Fennel and Leeks

Fennel and Leeks

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Roasted Fennel With Orange & Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Fennel is one of those ingredients that I was missing for the first 40 years of my life but has now become one of my dear culinary friends. My best friend, Natalie, brought a few bulbs over for a barbecue several years ago and it was like the skies opened and the angels began to sing. Where had fennel been all my life?

I remember my mom making homemade pizza and calzone and using fennel seeds in her sausage but that is my only memory of this ingredient. My mom could sure make some calzone and pizza though! I will never forget setting up a small assembly line one day every year to make calzones in mass quantity to freeze. My mom made the most delicious calzone and pizza dough by hand. I have still never been able to recreate her version. I think she poured so much love into the dough that nobody can ever make it the way she did. I loved and appreciated her so much. Happy Mother's Day to my beautiful mom. I miss her dearly.

I absolutely adore the anise-like flavor profile of fennel. The flavor is just herbaceous enough to not overwhelm other ingredients unless you want to be overwhelmed (which I sometimes do). I have incorporated fennel into as many dishes as possible and I have also added it into my repertoire of raw snacking vegetables. I love fennel in any form; seeds, powder, bulbs, fronds, pollen and prepared just about any way; caramelized, grilled, sautéed, raw...... you name it, I'll eat it! Needless to say, when I ran across this recipe, it was all hands on deck to give it a go. Boy, this one did not disappoint.


2 fennel bulbs
2 blood or cara oranges
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
flake sea salt
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of fennel pollen (optional)

Cut fennel bulb into wedges. Cut stems into thin slices, reserving fronds. Set aside.

Section one of the oranges by cutting off both ends. Set the orange on one end, and use a paring knife to cut away peel and pith in strips, starting at top and following curves to the bottom. Then, holding the orange in one hand, carefully insert knife blade between the flesh and the membrane to cut off sections without membrane attached. The sections should come out easily. Repeat with remaining orange and set aside.

Warm olive oil in large frying pan over high heat. Add fennel wedges, using tongs to place the cut sides against bottom of pan to get a good sear. Cook until fennel is caramelized, about 3 minutes. Flip and lower heat to medium-high, cook on other side until caramelized, another 3 minutes. Season with salt, toss in fennel stems, and continue to cook until the stems are well-browned, another 2 minutes. Add orange juice, wine and stock, and let reduce until sauce is thickened and fennel is deeply seared and starting to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and season with lots of salt and pepper.

Pour onto serving platter. Garnish with fennel fronds, orange segments and fennel pollen (if desired). Serve warm or at room temperature.

This recipe is fairly magical. I highly recommend it as a side dish with pork. I served it with an herb-rubbed pork loin and the two went together beautifully.

Even though it is cooked, it feels fresh and light. I did however, prefer it at room temperature. The recipe says you can serve it warm or at room temp and I preferred the latter. As a side note, the recipe author mentioned that it is just fine to substitute tangelos or mandarins for the cara oranges. He also mentioned that this dish goes very well with fish. Enjoy!

Recipe Source:
"Gjelina Cooking From Venice, California" by Travis Lett, Page 157

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Trofie con Noci e Parmigiano (Trofie with Walnuts and Parmesan)

I was leafing through one of my favorite Italian cookbooks when I came across a recipe for pasta that looked so delicious and up my alley that I decided to prepare it for dinner. As I completed the recipe and glanced down at my newest creation with pride, I experienced deja vu. I had a sudden sneaking suspicion that I may have prepared the dish several years back. Well, after taking a whole 15 seconds to "research" my sneaking suspicion, guess what? I did a blog search and found that I prepared this recipe shortly after I started my blog in January of 2011. Yep, there it was. An entry for Spaghetti or Trofie con Noci e Parmigiano on February 12th, 2011. In my defense, I have prepared over 200 recipes for the blog since January of of 2011 so unknowingly repeating a recipe was bound to happen.

I had a good chuckle and then got excited because when I first prepared this recipe, I wasn't including photographs with my posts. Although this makes my life a little too easy for this write-up, I have included the recipe below as well as a link to my initial 2011 entry (click on the link in the paragraph above). It contains a detailed description of the ingredients and especially of Trofie pasta.


