eat in my kitchen

To cook, to bake, to eat and to treat.

Tag: artichoke

Meet In Your Kitchen | Cécile Molinié’s Life and Cooking in Paris

Cécile Monilié

You only need to walk along the Boulevard Saint-Germain on a sunny afternoon to understand Paris. You’ll promise yourself that you’ll come back – for the rest of your life. Once you’ve seen this city, a piece of you will stay there forever. Just walk and gaze up at the facades of the elegant sandstone buildings of the 19th century Haussmann era, dotted with white wooden shutters. Or sit in a café, get comfy on a colorful French wicker chair at a marbled bistro table, a glass of crisp white wine in front of you, order a Galette, crêpe, or escargot, and look at the chic people around you scurrying on the cobblestones. The trottoir is a stage in Paris, and the bistro is the place to watch it from.

We could have just stayed in Paris, visited renowned restaurants and celebrated chefs in their praised kitchens and we would have never had to leave this inspiring city, but when we decided to include France in our culinary trips around the world together with Zwilling, I had to think of the whole picture that the country paints. France, to me, is the trinity of Paris, the countryside, and the sea. It’s the capital’s seductive charm, its haute cuisine, food temples that attract gourmets from all over the world to enjoy the pleasures of French tradition, to create the best food with the most refined techniques and ingredients. It’s a city that rouses and satisfies your appetite, you’ll never get enough of it.

Then there’s the countryside and its more rural cooking, frugal, hearty, and meaty, all those wonderful delicacies coming from the soil and the woods, and also the home of French wine. And which region would be better to learn about the country’s famous wines and winemakers than the picturesque Médoc. There are so many fantastic French reds and whites and there’s a compelling mystique about the vineyards covering the slopes around the city of Bordeaux.

To make the trilogy complete, we have to look at the sea. All those oysters and clams, fresh fish and lobster, these treats that are often served raw or so pure that you can still taste their salty freshness. It’s always better to go to the fruits from the sea than letting them come to you, so we packed our bags and went to Cap Ferret. It’s a long peninsula stretching into the rough and cold Bay of Biscay, where the beaches are long and lonely, the people are kind and welcoming, and you can eat the best oysters of your life straight from the banks, all day long.

So we started our trip in Paris and Cécile Molinié’s kitchen was the first place we visited for a new series of Meet In Your Kitchen features in France.

Cécile Monilié

Four children and a cat called Cookie are enviably lucky to call Cécile Molinié their maman. Her Paris kitchen is the cozy heart of the big family’s beautiful home close to the Jardin du Luxembourg, in the capital’s vivid Quartier Latin. The room is bigger than normal city kitchens and opens onto a spacious, green terrace. It’s filled with lots of light, life, and laughter, while delicious food spread out on the large island and table is a tempting invitation to come together and indulge in maman‘s creations. It’s a family kitchen where the six Parisians, Cécile, her husband, and their kids, meet to share their day, to cook together, and turn their daily meals into little feasts.

Cécile is an excellent cook, her grandmothers passed their passion on to her and this heritage found fruitful ground in the young woman, she’s been fascinated by the excitements of the culinary world since she was a little girl. At the age of 16, Cécile already prepared the meals for dinner parties of 20 guests at her parents’ home. The house was always open to friends, her mother loved to entertain, but didn’t feel inspired by the kitchen herself. So Cécile gladly took over those duties and became more and more skilled as a cook, she refined her taste and became impressively precise through experience and practice. Tender Boeuf Bourguignon, Blanquette de Veau, or petite Madeleines are staples in her repertoire, she loves the famous French classics and curiously dives into the country’s different regional cuisines.

Cécile Monilié

Southern France inspired her to create a recipe for sea bass bedded on sugary-sweet roasted tomatoes. She finishes off the summery composition with lemon slices grilled in the oven until the edges are crisp and golden, it’s a colorful firework of flavors and textures. How could I disagree when she offered to cook this dish together with me in her kitchen? I’ve been waiting impatiently for the day to come to finally meet her, in the kitchen that I knew from her famous Instagram account where she shares visual bites from her life. The pictures are stunning, she’s just as talented behind the camera as she is at the cooker. You can feel her love for her city, so much so that you want to stroll along the Seine, the bistros and boulevards together with her. When she visits her second home just outside Paris and posts episodes from her country life, you seriously wish you could move in with the whole family.

