Artichoke Dip

So Sunday night during the Oscars, I had this hot artichoke dip simply because I needed a reason to finish up those baby artichokes from last week. And like all my recipes, I just eyeball everything and adjust according to taste and ingredients on hand (and sudden whims).

Prep and steam (or grill, or sautee) the artichokes until cooked, then set aside to cool. Meanwhile, roughly 1 cup of light cream cheese gets mixed with a tablespoon of mayo, handfuls of grated parmesan and romano cheese, some finely chopped green onion, a big dab of dijon mustard, a dash of Worchestershire sauce, grated garlic, salt, pepper and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Chop up the artichoke and add it to the mix. Spoon the mixture into a ramekin (did I mention the oven should be at 400F?), top off with powdered parmesan cheese (for texture, and also because I keep it around for making cheesy croutons) and bake until brown and bubbly! Sometimes I add some bell pepper to this and if you have crabmeat around, this could easily become a great Crab & Artichoke Dip. In any case, you need to serve with homemade pita chips or Guiltless Gourmet tortilla chips, because those tasty mofos are the crispiest beeyotches you have ever had. Trust me.


Chicken Asparagus Salad

Maybe it was because I was feeling a little under the weather today, maybe it was the rain finally reappearing after weeks of sun....but when I finally tossed everything together for this salad, I nearly fainted from the deliciousness. Using a roast chicken from Safeway cut back on a big chunk of time, so dinner was done in under half an hour. The salad can be served hot or cold, which makes it a good lunch for work the next day.

Asparagus and Almond Salad with Chicken from Breakfast Lunch Tea - The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery

Serves 6
- 18 asparagus spears, trimmed
- 1 handful of whole almonds, skinned
- 6 skinless boneless chicken breasts
- extra virgin olive oil, for frying chicken
- salt and ground black pepper
- arugula, for garnish

For the dressing
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 4 tbsps red wine vinegar
- 2 large handfuls chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- salt and ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Place asparagus in simmering water and cook for about 5 minutes until the spears are just cooked. Drain and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, place almonds in a roasting pan with a little olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes--until they're golden. Set aside to cool. Fry or grill the chicken breasts until they are cooked through. Season with salt & pepper.

Cut the asparagus into 3 - 4 cm pieces. Slice the chicken breasts diagonally into four or five pieces (I just hand shredded them). I also decided to chop up the almonds as well. Make the dressing by combining the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well, adding oil at the end. Carefully fold in the chicken, asparagus and almonds into the dressing and garnish with arugula.


Lambchops & Artichoke

From the lunch section of Breakfast Lunch Tea - The Many Meals of Rose Bakery, I made the recipe for Braised Artichoke, Lemon and Lamb Chops recipe for dinner. I used baby artichokes and New Zealand shoulder lamb chops that were on sale, and served it all on a bed of brown and wild rice.

Braised Artichoke, Lemon and Lamb Chops from Breakfast Lunch Tea

Serves 6
- juice of 2 lemons (for prepping artichokes)
- 12-14 medium globe artichokes
- 4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil (plus more for frying lamb)
- 3 onions diced
- 1 celery heart finely sliced (I omitted this)
- 3 carrots, diced
- 1 tsp salt
- pinch of black pepper
- grated zest of a lemon
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 cups veg or chicken stock
- 1 tsp sugar (I omitted this)
- 1 tsp of thyme (my addition for the lamb)

Prep artichokes (fill a bowl with water and lemon juice, cut off artichoke stalks and remove tips and outer leaves, slice in half and discard chokes if there are any, then place artichokes in the bowl).

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and cook the onions until softened. Add carrots, seasoning and lemon zest. Cook for about 15 minutes. Then add garlic and artichoke hearts, and pour in the stock to cover everything. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half. Taste and see if sugar needs to be added.

Season the lamb chops (salt, pepper and thyme) and fry them in oil or grilled until they are cooked through, but still slightly pink inside--about 5 minutes each side.

Serve with artichokes on the side.


And More Fish

Fish is really the protein I forget to eat. It's not that I don't enjoy it--it's just that when I think of meat, I think of the rich hearty texture of beef, the tasty fat from pork, and let's face it, the ease of cooking chicken. Time to change my ways. I've had the Chopped Lemon Bagna Cauda recipe from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook in the back of my mind for a long time, so I tried their suggestion of serving it with fish.

In the bagna cauda, I substituted anchovy paste for anchovy fillets. For the main, I grilled a fillet of snapper in a pan with olive oil, salt, pepper and fennel seeds. I also toasted some crostini as per the book's direction, and topped it with roasted tomatos, garlic and onion. Spoonfuls of the bagna cauda all over everything. Success! The bright lemoniness went well with the licorice taste of fennel, and the tomatos were sweet like the fish. I still had some of the sauce left over after the meal, which prompted me to quickly blanch some spindly asparagus, which I then used to eat up the rest of the bagna cauda.


Fruit: Here and There

Grapefruit from California + blackberries from Mexico + Fraser Valley Wildflower Honey from The Honeybee Centre in Surrey. I couldn't resist when I saw blackberries for sale. It was like heaven in a bowl.


Tomatos and Fish

Inspired by this post for an easy fish meal, I made a simple snapper meal last night. Using:

- chunks of fresh snapper
- about 2 cups grape tomatos, halved
- 2 large shallots
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- a giant handful of pre-washed baby spinach
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 tbsps of tomato paste
- olive oil
- dash of dried oregano
- salt, pepper

Heat the olive oil in a skillet on med-high heat, then crush the cloves of garlic and throw them in. As it gets fragrant, thinly slice the shallots and throw them in, stirring until they get translucent. After that, the tomatos and then let the mix sautee slowly until the tomatos get really broken down and mushy. Add tomato paste, salt, freshly cracked pepper, oregano and keep stirring and add a more oil if needed. After about 10 more minutes, add the white wine (this is always my favorite part because I just love the splashy, bubbling sound it makes). While it's reducing, quickly blanch the spinach in a small pot of lightly salted water. Drain and remove the spinach as soon as the leaves get bright green. Set aside. Return to the skillet and throw in the snapper, turning the pieces around every so often to make sure it cooks evenly. It shouldn't take more than another 5 minutes, because you don't want dry, overcooked fish. Scoop the mixture onto a bed spinach and serve.

This would be great using a whole fish, and another good variation on the recipe would be to use lots of fennel instead of oregano.


Super Sunday

Ok, I'm not into football at all, but Super Sunday gave me enough of an excuse to make chicken wings for breakfast. Yes, that's chicken wings. For breakfast. Donald's Market usually carries non-medicated and/or free range chicken and from time to time, even chicken wings. For less than 3 dollars, I picked up a pack of fairly sized half dozen wings--drummettes and tip attached. I discarded the tips and separated the chicken into drummettes and wings. To keep things somewhat "light", I opted not to do buffalo wings (because one has to draw a line somewhere when indulging in a bowlful of wings for breakfast). My standby breaded chicken wing recipe is a simple mix of breadcrumbs, panko, salt & pepper, paprika and chipotle seasoning. No egg mix for dredging, the chicken pieces have no trouble getting coated on their own. 395 degrees on a greased baking sheet for about 15-20 minutes makes perfectly browned and crispy wings. Burp.