The large artichokes at the farmers market were beautiful. I grabbed 3, heavy and still tightly closed.
Should I stuff them, bake them, steam them? Nope. I wanted something quicker to prepare so I decided to make artichoke soup instead.
The hardest part of this recipe is cleaning the artichokes. You want only the tender white heart. Then your about an hour away from eating this delicious simple soup.
In an enameled or heavy-bottomed pot sauté the potatoes and aromatics. When the leeks are soft and the thyme and shallot give off a wonderful aroma add the water and bring the pot to a boil.
Add the artichoke slices and with the pot lightly simmering cook until the potatoes are soft and falling apart and the artichoke slices are tender, maybe an hour or so.
Stir in the chopped fresh parsley and sprinkle each bowl with grated cheese and you’re ready to eat.
The thyme and shallot flavored broth is thickened by the crumbly potatoes. Each spoonful brings the clean and distinctive taste of artichoke, creamy potatoes and sweet leeks splashing over your palate.
A thick soup with fresh thinly sliced artichokes, potatoes and leeks in a clean thyme flavored broth.
Recipe type: Soup
3 artichokes (or in a pinch use frozen artichoke hearts)
Juice of one lemon
¾ pound potatoes, peeled and curt into ½-inch cubes
1 leek, white and pale-green parts, sliced, washed well
2 shallots, chopped (about ¼ cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
2 quarts cold water
1 tablespoon fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
Grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
Clean the artichokes.
Put enough water in a big bowl to cover the sliced artichokes. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Put the lemon halves in the water too. (This acidulated water will keep the artichokes from darkening after you clean and slice them.)
Starting at the bottom, snap off all the tough dark green outer leaves. When you get to the light yellow-green leaves stop.
Cut off the dark top of the remaining leaves. (A serrated knife works best.)
With a paring knife cut off the stem and peel away any tough green on the bottom of the heart. You just want the tender white part.
Cut the artichoke in half and scoop out the choke (the hairy part in the center of the heart) with a pointed spoon or cut out with a paring knife. (You now have a cleaned, tender artichoke heart that is white and light green in color.)
Peel the dark tough skin from the stem.
As you clean each artichoke lay the artichoke heart on a cutting board cut side down. Cut each half vertically into ½ inch slices. Slice the peeled stem into slices too. Put the artichoke slices in the acidulated water.
Put the olive oil in an enameled or heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot add the potatoes, coat with the oil and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add the leeks and shallots, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf and sea salt to taste.
Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about a minute.
Pour in the water and over high heat bring to a boil.
Drain the sliced artichoke hearts and add them to the pot. Bring the soup to a vigorous simmer.
Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the soup uncovered until potatoes and artichokes are tender, about an hour. (The potatoes should have broken down a bit to thicken the soup).
Stir in the chopped parsley.
Top each bowl of soup with a sprinkle of grated cheese.
I bought a head of cabbage intending to make an Italian-American cole slaw. It didn’t happen. Now what?
As I looked in the fridge for something to eat when I got home from a long day at work the cabbage caught my eye. Next to the cabbage was a fat slice of house-cured pancetta from my butcher. Bingo!
In less than a half-hour those 2 ingredients and a hunk of crusty bread became my light dinner.
Saute small cubes of pancetta in a pot with a little olive oil. When the pancetta is golden-brown add the cabbage and toss the cabbage with the pancetta. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a little water, cover the pot and let the cabbage steam until it is soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook the cabbage until the water is almost all gone.
Put the cabbage on a serving plate and drizzle with olive oil and your done.
The mellow sweet cabbage strewn with salty, meaty pancetta is a complex taste and texture treat, simply delicious. So much flavor from just 2 quickly cooked ingredients.
Serve the cabbage as a side for meat and fish or eat it up for a light meal.
I’m cooking dinner as a birthday gift for a friend and I’m in the mood for this calamari salad as part of the antipasti.
The steamed calamari is sweet and tender bathed in the zesty olive oil and lemon dressing. The celery and onion add a crunchy textural note. The mellow roasted pepper strips and buttery Castelvetrano olives fill out the flavor palette.