So we finally met in Paris, but before we pulled the pots and pans out of the cupboards in her kitchen to cook, we went to the beautiful market on Rue Mouffetard in the 5ème arrondissement. The shops and stalls of the daily farmers’ market gathered on this street make you want to pack your bags and make Paris your home. We filled our shopping baskets with wonderfully milky Sainte-Maure de Touraine, ripe Saint-Nectaire from Auvergne, and the creamiest SaintMarcellin from Fromagerie Véron. The beauty of the presentation at the fishmonger took my breath away. Quality and freshness are unbeatable, wherever you look. Gills and eyes clear and shiny, crabs are still alive, bulots (sea snails) freshly cooked, and the oysters in the wooden baskets taste salty-cold like the sea. Cécile’s butcher is right next door, you can smell the golden poulet rôti rotating on metal skewers all along the cobblestone street, their hot juices dripping onto the potato wedges perfectly placed at the bottom of the grill. Packed with warm baguettes from the boulangerie under our arms, the baskets overflowing with all these delicacies, we went back to Cécile’s kitchen and started cooking.

In the next months, I’ll share many Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Cécile Monilié

Sea Bass with Candied Tomatoes and Roasted Artichokes and Potatoes

By Cécile Molinié

 Serves 4-6

For the sea bass

1kg / 2 ¼ pounds cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Fine sea salt
Ground black pepper
2 organic lemons, very thinly sliced
2 large sea bass fillets
A few young sprigs fresh thyme

For the side dish

4-6 baby artichokes, trimmed
1 lemon
1kg / 2 ¼ pounds little potatoes (preferably a sweet variety), rinsed and scrubbed
Olive oil
Fine sea salt
Ground black pepper

Preheat the oven 170°C / 350°F.

Spread the cherry tomatoes in a large baking dish, add a splash of olive oil, salt, and pepper, mix, and roast for 1 hour or until soft and candied.

While the tomatoes are in the oven, spread the lemon slices in a large baking dish, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and bake them, with the tomatoes, for 30 minutes or until they soften.

For the side dish, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the juice of 1 lemon and the artichokes, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain, rinse quickly with cold water, and set aside.

Cook the potatoes in a medium pot of salted water for about 15-20 minutes or until almost soft; drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F.

When the tomatoes are done, arrange the sea bass on top of them, season with salt and pepper, and cover with the roasted lemon slices. Roast for about 10-15 minutes or until the fish fillets are done, you should be able to flake the fish with a fork. Mind that you don’t overcook it. Sprinkle with the thyme.

While the fish is in the oven, heat a splash of olive oil in a large heavy pan and sauté the potatoes and artichokes over medium heat, stirring once in a while, for about 15 minutes or until golden and crispy. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately when the fish is done.

Cécile Monilié

What brought you to Paris? 

I came here because of university. My younger sister was admitted to a very good post-baccalaureate school, Henri IV, here in this neighbourhood. As I was the eldest one and I was good with managing a home and cooking, my mother wanted us to go together. So I was admitted to the prestigious law school here, and then…I never left!

Did you fall in love with the city immediately?

Paris? No, because I was the country girl, and there was all this noise….The year we arrived, there was a big strike during the winter and all the cars were stuck and it was a big mess…

So, you didn’t have an easy start?

No, but we could go back to the country every weekend. At the university, I didn’t know anyone – there were 1000 students! And I was the little girl from the country inside the big city…

Were you always interested in photography?

Yes, yes. I remember that when I was a child, I won a little camera because I did a drawing contest, and then when I was 16, my dad gave my sister and I a nice Canon camera – I remember! An old one, you know an analogique (analog).

How did you get into cooking? 

I love to cook. My mother is more an intellectual woman than a….

…a kitchen woman?