14 oz trofie
4 to 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 oz chopped walnuts
4 oz freshly grated parmesan
3 to 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp crushed thyme or marjoram leaves

Cook pasta in large pan of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine olive oil with walnuts, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and thyme or marjoram. Mix well. Drain pasta and toss with sauce, then serve in warmed shallow bowls before it cools.

For tonight's preparation, instead of searching high and low for the perfect pasta as I did with my first preparation, I went with an organic Casarecce pasta that I already had on hand by a company called Garofalo. It is an Italian pasta, made from 100% organic durum wheat semolina. This particular pasta worked just great but after reading my entry from 2011, I am convinced that the Rustichella D' Abruzzo Casarecce that I used for my initial preparation was the way to do it right. Whatever type of pasta you decide to use, enjoy this dish! It is fairly easy but yields a sophisticated final product for a weeknight pasta dish. 

As information, the only changes I would make is to use 2 1/2 to 3 ounces of walnuts instead of 4 ounces and to keep the olive oil to 4 Tbsp, which is on the lower end of the recommended amount.

Recipe Source:
"Pasta" by Marlena Spieler, Page 142

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Turmeric Tomato Detox Soup

Tomato soup has long been one of my favorite foods but in recent years, it has become more difficult to eat on a consistent basis. I require a low-fat dairy or non-dairy version for allergy reasons so I find that ordering tomato soup at restaurants is nearly impossible. As a result, I find myself often longing for a hot bowl of tomato soup. I am working on finding a few recipes to prepare at home that meet my dietary needs.

This particular recipe jumped out at me because it includes turmeric and apple cider vinegar. Not only do both of these ingredients appeal to my taste buds, they offer vast health benefits. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties as well as aiding in liver detox. Apple cider vinegar lowers blood sugar levels and cholesterol, contains antioxidants that help fight disease, and helps with acid reflux and digestion. In addition, the health benefits from coconut oil deserve mention. Coconut oil contains lauric acid which helps increase good cholesterol and lowers blood pressure. Lauric acid also aids in fighting bacterial and viral infections. The health benefits of this recipe are clear so I was hoping that the soup would be tasty.


5 oz cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 cup vegetable stock, low sodium
1 can diced tomatoes with sauce
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp coconut oil
mixed seeds and nuts for garnish

Heat coconut oil in sauce pan and fry onion and garlic for one minute. Add turmeric and cherry tomatoes, and cook until tomatoes soften and leave their juices. Add canned tomatoes, vegetable stock, apple cider vinegar and basil. Bring to boil, cover with lid and let simmer for five minutes.

Transfer into a blender and pulse to obtain a creamy liquid.

Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with mixed seeds and nuts.

After preparing the recipe and testing the result, I proceeded to wolf down two bowls within about 15 minutes. I love this soup! I will say that this does not resemble what we recognize as classic tomato soup. The apple cider vinegar flavor is quite prominent so in order to enjoy this recipe, you might need to be a person that appreciates vinegar. I was curious how I would react to the combination of turmeric and apple cider vinegar because they are both such strong flavors, but the combination was quite delicious. The kicker is that the texture of the soup was nearly perfect. I prefer tomato soup that is not perfectly smooth and this one fit the bill. The addition of seeds on top made the texture even better. I chose to use sunflower seeds because I love them on everything but I could envision using pepitas or toasted almonds as well.

I recommend using Bragg Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. Not only is it organic, it is also Non GMO, kosher and the flavor is pure.

Recipe Source: detoxdiy.com

Monday, January 9, 2017

Pea Hummus

On a recent trip to the public library, Olivia found a cookbook that interested her enough to check out and bring home. As a cute side note, I love how eclectic she is when we go to the library. On this trip, she checked out two books about animal fairies, a book about birds, one book about items you can make with fabric scraps, and a cookbook. I love my girl! She is interested in so many things and just plain fun to be around.

The following recipe for Pea Hummus is the first recipe that Olivia chose to prepare. The flavors ended up being more light and fresh than traditional hummus made from garbanzo beans. Pea hummus, however, has the same health benefits as other types of hummus; it is high in protein and contains lots of vitamins including iron, zinc, vitamin K, folate, and vitamin C. The only change we made to the recipe is that we omitted the tahini. If included, it would definitely add a nice, earthy quality to the final product but the recipe was tasty without the tahini. From Olivia's kitchen to yours; enjoy!