You can make calamari salad in about 20 minutes. Just chill it in the fridge and you’re ready to eat.
Sweet tender calamari with a zesty lemon-olive oil dressing with celery and onion adding a crunch.
Recipe type: Appetiser
3 fresh bay leaves
The whole peel and juice of ½ lemon
1½ pounds calamari bodies and tentacles, cleaned and bodies cut into ½ inch rings
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ red onion, minced
½ cup pitted Castelvetrano or other green olives, cut in slivers
4 celery stalks with leaves, sliced thin (I like to use the tender, pale green inner stalks.)
½ cup roasted red bell peppers, cut in strips
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian flat parsley
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon dry oregano
¼ teaspoon hot chili flakes
Put 2 inches of water in a Dutch oven or pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
Add the bay leaves and lemon peel and boil for a few minutes until they release their aromas.
Set a colander or steamer over but not touching the water.
Add the calamari rings and tentacles into colander or steamer lower the heat so the water is simmering. Cover the pot and cook until calamari is just cooked through and is opaque, about 5 to 6 minutes. (I taste the calamari to ensure that I take them out when they are cooked but tender. Don't over cook the calamari or it will toughen.)
In the meantime in a large bowl combine the onion, olives, celery, roasted pepper, parsley, salt, oregano, peperoncino, olive oil and lemon juice.
Add the cooked calamari to the bowl and mix well with the other ingredients and olive oil and lemon dressing.
Fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs and creamy potatoes braised in a fresh rosemary-sage broth.
Recipe type: Entree
1 rack babyback ribs, about one and a half pounds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 potatoes, peeled and cut in one-inch cubes
¼ cup dry white wine
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Season the ribs on both sides with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cut the babybacks into individual ribs and remove any excess fat.
Put a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
When the oil starts to ripple put in the ribs and cook until you have a golden crust on all sides, about 6-8 minutes.
Remove the ribs to a plate and set aside.
Discard excess oil in the pot leaving just enough to saute the onions.
Add the onions to the pot and saute until they are soft and take on a golden hue, about 5 minutes.
Add the fresh herbs and mix well with the onions.
Add the tomato paste and mix well with the onions. Cook for about 1 minute to toast the paste.
Raise the heat to high. Put the ribs back in the pot and add the wine and simmer vigorously until the wine is almost entirely evaporated. Scrape up all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pot to incorporate the flavor nuggets in the liquid.
Add the potatoes to coat with the onion mixture.
Add the broth and bring the pot to a boil.
Turn down the heat to a low simmer, partially cover the pot and braise until the meat is tender and falls off the bone, the potatoes are partially falling apart and the gravy has thickened, about an hour or so. Stir the pot from time to time.
Put the ribs and potatoes on a serving platter and spoon the gravy on top garnished with a rosemary sprig or 2 and a few sage leaves.
Tomatoes overflow the farmers market. I bought fresh organic San Marzano tomatoes with this pasta dish in mind.
I’m in the mood for rich and creamy so I’m mixing ricotta with the quick-cooked tomato sauce and serving it with giant dried pasta tubes.
The classic Neapolitan Paccheri con Ricotta e Salsa di Pomodoro is a late summer treat.
Paccheri means “slaps” in Italian. Gentle face slaps not hostile ones.
The fat tubes collapse on themselves. The pasta makes a slapping sound when picked up with a fork because of the creamy sauce trapped inside.
Paccheri are a big mouthful of pasta so you need a sauce that will hold up to them. This one fits the bill.
I usually just add basil to a quick-cooked fresh summer tomato sauce. But I remembered that sometimes my Mom added oregano to her tomato-basil sauce so I did too.
The mellow creamy ricotta-tomato sauce coats the fat pasta inside and out. Add a dollop of the tomato sauce on top. The fresh basil and oregano shine behind the sweet tomatoes. The freshly ground black pepper lightly tingles your tongue. You won’t believe the flavor wallop from so few ingredients quickly cooked.
If you can’t find paccheri use rigatoni, ziti or penne instead. If you can’t find San Marzano tomatoes use the ripest tomatoes available in your market. In a pinch use a 28-ounce can of imported San Marzano tomatoes.