Yes! So, I had an interest in cooking – I don’t know why – and I took over the kitchen at a very young age. She let me do whatever I wanted so I tried new recipes, I made notebooks, and as my parents had lots of friends coming from all over the world – they were very welcoming – I used to cook a lot!

So you cooked for the family and for friends! For how many people?

I don’t know! But when I was 16, I could cook big meals and it was great because you have some meals where you need to be in the kitchen and do things at the last moment, so my mother was with the friends and I was cooking!

What’s your favourite dish cooked by your grandmother or one of your grandmothers?

My father’s mother used to make a very good blanquette de veau, a very good one. My mother’s mother, she’s from the southwest of France, so it’s more about zucchini, eggplants, and tomatoes, more Mediterranean – and she cooks very well, too. In my husband’s family, it’s not as we call in France plats en sauce, you know all these stews. It’s more about very good produce, cooked well.

Does your husband love to cook too?

He cooks rarely, but when he does it’s a very elaborate meal. We are great fans of Alain Passard, the chef of the Arpège. I used to be invited to his restaurant when I was a student by a friend. We go there for very special occasions, so my husband has his book and sometimes he cooks from this book. He cooks very creatively and elaborately, but not that often.

So, he’s more the weekend chef?

I would say, once a year!

So, once a year he’s the weekend chef but then he’s fantastic!

Yes, exactly! I think it’s what men do: amazing things, but not that often for food…

Where do you find your inspiration for your recipes?

At the market first because you see the food and you think “ah, I want to do that or this” and then cookbooks. I think I love cookbooks! I love to read them, I like to see the pictures, but I’m not good at following the recipes exactly.

But that’s not important! I think cookbooks are…

…a great inspiration. I still have one from when I was a very young woman and I still look at it, because the recipes are all good. Really, the inspiration comes from the market or from other people. At the market this morning, I spoke to a guy who was telling me what he was going to cook for his parents for lunch – you take ideas from everywhere! And some blogs too, but you need to have time to read them – sometimes it’s easier to have a book.

Do you prefer to cook when you’re here in Paris or in the countryside?

In the countryside, it’s usually the weekend so we have more time. And maybe you think I’m picky but I prefer to cook with gas rather than with induction.

What does healthy food mean for you?

Healthy means first of all cooked with good produce. I want my kids to have veggies and fruits every day. They are picky eaters, I must confess! I try to have them eat fresh fruit and veggies – it can be compote, it can be soups, it can be raw – healthy, for me, is when you have all the nutrients that you need in the food.And homemade, mostly homemade. I rarely buy frozen food. Some frozen pizzas just for when I have no other plan, but I prefer to cook eggs and potatoes instead.

What is your greatest kitchen hack?

When I bake cakes, I use the baking paper. In France, it’s not that automatic to do that.

So, you can’t live without baking paper?

No! And then I always have some veggies to roast. You know, I am very organized, so sometimes I start to cook in the morning – even at 7am, when the kids are just waking up. I always roast some cherry tomatoes, zucchini… And when it’s winter, pumpkin – that kind of thing. I always like to have something roasted.

So being organized in the kitchen is one of your greatest tips?

Yes, when you work and you have a lot of kids, who often come for lunch and dinner. And bread. I’m sorry, but we eat a lot of bread! I always have some bread! And butter! And cheese!

You’re going to have 10 friends for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?

It’s going to be pasta – I’m sorry! – because we always have pasta and fresh Parmesan. We often have ham. In French we call that – you know the proscuittto crudo? The big ones that you can slice yourself – so I often have that. I could do pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil – I always have basil – so all good produce but very simple. And a good bottle of wine! That’s something that I would do if I had an impromptu meal with lots of people. Everybody is happy with that kind of food. And then fresh fruits or cooked fruit that’s easy to do.

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?

I love Alain Passard’s food. So if he could come cook for me, a delicious vegetable dish, I would like it! I like light food.

If you could choose between improvised and planned dinners, what would you prefer?

