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Recipes — Page 4

We’ve been eating a lot of artichokes lately because a) they are in season, b) we have 3 artichoke plants in our yard and c) I just found out that artichokes are loaded with antioxidants.  They seem like such a marginal vegetable to me, what with all the waste and the effort you have to go through to get the tiny bit of meat off of the leaves, but apparently they are nutritional powerhouses.  I’ve been reading this book lately called The O2 Diet, whose premise is that if you eat a lot of antioxidants, you will be super healthy.  In it I learned that artichokes have only 60 calories each (of course, that’s without mayo or butter as a dipping sauce!), can lower cholesterol, act as an anti-inflammatory for your skin, and have 7,900 ORAC points each.  If you are unfamiliar with the ORAC scale, it measures the ability of a given food to neutralize free radicals, which cause disease and aging in the body.  Artichokes apparently have the highest ORAC rating of any vegetable.  You can compare its number to that of blueberries, which are well-known for being antioxidant superstars.  While artichokes have 7,900 per serving, blueberries fall around 9,700 per serving.  As another relative comparison, watermelon or carrots have only 200 ORAC per serving.

So, artichokes = good.  And, my mom just recently suggested a new way of preparing them, so I decided to try it out.  The result?  BEST.  ARTICHOKES.  EVER.  (I think I have to stop using that phraseology so much.)

The trick here is that you both steam and grill the artichokes.  They end up tender without being too charred.

Garlic Grilled Artichokes

  • 2 artichokes
  • 1 – 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Trim the artichokes by cutting off the stem and the top 1/3 and snipping any prickly leaves.  Cut each artichoke in half and remove the choke (I find this is most easily done with a melon baller).

Steam the artichokes for about 30 minutes, until just tender (the timing will depend on the size of your vegetables).  Remove them from the steamer, place them cut side up on a piece of foil and drizzle with olive oil.  Spread some of the garlic on the cut side of each half, tucking some of it in between the leaves.

Place the foil with the artichokes on a grill heated to medium.  Grill each side for approximately 10 minutes, starting cut side up.

The artichokes will get even more tender, the garlic will infuse into the leaves, and the leaves and heart will get caramelized.  So, so delicious.

Eat them as you would a regular steamed artichoke, pulling off individual leaves and getting their meat before you dive into the fantastic heart.


Spring Shrimp Pasta

I’ve been feeling the spring vibe around here lately, even though the weather has not been cooperating.  It’s April in SoCal, for Pete’s sake, and it was 48º out the other morning when I was driving the kids to school.  That is wrong, people, wrong.

So I’ve been trying to encourage the weather with my culinary offerings.  The other day, it was Asparagus Tart, and keeping with the asparagus theme (spring!  spring!), I recently made a nice pasta dish that included asparagus and shrimp.

My boys love shrimp.  In fact, the 6 year old loves it so much that he often cites it as his favorite food.  And, in a slightly more unusual twist, he used “shrimp” as an answer on a school assignment: when asked to describe “peace” with the 5 senses, he wrote, “Peace smells like… shrimp.”  Good grief, I hope it’s fresh shrimp.

So I new the kids would be elated if I made shrimp pasta.  They were so excited, in fact, they even agreed to stop with me at the grocery store to buy said shellfish.  You know they mean business when they are willing to run an errand on the way home from school.

Spring Shrimp Pasta

  • 1 lb. whole wheat pasta, preferably penne or rotini
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 lb. shrimp, deveined, shelled, and tails removed

Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about one minute.  Add the asparagus and cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes.  Add the shrimp, taking care to spread them out so all pieces are touching the bottom of the pan.  Cook until the bottoms of the shrimp are opaque and pink, about 3 minutes; then flip each piece of shrimp.  Cook an additional 3 minutes, until all shrimp are opaque and pink.

Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water to loosen sauce.  Toss the asparagus and shrimp with the pasta, adding reserved water if needed.  Serve immediately.

Optional:  You could also add caramelized red onions to this dish, in which case you should cook them for about 7 minutes with the garlic, before you add in the asparagus.

download and print this recipe

Bon appetit!


I’ve been pretty religious about my love for no knead bread, but I haven’t yet ventured out into other types of bread products.  It was time.  I opened to the chapter on flatbreads and pizza.  Bring it on.

Actually, I guess I kinda did it backwards, because pizza dough is really much easier to make than full-on bread.  Or at least, you would think, right?  When we make homemade pizzas, I usually Trader Joe it up: TJs whole wheat pizza dough, pizza sauce, pre-sliced mushrooms, and pre-shredded mozzarella.

This time I decided to make my own dough with the help of Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  All you really have to do is make one of a number of bread doughs (you choose your favorite!) and then use it for pizza.  Who knew?  No difference, apparently, between bread dough and pizza dough.  At least in this system.

