Fried Artichoke Hearts with Yogurt Dip

Seasoned to Taste - Fried Artichokes

I overheard a child say that he and his friend were going to get their sleds out and attempt to sled down a grassy hill in the rain. It was so sad. So desperate for the Christmas they see in every movie, they are willing to fall in the mud, pretending it’s snow.

I remember snow, with all its pretty detailing. I also remember the stress of going somewhere as simple as the grocery store. How stop signs and sharp turns gave me cold sweats. How it feels to scrape ice off your car with numb fingers for 15 minutes before work. How no pair of snow boots can grip the black ice between you and your car. How traveling home for the holidays means much fretting, waking early for flights that may or may not have snow delays and lots of Weather Channel obsessions. How everything smells wet and the air hurts.

So yeah, I miss making snow angels and feeling the soft flakes on my cheeks. But the adult me is happy with mild temps and the true Christmasy spirit alive with too many cookies in the oven, too many presents under the tree and too many holiday-scented candles flickering all over the house.

I think artichokes are more of a spring-summer vegetable, but aren’t the holidays about having exotic tropical treats in the dead of winter? Plus, artichokes are so expensive, who knows the difference? I want them in the winter, when they are warm and tender and dipped into something creamy or lemony. I watched Ina Garten’s friend Mr. Zabar make these on TV and thought – surely regular artichokes are the same as baby artichokes, but with longer cooking times? Afraid not. BUT I made it work, friends.

I don’t deep-fry many things, but these called for deep-frying in olive oil, which I found too strange to resist. Wouldn’t it smoke up and overcook everything? What I found is this – it works, if watched carefully. Also, cutting artichoke hearts down to their most tender leaves and then frying them gives you crispy leaves with tender ends to dip in sauce, and soft, fragrant hearts to eat any way.

These were rich, which seems perfect for the holidays. I mixed together a quick yogurt dip, too, with lots of fresh herbs to cool and lighten things a bit.

Adapted from Food Network.

Fried Artichoke Hearts

Ingredients:

  • 3 artichokes
  • Olive oil
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Remove and discard the artichoke stems. Peel off lower leaves until you get to the tender center. Slice off the top half so that only the light green remains, then cut the artichoke in half lengthwise and remove the fuzzy part and the spiky purple petals. Cut halves in half again, so you have quarters.

Place the artichokes in a medium pot, flat side down, and add olive oil to just cover. Add the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring the olive oil to a boil, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a low flame and simmer for 15 minutes. Insert a knife into the lower half and if easily penetrated, it’s done.

Remove the thyme and garlic from the pot, raise the heat and fry uncovered for approximately 2 minutes, turning over the artichokes midway. They are done when brown and crispy. Remove the artichokes from the pot and place them on paper towels flat side down. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Seasoned to Taste - Fried Artichokes

Yogurt Dip

Mix together 1 c. Greek yogurt, 6 T mayo, and your preference of chopped fresh thyme, sage and rosemary. Add garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into serving bow.

Seasoned to Taste - Fried Artichokes

The artichokes were not easy or ladylike to eat, but it was kind of fun. Best to grab on piece, peel off the leaves for dipping then scraping with your teeth, and finish with the heart.

I would serve this at a party, easily, or as a nice snack during a football game.

Seasoned to Taste - Fried Artichokes

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Spinach and Feta Puffs

Seasoned to Taste - Spinach and Feta Puffs

Sometimes it seems all we eat during the month of December is in appetizer form. So many parties, potlucks, gatherings and get-togethers, all of which constitute a meal made in bite-sized portions.

I’ve been looking beyond my typical pesto palmiers recipe lately, but haven’t given up my appetizer stand-by: puff pastry. So I tried an idea from Bon Appetit that combines my love of spanikopita with my annoyance of phyllo dough. Solution: wrap up those Mediterranean flavors in puff pastry instead.

I made these for a neighborhood party, where they were gobbled up quickly, and I will be making them for our annual family Christmas party as well.

A great snack that you can eat with one hand but is more substantial than chips-and-dip.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Spinach and Feta Puffs

Ingredients, serves 6: (note, I doubled this)

  • 1 ten-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well (squeeze dry)
  • 1/2 c. crumbled feta
  • 1/4 c. minced onion
  • 1 T EVOO
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and cracked pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

Preheat oven to 400.

Mix spinach and next 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg and fold egg into spinach mixture.