I like to plan because I know I’m happy to plan something. It makes me happy to anticipate the people’s happiness. But sometimes, it’s stressful to plan something. You want to have a good result. I am a perfectionist, so sometimes when you plan ahead and you want people to be happy, I’m often disappointed by the result. When it’s impromptu, you don’t have much time to think about it and it’s more about the pleasure to be together. You know, I think as much as I like to plan a meal and to share it with friends, when I do something that’s not planned it is super good, too. So I don’t know what I prefer!

You like both! 

I prefer everybody to be happy around the table and laughing. If the food matters too much then sometimes you lose something in the pleasure of being together.

Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?

I like when my kids give me a hand, and I like to cook with friends, because it’s something to share, but I am faster by myself!

Thank you very much, Cécile!

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

 

Cécile Monilié

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

If you decide to make your own homemade pasta, be prepared that you’ll never be able to eat store bought pasta again (you’ll feel less satisfied with it at the very least) – and that you won’t feel your arms and abs for a couple days. To knead the dough by hand is necessary and labor-intensive. I had moments when I felt slight doubts about whether the crumbly mixture in front of me would ever turn into a smooth ball, but it worked. I needed all my patience and muscle power to get there, but the result tasted so good that I’d do it all over again (after my muscles got some rest).

My pasta project started last Friday and ended on Saturday afternoon. I first tried a recipe by Sicilian chef Dario Cammarata who only uses plain flour, durum wheat semolina, salt, egg yolks, and olive oil. The result tasted amazing, but getting there was so much harder than what I remembered from when I visited the chef in his kitchen in Frankfurt earlier this year. What seemed so easy in Darios’s hands, didn’t want to work as smoothly in my own.

Dario taught me that ravioli are best when they are made with egg yolks and not whole eggs. I have no doubt that this is true, the texture is light and perfectly al dente. But to knead my own dough made of 10 egg yolks, flour, and semolina almost made me cry. The mixture was so hard and fragile, I needed an alternative that was less stressful. I still used my egg yolk dough to make a few ravioli, which were perfect, and I made tagliatelle. And these were the best tagliatelle of my life – taste, texture, and thickness were spot on!

Early the next morning I went back to my kitchen. More eggs in the bowl (this time including the egg whites), with a fresh and open mind and a quenchless appetite for fresh pasta, I felt optimistic. Kneading the dough still required some serious muscle power (maybe it’s just me, my arms are not the strongest), but it was manageable. And this time I totally enjoyed pulling the thin layers of fresh pasta through my KitchenAid pasta attachment. I needed about two test sheets, but then I was in business. They were so thin that I could see my hand through them.

For my first homemade ravioli, I chose a filling that still allowed me to enjoy the fine taste of the egg pasta. After all this work it didn’t feel right to knock it out. The combination of preserved artichokes and fresh ricotta refined with a little orange zest was just right, present, but not overpowering. I served it with melted butter and golden artichoke hearts, briefly seared in the sizzling fat. A little crushed pepper and some more orange zest, and my work was done.

My KitchenAid has three pasta attachments and I’m particularly fond of the tagliatelle cutter. Once I was done with the ravioli, all the shorter pieces and leftover dough went through this attachment and they were perfectly cut into the thinest, tastiest pasta. Cook it al dente and add a knob of butter, freshly grated aromatic hard cheese, and black pepper, and you’ll have the best meal ever. Buon appetito!

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

Homemade ravioli are time and labour-intensive. They are a great starter or main dish for a dinner party, but I recommend preparing them a day in advance to keep it stress free. Freeze them (uncooked) and cook them in boiling salted water just before serving for 4 minutes. I recommend using a pasta machine for this recipe.

