Archive for May, 2009

All-Clad Seconds Sale 2009

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It’s that time of year again, folks—the All-Clad Seconds Sale is next weekend, June 5th and 6th. Last year I made the trip to the Washington County Fairgrounds near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was amazed by the deep discounts. You can read this post and its comments for a full report, but here’s a quick recap: The prices on a wide range of All-Clad’s high-quality (cough, very expensive) pots and pans were reduced by 40% to 70%, and I wound up with two flawless and reasonably-priced pots that I now use all the time.

If you’re in Pittsburgh next weekend but can’t make it to the Washington Fairgrounds, a local kitchen store and cooking school called Crate is holding their own All-Clad Seconds sale. According to the Crate website, Wüsthof knives will be also be discounted, as well as some cutting boards, towels, and salt and pepper mills. I’ve never been to this location for the sale, so I can’t vouch for how long the lines might be or how much merchandise will be there.

Wherever you wind up in your quest for pots, it looks like Pittsburgh is the place to be next weekend. Happy shopping, and let me know how the sale goes!

The All-Clad Seconds Sale:

Washington County Fairgrounds: Friday, June 5 from 9 am to 7 pm, and Saturday, June 6 from 9 am to 4 pm. The Fairgrounds are located near Washington, Pennsylvania.

Crate: Friday, June 5 and Saturday, June 6 from 9:30 am to 5 pm; Sunday, June 7 from 11 am to 5 pm. Crate is located at 1960 Greentree Road, Greentree Road Shopping Center, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Vote for the King!

GetAttachment.aspxAttention all doughnut lovers! We’re taking a detour from our regularly-scheduled programming at Artichoke Heart to let you know about a fun contest over at Dunkin’ Donuts. You can help create the company’s next new doughnut, simply by clicking for your favorite design from 12 finalists. And we’re also here to shamelessly plug our favorite, called “The King.” It’s the brainchild of James Smith, the husband of one of my oldest friends. His dream doughnut is a Bananas Foster-filled treat topped with peanut butter icing and chopped peanuts. Yum! You can vote once a day until May 27, just by clicking here. Best of luck, Jim! Make sure you send us a free dozen when you win!

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A Day at Citi Field

Last weekend Jim and I hopped on the 7 train to Citi Field to watch the New York Mets duke it out with Jim’s beloved Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mets destroyed the Pirates by a score of 10 to 1, but it didn’t bother me. Baseball, shmaseball. I was there for the food.

In case you haven’t heard, Citi Field is the brand-spanking new stadium for the Mets in Flushing, Queens. Ever since it opened in April, the revamped food court has been garnering as many headlines as the Mets’s inconsistent onfield performance. As soon as our tickets were scanned and we entered the pink-hued behemoth, I was on the prowl for lunch.

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My first stop was at Catch of the Day, chef Dave Pasternack’s seafood stand. Among the many options from Esca’s head chef are grilled shrimp po’ boy sandwiches and fried calamari, but I couldn’t resist the lobster roll ($17). I waited to the side of the cashier for my freshly-prepared sandwich, practically jumping in the air with excitement. I couldn’t help it; I love lobster rolls. However, I almost cried foul when the cashier handed the roll to me, as there was less lobster meat than I expected on the bun. But I’d like to give Catch of the Day the benefit of the doubt: Perhaps the Pasternack crew was trying to ration out the lobster meat so that they wouldn’t run out before the end of the game. As for the sandwich itself—which I ate in four quick bites—it was fine overall. The meat was lightly dressed with mayonnaise and was obviously very fresh. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I was still hungry by the time I joined Jim and our friends on line at Shake Shack.

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Danny Meyer’s two Shake Shack locations in Manhattan have attracted crowds for their burgers, hot dogs, and fries for as long as they’ve been in business. The lines at Citi Field are fairly long as well, but they move quickly. Also, since Shake Shack anchors the Taste of the City food court near left center field, you can actually watch the game while you wait on line. (If you’re into that sort of thing.) My Single Shack ShackBurger—a single beef patty topped with American cheese, crisp green leaf lettuce, juicy plum tomatoes, and Meyer’s Shack sauce—was compact, smoky, and just a little bit messy ($5.75). Served in a simple wax paper bag, it was the perfect baseball food in taste and spirit. The fries were crispy and deliciously salty ($6). Jim and our friend Diego indulged in Shack-Cago dogs, a riff on Chicago’s famous hot dogs but with some New York-produced ingredients such as Rick’s Picks relish ($5.75). As predicted, our food from Shake Shack was a home run.

