Archive for July, 2008

Artichoke Panzanella

July 4, 2008
Even though I am not really a list-making person, I have found myself recently wondering what 10 cookbooks I would take with me to a desert island (provided that said desert island has my stove, my pots, and my knives waiting for me). A definite on that list would be Annie Sommerville’s Everyday Greens. No, it is not a cookbook full of recipes for collards and kale, it is from Greens restaurant in San Francisco, a vegetarian mecca. Like Fields of Greens and The Greens Cookbook, this book is one of my go-to’s when I want to make something special. Because don’t let the “Everyday” part of the title fool you – these recipes are fairly, uh, involved.

For quite some time I have been eyeing the Artichoke Panzanella recipe in there and have, up until yesterday, been tripped up by the first step which is to prepare a completely different salad on a completely different page. This is how Sommerville gets you. You look at the list of ingredients and see only, say, six and think – not so bad. But then you realize that ingredients 1-3 are actually complete recipes found in other parts of the book and then you start to wonder, “Everyday Greens?”

This time I was determined and made the Simple (ha ha) Artichoke Salad so I could then make the Artichoke Panzanella. And when all was said and done, it was, as per usual with this cookbook, delicious and worth the effort. I have to confess though – it can be made a lot easier without sacrificing much in the flavor department. (Pardon me while I lock the door so the Food Police don’t come after me). You can (click) use frozen artichokes and jarred roasted red peppers.

Now if you are a purist, or if you really really love artichokes, I would just go ahead and go for it. My advice would be to use the babies because there is no choke so they are a little easier to manage. If you have never broken down an artichoke before, there is a terrific photo tutorial here. I figured it out myself several years ago, but would have loved to have this advice at the time.

As for the peppers, if you do choose to roast them yourself, I find the best way to do this is to put them on a baking sheet into a 450 degree oven. Don’t even bother brushing them with oil. Roast them for about 20 minutes, turning once half way through. Once they are browned in spots (it doesn’t have to be all over), pull them out and either wrap a large sheet of foil around the whole baking sheet, or put them in a heat-proof bowl and throw a clean kitchen towel over the top. Either way, wait about 10 minutes, uncover and let them cool enough so that you can handle them – the skins will come off beautifully. I find this temperature and amount of time in the oven roasts them so they are wonderfully juicy (make sure you peel and de-seed them over a bowl so you catch all that wonderful juice) and tender without being mushy.

A note on the bread. I used a loaf that I had allowed to sit out on my counter for a few days so it was really stale. If you have fresh bread, take the step described in the recipe of baking the bread – if you have stale bread, you can skip it.

Panzanella with Artichokes, Olives, and Manchego
Adapted from
Everyday Greens
Serves 6

If you are using jarred roasted peppers, drain them well, and cut enough to measure 1 cup.

Simple Artichoke Salad (see recipe below)

1 pound loaf of rustic bread, crust removed, cut into 3/4 inch pieces

2 tbsp. sherry vinegar

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

1 each large red and yellow pepper, roasted peeled, and cut into thick strips

24 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved

Large handful of arugula

2 oz. Manchego cheese, cut into very thin slices with a cheese planer

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the Simple Artichoke Salad and set aside.

Toss the bread cubes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned and just crisp on the outside, about 10 minutes.

Combine the vinegars, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper in a large bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add the bread cubes, peppers, olives, and artichokes and toss to coat with the vinaigrette. Set aside to marinate for 10-15 minutes. Just before serving, toss in the arugula and cheese and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. (The salad, without the arugula and cheese, can be made up to 8 hours in advance. Store in the fridge but eat the salad at room temperature).

Simple Artichoke Salad
Makes about 3 cups

If you are going to use frozen artichokes, I would add them, unthawed, to the poaching liquid as described below.

2 pounds small artichokes, trimmed
2 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white wine

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp
. Champagne vinegar

2 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife, skin left on

3 fresh thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. salt

Pinch of pepper

Combine everything except the artichokes in a wide non-reactive pan and bring to a boil. Drop in the artichokes and cover the surface with parchment paper or an heat-proof inverted plate to keep the artichokes submerged. Bring the liquid back to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until tender, 10-15 minutes depending on their size. To test whether they are done, stick the tip of a knife into the base and the leaves, make sure both are tender.

