January 31, 2006

Dinner Parties at Gemma's

I love dinner parties—especially Gemma’s. Gemma is our English friend who moved over to the states for college and never left. Lucky for us, she brought over her English ways of hospitality, which include her fabulous dinner parties (dinner parties are very popular in England).

Gemma is a great cook as she is really not afraid to try any recipe, and if she finds a particular dish a challenge to make, it gives her all the more reason to keep trying it until she gets it perfect. Such a good friend to have…

Last Sunday evening Gemma and her husband, Sebastian (a 6’8” Californian), hosted six of us for dinner. Since it was a “work night,” the evening was a bit more chill than usual (her last event was a champagne brunch which began at 12 noon and ended at 11pm) but the food was of course just as great.

The following was the menu:

Mixed Greens Salad with Goat Cheese, Walnuts, and Balsamic Dressing

Farfalle with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cream

Baked Ricotta and Mascarpone Tart with Chocolate and Orange

Since Gemma is a pro at giving these dinner parties, she was smart to keep the salad simple (but tasty!) and the entrée was something she found in Bon Appetit’s January 2006 issue as being fast and easy. I think this is important when giving dinner parties because the last thing you want to do is be stuck in the kitchen the whole time slaving away. The key is choosing recipes that do not taste like they were “quick and easy,” which of course these recipes succeeded at.

As often is the case, the dessert was the main attraction. This Gemma did slave away on all day. For starters, get this; she made her own pastry for the pie! Sebastian commented that when they woke-up Sunday morning, Gemma’s first words were, “I’ve got to get started on the pastry!” She was disappointed by the end results (aren’t all artists their own biggest critics?), but I thought it tasted great.

The pie filling was very unique by combining both chocolate and orange flavors with the ricotta and mascarpone. If you are up to the challenge, I do recommend that you try this recipe. And keep in mind that you can buy the pie crust already made at the market!

Here are the recipes from the evening:

Mixed Greens Salad with Goat Cheese, Walnuts, and Balsamic Dressing

  • Bag of mixed greens
  • Goat cheese
  • Couple handfuls of toasted walnuts
  • Balsamic dressing (balsamic vinegar and olive oil mixed)

Simply mix all ingredients together. You can toast the walnuts in the oven or stovetop, but keep an eye on them as they can burn quite quickly.

Farfalle with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cream
Makes 6 servings.
Bon Appétit, January 2006, Cara Brunetti Hillyard, Hamilton, VA

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 pound farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and crushed red pepper. Sauté until sausage is no longer pink, breaking up with back of fork, about 5 minutes. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onion is tender and sausage is browned, about 3 minutes longer. Add tomatoes and cream. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sausage mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to same pot. Add sausage mixture and toss over medium-low heat until sauce coats pasta, adding reserved cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture is dry. Transfer pasta to serving dish. Sprinkle with basil. Serve, passing cheese separately.

Baked Ricotta and Mascarpone Tart with Chocolate And Orange
Serves 8
Jamie Oliver, “Jamie’s Kitchen”
  • 1 x basic sweet pastry recipe (see below)
  • 250g/9oz ricotta cheese
  • 250g/9oz mascarpone
  • 125g/41/2oz icing sugar
  • zest of 3 oranges
  • seeds from 2 vanilla pods
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 100g/31/2oz best-quality cooking chocolate (70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • icing sugar, for dusting

Make the pastry and line a loose-bottomed 28cm/11 inch flan tin. Bake blind (i.e. with no filling) and allow to cool. Roll the extra pastry out to the same thickness in a long rectangular shape, dusting as you go, and divide into 14 strips 2.5 cm/1 inch wide. Set these aside - you will need them to finish off the tart.

Turn the oven down to 170°C/325°F/gas 3. Whip together the ricotta, mascarpone, icing sugar, orange zest, vanilla seeds and egg yolks until smooth and shiny. In a separate bowl whip up your egg whites until stiff - you can test if they're done by holding the bowl upside down over your head. Obviously the mixture should stick to the bowl and not fall on your head! Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture.

Pour into your cooled tart mould and sprinkle the chocolate over the top. Lay 7 strips of pastry across the tart, equally spaced, and then place the other 7 the other way on top of them like a lattice. Use your thumbs to trim any excess pastry off the side of the mould - this will stick it to the pastry below. Brush the pastry with a little of the beaten egg and then dust with a little icing sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes.

