Artichokes with Lemon-Garlic Dip

4 09 2009

 

Ontario grown baby artichokes.

Artichokes are grown in Ontario? Yes they are!

I love artichokes and artichoke hearts. However, I don’t eat them very often for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I find fresh artichokes intimidating to prepare and eat. They’re beautiful to look at but I’m never sure what to do with all those leaves sticking out of them.  I usually eat them as part of an antipasto platter or in dips made with jarred hearts.  The second reason I don’t eat them is that I tend to focus on local produce in the summer so I don’t really think about them when I’m surrounded by local corn, tomatoes, peaches, etc.  However, all of that changed yesterday at the farmer’s market when I discovered this: artichokes are grown in Ontario.

For some reason this surprised me.  I’ve driven through Castroville, California which is the Artichoke Center of the World, growing 75% of U.S. artichokes.  Naturally I associated artichokes with California’s warmer climate and it never occurred to me that they might grow here.  I spoke to the farmer selling them and she told me that they are grown as annuals in Ontario (as opposed to perennials in California) and are started early in a greenhouse.  

An artichoke growing in Castroville, California

An artichoke growing in Castroville, California

The ones I bought were baby artichokes, which are smaller and more delicate than full sized ones.  Another surprise is that baby artichokes are very easy to prepare. Just trim the stem, peel off the toughest outside leaves, cut off the top 1/4 of the artichoke and steam the tender yellow heart.  The website oceanmist.com provides excellent step-by-step photos and videos that are very helpful. Once you’ve steamed them, let them cool.  Serve with a delicious lemony-garlic mayonnaise that pairs beautifully with the tender hearts. If you can’t find fresh artichokes to steam, serve the dip with jarred or canned artichoke hearts.

Lemon-Garlic Dip for Artichokes

Makes 3/4 cup

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 3/4 cup Hellman’s or Best Foods style light mayonnaise 
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 small garlic clove, very finely minced
  • Lemon zest strips, to garnish (optional)
  • Toothpicks to dip artichokes
  1. In a bowl, add mayonnaise, lemon juice, grated lemon zest and garlic.  Stir to combine thoroughly.  
  2. Arrange cooked artichokes on a platter and pour dip into a side dish.  Garnish with lemon zest strips if desired.  Use toothpicks to dip the artichokes in the mayo.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

 

Steamed baby artichokes with Lemon-Garlic Dip

Steamed baby artichokes with Lemon-Garlic Dip

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Peach Sangria

22 08 2009

 

Baskets of peaches at the St. Lawrence Market, Toronto

Baskets of peaches at the St. Lawrence Market, Toronto

Peaches are at their peak right now and I’m fortunate to live about an hour from the Niagara region, a major peach growing area.  The peaches I picked up early last week were a bit firm but flavourful and their taste and texture improved after leaving them on the counter for a day or two.  

This sparkling sangria is a fun and refreshing way to enjoy fresh peaches and their juice.  I call for peach schnapps, which I enjoyed in my early twenties but hadn’t given much thought to in recent years, thinking it was too sweet and juvenile. However, I find a little bit adds a nice peachy flavour without being overly cloying. For peach juice, you can either puree and strain some fresh peaches or use a good quality bottled juice.

Peach Sangria

Makes 4-1/2 cups of sangria

  • 1 750-ml bottle of inexpensive sparkling wine such as a cava or prosecco
  • 1/2 cup peach schnapps
  • 1 cup peach juice
  • 1 large ripe peach, pitted and diced
  • Ice cubes

In a large pitcher, pour in the sparkling wine.  Mix in the peach schnapps and peach juice and stir together.  Add ice cubes and the diced peach.  Use a spoon when pouring to control the peach pieces in each drink.

Enjoy!

 

Ice cold peach sangria - the perfect refreshment on a hot August afternoon

Ice cold peach sangria - the perfect refreshment on a hot August afternoon





Cherry Clafouti with Almonds

18 08 2009

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Clafouti (sometimes spelled ‘clafoutis’) is a classic French dessert that is usually made with eggs, flour, sugar, cream and fruit.  Is easy to put together and is a great way to use seasonal fruit.  When baked, it is like a custardy pancake. Cherries are a very traditional addition but I’ve had them with other fruit as well, including a delicious pear version.  