1 Tbsp tahini
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
14 oz can chickpeas, drained
salt and freshly ground pepper

medium saucepan
food processor

Cook peas in a saucepan of boiling water for 3 minutes.

Carefully drain through a strainer, then refresh under cold water. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.

Season with salt and pepper. Use teaspoon to test a small amount. Transfer to a bowl or into paper cups to serve. Serve will sliced vegetables such as carrots, peppers, celery, and snow peas. Olivia chopped and arranged all of these vegetables herself because she wanted to make sure she had a good presentation. Can you tell she has watched a bit of Food Network? She just couldn't be more adorable!

Recipe Source:
"Mommy & Me Start Cooking" by DK Books, pages 64-65

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Zucchini and Hazelnut Salad

To say I am behind in posting recipes is the understatement of the century. I must be backlogged by at least seven or eight recipes by now! I am dedicated to getting caught up over the next few weeks so be on the lookout for several recipes coming your way.

I prepared this particular dish for an event that I attend every June and wow, it is a good one! This recipe is one of the tastiest that I have prepared in quite a while. In posts from year's past, I have written about the Emerald Water Anglers cooking competition that I judge every June (click on this link for details about the competition and this link for info about Emerald Water Anglers). I always prepare a few dishes to share with attendees and this was the favorite dish that I prepared for the 2016 event. As my best friend Natalie said after she took her first bite, "Feel free to make this for me anytime!" I have since made it twice for different events and it has gone over like gangbusters both times.

1/3 cup shelled hazelnuts
7 small zucchini (1 3/4 lbs in total)
4 Tbsp olive oil
salt and black pepper
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups mixed green and purple basil leaves
3 oz high quality Parmesan, broken up or very thinly sliced
2 tsp hazelnut oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Scatter hazelnuts over baking sheet and roast for 12 to 15 minutes, or until nicely browned. Allow them to cool before chopping roughly or just crushing lightly with the side of a large knife. Place a griddle pan on high heat and leave it there until it is almost red hot; at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim ends of zucchini and cut on an angle into 3/8-inch-thick slices. Place them in a bowl and toss with half the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Place slices in the hot grill pan and char-grill for about 2 minutes on each side.

Turn them over using tongs. Make sure to get distinct char marks without cooking the zucchini through.

Transfer to mixing bowl, pour balsamic vinegar over top, toss together and set aside.

Once the zucchini have cooled down, add remaining olive oil, basil, and hazelnuts. Mix lightly, then taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Transfer to a flat plate, incorporating the Parmesan, and drizzle with hazelnut oil. Enjoy!

Recipe Source:
"Plenty; Vibrant Vegetable Recipes" by Yotam Ottolenghi, Page 70-71

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Celery Root and Fennel Chowder

We love this recipe for Celery Root and Fennel Chowder so much at our house, that I have prepared it two times in less than two weeks. Although the flavor profile is fairly sophisticated, even Olivia can't get enough of the soup! I was fairly confident that Brad and I would like the recipe, but I would not have guessed that Olivia would appreciate it so much.

The flavor is earthy, savory, and fresh; all at once. Every ingredient is discernible, which isn't always the case with a blended or partially blended soup. Also, it is a Vegan dish, which I am trying to incorporate more into our weekly diets. This is the first recipe I have made that calls for celery root and let me just say that I am now a celery root believer. It may look a little bit funny, but it sure is tasty!

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced, plus 2 Tbsp fennel fronds reserved for garnish
2 to 3 leeks, white part only, well cleaned and thinly sliced

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
1 or 2 shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup minced fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cups water
1 large celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice

In a deep soup pot, combined sliced fennel, leeks, potatoes, shallots, garlic, parsley, thyme, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Drizzle olive oil over the top, then stir well until vegetables are evenly coated. Put pot over medium-low heat, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring a few times to keep the vegetables from sticking to bottom of pot. Stir in celery root and water. 

Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Continue to cook at a boil, stirring occasionally, until celery root is tender, about 20 minutes.

Transfer half of mixture to a blender and process until smooth.

Pour puree back into soup pot and stir until well mixed. Taste and adjust seasoning if you like. Serve in warmed soup bowls garnished with fennel fronds.

