Baby Artichokes

I was just looking through my Feeds – I don’t really understand Feeds, and I only check in on them every month or so, and they never seem to be updated, so I think I’m missing something about Feeds. But the point is – I took a look at my friend Melissa’s blog. Now, Melissa is a wonderful writer, we used to play on Zoetrope a lot, but she’s also an amazing chef, and she has a food blog which tempts me to try things way WAY out of my comfort zone. I’m glad to see she’s posting again, she took a little break there, but now she’s back with Catfish and Olives.

I’m not likely to make Catfish with Olives, but it reminded me that I’ve been doing a lot of vegetative exploration this fall and winter. Last season, 2009-2010, I played with chard of various kinds and colors, stuffed acorn squash with a rice mixture, and made beets time and time again in various ways. This season, it’s been about multicolored carrots, parsnips, brussels sprouts, and celery root. And the other day I found… baby artichokes! Right there in my supermarket! Regular artichokes are way too much work for me, not really worth it. But Baby Artichokes are a lot less work – just peel off the big leaves, trim the top and bottom, and you’re good to go, no searching for the choke which’ll kill you if you don’t get it out. It’s the “it’ll kill you” part that makes artichoke cookery not so much fun.

But with baby artichokes, no choke! And I love baby veggies (not the “baby cut carrots” which are regular carrots chopped up to look like baby size, don’t let them fool you, they’re convenient but they are NOT baby carrots), no matter what they are, so it’s a natural. I got four, and ended up with a little more than a half cup when cleaned and split. I didn’t do anything to them, just steamed them and threw on a little butter and salt. I could do this often.

Oh, and I discovered how to Follow Melissa’s blog instead of getting Feeds, so from now on it’ll be a lot easier.

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Vetebrod

There should be a little thingie over the “o” but I’d be pushing my luck trying to find it. Maybe later.

I made Vetebrod today! First time in, oh, seven, eight years? Maybe I’m not as depressed as I thought. I found some recipes on the Internet, and then I have Aunt Elsie’s recipe, which I pretty much followed except for some stuff about the yeast.

Vetebrod, for the non-Swedish, is a Swedish coffee cake or bread. It’s pretty much an ordinary rich yeast bread. To be authentic, cardamom should be added, and I ordered some cardamom but today’s batch was practice so didn’t include it. It’s braided – three “ropes” of dough are flattened, fruits and nuts and spices added and the ropes sealed, then braided together, and maybe curled around in a ring then cut on top to look like a wreath. I made two kinds of braided loaves today, one without the ropes but I liked the original better. The “ropes” can also be tied in knots to make individual buns, or “bulla”.

I put a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and brown sugar in as the spices, then some dried currants (because they’re smaller than raisins) and some of the candied lemon peel I made over the weekend (I need to make more). And almonds, the expensive sliced kind. I put almonds and lemon peel on top, but the lemon peel got very hard and burned because of the high sugar content so I’ll leave that off next time. It came out pretty good, though I think I used too much flour, which is something I always do – but it sticks to the counter when kneading! I don’t know how to get around that. Maybe knead less powerfully? I also read something about not adding salt until after the yeast has bloomed, which I didn’t do – neither of my recipes said anything about that, the yeast was added to heated milk, egg, butter, sugar and salt. I think I’ll try adding the salt later next time, too. Other than that, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. It wasn’t Aunt Elsie’s, but it was good enough.

eta: I never realized vetebrod was so popular! Here’s the exact recipe I’ve been using, an amalgam of Aunt Elsie’s, various internet sources, and my own preferences:

Vetebrod recipe I’ve been using, part from Aunt Elsie, part from internet sources. I seem to use much less flour. Some recipes don’t use an egg; my aunt’s recipe actually used 2 eggs. I’ve read that salt should not be added to yeast mixture until the flour is added, as it will kill the yeast, so I put the salt in later than most recipes. I haven’t really noticed a difference.

Dough:

1 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter
1 egg
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon cardamom, ground
4 ½ to 5 cups flour

Filling:

3 – 4 tablespoons butter, very soft
spice mixture (invent your own or use this)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cardamom
pinch cloves
pinch allspice
dried zante currants or raisins, candied lemon peel, and/or almonds
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Finishing:

1 egg
2 tablespoons water
sliced almonds
½ teaspoon sugar

Bring dough ingredients to room temp.

Scald milk, add butter until it melts. Add sugar and cardamom. Pour into large mixing bowl. Let cool until 110-115 degrees F. Add yeast and stir, let sit 10 minutes.

Add beaten egg.

Add 1 cup flour and salt. Keep adding flour until dough pulls away from side of bowl, then turn out and knead, adding flour, until elastic.

Oil the surface of the dough and place in bowl, cover with damp towel, put in warm humid place to rise 1 hour (I use my gas oven, heated only by the pilot, with a pan of boiling water on bottom shelf).

Punch down and turn out onto floured board. Knead a few times. Divide in half. Cover half not being worked on. Divide half into three parts, roll gently into ropes. Flatten the ropes. Add filling to center of each flat rope, then pinch closed. Braid the three ropes, place on cookie sheet, cover with damp paper towel. Repeat with second half of dough. Place in warm, humid place to rise about 45 – 60 minutes (I use the oven again).

Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with sliced almonds and sugar.

Heat oven to 350 F. Bake on center rack about 20 – 25 minutes; do not overbake.

Enjoy!

I’ve been on a cooking spree. It started with Thanksgiving, making the root veggies for Sally’s Syrian chicken with lamb stuffing. I forgot to buy parsnips, so I bought them this week, along with bunch of other veggies – brussels sprouts (roasted, delicious), beets (also roasted, with clementine juice, excellent), and butternut squash (not made yet). Then some guy was telling me about ground beef, 90% ground beef on sale for $1.99, and it looked like regular Hannaford’s ground beef, the same label, a different container and it was already in patties, and I got two packages, then saw “Cargill” on the package – damn. I was tricked! So I put it in the freezer and now I don’t know what to do. I guess I could use it for meatballs. I wouldn’t want to give it to anyone. Cargill – yuck. I just read that Anthony Bourdain book where he excoriated them for making ground beef by using ammonia to make sure it doesn’t kill someone. And that movie, I forget the name of it, a couple of years ago about how they slaughter cows in horribly unsanitary conditions. The result is their beef is more like paste than ground beef. Hannaford at least buys sides and then grinds it there. I should’ve looked more carefully. But it bugs me to throw away two pounds of beef. Still, it’s not the sort of thing I’d give anyone, I wouldn’t give someone something I wouldn’t eat myself. So I’ll have to eat it. Meatballs it is.

Mock Tagine

I was just doing some site housekeeping and I noticed I didn’t have any recipe posts! That won’t do.

My go-to recipe is something I came up with by combining several Moroccan stew recipes. Calling it a “mock tagine” is a little too much, it’s more like inspired by. But it’s usually delicious, although there are times when it falls flat.

I’m doing this from memory but the whole thing is kind of improvisational.

Chicken, sweet potatoes, carrots, dried apricots, shallots, chicken broth, ground ginger, cinnamon, cumin, any other spices you want (tumeric, cayenne, allspice, bay, cloves are recommended).

Cut up chicken to stew-size pieces. I like bonelessskinless breast, but bonelss skinless thighs, and pieces like breasts, thighs etc., would work too,  just make sure the cooking time is long enough.

Make spice marinade: equal parts ground ginger and cinnamon, half as much cumin, and a quarter as much allspice, and a little tumeric.  If you have ras al hanout, by all means, use it. If you have garam masala, that would work too. Cardamom, I’ve never used because it’s so expensive, but some day I will. Add enough oil (I use canola but I’m a wimp) to make a fairly runny liquid-paste.

Coat the chicken and marinade a  half hour to an hour, how ever long it takes you to chop the veggies and take a break if you need one.

Cut up sweet potatoes, carrots, and  a couple of shallots. Chop a couple of dried apricots into tiny pieces, and then chop 2 per serving in half.

Brown the chicken.  I use canola oil, peanut would be great.  The marinade will toast up, don’t let it burn too much. I usually do 2 batches for 3-4 chicken breasts (which I call 6 servings).

Put the browned chicken aside on a plate and saute the shallots. I’m not a big fan of onion flavor so I use tiny shallots; they are essential for depth, but they don’t taste oniony. If you like onions, you can use onions and use more. 

I blot the oil from the pan. If there’s any really burned marinade (I use a non-stick pot so it isnt’ too bad) I remove that but I make sure to leave as much as possible as it will flavor the broth.

Add chicken broth and bring to close to a simmer.

Add the chicken and the apricots, both finely-chopped and halved. Add a little honey – I add about a quarter cup but I like it actually sweet, so probably a tablespoon or so would suit most people.  Simmer about a half hour, skimming at least twice, if you do three times that’s even better. The more you skim, the better.

Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, and apricots. Also add a couple of cloves and a bay leaf (assuming you like that).  If you add them so you can fish them out easily, so much the better. I usually find the bay leaf easily, then the clove ends up on my plate at some point in the next couple of days.

Simmer another 20 minutes or so. Now’s the time to adjust salt and honey. Keep in mind the potatoes and carrots will sweeten the mixture so take it easy on the honey.

If you plan to serve it all, make it 30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender. I like to make a big pot and then cool it down and leave it in the fridge and scoop out a couple of cups at a time, so I leave the potatoes a little undercooked.

As I make it, I reduce the broth with each batch and add it back to the original so it gets thicker and needs less reducing each time. By the time I’m done (usually 6 servings for just me) I have a nice thick spicy stew liquid and I freeze small amounts of any leftovers for making “quick stew” or just cooking sweet potatoes or whatever later on.

It takes me about 2 hours to make this, what with chopping up chicken and veggies and browning 2 batches and all.

I don’t serve it with a starch because it has sweet potatoes, but couscous would be traditional, and rice would work really well.

There isn’t much fat, just from the oil and the chicken, and there are lots of nutrients from the veggies. It’s very filling.