Monday, April 21, 2014

Okie dokie, Artie-chokey: Lemony globe artichokes with peas and herbs

Someone's cooking here, and it's not me.

Yep, the fella went into the kitchen, and he did an outstanding job. He shopped, he prepped, and he cooked. I photographed and gently guided. And I giggled a little bit. But that's to be expected. He never cooks.


Okay, there was the Nashville Sneakers episode, but that was in the last century.

But I digress. Or I'm ahead of myself.

You see, I'm in this group called Cook My Book, and the idea is that everyone picks a cookbook from their collection and those books get mailed around in a big circle at regular intervals.

People cook recipes from the books and they write notes next to the recipes they've made.

And maybe cause some accidental spillage and staining. Oopsie. And then we sign the front or back of the book with notes to the owner and send the book to the next person on the list.

As we cook recipes, we post about them on our little Facebook group - what we liked, what we didn't like, what worked, and what we'd change next time. It's a great way to get familiar with a bunch of books and hang out with people who like to cook.

And eventually the books all make their way back to their owners with all sorts of scribbled notes and messages.

This is my first year. I'm thinking I might be a life member. It's a blast.

So, Bob's been hearing about this group and watching cookbooks come and go. And when he heard that my friend Sandra was in the group, he said, "I'd like to do something for her. I want to cook from her book."

My jaw dropped. Not that he wanted to be nice. But that he said the words, "I want to cook" and he was awake and not hallucinating or anything. But ... there's a reason.

 I had told him how Sandra took over this blog while he was in the hospital, and how she became such a good friend when I needed friends, and he wanted to do a little something to surprise her.

I don't know how surprised she is, but I'm still a little woozy at the thought of him using one of my sharp knives.

Coincidentally, I had my own copy of the book Sandra was sending around (Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi), so I gave him my copy so he could pick out a recipe.

He paged through it and mentioned that there didn't seem to be any meat. Maybe he was hoping for a pot of chili or a rack of ribs, but that didn't stop him. He was on a mission to cook something.

The book disappeared into the garage for a couple weeks, and when it emerged again, there was a sticky note on the page for Lemony Globe Artichokes.

I expected that he's pick a few and ask my advice. But no, he picked artichokes. Why? Because he knows how much I like them.

Okay, everybody ... awwwwwww

I had just gotten some glorious artichokes from Frieda's, so I was set with those. I told him that it made sense to cut the recipe in half (making two artichokes instead of four), which made the recipe slightly more challenging. But I was confident.

I wrote up a shopping list for him, so he could pick up a few things we needed. Mostly fresh herbs. Some lemons. Nothing too challenging. Frozen peas. I went with to document the adventure, and gently guided him close to his targets, but I let him do the hunting and gathering on his own.

He probably could have found everything without my help ... eventually, but I figured that asking him to figure out how much fresh tarragon was needed to yield 1/4 cup might be a little too cruel.

Even finding the tarragon could have been a challenge - I mean, it's not all that common. And cilantro sometimes masquerades as parsley, and we sure as heck didn't want to see that happen.

So I guided him to the right decisions, and to the correct peas in the frozen section. I like the petite peas, although the recipe didn't specify.

And then, before he got cooking, I set out a cutting board and provided him with tools as he needed them. Measuring cups and spoons. String. Hot water in a pot. A lemon squeezer.

As he used things and he didn't need them any more, I whisked them away. Just like magic.

Weirdest moment might have been when I was using my fingers to try to grab an artichoke leaf to see if it would tear off easily. While it was bobbing in simmering water.

And he said, "Don't you think you should use a tool to do that?"

Um, maybe. But this is - ouch - just as - ow, hot - easy - owie - and it just takes a second. When you do it all the time, it doesn't seem so odd.

So, I instructed a bit, helped just a tiny bit, and mostly just observed to make sure nothing went totally off the rails. I have to say that I was very impressed with his attention to detail.

He followed the recipe directions carefully, one step at a time:

Picking leaves off of stalks ...

Chopping parsley ....

Measuring chopped herbs...

Dicing onions ....

Prepping artichokes ...

It was interesting to see a non-cook cooking. The only slight glitch was that the artichokes could have been rubbed with lemon a little sooner, but no big deal. He did what the instructions told him to do rather than reading the instructions like a more experienced cook would have.

The biggest challenge was neatly tying the halved stuffed artichokes so they'd stay together while they simmered.

I estimated that we'd have artichokes on the table in an hour, but it was a tad longer. I didn't take into account the extra prep time needed when someone's not familiar with tools and methods.

But in the end, it was totally worth it. I liked the recipe, and it was a lot of fun to see Bob in the kitchen. I doubt it will become his new hobby, but maybe we'll try again another day.

As we were eating, I asked him if this recipe was easier or harder than he expected. He said it was harder. Then he asked if the recipe was easier or harder than what I normally do. I said it was about the same.

So there ya go.

Sandra, this one's for you!

Lemony Globe Artichokes

Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

2 globe artichokes
2 lemons, halved
3/8 cup fresh dill (a shy half-cup), finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 medium-small onion, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup frozen green peas
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, smashed (through a garlic press, or finely minced)

Trim the artichokes so they can sit flat on their bottoms, and remove the toughest bottom leaves. Cut the artichokes in half vertically, from top to stem. Remove and discard the choke (cough-cough) and some of the small innner leaves, to make room for the stuffing. As you work, rub the cut surfaces with one of the lemon halves to keep the artichokes from browning. As you finish each artichoke half, place in into a bowl of cold water.

Mix the chopped herbs and onion with plenty of salt and pepper.

Drain the artichokes. Stuff the cavity of each half with the herb/onion mix so it's full but not overflowing. You're going to be reassembling them. You should have excess stuffing. Hang onto that - we'll be using that shortly.

Put the artichoke halves together and tie them with string to secure them.

Put the assembled artichokes in a pot that they will fit into snugly (this keeps them from floating or coming apart). Add the juice of one of the lemons (two halves), and then toss in the squeezed lemon halves. You might as well toss in the lemon half you used to rub the artichokes, as well.

Add enough water to cover the artichokes, leaving about 1/4 inch out of the water. Add  generous amount of salt. Simmer on low heat for 20 to 35 minutes. The artichoke bottoms in particular need to stay submerged, since that's the edible part and you want to make sure they cook. If need be, you can put a small plate on top of the artichokes if they want to float. Cover the pot during cooking, and cook until the artichoke heart is tender - stick a knife into the base to check - and a leaf should pull out easily.

Remove the artichokes from the pan and let them drain for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the remaining stuffing with 2 tablespoons of olive oil for about three minutes, then add the peas, sugar, garlic and a few tablespoons of the artichoke cooking water. Cook for 2 minutes more, then taste and add more salt, pepper, or lemon, as needed.

Transfer the artichokes to serving plates or a platter. Remove the string and lay the halves with the cut side up. Pile the peas on top of each artichoke. Drizzle with olive oil and serve hot.

You can serve with a few wedges of lemon, if you like.