“Risotto”, of course, means it’s made with rice. But “charred wheat stew” doesn’t sound as appetizing as it actually is. So with the creative culinary expression invokable by quotation marks, I’ll allying this recipe with it’s Italian cousin, risotto, because it’s made the exact same way. And for those who don’t have freekeh, and don’t want to scope it out, can make it the traditional way with rice.
It’s fresh artichoke season and I’m finding them piled up at my local market, practically tumbling off the stands. Last week, I stood there, putting one after the other in my market basket, where I took them home to admire the beauties on my kitchen counter. But they’re not just pretty to look at; artichokes are great in salads, risotto, pastas, and even on open-face sandwiches with a spread of fresh cream cheese and herbs.
Artichokes are not hard to prepare but they do take a bit of determination, which is why they’re most often eaten whole, and steamed. However there are those times when you want to treat yourself to just the artichoke hearts. And when the prices drop at the markets, and they’re in abundance, I don’t mind spending a little time preparing them.
Artichokes will brown almost the moment you slice into them, so you need to make an acidulated water to slip them into when you’re done trimming each artichoke. (They’ll still darken, but not as significantly as if you didn’t use acidulated water. And once cooked, the discoloration should disappear.) Be prepared for lots of leaves to toss out, and if you have a compost bucket, you’ll be making it very happy. Almost as happy as you’ll be when you find yourself with a pan of freshly cooked artichokes, seasoned with olive oil, garlic, and a scattering of fresh herbs.
4 cups (1 l) cold water
8 medium, or 6 large artichokes (about 3-pounds, 1,3 kg)
Can we all agree to stop apologizing for rhubarb? No one apologizes for recipes that call for things like squid, marshmallow-flavored vodka, and green peppers. In fact, some times those things are actually celebrated rather than reviled. So I don’t know why rhubarb, the humble plant that springs to life after a long winter, is the recipient of occasional derision. But it’s time to stop.
I was wandering through a neglected garden in the countryside a few weeks ago, where not much was growing in the spring drizzle, except a few dewy tulips poking through. But right in the thick of things was a resplendent rhubarb plant, which saved the day. In the grand tradition of French “gleaning”, I yanked the stalks out of the ground, brought them home, and made a compote out of them. Free food? What’s not to like about that?
I know, I know. A Vieux Carré is supposed to have Peychaud’s bitters in it. As you can see, it was at the tippy top of my shopping list.
But I went to four liquor stores that specialize in cocktail liquors and spirits and three didn’t have it. And the fourth, when I showed up, was inexplicably closed for some sort of fermeture exceptionnelle. There was no sign, no nuthin’, so I don’t know. I tried peering through the darkened window to see if they had the bitters but couldn’t tell and didn’t want to use up another precious day of my life since I had already spent three days on the “Peychaud’s Project”, and needed to move on with my life. Plus passers-by were starting to look at me funny as I began hoisting myself up on a fire hydrant and a drainpipe on the building, hoping to get a better look inside the closed shop.
A friend who’s been living here quite long time once wondered aloud to me, why Parisians sandwich-makers weren’t more creative. I never really thought about it; because I buy sandwiches so infrequently, I’m really happy to have a simple, classic jambon-fromage with a smear of butter on a baguette. But I suppose if I ate sandwiches daily, like so many people now do, that I’d also want a little diversity between the slices. (In my defense, I’ll sometimes see if I can get goat cheese on my sandwich, rather than the usual Emmenthal.)
That probably explains in popularity of the Subway chain in France, who offers something different from the French classics. According to their website, they now have around 66 outlets in Paris. But I’m not joining the lines, though, because it’s where I had one of the worst sandwiches of my life back in the states. You’d think it’s pretty hard to f-up a sandwich. Thankfully, things have taken a turn for the better.
Where I grew up, we were neighbors with the Hepburn family. They were very nice people and were considered “walkers”, those curious people who live in suburbia that walk, rather than drive everywhere. We used to see them walking all the time and we’d always give them a wave. And then, we’d hit the gas pedal and keep driving.
We didn’t mingle much, and I didn’t see the most famous member of their family since she lived down by the seashore. Perhaps it was a mixed blessing that she didn’t live all that close because she was reputed to be a handful at the neighborhood meetings where she lived, and was said to be pretty sharp with a retort. But I don’t deal in celebrity gossip and as they say in New England, “High fences make good neighbors”, and we all kept to ourselves. Although word has it that she made excellent brownies, which I never got to sample from her oven, unfortunately.
Years later, when I went to chocolate school in Belgium, I asked why unsweetened chocolate, which we frequently use in recipes in America (especially brownies), wasn’t easily available – or used – in Europe baking as well. And the folks at Callebaut Chocolate Academy didn’t really know either but told me that almost most of what they made was for the American market.
I’m thrilled when folks want to make recipes from this site and my books, including those who are gluten-intolerant or have celiac. However I’m the first to admit that gluten-free baking is not my area of expertise. So I can’t usually say how and what to substitute in recipes that call for wheat flour.
Wheat flour acts as a binder in recipes and gives cakes and cookies, the gluten gives doughs and batters structure. Broadly speaking, if a recipe has just a small amount of wheat flour, such as 2 to 4 tablespoons (20-40 g), you can often just swap out another flour. I like flours such as buckwheat, chestnut, quinoa, corn, and oat flours, because they are “natural” tasting and go well with most other flavors and ingredients used in baking. Note that some of those flours may be processed in a facility that processes wheat flour, so always check and make sure that the flours you are purchasing are gluten-free, especially oat. Other substitutions include nut flours (also called nut “meal”) as well as corn and potato starch. If the recipe calls for more flour than that, I recommend using one of the work-arounds, listed below.
I generally assume that people who are gluten-free, and bake frequently, know better than I do how certain ingredients and substitutions will behave in recipes. So I often defer to gluten-free bakers since most have work-arounds that they have success baking with. Here is a round-up of tips, suggestions, and recipe that should help gluten-free bakers find an appropriate swap-out for wheat flour.
I’d read a rather head-scratching review of a book that I was very fond of from the day it landed in my apartment. Burma: Rivers of Flavor is a cookbook that has been haunting me ever since I opened it up and leafed through the pages. It was written by Naomi Duguid, a seasoned cookbook author who traveled throughout the country before the change in political climate. She travelled by foot, bike, train, boat, and whatever, culling recipes from home cooks, market vendors, and restaurateurs.
Before I got the book, I didn’t know much – actually, I did’t know I knew anything – about Burmese food, aside from my meals at a so-so restaurant when I lived in San Francisco. But her book reveals much of what had been hidden from Westerners for so long. And before I even took a knife to a shallot, I combed the pages thoroughly, getting completely wrapped up in her journey and cultural observations as she coaxed out the recipes, presenting the nuances of a somewhat particular style of cooking.