Also included in the Taste of the City food court are Blue Smoke for barbeque options like pulled pork sliders and chipotle chicken wings; El Verano Taqueria for carnitas and tacos; and Box Frites for Belgian fries. I’ve read that favorite vendors from the old stadium like Daruma of Tokyo and Mama’s of Corona have also made the move to the new stadium, so I’ll have to check in on them next time.

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As you can tell by now, at Citi Field you’ll find more than typical, pre-frozen, stadium junk food. Sure, there are still Cracker Jack and beer, but there’s also a new focus on good, fresh ingredients, infused with a bit of baseball spirit. Food this fun can only be good for the game.

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Rampless Risotto

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What are the most obvious signs of spring? Some might say the flowering trees and plants; others celebrate the arrival of warmer temperatures and lighter jackets. But in the world of food blogs, spring means one thing: ramps.

Food bloggers love these mild spring onions. Once they are sighted at farmers’ markets, new posts about ramps fill my RSS reader, almost to the exclusion of anything else. Ramps in pasta, ramps on pizza, ramps, ramps, ramps. I’m sure there are many good reasons for this unabashed ramp love, but I don’t understand it—I’ve never tried a single ramp. I don’t know how I’ve survived in this rampless state until now, but I sure hope I don’t get banned from food blogging because of it. 

In fact, starting last weekend I did everything I could to cure my ramp-related ignorance. Jim had picked up a local flyer advertising that last week’s farmers’ market would be “all about ramps.” On Sunday morning, with my shopping bag slung over my shoulder, I bounded down my apartment steps and made my way to the Carroll Gardens market. I went straight to the W. Rogowski farm stand and searched earnestly between the piles of lettuce, spinach, and green onions.

“Excuse me, do you have ramps today?” I asked, a hint of worry creeping into my voice.

“No, I’m sorry, I didn’t have time to go down to the swamp to look for them this week,” responded a harried-looking Cheryl Rogowski. “But we do have watercress.”

Boo. Boo on watercress. I sighed and bought some asparagus, swiss chard, and green garlic instead.

But I wasn’t ready to give up on my ramps. On Monday morning I headed to the Union Square Farmers’ Market. At 8 am. Before work. In the rain. 

I walked around and around the market. I saw more asparagus, and I saw more watercress. I spied bread, greens, and flowers.

But no ramps. 

And then, my friends, I gave up. 

That evening at home, I took the spring risotto recipe that I had planned to make with ramps and shifted the ingredients around a bit. The original recipe called for a ramp and swiss chard pesto to be stirred into a risotto of asparagus, fava beans, and peas. Instead of using ramps in the pesto, I chopped some leeks with the swiss chard. I didn’t have any fava beans, and I hate peas, so I concentrated on the asparagus and green garlic that I had purchased the day before. And in the end, even without ramps, I created two beautiful and creamy plates of risotto. Each lemony forkful was full of fresh, green specks of seasonal goodness. I’m not giving up on ramps for good, but with them or without them, spring has definitely arrived. 

Recipe for Spring Risotto with Asparagus, Green Garlic, Swiss Chard, and Leeks (Adapted from the New York Times, April 23, 2008)

For the pesto:

  • 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
  • 3/4 cups packed swiss chard leaves
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

For the risotto:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallots
  • 3 sprigs of green garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • About 5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 6 to 10 rods of asparagus, sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • Parmesan cheese

For the pesto: Place the chopped leeks, swiss chard leaves, and salt in a small food processor or hand blender. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil. Season to taste. Set aside.

For the risotto: In a medium saucepan, bring your chicken or vegetable stock to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add 1/2 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large pot. Once the butter has melted, add the green garlic and the shallots. Cook garlic and shallots together until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice. Stir the rice for a minute or two, until the edges become translucent.

