Pots and Frills

Friday, April 11, 2014

Roman Artchichokes--Best in the World

When I ask myself what the culinary hallmarks of Rome would be, two vegetables always come to my mind: agretti and artichokes. Agretti, a unique sour vegetable similar in its look to seaweed and in taste to sorrel, is not much known even outside Rome and not available in my part of the US. Artichokes fortunately are available almost all year round so, today, I would like to talk about a Roman artichokes dish.

I have been experimenting with artichokes for quite some time and have been more or less successful with different recipes. But only once I ate Roman artichokes I fully understood their wonderful taste and fell in love with them forever. They became my favorite artichokes dish.

First, I tried famous Jewish artichokes in the Roman Ghetto's highly recommended restaurant Da Giggetto. Fried artichokes were delicious and a lot of fun, as I had to find my way of eating them , sucking on partially fried, partially soft leaves.

Second time I had Roman artichokes, my host, my friend's Mom, prepared them for me, showing me each step of the process. She bought these artichokes at her local market where a vendor had already prepared them for her. Cooking the peeled artichokes was much easier and faster and the result delicious.

Since I buy my artichokes locally such a service is not available so I end up always with dark stained fingers and a mountain of debris. I already tried probably all the artichokes from each local store that sells them and found that those from Trade Joe's are the best. I am waiting now to try them from my local farmers market.

The idea of Roman artichokes dish is very simple. Artichokes are stuffed with garlic and parsley, which often is paired with this vegetable, and steamed in water and oil. They come out delicate, almost buttery, and if prepared properly, edible and delicious from the stem to the leaves. Ever since my recent visit in Rome I have made artichoke quite often and I believe that by now I have mastered this dish. All I need to make this dish as perfect as it was in Rome, is a glass of white wine from Lazio.

Roman Artichokes
(Serves four)

4 fresh globe artichokes,
one lemon,
4 garlic cloves,
2 tbsp chopped flat leaves parsley,
1/4 cup olive oil,
1/4 cup water,
salt to taste.

1. Remove outer leaves from artichokes until you get to the very green, fresh, and soft layer. Cut from the top of the artichoke about one third-half of the leaves.

2. Using a vegetable peeler peel off the stem and artichoke base. While preparing the next artichokes, put the ready one in a bowl of cold water with lemon juice from half of lemon to prevent discoloration.

3. When all the artichokes are prepared, drain them from water. Gently open leaves of artichokes and first put first a clove of garlic in each of them, then push about half a tbsp of chopped parsley.

4. In a heavy duty pot, tall enough to accommodate artichokes, put 1/4 cup of olive oil and water. Place artichokes head down and cover with a lid.

5. Heat the pot until oil and water start to sizzle. Turn down the heat to low medium and let the artichokes cook for about 30 minutes. Do not open the lid. After 30 minutes try with the fork if water evaporated and artichokes are soft. If not add a bit of water and let simmer for another couple of minutes. If they are ready, cover and let fry slightly for about 3 minutes.

6. Salt the artichokes before serving. Serve with lemon wedges.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Kale and Cilantro Pancakes--Breakfast Afghan Way

Last time I shared a recipe for my son's favorite American breakfast. Today, I offer you a breakfast meal from a different culinary tradition. This is another recipe I learned thanks to my Afghan friend.

These pancakes may seem a little bit spicy or fulfilling for a first meal of the day but if you look at the ingredients it turns out that they add up to a very healthy meal. And if you think that kale has been proclaimed by some the most healthy vegetable, it may sound even more interesting to those who look for another kale recipe. Kale is also often used to make a green juice--one of the latest dieting fads.

Kale pancakes are based on eggs but they cover a long list of vitamins. Cilantro delivers mostly a significant amount of vitamins C, K, A, and beta carotene, while kale, in addition, is also rich in calcium, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and iron. There is also turmeric added which has been another healthy and fashionable spice, widely recognized for its anti-inflammatory properties.

I tried kale pancakes for brunch at my friend's house a few weeks ago. They made a great meal, especially when followed by date cookies and green tea flavored with cardamon. Ever since I got this recipe I have been making these pancakes pretty often. It is a breakfast or brunch meal, but I like them also for lunch while my kids enjoy them even for dinner or as an evening snack. If I have leftovers I freeze them and use later.

Afghan Kale and Cilantro Pancakes
(Makes about 20 pancakes)

6 organic eggs,
3 tbsp all purpose flour,
one medium onion,
1/2 bunch fresh coriander leaves,
2 medium kale leaves,
2 jalapeno peppers (optional),
1 tsp ground turmeric,
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds,
salt and black pepper for frying,
vegetable oil for frying.

1. In a large bowl beat eggs with flour until it is smooth. Add turmeric and coriander seeds.
2. Chop onion and jalapeno and add to the batter.
3. Chop the coriander leaves. Cut out only the leaf parts of the kale, discard the stems, and chop the leaves. Add both greens to the batter.
4. Season everything with salt and pepper.
5. Heat 2 tbsp of oil on a heavy duty frying pan. Put 1/4 cup of a eggs mixture on the hot oil. Fry on a medium heat until gold. Turn and fry on the other side. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

6. Dry pancakes on a paper towel from the extra oil. Serve warm.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Buttermilk Pancakes--American Breakfast

Buttermilk pancakes accompanied by a glass of milk are my younger son's favorite breakfast meal or an evening snack. I usually make a shortcut and buy organic pancakes which we preheat, whenever needed in a toaster. Then on the still warm pancakes he spreads a little bit of his favorite President salted butter and cream cheese on top, and he enjoys them deeply.

To honor his love for pancakes I decided to make them from scratch at home. I had an old recipe that I have always wanted to try. Surprisingly, the recipe worked from the first time. It was easy and pancakes turned out perfect. The only change I made after the first batch was to fry them on an almost dry pan since melted butter is already added to the batter. This way they became even lighter and more fluffy. In no time a whole plate of delicate pancakes was ready.

When I was making these pictures, I convinced my son to try my pancakes in a truly American way: with maple syrup, which was good idea in any event, because my pancakes are barely sweet. My other son enjoy them with his favorite Nutella spread. After the pancake feast I froze the rest and put them in a freezer for the upcoming week.

Buttermilk Pancakes
(Makes about 24 pancakes)

1 and 1/2 cup low fat buttermilk,
2 medium eggs, preferably organic,
1 cup sifted all purpose flour,
1 tbsp sugar,
1 tsp baking powder,
1/2 tsp baking soda,
1/2 tsp salt,
2 tbsp melted, unsalted butter,
1 tbsp vegetable oil for frying,

1. In a large bowl using a hand whisker gently whisk eggs. Add yogurt and melted butter.
2. In a smaller bowl mix flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Incorporate dry ingredients into buttermilk mixture and mix well using a hand whisker.
3. Preheat a large frying pan. Using a brush gently spread the oil on the bottom. Place about 1/8 cup of batter for each pancakes leaving fairly large space between, as they will expand.

4. Fry on the medium high heat until pancakes are dark gold. Turn them on the side and fry again until done.

4. Transfer pancakes to a plate, drizzle with maple or fruit syrup or any topping you like and serve.