This tart can be served hot or cold with some ice cream, crème fraiche or cream.

Sweet Pastry

  • Make 2 x 28cm / 11 inch Tart shell
  • 250g/9oz butter200g/7oz icing sugar
  • a medium pinch of salt
  • 500g/just over 1lb flour
  • seeds from 1 vanilla pod
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2-4 tablespoons cold milk or water

You can make this pastry by hand or in a food processor. This is enough to make 2 x 28cm / 11 inch Tart shells

Stage 1: Cream together the butter, icing sugar and salt, then rub or pulse in the flour, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and egg yolks. When this mixture has come together, looking like coarse breadcrumbs, add the cold milk or water. Pat together to form a ball of dough. Lightly flour and then squeeze it into shape. The idea is to get your ingredients to a dough form with the minimum amount of movement, i.e. keeping your pastry flaky and short (the more you work it the more elastic it will get, causing it to shrink in the oven and be chewy, and you don't want that to happen).

Stage 2: Roll the pastry into a really large, short and fat sausage shape, wrap it in Clingfilm and put it in the fridge to rest for at least 1 hour.

Stage 3: Carefully slice off very thin slivers of your pastry lengthways. You can make the slices thicker if you like, but remember that the tart will take longer to cook. Place the slivers all around your tart mould, fitting them together like a jigsaw. Push the pieces together and tidy up the sides by cleaning any excess pastry from the rim of the mould. Place in the freezer for at least 1 hour.

Stage 4: Bake them 'blind' (i.e. with no filling) for around 15 minutes at 180°C/350°F/gas 4 - this will cook them all the way through, coloring them slightly.

Once completely cooled, the shells can be filled. With baked fillings, like the Plum Tart on page 295, the tart shell has to be baked blind for around 12 minutes at 180°C/350°F/gas 4 before being filled and then baked once more.

Try this: Once your tart shell has been baked blind, brush the inside of it with a little egg white and then put it back in the oven for 30 seconds - no longer. This will give it a nice waterproof layer which will protect it from a moist filling. The pastry will stay crumbly and crisp for longer instead of going all soggy.

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Cranberry Bean Salad

Okay, so you now know all about Cranberry Beans and have been anxiously awaiting this second post so that we can make something yummy with the beans—right?! Or are you just curious where the red specks on the beans go when they are cooked? Personally, I think I was more curious about the red specks! But let’s start with the recipe…

Since I am new to this bean (and probably you are too), I chose a recipe that serves the beans in the traditional Italian way. I think it is best to first stick to the basics to learn about the taste of the beans before making anything fancy with them. Besides, the southern European folks have been eating them much longer than us, so I trust they know what they doing!

So here is the recipe (serves 4 as a side dish):

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh cranberry beans in pods (you can also use lima beans)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Shell beans. In a large saucepan of boiling water cook beans with salt until tender and no longer mealy, 10 to 20 minutes. Drain beans and transfer to a bowl. While beans are still warm (see note 1), toss with remaining ingredients and season with salt. Serve salad warm or at room temperature. (Gourmet, June 1998)

I actually used thyme in lieu of parsley or basil because I thought it would compliment the lemon better (and I had read in other recipes that thyme is also commonly served with cranberry beans). The recipe says to serve warm or at room temperature, but I actually really did not like it warm. Once it cooled off, I liked it much more. Plus, the longer the beans sit in the dressing, the tastier they become. In fact, I liked it best the day after making it.

In taste, the cranberry beans reminded me of white beans but larger. They are denser than I expected, but I like it that way. I think the salad would go really well with roast chicken. Last night I ate it as a side to some shrimp cooked with olive oil, a clove of garlic, and thyme and that was nice too.

Now I have a question for anyone out there who might know the answer. While researching the cranberry bean, most sources said to not cook the beans in salted water because the salt would toughen the skin. (fyi, salt draws out moisture). So why does this recipe add salt to the water? I went with it thinking that perhaps the bean’s surface can break easily when cooked so the salt here is to prevent that from happening for the salad’s sake. Or perhaps it is just a bad component in the recipe? Anyone know?

Okay, now back to the mystery of the red specks…I think they simply melt off in the water. Isn’t that weird? When the beans were finished cooking, they were all white sitting in pink water. I felt bad for the pretty, red specks--such an anticlimactic ending to a beautiful life.

