Carciofini, and other stories

carciofi in pot

Life is busy at the moment.  The Teaching Kitchen is alive with chatter, chopping, questions, learning and eating. Heirlooms & Wooden Spoons is no longer just a sporadic blog, but a living, breathing cooking school in the heart of Seattle.

IMG_8309The last few months have included cheese making with kids, knife skills for the nervous, chocolate making, recreating favourite recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, and dinners.  Lots and lots of dinners. Demonstrating the art of Tagine making in the Atrium Kitchen in Pike Place Market last week was a highlight. The electricity created by the hustle and bustle of the Market is infectious.  Showcasing produce from my favourite suppliers, my favourite season, in my favourite Seattle spot, surrounded by old friends and new was magic.  Just magic.  Having my son help hand around Harissa filled me with pride.  It is official – H&WS is a family business.

But this is about Carciofi.  Or carciofini to be precise.

My husband despairs of me at times, and when I come home with a large grin and an armful of tiny artichokes his eyes roll into the back of his head just a little more than usual.  For me, these gorgeous little gems signify that summer really is coming.  In fact, that somewhere (namely Italy) it has already warmed up enough to produce these spiky little edible flowers. My husband is known for many things. Patience is not one of them.

It is true that this is not a dish you can whip up for a quick and easy supper, in fact, it will take you a lot longer to make than it will to eat. And so, I savour every moment of preparation, knowing that every second spent handling these precious purple flowers will be worth it the moment I pop it into my mouth.

Years ago, working at La Fromagerie, I would spend literally hours happily turning, trimming and packing them, as the hustle and steam of the kitchen simmered around me.  Once prepped and on the stove, the terror of over cooking, crisping, undercooking or, God help me – burning them – was palpable.  Not just the cost of the raw ingredients (a crate or two of baby carciofi, a couple of litres of Olive Oil) but also the time it had taken were at stake. I still feel the fear in the pit of my stomach.  A fear only quenched by filling it with the end result. Artichoke confit is something I look forward to making every year. Go on. I dare you.

Not really a Recipe…

Take as many artichokes as you can carry/afford. carefully cut off a little of the bottom and peel the excess tougher outer petals off.  Trim the tip of the petals and place in a heavy bottomed pot or oven proof dish bottom up.  Pack them in tightly but don’t totally crush them.  Pack half of a lemon, whole garlic cloves, a few bay leaves, a couple of chillies and plenty of fresh mint in and around them.  Scatter a few peppercorns and sea salt and then pour over good olive oil until the are virtually submerged.  Cook stove top very gently until soft, or in the oven, not too hot, again until just soft.  Squeeze the cooked lemon and soft garlic over the artichokes, add more fresh torn mint, and salt to taste. Eat straight out of the pot once cooled down a little with a cold glass of dry white.  Ideally with the sun on your face.

leaves of carciofini

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Filed under Everything!, Spring Recipes

Orange is the new black…

 

Everything is Orange.  Or gold.  Or turning orangey-gold.  The sun is shining, and setting fire to every rust and russet that shimmers in the breeze, clinging without real hope to sleepy trees.  The frost adds a certain magical sparkle to anything that doesn’t quite meet my glittery requirements. Pumpkins of various hues adorn every doorstep in the neighbourhood, and the twinkle of fairy lights are slowly becoming ‘de rigueur’.  It is official . . . winter is coming.  My nose is red and my cheeks are more so, I blend well with the colours of autumn and the Michelin style oversized down jacket has made its’ annual reappearance.  Carmex and Coffee are not a winning pairing, I note, as my first sips of morning Americano are tainted by the scent and slick of menthol lipsalve.  But a little frozen hand is thrust in my spare one, and I make a decision. I like November in Seattle.  I like it very much.