So I made the dough for whole wheat olive oil bread, since I’d made it before and olive oil seems to go nicely with pizza.  Here’s the dough pre- and post-rise:

all bubbled up, post-rise, on the right

From there, it’s as easy as making pizza with pre-made dough.  I still bought the TJs pizza sauce, and I got a bunch of veggies, including some exotic ones that I knew the kids would love (enoki mushrooms, anyone?).  I’m including all the goodies we put on our pizza in the recipe, but you can really put whatever you want.  Including meat products, if that’s what you like.

Whole Wheat Vegetable Pizza

  • 1 recipe pizza dough
  • 2 cups pizza sauce (marinara will work in a pinch, although it’s waterier)
  • 1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 cup enoki mushrooms
  • 1 small can sliced olives, drained
  • 1/2 small zucchini, sliced thin
  • 1 cup baby spinach, washed and dried
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella

Preheat oven with pizza stone placed in lower third to 500º.

Divide the dough in half.  On a floured pizza peel (or a cutting board, if you don’t have a peel), flatten each piece into a round disk about 1/8″ thick and 12″ in diameter.  To flatten, use a combination of a rolling pin, your hands, and any other means necessary.  Cover each round of dough with 1 cup pizza sauce, leaving a 1/2″ crust around the border without sauce.  Sprinkle 1/2 of your toppings on top of the sauce (it’s best, if you are using spinach, to put the spinach first; the moisture from the other vegetables will help steam it).  Cover all with 1 cup shredded mozzarella.  Dice 1/4 cup fresh mozzarella into small cubes, and sprinkle over top.  Drizzle with olive oil.

Slide each pizza onto the hot stone in the oven using the peel or your cutting board (I baked one pizza and topped the other while the first baked, so I didn’t have 2 pizzas cooking at once).  Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes to make sure your toppings aren’t getting too brown.  Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before cutting.

download and print this recipe

I did notice one major difference between the homemade dough and the store-bought.  I always have trouble with my pizza dough turning out raw when I don’t pre-bake them.  Alternately, sometimes the water from the veggies pools in the center of the pizza.  With this homemade dough, I didn’t have a problem.  It was cooked perfectly after only 12 minutes, and there wasn’t any extra moisture on top, as you can see.  I suspect, though, that this change might be from cooking the pizza at such a high temp, which Healthy Bread recommended.  So, thanks Healthy Bread!


Spring Asparagus Tart

I’ve been wanting to make something special for dinner since we’ve returned home from vacation, something springy and lovely.  And InnBrooklyn provided me the perfect reason: virtual veg of the month club!  A fantastic idea that I look forward to participating in every month.

This inaugural month’s theme is asparagus, perfect for spring.  So I decided to make my favorite asparagus recipe: Asparagus Tart.

Now, this tart has a lot more going for it than asparagus, but I have to take a moment here for a short diatribe on recipe naming.  I feel like lately (or has it always been this way, and I never noticed it?  You foodies will have to enlighten me) many recipes list virtually all their ingredients in the title.  This formula seems not only unwieldy but unquestionably banal.  Who wants to know every ingredient in the recipe right up front?  So, while under the super descriptive regime my dish would probably be called “Asparagus, Gruyère and Carmelized Onion Tart,” I’m sticking with Asparagus Tart.  The rest is a lovely surprise, albeit not anymore.

The tart is made with store-bought puff pastry, which makes it pretty easy but also fantastically delicate and buttery.

puff pastry, rolled out, scored and docked

I adapted this dish from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food recipe for Asparagus and Gruyere Tart (see, here we go with the listing of all the ingredients, since that’s really all that’s in her tart).  One addition I made?  Caramelized onions.  Which have to be one of the most delicious things on earth.  I kind of think of them as the vegetarian’s bacon.  (Would you agree?)

perfectly trimmed asparagus

thinly sliced red onion

Asparagus Tart

  • flour for dusting
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grated Leerdammer cheese, or other Swiss-type cheese (Gruyère, Emmentaler)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed evenly
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on parchment paper or a Silpat on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 1o minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan.  Sauté the red onion in the oil over medium high heat until caramelized and golden, about 10 minutes.  Take the onion off the heat and set aside.

Remove pastry shell from oven.  Sprinkle the grated cheese inside the “shell, avoiding the outer 1″ crust.  Arrange the red onion over the top of the cheese, spreading it out evenly.  Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over the cheese and onion, alternating ends and tips. Brush or spray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, about 15 minutes.

download and print this recipe here

I only put onion on half of the tart since I knew the kids would want only asparagus

It was super yummy, and the kids gobbled it up.  In other news, I cut the crap out of my thumb with my santoku knife while cooking this dish.  Ah, the sacrifices.