Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lemony good artichoke hearts!

Just the word lemon causes my taste buds to perk up. There are all kinds of lemons... Lisbon lemons are small and seedless. Eureka lemons are the most common. Meyer lemons are a sweeter variety and have a hint of orange flavor. There are even pink lemons and thanks to a good friend with a yard full of tropical fruit trees, I've been lucky enough to try one!  

Lemons are the most common flavor enhancer after salt and pepper. Lemons yield more juice at room temp than a lemon that is cold. However, since lemons are susceptible to mold it’s best to store them in the refrigerator crisper drawers. To maximize your juicing, leave your lemon out for a couple of hours before juicing. Roll the room-temperature lemon on the counter and apply light pressure with your hand as you roll it. Then cut and squeeze.

The zest is also an amazing flavor enhancer. But for today’s recipe all you need is the juice. So if you're jonesing for a lemony rich appetizer or super tasty vegetarian dinner? Look no further.

1 can (14-oz) quartered of halved artichoke hearts, drained 
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup olive oil
1/2 of one garlic clove, finely grated
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 stick unsalted butter 

Place artichoke hearts in a colander to drain. Season flour with salt and pepper. Add half of the chopped parsley to beaten eggs. Dredge artichokes in flour, then place floured artichokes in beaten egg mixture. Place on a lightly floured plate while preparing pan for cooking.

Heat saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic. Cook garlic to light brown. Test oil by drizzling egg mixture into it. Place artichokes into hot oil. Cook until golden brown on each side, turning only once. Remove cooked artichokes; keep warm. 

Drain nearly all of the oil from sauté pan and return pan to stove. Add lemon and white wine to de-glaze and reduce. Place artichokes on a platter. Add butter to lemon-wine mixture. Swirl until melted. Drizzle over artichokes, sprinkle with a little more chopped parsley and serve immediately as a first course for four or place artichokes over cooked pasta before adding the Francaise sauce as a main dish for two. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cream vs. Tomato = Sox vs. Yankees?

There’s only one real chowda according to old New Englanders. New England clam chowder is cream-based, and traditionally thickened with oyster crackers. Modern chowder uses flour or cornstarch as a thickener and most restaurants serve oyster crackers as a garnish. No tomatoes allowed. Here's a little known fact: in 1939 a bill that made putting tomatoes in clam chowder illegal was introduced in the Maine legislature. 

While cream or milk based clam chowders have been around since the mid-18th century, no mention of any tomato based chowder has been found that predates the late 1890s. Rumor has it that the addition of tomatoes in place of milk originated within the Portugese immigrant community in Rhode Island, where tomato-based stews were already a traditional part of Portuguese cuisine. 

Everyone knows about the Yankees-Red Sox feud, for over 100 years known an one of the fiercest rivalries in sports and often a subject of heated conversations. So it should come as no surprise that even as far back as the 1930s scornful New Englanders took to calling the tomato version "Manhattan-style" clam chowder because, in their view, calling someone a New Yorker was an insult. Some things never change! 

2 bacon strips
1 celery ribs, chopped
1 small onion, grated
4 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup water
1 bottle (8 ounces) clam juice
3 teaspoons reduced-sodium chicken bouillon powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups lo-fat half-and-half, divided
2 cans (6-1/2 ounces each) chopped clams, undrained

In a large heavy bottomed pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain; set aside. Saute celery and onion in the drippings until tender. Stir in cubed potatoes, water, clam juice, bouillon, pepper and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Combine flour and 1 cup half-and-half in a small bowl until smooth. Gradually stir into soup. Bring to a simmering (not rolling) boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in clams and remaining half-and-half; heat through (do not boil). 

Drop 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter into hot bowl of chowder. If desired, garnish with bacon crumbles or coarse ground black pepper. Serves four.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

No time to bake from scratch?

Too busy to bake? Think again. 

These little gems will rock your taste buds. Go ahead, volunteer to donate a bake sale item; bring a treat for your book club; make the best picnic brownies ever; or just be the coolest mom in the neighborhood. All it takes is three ingredients and 25 minutes. That's it. Done.

Today was World Nutella Day. 

1 small jar (1 cup) Nutella 
10 tablespoons flour
2 eggs. 

Mix it up and divide batter evenly into 10 lined muffin cups. Bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes. Chopped hazelnuts baked on top optional. 

Absolutely fabulous.