Two years. Two years ago, after falling in love with several food blogs, I sat down and started one of my own. I had no idea of how it would all go. I wasn’t sure I would like it. It took me a while to find my voice, a little longer to upgrade my camera, a little longer still to ask someone to design a site for me. All the while, I kept cooking and I kept writing. I opened up more, shared more about my life and my boys. I got incredible support from comments and emails along the way. I have gotten to know some amazing people and some exciting doors have opened for me. I am thankful to be writing and thankful that you are reading.
I love that this year, my blog-versary falls on Mother’s Day. It just seems fitting somehow. Being a mom, a writer, and loving food. Pretty much my life these days.
So thank you all, even if it is your first time here. Thank you for your interest, your comments, your emails, your questions, your encouragement. It would have been a lonely two years if not for all of you.
A couple of weeks ago, I had to pop down the Pike Place Market to buy candied orange peel for this cake. This market, centered on the Western edge of downtown, is one of the most special things about Seattle. They have produce vendors year-round and all kinds of homemade crafts. There are lots of nooks and crannies hiding countless treasures. I really only needed one thing but these purple baby artichokes stopped me cold. Aren’t they beautiful? At that point, I had no plans to cook for the next few days, but I bought them anyway. I couldn’t pass them by.
I headed to DeLaurenti where I knew I would be able to find the candied orange peel. Never ever walk into that store thinking you are only going to buy one thing. I don’t think it is possible. They have the most incredible cheese selection, fresh breads, specialty chocolates, all manner of fresh and dried pasta, antipasti, a huge selection of oils and vinegars, and giant kosher pickles which I can never resist. They also have large bags of their own sun-dried tomatoes which are the best I have ever had. Supple and moist but without swimming in a jar of oil. I wasn’t sure of my supply back home so I bought another large bag.
When I got home, I realized that I already had an almost-full bag and immediately I knew I wanted to give these away. Whenever I talk about buying sun-dried tomatoes, I always suggest trying to find this kind. I have seen them in grocery stores and have bought them, but nothing compares to the ones from DeLaurenti. I want you to have my new bag.
Coincidentally, I went to a talk featuring Mario Batali last week. Tom Douglas, a well-known and respected local chef and restaurateur, invited him up on stage to discuss his new book, restaurant trends, and life in general. All of us got copies of Molto Gusto, Mario’s new book. It is a really nice cookbook. The recipes are very simple and there are lots of vegetarian options. Still, I don’t feel I need it. I have so many cookbooks and besides, my neighbor has a copy. I can always borrow hers. So, if you would like a large bag of the greatest sun-dried tomatoes and my autographed copy of Molto Gusto (it even has my name on it) , just leave me a comment telling me what you might do with those sun-dried tomatoes. And if you have eaten in a Mario Batali restaurant, tell me which one and what you ordered (if you remember). You have until Friday, May 14th at noon, PDT. Time is up! Winner will be announced soon!
Back to those artichokes. I think if you are going to go to the trouble of using fresh ones, you should make something where their special flavor really shines through. If you are just going to bury them in with a bunch of other ingredients, you might as well save your time and money and just use frozen. My idea was to braise them in some white wine along with onion and those special sun-dried tomatoes. I thought that sounded a little too plain to serve as a side dish, so I decided to build a salad around them. Fresh greens, a mustard lemon vinaigrette, the artichokes, and – because a salad just isn’t a salad without it – avocado. There are people who think salad is boring and tasteless – a what’s the point? dish. Make this for them and change their minds.
Whenever I use fresh artichokes, I always buy the babies because they rarely have a choke to cut out. You can certainly use full-size ones here, they will just be more work. I would use 2 or 3 in that case, depending on their size.
I always make my salad dressing in a jar rather than a bowl, that way it can be shaken rather than whisked and stored easily in the refrigerator. Salsa jars work well because they have a wide mouth.
For the Salad:
About 16 baby artichokes
1 lemon, cut in half
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
10 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 5 ounces of your favorite lettuce
1 medium avocado, cut into 1″ chunks
For the dressing:
1 garlic clove, pressed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil, or more to taste
To trim the artichokes: Fill a large bowl with cold water. Squeeze the juice out of both halves of the lemon and add the lemon itself to the bowl. This will help keep the artichokes from turning brown. Trim both the top and bottom of the artichoke, then start to break off the leaves. Continue going until the leaves are very tight and lighter in color. Trip the base of the artichoke so that it is flush with the leaves. Cut the artichoke in half, scoop out the choke (the hairy stuff) is there is one, and put both halves in the bowl of water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the onion. Sauté until softened and just starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Scoop the artichoke hearts out of the water and add them directly to the pan with the onions. Sauté for 2 minutes, then pour in the wine. Raise the heat to medium-high, cover the pan, and cook until the artichokes can be easily priced at their thickest part with a fork. You may need to add more wine if it evaporates too quickly. Once they are done, stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and set aside. (This step can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)
Meanwhile, wash and dry your lettuce. Place in a large salad bowl along with the avocado. Once the artichoke mixture is cool, add that in as well. Toss with dressing with just enough dressing to coat the leaves well. (You may have leftover dressing.)
For the dressing: Place the garlic, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, mustard, a healthy pinch of salt and few grinds of pepper in a jar. Cover and give it a good shake. Open the jar and pour in the olive oil, then re-cover it and shake until the dressing is emulsified. Taste for seasoning. I like my dressing really sharp so I add less olive oil than what is traditional. Do what you like.