Makes 20-24 ravioli / serves 2-4

For the pasta dough

plain flour 150g / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
durum wheat semolina 150g / 5 1/4 ounces
fine sea salt 1/4 teaspoon
large organic eggs 3 plus 1 egg yolk
olive oil 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
water, cold, 1 tablespoon

For the filling

preserved artichoke hearts, drained and squeezed, 160g / 6 ounces
fresh ricotta 125 g/ 4 1/2 ounces
olive oil 1 tablespoon
freshly grated Parmesan 25g / 1 ounce
a pinch of freshly grated orange zest
fine sea salt
ground pepper

For serving

butter 4 tablespoons
preserved artichoke hearts, drained and cut into 6 pieces each, 2
Parmesan
black peppercorns, crushed
a little orange zest

For the pasta dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough attachment, combine the flour, semolina, and salt. Add the eggs, egg yolk, and olive oil and knead for about 5 minutes (I set it on ‘4’ on my KitchenAid). If it’s too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water, but not more. If it’s too sticky, add a little semolina and flour. On the counter top or on a stable table, using your hands, continue kneading the dough for about 15 minutes until smooth. It will still be firm. I find it easiest to leave it in the shape of a thick disc for the first 5-7 minutes, punching and kneading it, and scraping the crumbs together. Then I knead it and roll it into a ball (see pictures below). Form a ball, wrap it in cling film, and let it rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

For the filling, purée the artichoke hearts, add to a bowl along with the ricotta, olive oil, Parmesan, orange zest, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth and adjust seasoning.

Divide the dough into 4-8 portions (depending on the width and power of your pasta machine). Roll out 1 portion with a rolling pin until it’s thin enough to fit into your pasta machine. I started using position ‘1’ on my pasta attachment, using the speed setting ‘2’. Pull the dough through the pasta machine twice, fold it in the middle, flatten it a little with the rolling pin if necessary, turn it 90°, and pull it through the pasta machine. Continue 2-3 times. Change to a thinner setting (I used ‘3’) and pull the dough through the machine about 3 times, without folding it. Using a knife, straighten the sides of your pasta sheet and cut off excess dough. Continue using the thinner settings of your pasta machine until you can see your hand through the dough (I used ‘5’ and then ‘6’ at the end). If the dough is too sticky, use semolina, but no flour.

Sprinkle the rolled out pasta layer with semolina, fold it gently, and cover with cling film. Continue rolling the remaining dough.

Sprinkle a large baking sheet with semolina. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to the boil.

Lay out a layer of pasta and mark it with circles, using a 7cm / 3″ round cutter (or whatever size and shape you prefer). Add a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each marked circle. Dip your finger in water and wet the rim of the circles. From a second sheet of pasta, cut out circles of the same size, lay on top of the filling, and using your finger, push around the rim (see picture above). Using the cookie cutter, cut out the ravioli and press a little fork all around to seal the rim (see picture below). Transfer the ravioli to the prepared baking sheet.

In batches, cook the ravioli in the simmering water for about 2-3 minutes or until al dente.

To serve the ravioli, in a saucepan, heat the butter over high heat until golden brown, add the artichoke hearts, turn gently, and sauté for 1 minute.

Serve the ravioli sprinkled with the butter, Parmesan, orange zest (optional), and crushed pepper and lay the sautéed artichokes on top.

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

 

artichokeorangeravioli12

 

artichokeorangeravioli11

 

Artichoke, Ricotta and Orange Ravioli

About helping and sharing – and a Provençal Artichoke Quiche

Provençal Artichoke Quiche

Everybody’s life can be a feast and a tragedy at times, it can be calm and peaceful in one second and rocky and rough in the next. In these moments, all of us need a helping hand or someone who listens. I believe, I know, that there’s no one out there who wasn’t ever in need of help. It starts when we’re born, when our mothers are there for us, giving without asking for anything in return. That’s love. And all along the way, we meet so many people who are there for us and reach out when in need. Shouldn’t we all be willing to do so? Why is it so hard for some to show compassion and be there for the ones in need of help? Why can’t we – as those who are much better off and on more stable ground – be there for the ones who are hurt, exiled and persecuted? I believe we should treat others as we would want to be treated. If we refuse to help why should we expect help when we are in a difficult situation?

