Archive for September, 2008

Bathing beauties.

Several weeks ago (yes, I am that far behind on my posts – summertime slacking), I purchased a basket of these gorgeous purple baby artichokes on my way out of the farmer’s market simply because they were too pretty to resist. I don’t cook artichokes all that often because the preparation seems so labor-intensive, but these babies were crying out to me, and the gazillion other bags of produce I was already holding couldn’t stop me from buying them. I took them home, trimmed them oh-so-slightly, and peeled away the few tough outer leaves (Agh! Such waste! It was a travesty to toss them away, but I didn’t know what else to do with them). They then relaxed in a fragrant lemon juice and water bath, a brief beauty treatment to help maintain their lovely-hued complexion before hittin’ the hot tub.

Not that all this pampering mattered in the end; once cooked, the vibrant color faded away. I followed this recipe for preparing them and served it alongside crispy chicken cutlets. Scrumptious.

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Golden nuggets.

When all you’ve got left in your icebox are five varieties of cheese and a few sticks of butter, you know you’re in for a fatty meal. At the end of last month, I found myself desperately trying to stick to my grocery budget for the month, and was fully committed to sustaining ourselves on whatever was left in the fridge and pantry. Along with the dribs and drabs of various cheeses, the only substantial quantities of anything remaining were a tub of ricotta cheese and about 2 pounds of Parmigiano-Reggiano (a Costco error in judgement – I think it’s time to cancel our membership).

I was never too creative with ricotta cheese. I suppose it’s because I typically buy the kind in the plastic tub and have never had the pleasure of truly fresh ricotta (though I did make some at home once using this recipe which was pretty tasty). The familiar recipes come to mind as vehicles for this creamy cheese: lasagna, stuffed shells, cheesecake. I couldn’t make any of the pasta dishes because, for one, I didn’t have any and wasn’t about to whip out the pasta machine; and feeding cheesecake to a three-year-old for dinner isn’t generally advised (I, on the other hand, wouldn’t mind a cheesecake dinner once in a while).

So I scurried off to one of my current favorite search engines for reliable recipes and commentary, Food Blog Search. I happened upon a link to a recipe for Pan-Fried Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi, and my heart skipped a beat. Gnocchi! It always slips my mind that potatoes shouldn’t be the only food to be granted the privilege of being transformed into these wonderful dumplings. I had also completely forgotten that I had made ricotta gnocchi some time ago, and naturally couldn’t recall if it had been noteworthy or not. Of course that was a long long time ago, when my gnocchi-making skills were still in its infancy; now my abilities stand proudly at preschool level.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my butter sauce to sit as a glossy, frothy little pool in the bottom of the dish as shown in the Steamy Kitchen photo, since the thirsty little nuggets kept drinking it all up. Needless to say, this dish was fairly rich, and my sorry attempt at assuaging that guilt was to throw in some cherry tomatoes for nutrition (but really, why bother?). Although pretty heavy as an entrée, these delectable morsels – crispy on the outside, tender and dotted with cheesy goodness on the inside – would make an fabulous finger food for a cocktail party, parked on a fancy toothpick alongside a cube of roasted eggplant and mint, or maybe chatting it up with a sliver of a sundried tomato, some fresh mozzarella, and a basil leaf. This one’s got potential to be a real charmer.