Add the white wine to the pot, and stir the rice until it has absorbed most of the wine. You know the liquid has been absorbed when you can scrape your spoon through the rice and it sticks to the sides of the pan a bit, showing the bottom of the pan. 

Add a few spoonfuls of stock to the rice. I usually work with a ladle, and add 1 full ladle of stock at a time. Stir the rice until the liquid is absorbed, and then add some more stock. Stir the rice continuously. (Taking a few small breaks is fine.) Continue to add stock and stir the rice in this manner until the rice is al dente and quite creamy, about 18 to 20 minutes.

When the rice is about halfway done (at the 10-12 minute mark) add the asparagus to the pot. Continue to stir.

When the rice is done, remove it from the heat. Stir in the pesto. Stir in 1/2 tablespoon of butter and about 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, topped with grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 2. Enjoy!

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Mom’s Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed artichokes grace my parents’ dining room table on almost every major holiday, as well as special dinners and parties in between. My parents even have a specific platter for them, a delicately-painted ceramic plate with indentations for eight of these green globes, inherited from my Sicilian grandmother. Thanks to my Southern Italian mother and her formidable artichoke-related skills, my family has eaten more of these spindly vegetables than I can count. We are addicted to artichokes.

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Despite my love for my mother’s stuffed artichokes, I had never attempted to make them until a few weeks ago, when artichokes were actually in season. Jim and I were having two friends over for dinner, and it was time to put Mom’s recipe to the test. I picked up my cell phone, scrolled down to my parents’ number, and pressed the call button.

“Um, hi, Mom? Do you have a sec? How do you make your stuffed artichokes? Are they difficult?” I asked. “And will they be ready by 8 o’clock?”

And so began a half hour or so of phone calls. We talked about her ingredients for the stuffing (breadcrumbs, parsley, and Parmesan cheese are the main components); measurements (“I don’t know, I always just eyeball it”); and cooking time (“Not less than 40 minutes”). I also learned that her stuffed artichokes are steamed, not baked, and that they are best served at room temperature. Too much parsley is never a problem, and if I felt like mixing things up I could add a bit of prosciutto to the basic stuffing. I hung up the phone after our third call, started trimming the chokes, and hoped that some of Mom’s artichoke skills had been transmitted to me in the womb.

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For my first attempt, the chokes were a simple and luxurious hit, especially since I had guessed most of the measurements for the ingredients. The moist, flavored breadcrumbs complemented the silky leaves with every bite. As I scraped each leaf with my teeth and made my way down to the choke at the center, I wondered how they compared to my mother’s. Maybe I did inherit some of her artichoke-related gifts after all. 

Recipe for Mom’s Stuffed Artichokes

  • 4 medium artichokes
  • 3/4 – 1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs (store-bought are fine for this recipe)
  • 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons fresh, finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the stuffing: Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, garlic powder, and a bit of salt and pepper together in a bowl. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and mix together. Set aside.

Lay each artichoke on its side and cut off the pointy tops with a sharp knife. Cut off the artichoke stems and peel them. Set aside. After cutting off the stems, your artichokes should be able to sit on their flat bottoms. Tear off the tough outer leaves at the base of each choke. With a pair of scissors, cut off the pointy tops of the remaining outer leaves. (If you work quickly, you don’t need to set each artichoke aside in lemon-infused water.)

Working from the center of each artichoke towards the outer leaves, start stretching the leaves out a bit, to create more space between them. Stuff the breadcrumb mixture in between as many leaves as possible. Fill the openings with as much stuffing as possible. 

Sit the 4 artichokes and their stems in a high-sided sauté pan or large pot. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over the artichokes. Add about 1/4 cup water—enough to cover the bottom of the pan and a bit more—to the pot, add the lemons, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 40 minutes, adding water as necessary if the pot dries out. The artichokes are done when their color has changed to a less vibrant green and you can easily pull their leaves out.

You can keep these artichokes and their stems on a platter on the stovetop until you are ready to serve them that day. Serves 4. Enjoy!

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