My grandmother decided to leave East Germany when the wall – die Mauer – was being built, she had to flee with 6 children. They went to West Germany with literally nothing, they left their farm and land behind to escape a regime that she and her husband didn’t want their children to grow up in. They we’re refugees in what was once their own country. But they weren’t alone, many people helped them to build up their future, many shared the little they had and my family managed to get back on their feet. 40 years later, East Germany was in need of help, the people of the West gave a share of what they had, out of solidarity, to rebuild a part of the country that had suffered for decades. The people in the East received help. That’s compassion. Today, hundred thousands of people are willing to risk their lives and leave their homes to seek help in Europe and other wealthy parts of the world, to escape political systems that are also no longer safe to live in. Wouldn’t we all do the same? Didn’t we do the same throughout the history of human kind?

Provençal Artichoke Quiche

Paul from the Einfach-Lecker-Essen blog started the Blogger für Flüchtlinge (Bloggers for Refugees) initiative with a few of his friends to call for support and collect donations for refugee camps, first only in Berlin, and now all over Germany. The movement is growing quickly and more and more stand up every day to give a helping hand to the ones in need. Please spread the word if you write a blog (#BloggerFuerFluechtlinge), you can support the initiative with a donation here.

Today’s recipe is a dish that is practically made to be shared – a fragrant golden quiche. A quiche is like a friend, it always makes me feel good and at home wherever I am, it’s down to earth comfort food. Add some preserved artichoke hearts, tomatoes, olives, thyme and aromatic Gruyère cheese to the filling and you have a late summer Provençal picnic tart. And when we sit there in peace, enjoying the food together with the ones we love, a scene that’s so normal for most of us, we shouldn’t forget that this is what everybody aspires to. Nothing more and nothing less.

Provençal Artichoke Quiche

Provençal Artichoke Quiche

For a 30cm / 12″ tart pan or baking dish you need

For the short crust base

plain flour 260g / 2 cups
salt 1 teaspoon
butter, cold 130g / 4 1/2 ounces
organic egg 1

For the filling

organic eggs 4
heavy cream 125ml / 1/2 cup
sour cream 175g / 3/4 cup
fresh thyme leaves 3 tablespoons plus a few sprigs for the topping
salt 1 teaspoon
ground pepper
nutmeg, freshly grated, a generous amount
large preserved artichoke hearts, cut in half (lengthwise), 3
black olives (preferably Kalamata) 10
cherry tomatoes, cut in half, 10
Gruyère cheese (or any other aromatic hard cheese), grated, 2-3 tablespoons

For the pastry, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and rub the butter into the flour until combined. Add the egg and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a disc, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 12 minutes.

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (top/ bottom heat).

Roll out the dough between cling film and line the baking dish with the flat pastry. Prick it with a fork and blind-bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes or until golden.

Take the baking dish out of the oven and set the temperature down to 180°C / 355°F.

Whisk  the eggs with the heavy cream, sour cream, thyme, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Arrange the artichoke hearts, olives and tomatoes on top of the pre-baked pastry base, pour in the egg-cream mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Bake the quiche in the oven for about 55 minutes or until golden brown, the top should be firm. Let it cool for a few minutes and garnish with the thyme sprigs. Serve cold or warm.

Provençal Artichoke Quiche

 

Provençal Artichoke Quiche

 

Provençal Artichoke Quiche

 

Provençal Artichoke Quiche

 

provencalquiche16

 

provencalquiche13

A warm Salad with Artichokes in Vermouth

Warm Salad with Artichokes in Vermouth

Artichokes seem to follow me in the past few weeks, even when I don’t buy them they end up in my kitchen. I got a bag full of beautiful purple baby artichokes as a gift, the tiniest I’ve ever seen. A friend of mine had bought too many and knowing that I use everything that finds its way into my space she was happy to pass them over to me. I had already made plans for dinner but the vegetables couldn’t wait a day longer. When I looked at them, a warm salad came to my mind, a little snack in between. I imagined them sautéed and deglazed with vermouth and some parsley on top, so I brought out my pan and started the cooker.

As a starter for 4 you need 6 small baby artichokes. Cut off the artichoke stem if it’s too woody and pluck the hard outer leaves. Cut the artichoke’s tip off (1/3 – 1/2 of the artichoke), quarter them and scoop out the hairy choke. Keep the prepared artichokes in a bowl of cold water and the juice of half a lemon while you’re finishing the rest.

