Artichokes Pan Seared with Pesto

Artichokes Pan Seared -A Stack of Dishes

Hey! I’ve got a secret, and the best part of it is that it’s incredibly delicious.

Here is my secret, I will admit it. I’m on a diet. Shocking right? New Year, new me! Please allow me to back up and say that every ounce that I gained this past Summer and Fall were completely worth it. Completely. It was a wonderful time of fantastic food, even more delicious wine, shared with great friends. I enjoyed the crime- now I will do my time- though so far my plan has been enjoyable and soul satisfying.

Cut Artichokes before Searing- A Stack of Dishes

For most of my young life dieting initiated a knee jerk reaction to stock up on cottage cheese and don a heavy cloak of sadness. ‘Cause it’s supposed to suck, right? ‘Cause that’s the penance, right? Well, sorry folks, I just can’t buy into that anymore. I’m cottage cheesed out! [Read more…]

Baby Artichokes: Pan to Plate Goodness

Purple Petite Artichokes ~ A Stack of Dishes.comIt might be ridiculous to think of oneself as an urban hunter and gatherer, but from time to time this is what I do. Bored with what I typically see in my pantry or market, I will go in search of a new or unfamiliar ingredient. Sometimes this expedition takes me hither and yon to the deepest darkest parts of NYC, but sometimes I’ll simply dig around the shelves in my “around the corner” market. Often tucked away in the Imported area there can be some amazing sauces, grains, or food stuffs that are languishing on shelves, waiting for an intrepid cook to give it a go.

This past week I went on such a trip downtown to a fruit and vegetable store that occasionally stocks a variety of foods not typically seen at local markets. I was actually on the hunt for some peppers that I had gotten a hook onto, but instead came away with these bitty baby artichokes (and some mushrooms you’ll see later this week).

The inside of petite purple artichokes ~ A Stack of Dishes.comI spotted the artichokes as I came around the corner. They were piled in a soft mound in a cardboard flat at the end of the row, with a hand written scratch of a paper tucked in amongst the pods reporting the name and price. It was the color that struck me at first. That beautiful deep purple that few vegetables really behold. Often artichokes can sport tinges of the aubergine, but usually just a tinge, and then only on the tips. The color on these were rich, velvety, and regal in color, with hidden buds of bright green coming from the centers of some- very sexy and alluring.

 The second thing was their adorable petiteness.  When I say bitty, I mean bitty. I had never seen such small artichokes before. I was able to put 5 of them easily into one hand. 

cuthandI had no idea what they would yield. For a typical artichoke it requires peeling layers of outer leaves to get to the tender heart- about ~20% of the whole size of the fruit. Since they were so small I suspected that they might be tender enough to eat almost all of it once cooked. I had no idea, but after all, that’s part of the fun. Regardless- they were too gorgeous to pass up.

Peeled purple artichokes ~ A Stack of Dishes.comThis past week I’ve also been reading a book about the art and history of Gregorian Chants. There are delightful passages about the breathtaking wonder of simple chant- or single voice chanting. You can hear the echoing tones of devoted monks singing in unison, creating a holy vibration of music. I am not Catholic, nor religious, but it’s not hard to image divinity in such moments as those.

This has put me squarely in the Italian frame of mind, more specifically the quiet perfection of simplicity well executed to create supreme beauty- or in the case of my artichokes- deliciousness.

Sauteed Baby Artichokes ~ A Stack of [Read more…]

Heavenly Roasted Peppers with Artichoke Puree

Fall colored roasted peppers with a light green artichoke puree.

Taking the time to make fresh roasted peppers is well worth it in my book. Not only do I appreciate the better flavor, but I don’t drown them in oil either- which they simply DO NOT need! Peppers are packed in oil are to preserve them, but I eat mine right away. Instead of all that oil, I dress them with this fantastic artichoke spread, that will steal the show the next time you serve it.

Roasting peppers is a little time consuming, I won’t kid you. I usually throw mine into the oven when I’m in the midst of doing other things. If I can’t get to skinning them right away I’ll do it later- though between you and me- skin-on ain’t no bad thang either.

For company I’ll do them up right, but once a week I throw in a nice big tray of roasted peppers to keep them in the fridge for a great afternoon snack- or an addition to a sandwich.

This batch was a result of falling in love with all the colors at the farmer’s market. Seriously, how could I resist? I pulled them into my arms like I was arranging flowers. Once they were roasted I had a blast arranging them into a contemporary painting of colors on the platter.

I’m also really loving this artichoke dip. This was a bit of stroke of serendipity when I came up with this. At Fairway they sell lovely little jars of artichoke puree for a mere $9 each. On the other side of the aisle are the bins of pickles, olives and- artichokes. Do I need to explain my thinking?

The addition of the rosemary is just stellar. The pine flavor rosemary makes the artichokes sparkle and it compliments the peppers too. I make myself a good batch of this. It’s so good on so many things.  Rather than mayo I use this garlicky spread on my sandwiches. The flavor is amazing and it’s just as satisfying.

Strips of bright colored peppers with a nice addition of artichoke puree

So now you can add a brightly colored serving of delicious and healthy vegetables into your weekly menu.

Roasted Peppers with Garlicky Artichoke Puree
If you prefer to use pre-made peppers, that’s fine. Drain off the extra oil and reserve for salad dressing. The artichoke dip is also wonderful with other veggies too. You’ll fall in love, I promise.
serves 3 plus one cup of dip
6 peppers of varying types
1 can of artichoke hearts packed in water
1 small clove of garlic, crushed and rough chopped
2t fresh lemon juice
S & P
1T olive oil 
1T fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 350˚ and line cookie sheets with foil
Slice peppers in half and deseed. Arrange top down on sheets. Roast until blistered and a bit shriveled. Abt 45 mins.
Allow the peppers to cool, then peel off skins. Slice into thin strips and arrange on a plate.
In a food processor combine drained artichokes, garlic, S&P and olive oil.
Puree until smooth. If necessary you can add a little water to reach desired consistency.
Spoon puree over the peppers and top with chopped fresh rosemary.
Store leftover puree in the fridge for up to a week.