Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I was going to grill the artichokes. Then, changed my mind. How about fried?

I was at the Vietnamese market on Sunday and found these very nice, small artichokes. Most of their produce is grown locally, and it's all very fresh - these artichokes were small, but very nice. When looking for fresh artichokes, picked at the right time, look for ones with the leaves snug like this (below). Not that the ones with the leaves spiked out aren't good, but these are what you'd pick, if you had the choice between the two.

Anyone who is familiar with artichokes knows they take a little while to cook. You can't just toss them on the grill for 10 minutes and then serve 'em up. And artichokes are one of the few vegetables that just do not taste good raw. Or even half raw. So you gotta cook them all the way through. What I like to do is trim then tough leaves off, then put them in the pressure cooker for a bit to steam, this speeds up the process quite a bit.

Another thing that speeds cooking, and makes them a little nicer to eat, is trimming off the tough outer leaves. The tender part remains -- but the yucky outside leaves are gone. A sharp knife is needed - my vintage Wusthof carver works perfect; the small, stiff carbon steel blade easily cuts through the tough leaves.

The ones last night were smaller, tender leaved artichokes, but with the larger ones I also trim off the tops (below). This way you don't get pricked with the thorns!

Now, the cooking part.

Into the pressure cooker. Once it starts steaming, I let them cook until I am able to smell them. This is a good indication they are ready to remove. It goes fast though, so pay attention or you could end up with mush. As soon as you smell the artichokes - turn off the heat and let the steam out. I love my pressure cooker. I prefer the European models, like this SEB. I like the safety top and the design of the lid.

Out of the water, they are cooked through but still a little firm so I can cut them. Starting at the bottom, I cut through quickly with a sharp knife. A thin flexible blade works best here... and another one of my favorites, my vintage Pernot carbon steel slicer. Goes through anything like it was butter.

Once cut in half, you can leave as-is, or cut again into quarters, which is what I did. In a large fry pan, coat the bottom with about 1/4" olive or vegetable oil. When hot, gently put the pieces in and cook on med/high until crisp and golden. Remove from pan, drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

I also made a quick dipping sauce:
2 parts mayo
2 parts ketchup
1 part yellow mustard
1 part water - to thin it
fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Stir until creamy.

Serve family style, as an appetizer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I didn't make it. But it was so good and so awesome looking, I just had to post it!

There is a new burger place in downtown Huntington Beach, and although it's a casual spot, the food is totally gourmet. Completely caught me off guard!

You choose everything for your burger: from the toppings to the cheese to the sauces, and then your preferred doneness. I had thick crispy bacon, american cheese, tarragon remoulade, fresh tomato and baby arugula. On a brioche bun. It was, INSANE.

TWENTY FIVE DEGREES - 412 Walnut, HB, Ca. 92648 ~ 714.960.2525

Friday, August 14, 2009


No blueberry flavored vodka here. Nope. Just a big handful of fresh blueberries.

For 1 martini: In a shaker, put a handful of blueberries (about 1/3 cup). Add sugar, about 2 teaspoons (or more if you like.) Next, add 2 shots of vodka, a splash of Hendricks Gin, and the juice from 1/2 of a lime.

Using a hand mixer (easier than pulling out the blender!) blend the contents for about 30 seconds.

I really love this hand mixer. They're made by Braun and I consider it a kitchen must have. They're only about $15, and it also comes with a small attachment bowl -- like a little mini food processor -- which I find perfect for making things like quick salad dressings. This is faster than even getting out your muddler. When done, you simply rinse it clean with hot water.

Anyway. Once blended, add ice and shake well until chilled. Strain and serve!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Julia Child: Gratin of Potatoes a la Lyonnaise

All the Julia Child talk lately has made me crave French food, so I got my JC cookbooks out, dusted them off, and decided that the first page I opened to would be what I'd make. It was Gratin of Potatoes a la Savoyarde. Potatoes Lyonnaise.

That's perfect. I have all the ingredients, and since I was planning on steak for dinner, this is the perfect side. And, it's super easy.

The potatoes and onions are sliced thin - I use a mandolin (I love that thing!) The recipe called for boiling potatoes. I had red potatoes, and russet baking potatoes, so I used those. And I don't peel mine. The skins are so full of nutrients, and I happen to love them. But the recipe calls for them to be peeled. Which, is totally French. They peel all their vegetables.

Butter of course. The onions were sauteed in the butter until, as they say, translucent.

Swiss cheese, or something similar, is the preferred cheese for this. I had Provolone. Perfect. It's light, like Swiss, but a tad more flavorful. I blitzed it in the food processor for a few seconds.

To assemble, all you do is butter the bottom of a pan, then you will do 3 layers: Potatoes first. Then onion. Then cheese. Lightly season layers with salt & pepper.

After the layers are done, add the chicken broth. Add only enough to come halfway up the potatoes. Then, of course, a little more butter :) A few pats on the top.

While the oven was heating to 425, it says to put the pan on the stove over medium heat and bring the broth to a simmer. So, I did. It was of course an oven safe dish - but I still felt nervous putting it over an open flame like this. I crossed my fingers that it wouldn't break the dish! And it didn't.

30-40 minutes in the oven, and it looks like this. I let it set up for about 20 minutes and the liquid absorbed nicely. What I loved about this, is that the broth mixes with the butter (which wasn't a huge amount of butter) and it makes it so creamy and rich. It tastes much more rich than it is. It's not soupy at all -- and shouldn't be -- it's just creamy.

Perfect with our steaks, which were simply prepared by pan frying with olive oil, salt & pepper.

Serving for 6


several Tb of butter
2-3 cups thinly sliced onions
12-16 medium "boiling" potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated swiss cheese
2-3 cups chicken stock

I miss cooking. I haven't done a lot of it lately because I just haven't had time. This was totally simple though, and it reminded me that cooking doesn't have to be a lot of work and a huge production. I have 3 Julia Child cookbooks, so I'll be making more recipes. Stay tuned!