Monday, June 9, 2014

We Have Winners! And for Everyone Else, a Veggie That Makes a Meal
What’s cooking? Artichokes and Dipping Sauces

Before I spend a moment more holding you in eager anticipation, let me announce the winners. The drawing was a somewhat informal affair, but totally legit as monitored by my husband the lawyer. And if you’re not one of the lucky two, keep reading, as I have a great method for cooking artichokes, as well as some terrific dipping sauces.

The winner of the Hamilton Beach Six-Speed Stand Mixer is...

And the winner of the Hamilton Beach Six-Speed Hand Mixer is...

Congratulations to both of you! I’ll be contacting you separately to get an address for the Hamilton Beach people to send your prize. 

* * *

And now...

“Do we have a cooler we can take on this trip?” I asked my husband. We were preparing for our annual journey north to New Jersey for the summer, only this time, we were driving.

“We have one, but why do we want it on this trip?” he replied, notes of skepticism hanging heavily in the air.

“For the artichokes.”

And that pretty much ended the conversation.

Here’s what I was thinking. We’d be spending 26 hours in a car over 2-3 days, and if I didn’t pack some real food, it’d be potato chips and Doritos and Big Macs all the way there. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I like to at least pretend to eat healthy. Plus, I hate throwing away food, and it’s really hard to ask a friend if she wants leftover roasted carrots or that piece of steak from dinner the night before last. Or the rest of the creamed fennel I experimented with the day before we left. It was really tasty, but not necessarily gift-worthy.

And as I considered the two-day trip with my hubby, the romantic in me conjured visions of us picnicking at a rest stop on some scenic byway in Arkansas or a bucolic stretch of the Blue Ridge Mountains. But as is too often my habit, I stayed up most of the night readying the house for our absence (like we’re having visitors?), ironing (I know, let’s not even talk about it), and preparing the food for travel. So I spent the first day on the road sleeping, and the second day it rained the whole way.

In the end, we arrived in New Jersey with most of the food still in the coolers. Yes, I needed two of them. Don’t ask. On the plus side, we had artichokes for dinner the day after we arrived.

Which brings me to those delectable veggies. Like my mother, I used to just boil artichokes in plain water. I’d dip the leaves in mayonnaise or melted butter, and I loved them that way. Then I discovered seasoning, and I’d add garlic salt to the water, and maybe a bay leaf. But I still needed that mayo or butter. So in that constant quest to get thinner, I decided to experiment a bit with the cooking medium, to see if I couldn’t get more flavor, less dipping sauce. With this preparation, you hardly need sauce. Then again, why not? So while I was at it, I played around with sauces, too.

Most artichokes are green; these purple beauties, called Violetto or Purple of Romagna, quickly disappeared from my grocery store.

A Note about Artichokes: According to the Wikipedia folks, the antioxidant level in artichoke flower heads (mostly in the pulp of the leaves) is the highest of any vegetable. Artichokes reduce cholesterol levels by raising the ratio of HDL to LDL. They also help with digestion through a beneficial effect on gut bacteria, ameliorating symptoms of dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome. Amazing that something so tasty can be so good for you.

Herbed Artichokes

To serve two.

2 large artichokes
1 lemon, halved
1 garlic clove, sliced in half
2 tablespoons salt
a hefty sprig of thyme

Cut the stems of two large artichokes level with the base of the bulbs. Remove small leaves from the base of the artichokes, and, using kitchen shears, trim the sharp tips of the leaves, up to about ½ inch from the top. With a sharp knife, cut off the top ½ inch of the artichoke.

Slice a ¼-inch round from one of the lemon halves. Squeeze the juice from the smaller half into a bowl of water and soak the trimmed artichokes in it while you wait for the cooking water to boil.

Fill a 4.5-quart Dutch oven with 2 quarts of cold water. Add the lemon slice and the juice from the remaining lemon half. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.

Hmmm... where did that lemon slice go?
Once the water boils, add the artichokes (base down – though they won’t likely stay that way) to the water and boil 45-50 minutes, or until you can pierce the base easily with a knife. Alternatively, you can pull one of the larger leaves off and taste it for tenderness.

When done, drain the artichokes (base up) in a colander for 5-10 minutes. Serve with your choice of dipping sauce or sauces. Artichokes can be served hot or chilled, depending on your preference. The Kitchen Goddess has occasionally served an artichoke with dipping sauce as one of the hors d’oeuvres at a dinner party. Just be sure to leave out a bowl for discarding the leaves.

There’s a huge range of possibilities for dipping sauce, including melted butter, vinaigrette dressing, mayonnaise, and hollandaise. From past posts, I can recommend Roasted Red Pepper Aioli, Tangy Mustard, or Herbed Buttermilk Ranch Dressing. Or try one of these four.

From bottom, moving clockwise: Aioli, Roasted Garlic Sauce, Lemon-Thyme Butter, Herbed Mayonnaise.

Traditional Aioli

Adapted from Gourmet, September 2002

2 cloves garlic
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
¾ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil
additional salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Using a chef’s knife or a fork, mash the garlic to a paste with the salt. (If you’re not sure how to do this, here’s a nice video.) Set aside.

In a small but deep bowl, whisk together the yolk, lemon juice, and mustard. Combine the oils in a measuring cup and drizzle slowly into the yolk mixture while whisking constantly. Once the mix emulsifies, you can add oil more rapidly; if the mixture separates or isn’t emulsifying, stop adding oil and whisk until it comes together in a mayonnaise consistency. If it becomes too thick, whisk in a few drops of room temperature water.

Add the garlic paste and another ⅛ teaspoon salt, and whisk to combine well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Kitchen Goddess note: You can make this in a food processor, especially if you’re making a larger amount. For a single recipe, the Kitchen Goddess think that’s way more trouble in the clean-up category than it’s worth, as the whisking takes very little time. But if you’re doubling or tripling the recipe, start by puréeing the garlic with the salt in the food processor. Add the yolk, lemon, and mustard, then while the machine is running, drizzle the oil in slowly.

Roasted Garlic Sauce

1 bulb garlic
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (or light mayonnaise)
2 tablespoons sour cream (or yogurt)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Start by roasting the garlic. Remove as much of the papery outer skin as you can, while still leaving the individual cloves covered. Slice enough of the top off the head to expose the individual cloves. Trim the base of the bulb just so that the bulb sits flat, and set it in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the bulb, and sprinkle on a pinch of kosher salt. Cover the dish and bake in a 400º oven for 40-45 minutes. (Alternatively, you can wrap the bulb in aluminum foil to bake)

When the garlic is done and cooled, squeeze the cloves out and, using a fork or the flat part of a chef’s knife, work them into a paste. Combine the mayonnaise and sour cream, and add the garlic. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Chill, covered, until ready to serve.

Herbed Mayonnaise

Adapted from Bon Appétit, April 2008

½ cup low-fat mayonnaise
⅓ cup chopped fresh herbs (I used half parsley, half dill)
2 tablespoons chopped capers, drained
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Lemon-Thyme Butter

Adapted from

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
juice of ½ lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small microwaveable bowl. Allow to sit at least 30 minutes for flavors to combine. Reheat before serving.

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