Though feeling hopelessly romantic about this particularly pretty moment, I know that imminently I will be plunged into 50 shades of grey depression, brought on by short gloomy days.  Too cold and wet to venture outside, except to pick up and drop off damp grumpy children.  Meals become larger, heavier, and wetter too, often echoing the colours of outside in an effort to bring some colour into the kitchen.  But, god help me, I am bored of squash. I cannot bear the thought of one more Butternut soup, Pumpkin Pie, roasted Spaghetti or Delicata.  I am ‘pumpkined’ out and I haven’t even started thinking about Thanksgiving – and the ubiquitous pie that cannot be avoided.  I think I shall be serving pumpkin ice cream with crunchy amaretti biscuits and a little shot of Theo’s Chocolate hot cocoa.  Anyone got any better ideas?

I have not given up on everything orange, though.  Well, not quite.  Carrots are still abundant at the farmers market and deliver all the earthy notes and smoky sweetness that I crave at this time of year, without the sugary, creamy richness of its rounder second cousin.  Throw it in an oven that is just a little too hot, with plenty of garlic and spices, and you have something robust and hearty enough to take centre stage at the table, not simply stand humbly beside the main event.

In this recipe the combination of hot, caramelized (even slightly burnt) roasted carrots and a cool, creamy, tangy cheese is one I find refreshing.  The clash of textures awakens the palate, and hails perhaps just a hint of Spring on the distant horizon with the perky, clean additions of fresh coriander/cilantro and tart, rich cheese.

My guilt about berating the Butternut will undoubtedly ensure an imminent recipe.  Watch this space…

Dukkah

The ingredients below are relatively numerous, but don’t be put off. Make a batch of Dukkah and you won’t be disappointed – it can be used in so many ways; a crust for fish or poultry, an addition to vegetables, dip a hard boiled egg in it or just serve it with warm, crusty bread and a slosh of very good olive oil when supper isn’t quite ready and you need to keep your guests at bay!

I like to use the stunning organic rainbow carrots grown in California, paired specifically with Yarmuth Farm’s French Creek Cheese; a bloomy, creamy cheese with a distinct tart kick – I believe they are still at the University District and Ballard Farmers’ Markets throughout the winter.  However, any tangy creamy cheese will strike a good balance – use your favourite and get creative!

Ingredients For Dukkah

50g flaked almonds
20g pistachio nut meats
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 ½ tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp dry green peppercorns (or white, as an alternative)
3 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
½ tsp nigella seeds
½ tsp Sea salt flakes
1 tsp Za’atar
1 tsp dried oregano
a pinch of sumac 

 

Dukkah Method

Gently roast the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds in a hot cast iron pan until they start to pop – this will take about 30 seconds. Remove and put into pestle and mortar. Turn off the heat and allow pan to cool a little, then tip in the nigella and sesame seeds, constantly stirring, and remove when the sesame starts to turn golden. Add them to the seeds. Lightly crush until coarsely ground with the peppercorns.

Finely chop the almonds and pistachios and add to the mix with the final ingredients. You should end up with a coarse, dry, well combined mixture. Store in an airtight container.

Maple Roasted Carrots with Dukkah and Goat’s Brie

Roasted Carrots

15 medium sized carrots, halved or quartered if larger
2 TBSPs Good Olive Oil
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 TBSP coriander seed
1 TBSP cumin seed
1 TBSP fresh lemon zest
2 TBSPS Maple Syrup
2 TBSPs Dukkah
a large handful of fresh coriander/cilantro
One small, ripe, Goat’s Brie, or similar

 

The Dressing

1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Olive oil
S & P
1 tsp maple syrup

 

Method

Pre heat oven to 450F

carrots on a tray ready for roastingGrind the coriander and cumin seed with a pestle and mortar. Add the garlic, lemon zest and maple syrup and slowly add the olive oil as you continue to grind to a loose paste. Toss the carrots in the paste with your hands in a large bowl, ensuring all are evenly covered in the mixture and lay out on a parchment lined cookie sheet/oven tray.

Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots take on really good colour, even becoming a little burnt around the edges. Remove and drizzle over the dressing, allowing to cool slightly, before composing the dish. Pile the carrots jauntily, adding coriander/cilantro leaves and fat slices of the brie as you layer them slowly upwards. Sprinkle liberally with Dukkah and serve immediately.

 

 

 

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Filed under Everything!, Savoury, Winter