1) Wondering why you should toss beans in their dressing why warm? At this point, their pores are open and will soak up the dressing better.

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January 29, 2006

Food Focus: Cranberry Beans

Are these not the most beautiful beans you have ever seen? I was walking around the Manhattan Fruit Exchange at the Chelsea Markets when I came across these gorgeous beans. I was instantly intrigued and eager to learn more about them; so I gathered some in a bag, brought them home, and began my research.

I learned that these beautiful legumes, also known as Borlotti, were first cultivated in Mexico and Peru about 7,000 years ago. Then in the 16th century Spanish explorers brought the beans to Europe, and as a result, Cranberry Beans are now a common staple in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian cuisine.

Despite the fact that this bean is more common in southern European dishes, a large percentage of the beans are actually farmed in the US. Who knew? They are related to the Kidney Bean and in looks are similar to the Pinto Bean but reversed in color with pink skin and red specks. When cooked, magically the red specks disappear—how cool, but where do they go??? Their taste is described as having a creamy texture with a chestnut-like flavor and earthy tone.

Fresh Cranberry Beans might not be so easy to find, depending on the markets you have access to. They are most commonly found in farmers’ markets and specialty grocery stores. You may have an easier time finding them in the dried legume section of your grocery store.

From what I have read about these beans, they are traditionally served in soups or simply on their own with some olive oil and seasonings. Note that you must shell them—the pods are not edible!

Look out for my next post, which will be preparing the beans in the traditional Italian way...


January 28, 2006

Berries with Ricotta Cheese

So you of course could not resist making my Scallops with Caramelized Pearl Onions and Tarragon Crème Fraiche Sauce, and now you are wondering what to do with that leftover Crème Fraiche. Or at least this is what I was thinking as it sits in my refrigerator hoping to be used in one last dish. So here is what I came up with.

This recipe is based on the idea of the typical strawberries with crème fraiche, but I added ricotta cheese to make it richer and thicker. Oh-la-la! And like the scallops, this is an easy dish.

The ingredients are (per serving):
  • 4 tbsp ricotta cheese (All I had in my refrigerator was part skim ricotta cheese, and this worked well. Of course the regular will probably taste better though!)
  • 2 tbsp Crème Fraiche (I love that accent on the "e"...it makes me feel sophisticated)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract (Y'all, use the good stuff. You can find it at Williams-Sonoma. Yes, it is expensive but the difference in taste is huge.)
  • 1/2-1 tsp sugar
  • Handful of berries

Mix the first four ingredients together. Then place on a dish or in a bowl and sprinkle with the berries. So simple, so good, so elegant and a nice ending to a good meal with friends.

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January 26, 2006

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Soup

What I love about making soup is that it is so darn easy! If you are timid in the kitchen, soup is a great way to get yourself comfortable with cooking. It is also a great start to creating your own dishes because you can really do whatever you are in the mood for.

In deciding on tonight’s dinner, I did what I usually do. I just stood in my market’s produce section staring at all the vegetables thinking about all the options and what flavors I was in the mood for (the produce people at the market are now used to me doing this and know me well).

Since it was a cold, windy day, I wanted something that would be comforting but I also wanted something that would be quick and easy. So I figured I could make cauliflower soup and add roasted garlic to give it the warm, fuzzy feeling (I love garlic, so for me it is a warm fuzzy feeling!).

So here is what you need (per 1 large entrée serving, or 2 appetizer portions):
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 head of cauliflower florets
  • Olive oil (enough to thickly coat bottom of small omelet pan)
  • 5 cloves of garlic (you can use less, about 2-3, if you do not want a strong garlic flavor)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley to garnish
  1. Pour broth into a pot and add cauliflower florets. Bring the broth to a boil and cook until the cauliflower is tender.
  2. As the cauliflower is cooking, put olive oil and garlic cloves into a pan over a very low heat. You want to slowly cook the garlic without burning it. The garlic is ready when it is tender and lightly browned. (see picture)
  3. When cauliflower and garlic are ready, place garlic and olive oil into a food processor. Then take the cauliflower florets out of the broth (reserving the broth—you need it in the next step) and place them in the food processor (I think a blender would work as well). Mix until well pureed.
  4. Slowly add the broth until the soup reaches the desired consistency. It is best to only add one ladles’ worth at a time, mix, and then decide if you want more broth.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Pour soup into bowl(s) and garnish with parsley.