Many clafouti recipes call for leaving the pits in the cherries as it’s believed they add more flavour (and it’s easier for the cook). However, I recommend pitting the cherries before adding them to the batter – it’s neater to eat and you don’t have to worry about someone breaking a tooth.  To efficiently pit cherries, I finally broke down and bought a cherry pitter:

A cherry pitter

A cherry pitter

I was hesitant to get one because it’s not something I use every day and the last thing I need is more clutter in my kitchen drawers. However, it makes pitting cherries so fast and easy, it was well worth the $20 or so it cost.  You can find similar cherry pitters at most kitchen stores.  They’re also great for pitting olives.  If you don’t have a pitter, you can cut the cherries in half and pry out the pits with the tip of a knife. It’s a bit messier but it will get the job done.

This recipe makes a relatively small amount of dessert (for about 4 people) so it can be doubled if serving a larger group.

Cherry Clafouti with Almonds

Makes 4 servings

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup milk (or use 1 cup of half-and-half in place of the cream + milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 oz. pitted sweet cherries (equals about 1-1/2 cups of cherries)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • Icing sugar for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahreneheit.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, add cream, milk, vanilla extract and almond extract.  Stir to combine and bring to a gentle simmer, making sure not to boil the mixture.  Remove from heat.
  3. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, add eggs, flour, sugar and salt.  Use a fork to vigorously mix everything together until it makes a smooth paste.  Add egg mixture to the warm milk.  Stir to combine well.
  4. Grease a small baking dish (with a 3 to 4 cup capacity) and pour in the batter.  Drop in the cherries and top with almond slices.
  5. Bake clafouti for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top has puffed and started to brown.  Spoon out servings and top with a sprinkling of icing sugar.  Accompany with a bit of lightly sweetened cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

 

Cherry Clafouti with Almonds

Cherry Clafouti with Almonds





Aloha from Maui!

31 07 2009

 

Near Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Near Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Greetings from the island of Maui, Hawaii!  I’m currently sitting in the lobby of the gorgeous Fairmont Kea Lani hotel in Wailea, Maui, taking a short break from swimming, sight seeing and of course, eating.  The scenery and food are fantastic here and the people are the friendliest I’ve ever encountered in my travels.  We’ve been enjoying the local cuisine, which is very different from what’s local where I live. Coconut, pineapple, macadamia nuts, coffee and fish are all an important part of the Hawaiian diet and luckily, favourites of mine as well.  The cuisine draws from a variety of influences from Portuguese to Japanese and fish features prominently.  We’ve enjoyed ahi tuna, monchong (a whitefish with a meaty texture and mild flavour), shrimp, hamachi, salmon and oysters as well as excellent beef from the Maui Cattle Company.  Fresh fruit is abundant and a wedge of sweet, juicy pineapple is served with almost everything.  It’s been a wonderful week relaxing and getting inspired with new ideas for delicious recipes. In the meantime, here is a simple summery cocktail that was inspired by a poolside drink I enjoyed a couple of days ago (while unknowingly getting a terrible sunburn – the sun here really packs a punch!).  I’ll have more to report later so until then…

Mango Bellini

Makes 1 drink – can easily be doubled

If you can’t find mango schnapps, substitute the more readily available peach schnapps.

In a champagne flute or small wine glass, add:

  • 1 oz. mango OR peach schnapps
  • 2 oz. mango juice
  • Top with an inexpensive dry sparkling wine such as cava or prosseco
  • Optional: Garnish with fruit or an orchid, if desired.

Aloha and Enjoy!

 

Mango Bellini with orchid garnish

Mango Bellini with orchid garnish





Welcome to March!

2 03 2009

 

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We’ve finally made it through the dark, cold months of January and February and spring is less than three weeks away. However, March is a study in contrasts – it can be as wintery as January or as spring-like as May within the same week.  This can pose unique challenges to a cook when planning menus and shopping for groceries. The best idea is to be flexible and eat what suits the weather and your mood on a given day.  If it’s a warm spring day maybe a salad with fresh greens, herbs and roast chicken will fit the bill.  On a snowy cold day, a braise or stew might be more appealing.

One dish that is flexible for the shifting weather is soup.  It can be refreshing and light or warming and comforting.  With summer just around the corner, many people are interested in lower fat dishes.  I recently wrote an article for Suite 101.com discussing how to prepare lower fat soups without sacrificing flavour.  Whether you’re serving it as a starter course or lighter main dish, soup is a  great addition to the menu.

Click here to read  How to Make Flavorful Low Fat Soups.   The recipe in the article is for Butternut Squash Soup, however, you can use your creativity to come up with your own signature soup such as asparagus, tomato, carrot or mushroom.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!