I finally finished moving!! All my crap, including all my hundreds of books, have been unpacked and I’m starting to feel settled in my new place. As a housewarming present to myself (along with all the other new furniture and stuff I bought) I got a new cookbook – Plenty by Yotan Ottolenghi. I bought one of his cookbooks for my sister a couple years back, and the pictures are like food porn at its finest. The recipes looked good once I read them too. I didn’t want to make anything too complicated but I also wanted to do something definitely different. So I decided on Artichoke Gratin since the weather was totally gross out yet it was late spring.
1 bag frozen artichoke hearts
1 small crown broccoli, cut into florets
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
1-2 pinches dried thyme
Zest and juice from 1 very large lemon
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2-3 tablespoons parmesan
Squeeze the lemon juice into a pot of water, and par-boil the broccoli and artichokes in it. You don’t need to cook them totally, it’s still gonna bake, but do at least par-boil/make the artichokes not frozen. Drain and set aside. Sauté the onions in olive oil until soft and getting a bit golden. Add the broccoli, artichokes, parsley, lemon zest, thyme and salt and pepper to taste Once the veggies are ready, make the béchamel sauce.
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
In a saucepan, melt the butter, then quickly stir in the flour so a paste forms. Pour in the milk and stir, constantly and making sure to scrape the bottom so nothing settles there, until the sauce has thickened. Mix the bechamel with the veggie mixture and stick in an baking dish. Dot the dish with little spoonfuls of ricotta and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes. Pull out the dish and sprinkle with the parmesan, then bake for another 10 minutes, or until the parmesan has become nice and golden. Serve warm.
I really loved this dish. It’s perfect for a stormy spring day, because it tastes like spring, and it’s all full of veggies, but it’s still a warming gratin. The lemon zest just makes the whole thing smell fresh in my opinion, especially when you eat it as leftovers. And there is a pretty good amount of cheese in there as well. I’d never cooked with frozen artichoke hearts, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to use fresh ones when they are crazy expensive on the east coast. I think they turned out perfectly good (and infinitely more cost effective). Song of the Week: Take a Bow by Rihanna. Now for the record, I don’t like Rihanna. Or 99% percent of her music (I will never forgive Umbrella). But this is actually a surprisingly good song and for whatever reason I listened to it a lot this week.
I finally bought a new cookbook. First time in about two years, so I bought the French Market Cookbook, which I have been lusting after for about six months now. So lust eventually won, as it always does, and I have a new cookbook to play with! The cool thing about this cookbook is that it’s divided up not by recipe type, but by season. So I looked up various winter recipes, and found “Cauliflower Gratin with Hazelnuts and Turmeric.” A few adjustments based on what I had in my fridge, and a lovely new recipe was made.
1/2 a head of cauliflower
1/3 head of broccoli
1/2 cup of hazelnuts
Cheese sauce (below)
Take the hazelnuts and spread on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or so. Pull them out of the oven and, once cooled a bit, rub the skins off the nuts. Roughly chop and set aside for later. In the meantime, chop the cauliflower and broccoli into florets, and steam until slightly tender but still a bit on the crunchy side. Set aside.
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup and a bit of milk
1/2 cup or so strong French cheese
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Once its melted add the flour and mix it in. Pour in the milk and whisk continuously – making sure the butter-flour mixture melts completely into the milk. Its important to stir constantly, to prevent any sticking on the bottom, or lumps. Once the sauce has thickened, add the salt, pepper and nutmeg – a pinch or two of each, according to your taste. Then add the cheese, as stir it in until it is all melted into the sauce. The recipe suggests Gruyere or Comte, but I used raclette. Pour the hazelnuts in as well and mix. Put the veggies in a baking dish, and pour the cheese-hazelnut sauce on it. Mix so that the veggies are coated. Pour bread crumbs on top, and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.
Tasty! Less guilt than one would normally feel because the cheese sauce is on vegetables, not pasta or bread or anything. The recipe called for turmeric, which I actually have, but couldn’t bring myself to use as the sauce just tasted so good already. I didn’t want to mess with that. I served this with a French red bordeaux, naturally. I’m sure a California red would have worked too, but I felt the need to go with a French wine for authenticity’s sake. Song of the week: Coin Operated Boy by Dresden Dolls. We’ve all been there – it’d be so much easier that the messiness and confusion that comes with real boys and girls. Bonus – this comes as a fun Buffy fanvid!