Now let me share a little warning with y’all. If you must drink some of the soup directly from the food processor bowl, be sure to first remove the blade in order to prevent the big, sharp blade from falling out, hitting you on the face, and cutting your lip. Um, yes, I do now have a cut lip…

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Tio Pepe Restaurant, New York, NY

Last night I met up with a couple friends at Tio Pepe, a Mexican/Spanish restaurant located in the West Village on West 4th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues). For those of you who do not know the area, this is one of the more popular streets in the village filled with students and funky people. Think fun little gadget and card shops nestled between crazy sex shops like the Pink Pussy Cat Boutique and the Birthday Suit.

Tio Pepe’s restaurant facade is all floor to ceiling windows that allow the festive atmosphere of the street to enter into the restaurant. I would have expected more people in the restaurant to further add to this festive feeling, but I’d say only about a third of the tables were filled on this Wednesday night. But nonetheless, we had West 4th Street to dine with us so we didn’t really pay attention to the rest of the restaurant (we were also sitting right next to the windows).

Before we ordered our food, we of course ordered some drinks—it is a Mexican/Spanish restaurant after all! I was pleased to hear that they serve pitchers (some places I’ve found do not in order to make more money on the individual glasses), but we each wanted something different so we did not opt for this option.

I ordered sangria, and Nicky and Anthony both ordered frozen strawberry margaritas. I liked my sangria. It was a red wine based drink, but they also had the option of white wine sangria. Nicky and Anthony’s drinks were both frozen and you could see that the icy slush came from a machine and not a blender. The restaurant then just adds syrup to make the drink. Personally I like my frozen margaritas made freshly, so I didn’t feel left out for not ordering this.

Not feeling terribly hungry, the three of us each only ordered an entrée. I had their Camarones al Diablo dish ($17) dish, which is shrimp sautéed with garlic in hot spicy criolla sauce. As expected, the shrimp was not large, but does size really matter? Not in this case but perhaps it was trying to compensate nonetheless because the sauce was very spicy—almost too spicy and I can handle hot spices very well. Unfortunately, because of the heat I had a hard time tasting the actual flavors. To be fair though, the dish came with rice that I did not eat. So it is possible that if I had eaten the two together the rice would have mellowed the heat and helped the distinctive flavors come out.

Anthony ordered the chicken fajitas ($15) and they were your basic fajitas. He liked them but did point out the chicken pieces were too big. The strips were each about four inches long and about an inch in diameter! I suppose that can show you that the meat is decent meat, probably breast meat, but it made it harder for him to eat. He ended up cutting all the pieces into smaller strips.

Nicky had a chicken enchilada ($12), and again it was just your basic enchilada but she loved it. Since I have only hung out with Nicky and Anthony a few times, we have not reached that can-I-have-a-bite-of-your-food stage. Plus they are British (well, Nicky is Canadian but lived in London for a long time), so you never know how Brits will react to such an informal suggestion! So I did not taste either of their meals myself to comment.

We skipped dessert but did see another table being served an interesting desert drink, which required igniting it—as in fiery flames!—at the table. It smelled really good and looked interesting so I would try that if you go. Our only concern was that by igniting the drink, doesn’t the good stuff (aka, alcohol) burn off?

Overall, I liked Tio Pepe for its location, and what is there not to like about a Mexican restaurant? I would not go here expecting an amazing culinary experience, and if you want more of a crowd I’d try going on the weekend instead; but if you are looking for some Mexican/Spanish food in the area before heading out to the neighboring bars, I do think this is a viable option.

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January 24, 2006

Scallops with Caramelized Pearl Onions and Tarragon Crème Fraiche Sauce

So I figured if I had a food blog named "The Pearl Onion," I should create a recipe that features the namesake. So here you go! I have a little secret too...this was actually my first time to cook pearl onions. Well, I have another secret, I actually first tried making this yesterday but burned it so truthfully this is my second try. However, I must say that this second attempt produced an excellent dinner!

