Stuffed Artichokes

23 03 2011

These artichokes were the last thing I was able to eat before my body wildy descended into being ravaged by The Flu. And that is where I sit now. Couch-ridden. Finally able to sit up enough to wield a laptop. I’m one who rarely gets sick. I know a lot of people say that, but it’s true! I never get sick. I get hungover, I have asthma sometimes, but I never get sick enough to wake up in the middle of the night, shaking, not sure whether my nightmares are real or not. But here we are.

Thankfully, I was able to stay conscious through dinner and enjoy a giant stuffed artichoke with potato and onion gratin on the side. They’re an effort to get through, but worth every bite. Every creamy, lemon-laced bite. It’s like eating a huge blooming flower. Stuffed with ricotta! How the hell could I have gotten sick after such a satisfying dinner?? Oh well, I’ll retreat back into my blankets now.

Here’s Che during his heroin binge.

Stuffed Artichokes
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

1/4 cup sliced almonds
Juice of 1 lemon
4 artichokes
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tbs. flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 tb. olive oil
1 1/2 oz. butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350. And bake the almonds on a baking sheet for about 5 minutes, until lightly golden. Keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn!

2. Remove any tought outer leaves from the artichokes. Cut across the artichoke, about 1 1/4 inches from the top, then trim the stalks, leaving about 1/4 in. attached.

3. Combine the almonds, ricotta, garlic, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, Parmesan and parsley in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Gently separate the artichoke leaves and push the filling in between them.

4. Place the artichokes in a steamer and drizzle with the olive oil. Steam for 25-30 minutes, or until tender. Remove and cook under a broiler for about 5 minutes to brown the filling.

5. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Arrange the artichokes on a serving platter, drizzle with the lemon butter, season well and serve.





Labneh

1 11 2010

I remember my grandmother AKA Grammy, as sharply drawn on eyebrows and boxes of pencils for Christmas. My grandfather’s AKA Papa, is more pronounced and memorable. Scally caps and coffee cakes, mostly. But the people I knew still aren’t the parents that my mother had. Those people I’ll never experience.

But it’s at this moment in time, I’m finding myself checking hydrometer readings on gallons of beer in the basement, at the same time, tying up a cheese-cloth satchel of yogurt, where in a couple of days, it will give me labneh, a soft Middle Eastern cheese. And my mother, looking on, amazed and excited, because as she later tells me, her father was a homebrewer, a concoctor of natural remedies, home-made wine and dandelion soup. And her mother, used to hog the shower for days, with her bags of strained yogurt-cheese hanging from the shower rods. I never knew these things about my grandparents. And I’m coming to appreciate family a whole lot more through food. There’s nothing like seeing your mother remember her mother by tasting a cheese that still tastes the same after 30 years.

Anyways. Labneh. Soft-texture, flavor similar to a blend of cream cheese and goat cheese. A common breakfast throughout the Middle East and Greece. Something really special when smeared onto pita bread. Try it out. You can either make it plain, or do as I did, and marinate the cheese in olive oil and fresh herbs & garlic. It’s fun to make and there’s really nothing like incorporating a traditional old-world delicacy into your life.

Labneh
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

4 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 tsps. sea salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper (this can be omitted if you don’t have any, or if you prefer your cheese without a slight peppery kick)
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbs. rosemary leaves
6-8 thyme sprigs

In a medium-sized bowl, place the yogurt and stir in the salt and pepper. Line a bowl with a piece of cheesecloth folded in half to make a square. Spoon the yogurt into the center. Bring the ends of the cheesecloth together and using a piece of string, tie as closely as possible to the yogurt, leaving a loop at the end.

Thread the loop through the handle of a wooden spoon and hang the yogurt over a bowl. Leave to drain in the refrigerator for 3 days. (This can be done by either hanging the yogurt from a rack in your fridge, or what I did was use a wide-mouth long-neck punch jar)

Rinse a mason jar with boiling water and dry in a warm oven.

In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and fresh thyme. Set aside.

Untie the cheesecloth and roll tablespoons of the drained yogurt into balls. Make sure your hands are cool and wash them often.

Place the labneh balls in the dried jar and pour the herbed oil over the top. Seal with a lid and refridgerate for 24 hours. Serve at room temperature.