Sautée the prepared artichokes in a large heavy pan in a dash of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter for about 5 minutes together with 1 thinly sliced clove of garlic. Deglaze with 75ml / 2.5 ounces of vermouth and season with salt and pepper. Add 75ml / 2.5 ounces of water and 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and let them simmer on a medium heat for about 10 minutes until al dente. Sprinkle with roughly chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Warm Salad with Artichokes in Vermouth

 

Warm Salad with Artichokes in Vermouth

 

Warm Salad with Artichokes in Vermouth

Stuffed Maltese Artichokes with Meat and Brandy

Maltese Stuffed Artichokes

In Maltese cuisine, stuffed vegetables have a long tradition. The island’s soil and climate offer the right conditions for fruits and vegetables to grow and ripen under the Mediterranean sun with strong tastes and in huge quantities. Tomatoes, onions, marrows, zucchini, aubergines, pumpkins, all fruits and vegetables that are perfect to be filled! Be it with meat, seafood, herbs or other vegetables, you can combine flavours of all kinds or even use your leftovers to create a completely new dish you would have never thought of before. When I’m in an experimental mood, I bravely mix whatever I find in my fridge and shelves, sweet, sour, spicy or bitter, I’ve never been disappointed, but often surprised!

A few weeks ago I wrote about my stuffed zucchini, the filling was light and fluffy, made of ricotta, basil and lemon, perfect for the fruit’s soft taste. When I decided to stuff some baby artichokes I had a stronger filling in mind, hearty, with minced pork and chicken liver which is an old, traditional Maltese recipe. To refine the meat’s flavours I deglazed it with sweet brandy and infused it with an aromatic bay leaf and a pinch of cumin. I prepared everything in advance and warmed it up in the oven for a few minutes before dinner, in my little ramekins. The meal pretty and delicious!

Maltese Stuffed Artichokes

 Stuffed Artichokes with Minced Pork, Chicken Liver and Brandy

The artichokes can be prepared in advance and warmed up in the oven before serving.

For 6 stuffed baby artichokes you need

baby artichokes 6
minced pork 220g / 8oz
chicken liver, cleaned and finely chopped, 150g / 5 1/2oz
medium sized onion, finely chopped, 1
garlic, crushed, 2 cloves
brandy 40ml / 1 1/2fl oz
white wine 160ml / 5 1/2fl oz
bay leaf 1
cumin, ground, a pinch
parsley, chopped, the leaves of a small bunch
salt and black pepper
olive
juice of 1/2 lemon

Cut off the artichoke stems. If they are soft, peel and chop them finely and set aside. Pluck the hard outer leaves and cut the artichokes’ tips off (1/3 – 1/2 of the artichoke), just the soft, fleshy part of the leaves should be left. Loosen the hairy choke with a knife and scoop it out with a spoon. Keep the prepared artichokes in a bowl of cold water and the juice of half a lemon once they are cut.

In a large pot, cook the artichokes in lots of salted water for about 10 minutes or until soft.

Set the oven to 200°C /390°F.

In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic on medium for a few minutes until soft. If the artichoke stems are soft add them as well. Add a little more olive oil and fry the minced meat for 2-3 minutes. Add the liver, stir and fry for a minute. Add the bay leaf, parsley and cumin, deglaze with brandy and pour in the white wine, cook it down for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and fill the artichokes with the minced meat mixture.

Place the artichokes in a big baking dish or 6 single ramekins, add a dash of white wine to cover the bottom of the dish and cook them in the oven for 5 minutes.

Maltese Stuffed Artichokes

 

Maltese Stuffed Artichokes

Preserved Artichoke Hearts with Spices and Thyme

Marinated Artichokes

I’ve been wanting to marinate artichokes for so long, ever since I had my own kitchen in fact, which is quite a while ago. I took my time and over the years I discovered the advantages of a pantry packed with jars of homemade jams, chutneys, preserved lemons and fruits but now I want to see some artichoke hearts cooked in wine and vinegar, with lots of spices on my shelves as well. I love to fill this space with all the jars that make my favourite food so handy and always available, I don’t have to worry about industrial preservatives which are banned in my kitchen.