Roll puff pastry out to a 12-inch square and cut into three strips, then cut those strips in thirds for a total of 9 small squares. Place each square in muffin tin cup, leaving corners pointing up. Divide filling among cups, roughly 1 heaping Tablespoon per cup ( you don’t want too much). Fold dough tips over and pinch together. (Note: next time I will use cooking spray to make them easier to get out)

Seasoned to Taste - Spinach and Feta Puffs

Beat remaining egg and brush over pastry. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper.

Seasoned to Taste - Spinach and Feta Puffs

Bake until pastry is golden and puffed, about 25 min. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Use sharp paring knife to loosen puffs and cool to desired temperature on wire rack.

Seasoned to Taste - Spinach and Feta Puffs

There you go! I have made these ahead and then just nuked them before the party so they are still a little warm. The filling is also easy to make in advance.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Thanksgiving for Two


The measure of my success on Thanksgiving Day is how many times I have to call my mom (if she’s not physically with me). This year was one of the maybe two or three times I’ve cooked Thanksgiving away from home and away from that maternal safety net, where fears of undercooked birds and dried-out dressings are calmed.

This year, I only called her three or four times. Which is a success! That is between my first-ever attempt at making Parker House Rolls (recipe to come), gravy issues and an organic turkey that came out of its 8-hour brine a strange purple-blueish color:

Have you ever noticed color differences with organic turkeys?

I switched from Whole Foods to Costco this year and probably saved $5-$10 on an 11-pound organic bird. My Costco didn’t let me down! Mom helped me figure out that the strange not-yellow/white/pink bird was probably closer to what a real turkey should look like before it’s pumped full of hormones and processed. I would highly recommend Costco as I’ll be getting my birds there indefinitely!

I took a chance on a new turkey recipe this year, since it was just Grant and me and we didn’t have kids/other people to impress. Bon Appetit had an article about neo-traditionalist turkeys, basted with a soy/mirin butter sauce. The cover photo was so beautiful that I just had to try it and thank goodness I did – this may be my go-to turkey recipe from now on.

The turkey comes out such a deep golden amber – almost mahogany – and the well-seasoned meat and drippings make for some excellent gravy!

A few turkey rules that I always follow, before we get to the recipe:

  1. Smaller is better – once you get above 16 lbs they are impossible to cook evenly (according to many reputable sources, including my taste buds).
  2. Brine – I just did 2 c. salt dissolved into 2 gallons of water – brined for 8 hours (Cook’s Illustrated warns not to do it more than 4 hours due to over-salting).
  3. Dry overnight – Once out of the brine, I pat the turkey dry, put it in its roasting pan and into the fridge overnight – this dries out the skin so it roasts nice and crispy.

Adapted from Bon Appetit…I probably should have made and blogged about this weeks ago, like all the professional bloggers. But I am a humble at-home cook with no time or patience for doing Thanksgiving early or – gulp – twice!

The Neo-Traditionalist Roast Turkey

Ingredients:

  • 1 10-14-pound turkey, giblets and neck removed, brined and fridge-dried overnight, then left at room temp for 1 hour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce (I used regular – oops!)
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 3 sprigs rosemary

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 450°. Set a rack inside a large roasting pan. Pour 4 cups water into pan (note: I used chicken broth!). Tuck tips of wings under bird. If turkey is not brined, rub bird inside and out with 3 T kosher salt. Season inside and out with pepper and place on rack in pan. Place onion and celery in cavity. Rub 3 tablespoons butter over turkey. Roast turkey, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, stir remaining 3 tablespoons butter, soy sauce, and mirin  in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth. Add rosemary. Cover; keep glaze warm over lowest heat (not simmering).
  • Reduce oven to 325°. Baste turkey with pan juices; add more water or stock if needed to maintain at least 1/4-inch liquid in pan (I probably used 6 c. of stock total). Roast for 30 minutes; baste with pan juices. Brush lightly with glaze.
  • Continue roasting turkey, basting with pan juices and brushing with glaze every 30 minutes, and tenting with foil if turning too dark, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 165° (juices should run clear when thermometer is removed), about 2 3/4 hours total. (Note: I couldn’t get mine above 155 degrees, after 3 1/2 hours, so I took it out and it was fine. The juices were running clear).

Let stand at room temperature under foil tent at least 30 min, or until ready to carve.

Meanwhile, I heated up/finished all my sides, made a quick gravy and dressed up the turkey for its head shot. I usually just throw whatever herbs I have left over onto the plate. But if I were home, I would have been fancy with some berries or something.