What I like about this recipe is that the sweetness of the caramelized pearl onions is a really nice way of tying the subtle taste of the scallops with the richness of the sauce. Also, the crème fraiche is a good base for the sauce because although it is rich, it is not sweet which allows for a clean canvas for the tarragon and lemon flavors. And frankly, this dish tasted damn good and looks quite pretty too. Don't you agree? Another easy dish for entertaining!
So here are the ingredients (per serving):

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • A handful of red pearl onions
  • 1/2 lb of sea scallops
  • 2 oz. creme fraiche (see note 1)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, roughly chopped (see note 2)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. On very low heat place two tablespoons of olive oil (drizzled twice around the pan) and the peeled red pearl onions into a pan. The pearl onions must be cooked slowly in order to develop the caramelized flavor. When they feel a little mushy to the touch, they are ready.
  2. In another pan over medium heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the scallops (flat-face down). Cook equally on each side until the scallops are opaque. This should take about 5-8 minutes.
  3. As the scallops are finishing, place the remaining ingredients into the other pan with the caramelized pearl onions and whisk the liquid together until the crème fraiche is thoroughly melted. (see picture)
  4. Place the scallops onto a plate and drizzle the sauce on top. Garnish with a sprinkle of more fresh tarragon top.



1) Crème Fraiche: Are you wondering, “What in the world is this?” I first became familiar with Crème Fraiche when I was living in London. The Brits commonly serve it with fresh strawberries (a tradition at Wimbledon). It is basically a crème that is most similar to sour cream but thicker and a tad bit buttery and smoother in taste. Crème Fraiche works well with heat, which is why it is a good item to use for making sauces. You can find it in the grocery store near the sour cream. If you are unable to find Crème Fraiche, then substitute it with regular cream.

2) Tarragon: I am really not a fan of dry herbs, especially when the herbs are used in uncooked or lightly cooked dishes. However, if you must use dry herbs, only use 1/2 teaspoon. Dry herbs are much stronger than when fresh.

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January 23, 2006

The French Quarter Restaurant, New York, NY

I read about The French Quarter restaurant (located on E 25th & Park Ave. S) opening in my Time Out New York magazine sometime in the past year, and although skeptical, I was also really looking forward to trying it out. My family used to live in New Orleans before I was born and, as a result, I grew up visiting the city every year to the point that I consider New Orleans my second home. And if you read my introduction, you would know that my family's idea of visiting a city is not exploring the sights but instead going from restaurant to restaurant! So for being a non-native of New Orleans, I do feel that I have a relatively good idea of what Creole food should taste like. For starters, The French Quarter is NOT even close to what New Orleans food should taste like, and the atmosphere and service make it even worse.

Before I get to the food, let's discuss the oh-so-not southern hospitality. I was meeting a friend who was running late so I sat myself at the bar in front of a bartender who possessed every quality that gives blondes a bimbo image. She messed up the dinner order of a gentleman sitting next to me, and for the next 15 minutes (and probably longer but this was the extent of my time at the bar) she repeatedly kept asking the man in a cutesy voice, "Oh, please don't get mad at me! Are you mad? Oh, please don't be mad!" Now I will admit that this annoying bartender was hot, so in the true nature of the average male he kept saying it was okay, but I was about the smack her!

Shortly after another young guy walks in to pick-up his order to take home, and he is abruptly told that he has to wait another twenty minutes. On top of that when the customer exclaims his annoyance with this unexpected wait, the host rudely retorts that his order is only one out of "like seven take-out orders" they had. Not really the best way to respond to a customer, folks.

Meanwhile, I am observing all this in a restaurant that is two thirds empty on a Saturday night in Manhattan at 9pm with an atmosphere that leaves much to be desired.

Shortly after the host rudely asks me, "So, when is your friend getting here?" (mind you, there were plenty of tables so he was not trying to save me one--he was just being impatient for no good reason), Julia arrives and we are seated (well, actually we sat ourselves since no one was around). We finally receive our menus and begin the process of choosing our Creole dishes for the evening. I order the blackened catfish ($17) and Julia orders the chicken ettouffe ($16). My fish was dry and tasted a bit too fishy. It was blackened but with no unique or even flavorful seasonings. Julia's chicken ettouffe sauce is bland and lacks the correct consistency. She ends up scraping it off the chicken.

When the waiter asked if we wanted desert, we promptly responded, "No!" We then headed down the street to the W Hotel's swanky Olives bar and had a couple of martinis knowing that we would never have to go back to The French Quarter again.

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January 20, 2006

Poached Salmon with Artichoke Puree

This is one of my favorite recipes that I have created. It is super easy, quick to make, and healthy. Furthermore, this dish is great to make when you are entertaining because it does not take you away from your guests for very long and yet the final product looks and tastes quite impressive!

As with most my recipes, I came up with this one by wandering around my grocery store and eying the various foods I love. When I saw that the frozen food section had artichoke hearts--which I LOVE--I knew I had to make something with them. Since artichoke hearts have a strong flavor, I knew they needed to be paired with another strong flavor so that is how I decided to prepare it with salmon. However, because there are strong flavors involved I needed to keep the various tastes simple so that it was not overwhelming. That is why I only poach the salmon and add no flavors to it except lemon. I then wanted to add the tomatoes since they have such a nice mellow and refreshing taste. Finally, I added the asparagus because, frankly, I like their color and shape for the dish.

Here is what you need to make the dish (per serving):

Frozen artichoke hearts (9 oz.)
1 lemon
Olive oil
Salmon (about half a pound should be good)
Cherry or grape tomatoes (about 8)
Asparagus stalks (about 8)

And what you do:

  1. Place frozen artichokes in the microwave and cook as directed on the box (mostly likely, you will need to microwave the artichokes for 5-6 minutes in a microwavable bowl).
  2. As the artichokes are cooking, prepare the asparagus and tomatoes. Take a stalk of asparagus and hold both ends. Now bring the two ends together as if you are folding the asparagus in half. In this process the asparagus will snap such that you can throw out the bottom part where it is a bit tougher. Repeat this with the remaining stalks. For the tomatoes, cut each in half length ways.
  3. Place salmon in a pan and pour water into the pan until the water reaches half-way the height of the salmon. Place two thinly sliced lemon pieces into the water for flavor and turn stove to a medium to medium-high heat. Cook until salmon is cooked thoroughly and is firm to the touch (about 4-5 minutes on each side). (See picture.)
  4. Start cooking the asparagus by either grilling (as I did here), steaming, or lightly broiling.
  5. While salmon and asparagus are cooking, take cooked artichokes and place them into a food processor(1). Add olive oil (about 1/4 cup) and salt to taste. Also add the juice from half a lemon and about a teaspoon of the lemon's zest(2). Puree all ingredients together until the artichokes are nice and smooth.
  6. Spoon artichoke puree into a shallow bowl or plate. Take salmon and place it on top of the puree. Place the asparagus and tomato halves on top in a decorative fashion.


(1) Food Processor - I am obsessed with my food processor and can not imagine life in the kitchen with out it. So if you do not have one, I strongly recommend going out and getting one! They are expensive, but I find that the department stores put them on really great sales every now and then so just keep your eye for these awesome sales. As for this recipe, if you do not have a food processor I think you can still make a variation of the puree. I have not actually tried this, but I imagine after the artichokes are cooked, you can spread them out on a cutting board and run your knife through them until they are in small chunks. Then, as the recipes notes above, add the olive oil (about 1-2 tbsp), salt, lemon juice, and zest to taste and mix well.

(2) Lemon Zest - You will need a microplane (or other fine grater) to do this. If you do not have the proper utensil, no worries, just add some more lemon juice instead. When you do zest, only take the yellow part off of the lemon. The white part is bitter so you do not want that.

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January 16, 2006


I was raised in Alabama by a mother who—to put it lightly—is an avid “restaurant attendee.” She keeps a full size file cabinet where she files away all her restaurant articles in order by state. Then when she and my father take road trips, she pulls out all the files for the states they will be traveling through and the itinerary is determined based on what restaurants are along the way. My mother’s way of reminding me of childhood family trips is saying, “Oh, you know, the trip when you were 10 years old and we stopped at that cute little restaurant in Biloxi where you had the trout almandine, your father had the gumbo—which I didn’t think had enough seafood, and I ordered the jumbo shrimp that were as big as my fist?”

Having grown up in this environment, I developed a great appreciation for food. However, only in my adult years have I begun to actually try cooking myself. I moved to New York City out of college, and as many of you may know, the kitchens here leave much to be desired. Later I spent a year's hiatus in London where for the first time I had a real kitchen to work with. It was here that I began experimenting. Upon my return to New York, I became obsessed with cooking shows, and I must say that this obsession has taught me a lot about cooking!

For me this blog is a venue to share what I have learned along the way. It is also a venue for me to learn more as I explore the food world and share this exploration with you.