Saturday, February 21, 2009


I was inspired by a fabulous artichoke dish we had at a restaurant here in Dallas last week. It was a simple steamed artichoke, hollowed out with a sauce (Hollandaise based) poured into the middle with some chopped artichoke added.

So, here's what we did.

2 artichokes
4 egg yolks
6 oz butter, soft but not liquid
juice 1/2 a lemon
1T water
3 T white wine veniegar
2 Tdry white wine
1/4 cup finely minced shallots
1 sprig Thyme

In a small pan combine the vinegar, white wine, shallots and thyme. reduce the liquid to about 1T and turn the heat off.

Trim the artichokes by cutting the top 1" off the cone, and trimming the stalk flat at the base.

Make sure each cut surace is covered lightluy with lemon juice to prevent browning. Stem the artichokes (cut side of cone down) for 35 or so minutes - or until cooked through.

Meanwhile make a hollandaise from the egg yolks, lemon juice, water and butter. Once the hollandaise is made, finish with the shallot reduction.

Allow the artichokes to cool, and scoop out the interior. Add any artichoke flesh to the hollandaise.

To serve, pour the hollandaise misxture into the well of the artichoke. It goes bery well with an extremely dry white (e.g. Sancerre)


First it was Mark Bittman in the New York Times, and then Alton Brown on good eats. Both were extolling the virtues of home made crackers. I had made some about 3 weeks ago, and they were pretty good - I just needed more motivation. There is also a key insight - use the pasta maker to roll them out.

So today I made simple crackers rolled in the pasta machine. They turned out very well indeed.

1 Cup AP flour
2t baking soda
1t cream of tartar
4oz frozen butter, grated
3 oz Parmesan, grated finely
2T Hot Basil seeds
1/4 Cup quark
2T whole wheat flour
1/4 Cup 1% milk
2T Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425, and set the shelf to the middle rack. Pulse the flour, butter, baking soda, cream of tartar about 10 1 second pulses. Add the parmesan and pulse 3 more times. Then the basil seeds and a quick pulse. Mix in the quark, milk and add whole wheat flour to get the texture to that of shortcrust pastry.

Divid3e the dough into quarters. Roll each quarter a few times through the widest setting of thae pasta maker, then take it down 2 steps. Place the rolled ribbn on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Score the dough so it will break cleanly and bake in a 425 oven for about 12 minutes, turning at the 6 minute mark.

Remove from the oven when golden brown and allow to cool on a wire rack. Once cool, store in an air tight tin.

Monday, February 2, 2009


It seems odd to write a blog post about making something as simple as a good cup of tea, but we got compliments about our tea over the weekend.

I would like to say that it was made from the finest leaves "SPECIAL FINEST TIPPY GOLDEN FLOWERY ORANGE PEKOE (SFTGFOP)". But oh no, not in our house.

The tea itself was the standard $3.75/lb generic tea from our local Indian supermarket. Nothing special there. It is however loose tea and not the nasty stuff in bags. So how to keep the tea leaves out of the cup? One way is to use a regular strainer, but the other is to use something like this..

and the traditional brown betty teapot

So having assembled the hardware, time for the process.

Use cold tapwater - I always let it run for a bit before putting it in the electric kettle. What's an electric kettle? One of these kinds of things. It is certainly preferable to using the microwave.

Heat plenty of water in the kettle until nearly boiling. Pour some of the hot water into the pot to warm it. Bring the rest of the water to the boil. I do allow mine to boil - some say it makes the tea taste flat, I prefer the taste when the water has been poured onto the leaves when it is at a full boil.

Into the strainer device put 1 heaping tsp of loose tea per person + 1 extra (1 for the pot). If you are just doing 1 cup, then use a single heaping tsp + a little bit.

Empty the warming water out of the teapot and put the strainer in, resting on the edges of the top opening. The body of the strainer is then dangling inside. Pour the water through the leaves in the strainer into the pot. Make sure that the water comes almost to the top - you want the body of the strainer in full contact with the water. Cover the pot and let the tea brew (steep) for about 3 minutes.

Remove the strainer, put the lid onto the pot and serve.

You can make a single mug using the same device/method. Just use less tea and dangle the strainer into the mug. Ideally the mug should be deep enough for the strainer, so it won't work with your best Spode tea set.