Proof that my eyes are bigger than my stomach…I ate half of this:

Hope you all had safe and successful Turkey Days – I probably have two more days’ worth of leftovers to go – not bad.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones

And just like that, Thanksgiving is here. The bad news is that I can’t seem to hold on to the days that slip further and further into early sunsets; the good news is that I am in full nesting mode, which means lots more baking projects and – of course –  Christmas music! Christmas and early Pearl Jam/STP, randomly. I just need to find the right Pandora station that combines both. Purchasing the yearly no-commercials deal was the best thing I’ve done this year.

I’ve posted before about how much I love the combination of pears and dark chocolate. And when you fold this love into a scone, you get the moist chunks of pear with the crunchy richness of chocolate all in a buttery cakey thing.

Scones are fun because they require little work as far as breakfast pastries go. Just mix everything, pat it into a disk and cut out the pieces. Bake, nibble, smile.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen…I sometimes find problems with her recipes, just like in my own, so I changed a few things here and there. The big thing was making smaller scones so the recipe went further (than just 6 scones).

Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones

Ingredients:

  • 3 firm pears (about 1 pound – I used Bartlett)
  • 1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated or coarse for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt plus additional for egg wash
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (3 ounces or 85 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or chips)
  • 2 large eggs, 1 for dough, 1 for glaze

Heat oven to 375°F. Peel and core pears. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange pear chunks on parchment and roast until they feel dry to the touch and look a little browned in spots, 20-30 minutes. Slide parchment paper with pear chunks onto a cooling rack (or into fridge) and cool to lukewarm. Leave oven on. Line baking sheet with another piece of parchment.

Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Toss in cooled pear chunks, bits of butter, heavy cream and 1 egg (Note: Next time I will cut in the butter first, after the dry ingredients, as the chunks don’t incorporate evenly when added with the pear. Once you work in the butter, add the pear and everything else). With the paddle attachment, mix the dough on low speed until it just comes together. Don’t overmix. Add the chocolate chunks and mix for 5 seconds more. It will look lumpy and messy.

On a very well floured counter, pat out dough into a 6-inch round. Cut into wedges (6-8) and transfer to baking sheet at least two inches apart. Whisk remaining egg in a small dish with 1 teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt. Brush each scone with egg wash and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar.

Bake scones until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Perfect with your morning coffee. Store in air-tight container at room temperature. They’ll taste good for 3 days or so.

Enjoy, friends!

Crock Pot Beef with Broccoli

I love Crock Pot days because the aromas wrap around you like a blanket as soon as you enter the house. The perfect welcome from cold nights and long days at work.

Asian flavors are my secret to creating interesting dishes with the Crock Pot. Otherwise, the typical pot roast or beef stews just get a little old. But soy! Sugar! Sesame oil? Now you have something different.

This slow-cooker version of the classic cheap Chinese dish recreates the thick, dark gravy but doesn’t give you the chewy texture you get from beef strips stir-fried with broccoli. Instead, the beef is fork tender and full of hours worth of flavor.  Warm and satisfying from your nose to your toes.

I ended up cooking the broccoli separately and serving it over the rice, but the recipe has you cook it with the beef. I simply didn’t get home in time for this step.

Crock Pot Beef with Broccoli

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 lb. boneless beef chuck roast, sliced into thick strips
  • 1 c. beef stock
  • 1/2 c. soy sauce
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 2 heads worth of broccoli florets
  • Cooked rice (I used brown rice)

Place beef in Crock Pot.

Combine in small bowl the stock, soy sauce, brown sugar, oil and garlic. Pour over beef. Cover and cook on low, 6-8 hours.

In a cup, combine cornstarch with 2 T cooking liquid until smooth. Pour over beef and stir to combine. Add broccoli, cover and cook on high an additional 20-30 min. or until broccoli is cooked.

Serve over hot rice.

I topped mine with chopped scallions for an extra bite – highly recommend it. And a few sprinklings of sesame seeds.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Turkey Fried Rice with Potato Chips

When you see a recipe that includes potato chips as a garnish, you don’t have a choice. You make it. And I don’t even like potato chips.

There is, however, something trendy about using junk food in gourmet or (like mine) normal weeknight meals. This trend continues on shows like Top Chef and inside the doors of Momofuku Milk Bar.

