Artichokes Cooked With Thyme and Garlic
While artichokes are in good supply (note, I didn’t say “cheap!”), consider my basic, herbal approach to preparing them. So simple, yet, when served, folks always say, “Oh yummm! How did you make these?”
For each artichoke, trim off all but ½ inch of the stem. Then turn the artichoke over and trim away one third of the other end, using a serrated knife. Place the trimmed artichokes in a pot, flat side down, stem side up. Add enough water to reach about 1/3 up the sides of the artichokes (you don’t want them floating in water). To the pot, add 1 (¼-inch thick) slice of fresh lemon (per artichoke), and about 4 or 5 sprigs of thyme (per artichoke), and 5 or 6 cloves of coarsely chopped garlic (per artichoke), and about ¼ teaspoon salt (per artichoke).
Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the artichokes are done when tested, about 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of the artichoke(s). To test for doneness: Using tongs or two large spoons, remove an artichoke from the pot, flip it over and carefully (it’s hot!) attempt to pluck one of the leaves from its center. It the leaf comes out easily and the meaty tip is tender, then the artichoke is done.
Remove the artichokes from the pot and let them cool in the stem-up position until ready to serve. Can be served hot, warm or chilled, as either an appetizer or side dish (with a simple sauce of whatever you enjoy, such as melted butter, mayonnaise, or some vinaigrette).
Final thought on garlic: If I’m cooking more than 2 artichokes, then instead of working with individual cloves of garlic, I simply reach for a whole head, turn it on its side and carve off about 3 or 4 healthy slices through its circumference. I gather up the pieces of clove, papery skin and all, and toss them into the pot. What to do with the left-over portion of the whole head? I place it, cut-side down in a small puddle of olive oil and roast it in my toaster oven until tender when pinched. When cooled, simply squeeze out the softened and caramely flavored cloves, mix them with the olive oil and store in a closed container in the refrigerator.
Hot and Sugary Roasted Hazelnuts with Rosemary and Cayenne
Makes 3 cups
These are an exquisite nibble! The rosemary complements the toasty undertones with the caramelized sugar and hazelnuts. And the small pinch of cayenne just keeps the experience alive a little longer. Place these out at happy hour and your guests will be very happy indeed.
•2 tablespoons butter
•2 tablespoons light corn syrup
•3 cups lightly roasted and skinned hazelnuts
•½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
•¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
•2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
•1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the butter and corn syrup in the center of a rimmed baking sheet and warm in the oven until the butter has melted. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, combine the hazelnuts, brown sugar, rosemary, salt and cayenne. Transfer the mixture to the baking pan, stirring the mixture again with a flat-sided spatula to incorporate the butter and syrup. Bake until the sugar melts and caramelizes around the nuts, stirring every 5 minutes with a wide spatula or a pastry scraper, for about 20 minutes total baking time.
While the nuts are roasting, spread a large sheet of parchment paper on a cutting board. When the nuts and coating have darkened, remove the pan from the oven and immediately scrape them out onto the paper, quickly spreading the nuts out into a single layer so they don’t touch each other for the most part. Allow them to cool and then break them apart as desired into single nuts or clusters.
The pieces should be stored at room temperature in an airtight container, in which then can be kept for several weeks.
Source: Recipe from “Oregon Hazelnut Country - the Food, the Drink, the Spirit” by Jan Roberts-Dominguez.
Garlic and Oregano Pesto
Makes about 2 cups
This is a great way to use up a bountiful harvest of oregano. And it’s just bursting with bold flavors and works well on grilled foods — especially if you are looking for a zesty Mediterranean flavor. And it is especially nice as a base for a vinaigrette that you toss with a Greek salad (olives, feta cheese, tomato, red onion, sweet bell pepper).
•1 cup fresh oregano, tightly packed
•4 cloves fresh garlic
•½ cup toasted pine nuts
•½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
•½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
•Salt and pepper to taste
Add the oregano, garlic, pine nuts to the bowl of a food processor and grind until the mixture is fairly smooth. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the mixture becomes very smooth. Add the Parmesan and run the motor again, just to combine the cheese into the pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freeze up to several months.
Meatball Vegetable Soup with Fresh Oregano
Makes 4 servings
Traditionally, this gently seasoned soup, called Sopa de Albondigas, is made with beef meatballs. In this lighter version, I’ve substituted ground turkey and added fresh oregano from my garden. Delicious!
•5 cups canned or homemade chicken broth
•2 large carrots, chopped
•2 stalks celery, chopped
•1 yellow onion, finely chopped (divided)
•1 large egg, beaten to blend
•2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano (divided)
•2 teaspoons ground cumin
•¼ teaspoon salt, more to taste
•¼ teaspoon pepper
•1 pound ground turkey
•½ cup cold cooked white rice
In a large pot, combine the broth with the carrots, celery and half of the chopped onion. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently while making the meatballs.
To make the meatballs: in a bowl, combine the egg, 1 tablespoon of the oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir in the ground turkey and the rice and blend well. Shape the mixture into 1½-inch balls.
Using a slotted spoon, lower the meatballs into the soup. Bring back to a simmer, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, cover and cook until the carrots are very tender and the meatballs are thoroughly cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes.