Ooooh, killer breakfast, a slice of sauteed ham sandwiched in a warm biscuit, with a cup of strong (albeit decaf) black coffee. Prrrr… There’s an appeal for me in opening the day with simple, rustic food. Not a bad way to start a day, not bad at all.
And not a bad way to end one, either – John and I closed out yesterday with a lovely al fresco meal, on the deck, after what had been a pretty rotten day for John. Very stressful work day, made worse by an injury to what he calls his “good” foot (the other suffers a chronic achilles tendon aggravation). A trip to the doctor confirmed it wasn’t a break, but it still swelled up like a balloon and was making him miserable. I’m happy to report that it’s much better this morning, so perhaps he’s dodged another chronic injury. Let’s hope, because John without basketball is like, well, John without chocolate. Shiver. Not good. For him, or for any of us.
So back to this dinner…I tried a new recipe, a roasted vegetable panzanella (bread salad). Gorgeous, chewy, garlicky, fabulous. Simple. Rustic. Most definitely a keeper (recipe posted in comments, below). Enjoy it outside with a nice glass of wine, like we did, and you’ll be glad. (Just be aware, as you enjoy the gentle evening breezes, that gnats are flying up your skirt and biting the insides of your thighs. You’ll be blissfully unaware as you sip your wine, but oh, ’round 2:30 a.m., you’ll know…)
My oh my oh my. I made myself a killicious little dinner tonight, mmm hmmm. Artichokes sautéed with ham, from a tasty little cookbook called Tapas, A Taste of Spain in America, by Jose Andres. I had the afternoon completely to myself, which doesn’t happen all that often, so I took my time this morning planning this weekend’s meals (there will be other dishes from this cookbook, oh yes, so stay tuned…) and shopping this afternoon. The artichokes – I used baby artichokes, but you don’t need to – are sautéed in olive oil, then combined with a bit of tomato sauce, wine, and ham to simmer until tender. I chose to eat mine with slices of toasted baguette, which I rubbed with a split garlic clove and drizzled with a bit of oil. Damn! Now that’s a dinner. Or as John would say, a mo fo. Yeah, baby. (Recipe posted in comments, below.) Now I’m going to brew a cup of tea and settle in with the fascinating book I’m reading, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. If you’re into food, it’s a must read. Ahhh, a moderate epicurean’s dream Friday evening… little wine… cooking… olive oil… vegetables… bread… garlic… reading… cozying up to my hubby… Hope you’re enjoying yours…
Artichokes Sauteed with Ham
Adapted from Tapas, A Taste of Spain in America
Serves 4 as tapas, 2 as dinner
9 baby (one package of Melissa’s brand) or 5 large artichokes
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, with 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley reserved
5 Tbsp. Spanish (or other) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 Tbsp. tomato paste diluted in 1 ½ c. water OR 1 ½ c. juice from canned tomatoes (I buy tomato paste in a tube, allows you to use a bit at a time)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 pinch sugar
¼ tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
2 Tbsp. dry white wine
1 oz. jamon seranno (Spanish cured ham) or other high-quality, lightly-smoked ham, diced (about 4 thin slices)
1 bay leaf
Several thick slices of baguette, toasted and rubbed with half of a garlic clove and drizzled with a bit of olive oil
Prepare a large bowl of cold water, and toss in the bunch of parsley (prevents artichokes from oxidizing). Using a serrated knife, cut off and discard the top half of each artichoke. Using your fingers, remove and discard the first few layers of leaves, until you reach the tender, pale leaves beneath. Cut the artichoke in half and use a sharp paring knife to remove and discard the white, hairy interior. Peel and discard the tough outer layer around the base of the artichoke, until you reach the soft white flesh. Peel the stalk until you reach the white flesh again. Don’t be afraid to remove most of the artichoke. Cut baby artichoke halves in half again; cut large artichoke halves into 3-4 slices. Put artichoke slices into the parsley water, and repeat with all the artichokes.
Heat 1 Tbsp. of the oil in a small pan over a medium flame. Add the diluted tomato paste or tomato juice, garlic clove, and sugar. Simmer for 15 minutes, until the juice is a deep red.
Heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the artichokes, making sure they lie flat, and the salt. Saute until golden, then turn and sauté until golden on the other side, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 30 seconds. Add the reserved tomato juice and bay leaf and turn heat to low for a slow simmer. In the pan the tomato sauce was cooked in, add the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil and heat over medium heat. Stir in the ham and sauté for 2 minutes until starting to brown. Add ham to the artichokes, and continue simmering for another few minutes, until artichokes are tender and sauce is reduced, another 3-4 minutes. Remove crushed garlic clove and bay leaf. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.
Roasted Vegetable Panzanella (Bread Salad)
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
1 garlic clove
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes (don’t make them too big, or they’re irritating to eat in one bite; be sure to use good-quality, French-style baguette, as a lesser bread won’t keep its texture)
½ lb. cherry tomatoes, halved
½ lb. haricot vert (small, thin green beans), trimmed
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. capers (packed in brine, drained, chopped)
½ (19 oz.) can cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained OR 2 hard-cooked eggs, diced (I used hard-cooked eggs, delicious)
½ lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/3-inch dice and lightly salted
1/3 c. chopped fresh basil
freshly ground black pepper
Arrange oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt using a large, heavy knife, then transfer to a small bowl and add the olive oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well. Put bread cubes in a large bowl and drizzle with 3 Tbsp. of the garlic oil, tossing to combine, then spread bread on a large baking sheet. Toast in oven, stirring once or twice, until golden, 10-12 minutes (watch carefully). Transfer bread cubes to a large salad bowl. Leave oven on.
In the same large bowl, gently toss tomatoes with 1 Tbsp. garlic oil and a generous sprinkle of salt. Spread on the baking sheet used for the bread. Again in the same bowl, toss green beans with 2 Tbsp. garlic oil and a generous sprinkle of salt. Spread on a second baking sheet. Roast vegetables, switching position of the pans halfway through roasting and shaking pans once or twice, until tomatoes are very tender but not falling part and beans are just tender and browned in spots, 12 to 16 minutes. Let the vegetables cool a bit in the pans as you prepare to assemble the salad.
While the vegetables roast, add vinegar to remaining garlic oil along with capers, ½ tsp. salt, and a few generous grinds of pepper. Whisk to combine well.
Scrape tomatoes, green beans (along with any pan juices) over the bread cubes. Add beans or egg, mozzarella, and basil, then drizzle with dressing and stir to combine well. Let stand 10-15 minutes at room temperature to allow flavors to develop, then stir just before serving.