This recipe has officially become a staple at our house; especially with a thin baguette that is chewy on the outside and soft on the inside. Both times I have prepared the soup, I have served it with Macrina Bakery Sour Ficelle baguette which is made of organic wheat flour, filtered water, and sea salt. As a matter of fact, now that I am writing about the chowder and getting hungry, I think I am going to make it again this week!

Recipe Source:
"Pure Vegan" by Joseph Shuldiner
Pages 146-147

Friday, April 8, 2016

Brunch for My Ladies ; Skillet Eggs in Tomato Sauce, Bruleed Grapefruit With Honey-Yogurt, Spinach Strata

Although it has taken me months to sit down and write about the following recipes, the day I cooked them for a small group of my dearest friends was one of my favorite days of summer. There was no special occasion other than to spoil some of my favorite ladies with food that was good for their souls. We sat on the deck, overlooking the water and mountains, and soaked up the sun as we ate. I remember looking around the table and being extremely thankful for such a meaningful time with my friends.

From a culinary standpoint, the food turned out beautifully! Especially the Skillet Eggs in Tomato Sauce and Spinach Strata. They were both rich, savory, and just plain delicious. All ingredients were simple but when combined, created amazing dishes. Please enjoy!

Skillet Eggs in Tomato Sauce:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 pounds large tomatoes, chopped (about 10 cups)
Course salt and freshly ground pepper
8 fresh basil leaves
6 large eggs
1 oz Parmesan cheese, shaved for garnish

Heat oil in large skillet over medium. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, just until it starts to brown around edges, 30 seconds to one minute. Add tomatoes, 2 tsp salt, and basil. Simmer until tomatoes have broken down into a loose sauce, about 20 minutes. This part of preparation smells heavenly!

Make a well in tomato sauce with back of spoon and crack one egg into hole. Repeat with remaining five eggs.

Season with salt and pepper and cook until whites are set and yolks are cooked as desired, about 25 to 30 minutes. Top with cheese and serve immediately with sauce from the skillet. Serve with toasted slices of baguette for dipping if desired.

All I can say about this recipe is, oh my goodness! I will start out by saying that this dish is in the top ten dishes that I have ever prepared for this blog. I loved it that much; as did my friends. I cooked the sauce down for almost 30 minutes and by the time it was done, it was luscious, velvety, and full of fresh flavors. I was concerned about overcooking the eggs but they were perfectly finished, with the qualities of over easy eggs. I used an aged pre-grated Parmesan from Metropolitan Market (instead of shaved parmesan) which was just enough to add a nice, nutty quality to the dish. The basil was picked from my garden and the eggs were organic eggs that were also purchased at Metropolitan Market. We then used the remainder of the Grand Central baguette (that I used to make the Spinach Strata) to soak up the sauce. This dish was honestly as close to perfection as possible. I can't wait to make it again!


Spinach Strata

1/2 baguette (to yield about 6 cups of torn bread)
1 Tbsp softened butter, plus 3 Tbsp melted butter
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
2 Tbsp fresh sage, torn
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tsp)
1 1/2 oz baby spinach (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 oz Gruyere, grated
1 oz Parmesan, grated

Cut bread into slices about 3/4-inch thick. Set on counter for several hours to dry out, or toast the bread in 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Tear each slice into several pieces. This should yield about 6 cups.

Coat 8" X 8" casserole dish with 1 tablespoon softened butter. In large bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Whisk in milk, sage, salt, pepper, melted butter, and minced garlic until homogeneous.

Add torn bread to custard, mixing to make sure every piece absorbs some liquid. Stir in spinach and Gruyere. Pour bread-custard-spinach mixture into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan and top with more freshly ground pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for one hour on counter, or several hours in fridge (I chose to have it sit in the fridge overnight).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees about 20 minutes before you are ready to bake the strata. Bake until top is browned and slightly puffed and strata is cooked through, about 45 minutes. Let rest a few minutes before serving warm.

This strata was out of this world! I used Grand Central Bakery baguette and Gruyere from PCC Natural Market. All other ingredients were organic and/or locally sourced; including the sage, which I harvested from my garden that morning. It is high on my list of recipes to prepare again but next time, I would like to make it for my family.

Bruleed Grapefruit with Honey-Yogurt

4 large grapefruit, ruby red or gold
2 to 3 tsp sugar
1 cup vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla (if using plain yogurt, use 1 tsp; if vanilla, use 1/2 tsp
2 tsp milk or half and half

Start by prepping fruit; wash grapefruit and use knife to slice down the sides of the fruit to get the majority of rind off.

Then, using a smaller knife, trim extra rind. Slice into sections of fruit on each side of the separating membranes, taking out only fruit sections, one piece at a time, working your way around the fruit. Lay slices close together on serving platter in rows of concentric circle. If you don't have a brûlée torch, arrange slices on an ovenproof baking dish or baking sheet.

Next, wash the pomegranate and score around the middle. Break into two halves with your hands, then slightly crack open the sections of each half to loosen the seeds. With your hand over the bowl, place half pomegranate open-side-down on your palm. Hit back of fruit with wooden spoon until all seeds fall out. Repeat with other half.

Gently and evenly sprinkle sugar over the fruit platter. Using a brûlée torch or a few minutes under the broiler, evenly melt sugar until it slightly caramelizes.

In small bowl, mix together yogurt, honey, vanilla, and milk or half-and-half to make smooth sauce.

Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over bruleed grapefruit and drizzle generously with honey-yogurt. Serve immediately.

There are a few things I would change about this recipe to make it work better for me. The first is to leave out the pomegranate seeds. My guests and I agreed that they seemed extraneous and that we would prefer keeping a smooth texture without added crunch for this dish. The second change I would make is to either A) purchase a brûlée torch instead of trying to create a brûlée affect under the broiler or B) allow the grapefruit to cool more after broiling. While under the broiler, the grapefruit ended up warming all the way through which then made the yogurt sauce a bit runny. If I had broiled the grapefruit and then let it sit for several minutes or placed it in the fridge to cool before drizzling the yogurt sauce, the end result would have been more favorable. The sweetness of the honey and vanilla against the tartness of the grapefruit however, was quite lovely. Please keep in mind that this recipe is a bit labor intensive.


Finally, I served these dishes with a fresh frisee salad with a homemade vinaigrette to add a fresh note to the meal. The vinaigrette was prepared with olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, shallot from my garden, and salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Corn and Chicken Pasta Salad

The idea for this recipe arose at the West Seattle Public Library at the end of this past summer. When Olivia was three years old, I used to take her to the library to read aloud and to check out a few books to read at home. My real agenda, however, was to surround her with books in every way possible. As a child, I almost always had a book in hand. Books were a huge part of my life and I wish the same for Olivia.

This past summer, we made sure to make a library trip every few weeks. On this particular visit, Olivia was interested in finding a kid's cookbook and then choosing a dish to prepare. This is the recipe she chose.......

8 oz bow tie pasta
6 oz cooked chicken
4 scallions
1 large tomato
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2-3 sprigs dill
salt and pepper
1 1/4 cups corn, drained

Cook pasta according to instructions on package. Rinse with cold water. Shred chicken, slice scallions, deseed and chop tomatoes.

Put mayonnaise, yogurt, and lemon juice in large bowl. Snip in dill, season with salt and pepper, and stir everything together.

Pour cold pasta, chicken, scallions, chopped tomato, and corn into mayonnaise mixture. Mix all ingredients together and serve.

My little chef did a tremendous job preparing this dish. She ended up not being a huge fan of the Greek yogurt flavor but still enjoyed tasting the end result. She also loved the preparation process and most of all, she was very proud of the fact that she did every step herself.

If we prepare this recipe again, we would just leave out the Greek yogurt and substitute 2 Tbsp of additional mayonnaise. Every other component met Olivia's approval.

"Cook It Together" by Annabel Karmel, page 11

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Zesty Lime Shrimp and Avocado Salad

As I mentioned in my last entry, this recipe is part of the summer smorgasbord that I prepared for our friends when they came over for dinner last week. I couldn't decide on a specific cuisine so I went for whatever summery recipes struck my fancy. Olivia and I both love avocados, tomatoes, and shrimp so this recipe for Zesty Lime Shrimp and Avocado Salad was an immediate winner.


1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 limes, juice of
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
fresh pepper to taste
1 lb jumbo peeled, cooked shrimp, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 medium avocado, chopped
1 small jalapeño, seeds removed, finely diced
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro

In a small bowl, combine red onion, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Let this sit for at least 5 minutes to mellow the red onion.

In a large bowl, combine chopped shrimp, tomato, avocado, and jalapeño. Add liquid mixture and cilantro to large bowl and gently toss. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

Although this recipe required some rinsing and chopping, it was pretty easy to prepare. The only element that took a bit of time was preparing the shrimp. I always make sure I rinse them well and remove the tail properly so nobody gets a surprise when they take a bite.

My main recommendation is that the shrimp, avocado, and tomatoes are chopped to roughly the same size. The original recipe called for diced tomatoes and avocados but a true dice is smaller than a chop so the shrimp would have been much bigger. I went with a similar chop size for each of the three main ingredients and it worked out well.

I also served the jalapeños on the side so the kiddos could eat the dish. The rest of us added plenty of jalapeños to our portions so the zesty part of the recipe could live up to its name. This recipe was a success and is now on my list of dishes to prepare for summer dinners on the deck. Enjoy!

Recipe Source:

Orzo Salad With Artichoke Hearts, Slivered Almonds, and Golden Raisins

Seattle has experienced an unprecedented amount of warm weather and sunshine this spring and early summer. The month of June shattered several Seattle warm weather records as detailed in this KOMOnews.com article. This weather has continued well into July and the forecast doesn't seem to be changing. We even tied the all time record for most consecutive 90+ degree days during this past month. It has been an amazing summer so far! Needless to say, when we invited our good friends, the Bettmans, over for dinner on the deck last week, it was necessary to come up with a menu that suited the heat wave. I couldn't pinpoint a particular cuisine so I decided to make a summer smorgasbord. My first recipe is featured below and my second recipe will follow in the next entry.

The first recipe I chose is Orzo Salad With Artichoke Hearts, Almonds, and Golden Raisins. Actually, the original recipe calls for pine nuts but I made a tweak. Since pine nuts are one of the softer nuts around, I immediately decided that I wanted to use a harder, crunchier nut for texture. I looked in my pantry and what do you know, I had plenty of slivered almonds on hand. I also had fresh basil and green onions from the garden so I went for it. 


1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil

1 lb orzo pasta
olive oil
12 fresh baby artichokes or 2 cans artichoke hearts, rinsed
1 lemon, halved
3/4 cup golden raisins 
1/3 cup almond slices, toasted
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, julienned
3 green onions, including tender green tops, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

To make the dressing, use a food processor to combine lemon juice, mustard, garlic, basil, and olive oil. Puree until smooth and emulsified. Transfer to small bowl and set aside.

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to boil over high heat. Add orzo and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Transfer to large bowl and toss lightly with a little bit of olive oil to prevent grains from sticking together. 

If using fresh artichokes, trim the stems, leaving about 1/2 inch. Cut 1/2 inch off tops. Peel away tough outer leaves until you reach the tender, pale green leaves. Cut each artichoke lengthwise into 6 wedges and rub them with the cut lemon halves. Bring a pot of three-fourths full of water to boil. Add artichokes and cook until tender, about 14 minutes. Drain and let cool to room temperature. If using canned artichokes, drain and cut lengthwise into 6 wedges. Toast the almonds by placing them in a sauté pan on medium-low heat. Make sure you stir them constantly and only toast them for a few minutes because they burn easily.

Add artichokes, raisins, toasted almonds, basil, and green onions to bowl of orzo. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl and serve immediately. Serves 8. 

This recipe is absolutely delicious and I mean the kind of delicious that makes it the highlight of the meal. The raisins play beautifully with the basil, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard. As I have often mentioned, I love the mix of sweet with savory. I also appreciate a dish with balanced acidity. These four ingredients were truly a perfect match. Keeping the orzo al dente and toasting the slivered almonds created the perfect amount of texture and crunch. I just can't say enough about how good this salad tasted! 

I must admit that I chose to use jarred artichoke hearts instead of preparing them fresh. The reason for this choice was simply that I am not familiar with preparing fresh artichokes and I had three dishes that I needed to get done in time for dinner. I love learning to work with a new product but I simply didn't have the time. I also don't mind artichoke hearts out of the jar so it was just fine with me to use them. Finally, this dish is super tasty the following day so don't be afraid to make enough to eat for dinner the first night, lunch the next day, and dinner again. Enjoy!

Recipe Source:
"Williams-Sonoma Outdoor Entertaining", page 134