Once done, drain the artichokes and toss them with:
1/2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest

salt and pepper to taste

One last note:  To make sure the artichokes are done, I would taste one. You want to be able to easily bite through (and swallow the leaves). When I made this yesterday, the base was done but not the leaves so I ended up having to cut that part off and just use the base.

Never Enough Thyme

July 1, 2008

I lost my friend Sandy last Friday. Besides my grandparents, she is the first person I have been close to who has passed. I find myself thinking of her all the time. I have never really been clear about what I believe happens after we die. I can say that I have always thought there is something else after this life. Not necessarily heaven, not necessarily re-incarnation – just that I can’t believe that this life is it for each and every one of us.

As Randy and I watched an amazing sunset on Friday night (I finally understood “purple mountain’s majesties”), I just knew that Sandy could see it. It’s not so much that I felt her presence, I just felt certain that she was enjoying the beauty of her beloved Northwest as much as we were.

I am trying not to feel guilty that I didn’t get to see her healthy before she died. I am one of those people who feels like they never have enough time. Things that I love to do and people I love to see fall by the wayside because I feel like I don’t have the time. Yoga? Can’t fit it in. Same goes for knitting and playing the guitar. And the list of people I care about but don’t reach out to is a little embarrassing. Losing Sandy is a lesson for me – just take the initiative and reach out.

In Sandy’s spirit I have spent some quality time with friends this week. I saw my friend Kelly who I have known since 3rd grade. She has been a wonderful friend to me over the years and, for no good reason, I just don’t see enough of her. I also got to see some of my co-op moms last night for a Mom’s Night Out and just reveled in their company. And today, I got to see two of my friends from the Lamaze class we did when I was pregnant with our older son. We all had our babies within two months of each other and created the most amazing support network. Some of the people I feel closest to in my life are from this group.

One of those lovely women moved a ferry ride away a while ago. She has been a tremendous sport about coming over this way while I have been extremely lame about going to her. One of the things we caught up on is that she recently had some bloodwork done and found out she may be allergic to wheat, dairy, and eggs. She is, with good reason, reeling from this news.

On my walk home from the park, I immediately thought of a recipe to recommend to her. I mentioned it once here but didn’t give the recipe. It is something I have made several times already and that is saying something because I don’t repeat many recipes. Looking at the list of ingredients, you may wonder why this is a must make – please just trust me. The blend of flavors and textures is perfect. In addition to being extremely delicious, it is very healthy – whole grains, green vegetable, protein from the chickpeas and the almonds and the tahini…pretty much a perfect meal!

Tasty Asparagus and Brown Rice
Adapted from
101 Cookbooks
Serves 4

As we are nearing the end of asparagus season, I would venture to guess that broccoli, cut in to small florets, would be a nice substitute. Do yourself a favor and make extra Tahini Dressing and store it in the fridge – you will want to make this again next week and it is nice to have extra dressing on hand. You can also make extra brown rice, drain it well, and freeze it. Cook’s Illustrated magazine recommends Joyva brand Tahini and I have to agree with them – you can find it on the peanut butter aisle.

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 or 2 cans chickpeas, drained

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 small bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch segments

3 cups cooked brown rice

1/2 cup almond slivers or slices, toasted

sea salt

Tahini Dressing:
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped

1/4 cup tahini

zest of one lemon

juice of one lemon

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. hot water

1/2 tsp. sea salt

Cook the rice:
As though you were cooking pasta, bring a medium size saucepan of water to boil. Salt the water well and add 1 cup of raw brown rice. Cook at a boil, uncovered, until it tastes al dente, about 30 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

Make the dressing: Place the garlic, tahini, lemon zest and juice, and a sprinkling of sea salt in to a food processor. Process well then stop and scrape down the sides. Turn on the processor again and add the oil and then the water through the feed tube. Scrape down the sides once more and process once more. Taste for salt and lemon flavor – add more as necessary. Set aside. (You can also make this with a bowl and a whisk – I just like the smooth texture that the food processor can give you.) Can be made up to a week in advance. Store in the fridge.

Finish the dish: Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and saute until translucent – about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saute until the onions begin to brown. Add the chickpeas and asparagus and a pinch of salt, then cover with a lid to steam – just until the asparagus turns bright green, about 2 minutes. Uncover and stir in the rice and almond slivers.
Drizzle each serving generously with the Tahini dressing and allow each person to add more to their liking.

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