Monday, March 16, 2009

Fresh Pasta with Baby Artichokes

Sometime in the past couple of weeks, I started craving artichokes, fresh artichokes. My mouth started watering while I was reading the latest Saveur. It offered twelve different artichoke dishes and before I knew it, I picked up a dozen baby chokes at the market.
While thinking of what dish the cute little artichokes would find their final resting place, I took off on Rt. 2, heading west for a client meeting. I was in luck! My clients' exit was also the exit for Idylwilde Farms. This is where I would find my inspiration.

Subtle hints of the spring welcomed me into the store with colorful flowers lining the entrance way. After doing some quick browsing, my eyes fell upon some fresh pasta in the refrigerator section. "Okay, that will do", I thought. Dinner was done! I grabbed some leeks, creminis, garlic and lemon and headed home.

Prepping artichokes may sound scary and hard, but especially with the smaller ones, it's quite easy. There are actually nine different varieties of artichokes, many holding an aubergine hue on their leaves. I rarely see those around here. Most of what's in the markets are globe artichokes and their babies, which is what I had.

To prep, get some acidulated water ready and then just peel back the leaves until you reach the pale green center. Chop off the top third, trim the stem, and toss them into the water. There! You're done! I simmered the hearts with some black peppercorns and a bay leaf, as well as a bunch of lemons. Because they were so small, par cooking them doesn't take long at all. You're welcome to cook them all the way here, but I wanted to get a nice sear of them for my pasta dish.

Meanwhile, I sauteed the leeks, garlic and mushrooms together and put them aside. Then, after draining the hearts, I quickly sauteed them and added them to the rest of the vegetables.

The fresh pasta took about 1 1/2 minutes to cook and as soon as I pulled it out, I added it to the vegetable mix along with some of the pasta water. Voila! Dinner is served! I small shaving of Parmesan cheese or lemon zest on top is an added level of ecstasy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Friends of Dana-Farber

Last week, I participated in the Friends of Dana Farber event, "Chefs Cooking for Hope." Now in its 11th year with an estimated 400 guests, its an evening filled with enjoying food and beverages from the top locales on Boston. From champagne and pineapple vodka to pork belly BLTs and mini lobster rolls, stomachs were full and thousands of dollars were donated to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
I decided to make a scallop and blood orange ceviche. Blood oranges are in season now, from October until May-ish and their dazzling ruby color is gorgeous. Contrasted with the creamy white of the scallops, along with some wasabi caviar to garnish, my sampling was a big hit.

Now, because we live in America, people freaked out about raw or undercooked seafood. Of course, ceviche is raw. But sadly, I had to parcook the scallops knowing that it would be less popular if it was totally raw. And a good thing I did because multiple people asked, "Is this cooked?"

Cooked for about a minute that is, in salted boiling water. Then the scallops were combined with pineapple juice, orange juice, lemon and lime juice, hot sauce, and coconut milk. I only marinated them a little before the event so they wouldn't get gummy or chewy.

After sectioning the blood oranges and picking up the wasabi caviar I was on my way. The evening lasted from 6-10. Cupcakes and lobster were everywhere. Other notable dishes included: mini fig and brie brioche sandwiches, sirloin tartare, and bread pudding. Check out some pics from the event here: