by 14” rectangle. Fold in half and transfer to a baking sheet pan. Unfold the dough and spread the jam over the dough, leaving a 1”border. Roll out the second piece of dough, fold in half to transfer and place the dough over the filling. Press the edges of the dough together with a fork. Trim the un even edges of the dough. Prick the top of the dough with a fork and bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes. While the tart is still warm, brush the glaze over the top and set aside to cool.
Enjoy on the run for breakfast tomorrow morning!