The process of preserving has a wonderful side effect, it’s so relaxing! I understand why my grandmother used to have a room in her cellar packed to the ceiling with preserving jars and bottles, cherries, pears  and plums, German apple purée, gherkin, jams, so much that even my big family didn’t manage to eat everything that she produced. I imagine that she enjoyed preserving food as much as I do now, standing peacefully in her kitchen, keeping an eye on the bubbling and steaming food in the pots. When I’m done with cooking and have filled my culinary products into the jars and line them up on a table, I feel so satisfied and rewarded for the work I’ve done, it’s truly therapeutical!

Artichoke hearts preserved in olive oil are great on bread sprinkled with parsley, on crostini or pizza, mixed with pasta or in a risotto. You could also fry them together with your omelet, mix them into a Mediterranean salad or enjoy them pure on an summery antipasti platter.

Marinated Artichokes

 Preserved Artichokes Hearts

For 6 artichoke hearts preserved in an 800ml jar you need

baby artichokes 6
water 900ml
white wine 350ml
white wine vinegar 150ml
garlic, quartered, 2 cloves
bay leaves 2
black peppercorns 8
juniper berries 5
thyme 8 small sprigs
salt 1 teaspoon
lemon 1/2, to prevent the artichokes from turning brown
olive oil to fill the preserving jar
spirit to sterilise the rim of the jar

Peel the artichoke stems, if it isn’t soft but woody you have to cut it off. Pluck the hard outer leaves and cut the artichoke’s tip off (1/3 – 1/2 of the artichoke), just the soft parts of the leaves should be left. Loosen the hairy choke with a knife and scoop it out with a spoon. Keep the prepared artichoke heart in a bowl of cold water and the juice of half a lemon to avoid it discolouring while you’re finishing the rest.

In a large pot, bring all the ingredients to a boil, add the artichoke hearts and cook for 10 minutes.

Sterilise the preserving jar in boiling water for 5 minutes. Take it out, let it dry for a few minutes and dip the rim of your jar in the spirit and wash out the lid with the alcohol as well.

Drain the artichokes and put them in the sterilised jar, fill with olive oil till covered and add some of the spices and thyme sprigs. The jar should be filled with oil to the top! Close the jar, keep in your pantry or enjoy immediately.

Marinated Artichokes

 

Marinated Artichokes

Crunchy Artichoke Hearts with Spinach Tagliatelle

Artichoke + Spinach Tagliatelle

I had three artichokes left from Emma’s wonderful gift from Malta, where they are already in season. I kept them to cook a meal which I usually enjoy in late summer, artichoke fried with onion and garlic mixed with pasta. I remove their leaves and use just their heart and stem, cut into thin slices as opposed to the bigger, round ones which have thicker, fleshy leaves, perfect to dip into dressings and nibble on, also a summer treat I look forward to!

As soon as the leaves have been removed from the artichoke, this meal is really quick to cook. First I prepared the three vegetables which are enough for a dinner for 3. When you pull the leaves off and cut out the fine hair, you can keep the artichoke heart and stem  in a bowl with water and half a lemon. This keeps them from changing their colour as you continue preparing the rest of them. I didn’t do this as I don’t mind.

I went for Delverde Tagliatelle Agli Spinaci (around 300g / 10.5 ounces) to bring in some colour and cooked them al dente while I prepared the artichokes. First I fried 1 finely chopped onion and 1 crushed garlic in some olive oil in a large pan until golden and soft. I added the finely sliced artichoke and fried it until golden brown on all sides. I deglazed it with some white wine, seasoned with salt and pepper and let it cook for a few minutes. When the tagliatelle were done, I poured some of the water I used for cooking the pasta over the artichokes, mixed in the pasta and seasoned everything with salt and black pepper to taste.

pasArtichoke + Spinach Tagliatelletaartichoke

 

Artichoke + Spinach Tagliatelle

 

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