Monday, March 19, 2012

egg season

As spring draws near the social calender fills up with semi-formal occasions; brunches, baby and wedding showers, Passover and Easter dinners, and graduation celebrations. The events tumble on until we can finally bust outside and start the party outdoors.

With new beginnings as the general theme of spring, my thoughts turn to eggs dishes. Eggs are the universal symbol of rebirth and immortality. They are part of a Seder plate at Passover celebrations and the central motif of Easter baskets. 
I usually start stock piling my egg shells this time of year, carefully blowing them out by pin-pricking each end and forcing out the contents with exerted breaths to preserve the fragile casing for decorative dying. This delicate task becomes monumental as the days to Easter get closer. I hate to have to blow out a large quantity at one shot - as I begin to tire the pin holes get larger and my cheeks begin to ache. The demand for eggs to dye shrinks and swells from year to year with the amount of children gathered in my home for the decorating activities.
This means having on hand a ready supply of recipes that require beaten eggs, to use up all the contents. An artichoke frittata is a simple dish that can be made ahead for a party- chilled, sliced and served as finger food.  Presented tapas style with a dollop of Romesco sauce, you have a perky and very tasty little morsel.
 Serve the frittata in bite sized pieces as a light nibble while sipping wine.

I recently can across this brilliantly blended white wine: Nautique Esprit de Blanc from Peconic Bay Winery on the North Fork of Long Island. The wine has a fresh fruity crisp flavor that is perfectly balanced, complex and fun to drink. It makes a very nice pairing for any spring meal. The jaunty label evokes a brisk breeze on the bay and it you find yourself yachting this spring, the artichoke frittata travels well.  
As a hardcore land lubber I will be sipping my Nautique from the comfort of home as I take a rest from blowing out egg shells, a task that gets me a little hyperventilated.

Artichoke Frittata

2 cups of artichoke hearts- they can be canned or frozen
6 eggs
1/4 parsley, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
•If the artichokes are frozen, run them under warm water till thawed, and then drain. If canned, rinse under cold water and then drain. Chop the artichokes roughly into bite sized pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste.
•In a small bowl combine the eggs and parsley and whisk to combine.
•In a nonstick pan heat the olive oil on a medium flame, add the minced garlic and saute for about 2 minutes.
•Add the artichoke hearts to the pan and stir often, coating the artichokes with the garlic and oil. Continue to saute for about 7-10 minutes till the artichokes begin to get touches of brown spots.
•Lower the flame slightly and add the butter, allow it to melt down through the artichokes to the bottom of the pan
•Spread the artichokes evenly across the pan and pour the egg mixture over them. Allow the eggs to seep through the artichokes without stirring.  Continue to cook on a low even flame and let the egg mixture set. 
•Using a spatula gently push the edges of the frittata towards the center as it is cooking, continuing to allow the egg mixture to seep down through the vegetables. When the frittata seems to be well set on the bottom, get a plate the same size as the pan. Lay the plate on top of the frittata and quickly flip the frittata onto the plate. Gently slide the frittata back into the pan and allow it to cook until the egg is set on the bottom side, for another minute or two. 
•Slide the frittata out of the pan and on to a serving plate. Allow the frittata to cool to room temperature before cutting into small serving sizes. 
Sever 4-8 at room temp.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Goan treasures

Isn't it great when someone else does the cooking? My dear friend Ilene was eager to share some Ayurvedic recipes she had mastered on her recent trip to Goa, the small island state in India.

Ayruvedic recipes? According to one website I consulted:
 Ayu is life and Veda means knowledge. Knowledge of Life is Ayurveda. Pretty straight forward, no?

The basic concept of Ayurveda is to create meals that help balance our systems and encourage good health; all good things!
The stage is set for an evening of spectacular eating.
Ilene's cooking event was designed to showcase the amazing flavors of Goa with ingredients she had carefully stowed in her luggage and brought home. Most of what she served I had never seen before, but everything tasted beyond wonderful; oh, how fun to try new dishes!
 Pani Puri anyone? These cracker puffs were the first step of our appetizer. To prepare, you poke a hole in the center of the puff with your finger and fill it with a mixture of chickpeas, potatoes and spices.
Next, top each filled puff with a dollop of plain yogurt.
To finish, each puff gets a drizzle of tamarind chutney, cilantro chutney and a sprinkle of some type of topping that resembled crushed shredded wheat. The result was something unfamiliar, but delightfully tasty. Crunchy, savory and subtly spiced. A perfect meal starter!

 The recipe for this gorgeous cauliflower calls for a topping of raisins soaked in red wine vinegar, and then pureed with white chocolate and a hit of chili powder. 

The show stopper of the meal had to be the whole roasted cauliflower. I had never seen a presentation quite like this before. It is not strictly Goan or even Ayurvedic for that matter, but Ilene felt it worked nicely with her meal and it had the right amount of surprise and drama to impress. Indeed!
The dinner guests quickly dove in! Check out the recipe 
not exactly "easy" but certainly worth the effort.
 This red was perfect with the robust flavors of the cauliflower.

The wine, a delicious 2006 Chateau Cap de Faugeres Cotes-de-Castillon, was flowing and it was hard to keep up with the multiple dishes that kept coming out of this tiny Brooklyn kitchen. Ilene is a fearless cook who makes her guests feel pampered and cared for. We left the table smiling and more than satisfied. Perhaps even a bit more balanced and closer to good health too!

The cook of the evening emerges from the kitchen in SEQUINS! and we share a hug.