Here, the potato chips add two key elements: crunch and salt. Sprinkled on top of your lean meat mixed with rice and seasonings – egg to hold it together, green onions for color – it’s a nice first flavor as you bite down. Honestly, it doesn’t dramatically change the dish, but it’s fun. And you better bet your kids will try this if they see potato chips are involved.

Adapted from a former Top Chef himself, Angelo Sosa…

Turkey Fried Rice with Potato Chips

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 3 T canola oil
  • 2 T minched fresh ginger
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 T minced lemongrass bulb
  • 4 oz. ground turkey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 C. cold cooked rice (I used brown rice)
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1 T toasted sesame oil
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 c. chopped mint
  • 1/2 c. plain potato chips, crushed
  • Sriracha hot sauce, for serving

Heat large saute pan or wok until very hot. Add oil, ginger, garlic and lemongrass and saute 1 min. Add turkey and salt and stir-fry until turkey is just cooked through, about 3 min.

Push turkey to side and add eggs, cooking until just set. Add rice and stir-fry until heated through, 3 min. Add soy sauce and stir until absorbed, about 2 min. Stir in sesame oil and transfer fried rice to bowls.

Top with green onions, mint, crushed potato chips and Sriracha to taste.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Easy Tomato Soup with Gruyere Grilled Cheese

Seasoned to Taste - Easy Tomato Soup with Gruyere Grilled Cheese

It has finally started smelling like fall. Damp leaves replaces humid heat rising from asphalt, hearty rosemary and sage replaces the floral basil and mint. Cold, achy darkness replaces sunny mornings.

And so you make soup. Because you need to smell onion caramelizing in oil, see steam rising from a bowl and taste something smoothing going down the ol’ pipe.

Most people grow up with Campbell’s tomato soup along with Goldfish crackers, Saltines or Kraft grilled cheese sandwiches. I wouldn’t allow tomato soup to touch my lips until a few years ago, and only if copious amounts of basil and cream were added. And only because children forced me too. Mom always said kids bring karma full circle.

I found a super simple, but excellent and satisfying tomato soup recipe in the recent Food Network magazine, which I adapted to my liking. Adding tomato paste really deepens the flavor, and using crushed tomatoes omits the need for a blender – unless you have an immersion blender and then I am jealous!

With it, I made Gruyere grilled cheese sandwiches – bread slathered with melted butter, then Dijon mustard, Gruyere cheese and a crack of pepper. Press on hot surface of your choice.

Easy Tomato Soup

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  • 3 T EVOO
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 c. good chicken stock or broth
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (splurge on San Marzano, please) – even the herbed kind are good
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream

In Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium, then add onions. Cook 15 min., stirring, until golden brown. Add garlic and cook 1 min. more. Stir in tomato paste, stock, tomatoes 1 T salt and 1 tsp pepper. Bring soup to boil, then reduce to simmer 15 min. Stir in cream and cook another 10 min.

Meanwhile, make up your favorite type of grilled cheese. You can even cut them into bits and use them like croutons. I went classic:

Seasoned to Taste - Easy Tomato Soup with Gruyere Grilled Cheese

Surprising how much flavor the soup had, when I was used to the canned variety.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Eating and Instagramming

Where have I been? Out and about and certainly not home behind a computer screen, uploading and editing photos and entries to post here. But because I want to be back in the swing my little food diary, this post is dedicated to ways I’ve been enjoying food and life … through the eyes of Instagram.

A quite moment before book club – street seating at Camino Bakery with a glass of red wine and a thick slice of Tomato Pie (and Jess Walter’s new amazing book!).

Seasoned to Taste - Camino Bakery

A trip to the beach, where the fresh mussels inspired this wine-steamed bowl of goodness (garlic, onion, pepper flakes and parsley included).

Seasoned to Taste - Steamed Mussels

Company over for dinner, and I made this roast chicken…with bacon on top. Then I tossed the bacon in a simple salad. I don’t think the chicken tasted different, but the bacon sure was better!

Seasoned to Taste - Roast Chicken with Bacon

An old college friend whom I haven’t seen in six or seven years was in town, and we dined on fried green tomatoes at The Fourth Street Filling Station.

Seasoned to Taste - Fried Green Tomatoes

Beef short ribs in the Crock Pot…

Seasoned to Taste - Beef Short Ribs

Shrimp wrapped with sage, capicola, and served on a salad with fresh mozzarella.

Seasoned to Taste - Sage Shrimp with Capicola

Honey. Artisan honey. It’s so beautiful in the window.

Seasoned to Taste - Artisan Honey

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Falafel Burgers

I always feel the need to pat myself on the back when I make a “fake-out” meal. You know what I mean – these are all over Pinterest – meals that substitute super foods, grains, veggies where normally high-fat meats or empty carbs once were. It’s one thing to put applesauce in your cake recipe and another to create a satisfying meal that doesn’t make you miss your high fat/empty carb ways. Not that I have anything against those things, obviously…

I’m talking about a chickpea burger. I never order the veggie burgers in restaurants, but in college I went on a Bocca burger kick and quite liked them. So here I am, not in college, not eating a frozen veggie burger every night, but still wanting something healthy-burgeresque.

A recipe in my Fine Cooking magazine looked tasty – more like a grilled falafel instead of a fried falafel. So I made it one night and just loved it – also great as leftovers taken to work.

The only thing I would change is to make a cold creamy tzaziki sauce instead of the tahini sauce, which I found to clash with the burgers. We ended up not using the tahini sauce and instead adding some sour cream on top of our burgers, which was nice and cold, mixing well with the hot burgers and hot sauce shaken over the top.

Falafel Burgers

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1/4 c. EVOO
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 8 Pita pockets
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 5 T tahini, divided
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 large egg
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 T chopped parsley
  • 2 T chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cucumber, seeded, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • Hot sauce, to taste

Heat oil, garlic and cumin in small saucepan until garlic is soft, about 3 min. Set aside.

Tear up 2 pitas and toast until lightly browned. Grind in food processor until fine crumbs form. Dump out and set aside.

In food processor, puree 1 can garbanzo beans and oil mixture, 2 T tahini, 1 T lemon juice, egg and 3/4 tsp salt until smooth. Add remaining garbanzo beans and pita crumbs, parsley and cilantro. Pulse until beans are coarsely chopped and mixture is well blended. Shape into patties and grill, covered, until heated through (this can be done in frying pan, too), 2-3 min. per side. I used a stove top grill pan.

Put remaining tahini in small bowl and whisk in 2 T water and 3 T lemon juice – it will thicken before it thins. This will be your sauce, should you want it.

To serve, heat pita halves until soft and fill with burgers, tomato and cucumber. Add tahini sauce and hot sauce to taste.

Do you like my fancy tahini swish I presented? Basically a food stylist, y’all.

Yum – the burgers are warm, the cumin is warm, the garlic and Texas Pete’s are hot, the tomatoes are cold and the cucumbers are crunchy. A nice combination – I’d like to call this a whole meal in a pocket. Maybe serve with a couscous or tabbouleh salad – or not!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Heirloom Tomatoes with Feta

I have an inkling that the more global and connected our lives get through technology and new communications platforms, the more valuable hyper-local experiences are becoming.

There’s nothing quite like the sensation of browsing your neighborhood farmers’ market on a Saturday, where you run into friends, colleagues and artisans who know you by name. And yes, I mean “neighborhood farmers’ market,” because it seems I’m discovering new markets every year – we have, what, five in my city?

On my recent visit to the Old Salem Cobblestone market, I picked up a bunch of colorful tomatoes that I wanted to eat immediately. They had those green striped “zebra” tomatoes, your classic red heirloom and a pretty yellow variety called Lillian, like my sister!

Once I picked out my basket-full, I hurried over to the goat cheese stand and almost had to fight a woman to get the last 5 ounces of feta goat cheese. But I won! And I don’t feel bad.

What came later was a delicious lunch for two that would also serve well as a summer appetizer – I’m calling it a twist on my typical tomato/basil/mozzarella salad.

Heirloom Tomatoes with Feta

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 large tomatoes, or equivalent smaller
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 5 oz. feta
  • Sliced baguette
  • 1 garlic clove
  • EVOO
  • S&P to taste

Preheat broiler. Place enough bread slices for two people on baking sheet and drizzle with EVOO, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until lightly toasted, then rub toasted sides with raw garlic. Place on platter.

Meanwhile, thickly slice your feta and tomatoes.

Place tomato and feta slices equally on bread, then scatter platter with basil leaves. Sprinkle with cracked pepper (you probably won’t need more salt if the feta is super salty). This was an excuse to use a beautiful new platter we got as a wedding gift.

Now, all you have to do is enjoy! The bread soaks up all the tomato juices and the feta adds a seasoning all its own. Eat with your hands.

So fresh, so simple, so yummy.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo