Friday, March 11, 2011

From the Heart: Memories and Artichokes

Gifted. That is one of my words for 2010. I was whisked off to L.A. on a flavorful journey courtesy of Bertolli foods, attended the Almost Famous Pellegrino Chef Competition in Las Vegas from the goodness of Foodbuzz, received books such as The Geometry of Pasta to review and if that wasn't enough, have been tinseled with food gifts.

And then last November, Kodak Gallery gifted me with a $50 gift certificate to create a book revolving around my Thanksgiving celebration. As someone who cooked Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas dinner, New Year's Eve dinner and New Year's Day dinner - all for different people - not a lot of photos were taken! (And you must know I was most honored to be entrusted with so many people's holiday plans - it was a pleasure to plan and execute the meals. There's no "sigh of the cooking martry" happening here.)

This winter I was able to properly bring together photos and document the holiday season - the people, the food and the sights. I have far too many photos stored away in books and boxes, it has been a sweetness to have this book in my living room and watch family and friends who were part of the celebrations go through them with happy exclamations.

I am in the midst of creating one from our trip to Ireland. I am so traditional - and went with the black background and the small white border - but there were so many design options to choose from - that I am thinking of having one of my more visual friends come and help me jazz-up the next photo book. The prices are reasonable - and I had over 40 photos in my holiday book.

I want to thank Kodak Gallery for their generosity. I would also like to inform them that my children are already starting animated discussions as to who takes ownership of this book - in the future. (In the far future.) Do check them out - there's an array of gifts and they are wonderfully personal. It's not a one-size-fit-all book. It's my memories - and I take care with them.
Last week, I was gifted once again - my mother came to dinner and brought bags of goodies. My mother does not come over unless she has at least three shopping bags filled with food and books. My grandmother was like that and I intend to continue the tradition. Likewise, I cannot leave my mother's house without a truckload of food. My salad days as an actress are over and I certainly look well-fed, but old habits die hard.

And this artichoke gratin won my heart. Today, it's both a memory and a happy anticipation.

As I dwell in my snow-globe world (Day 119), the green of the artichokes lifted my snow-slogged spirits, the richness of the gratin gave me a glow and the fact that my mother did the considerable work of prepping the artichokes brought me back to the days of my youth. When she cooked and I merely ate. There are a few steps - my mother never turned away from prep.

Baby Artichoke Gratin - serves 10 - from the St. Paul Pioneer Press
(The artichokes in MN are adults - so she used what she could find.)
4 pounds baby artichokes
1 lemon
2 egg yolks
white pepper
1 tablespoon water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup heavy cream, whipped a bit
3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Artichoke Gratin Preparation
Prep artichokes. (a tutorial on prepping artichokes can be found here. A video tutorial can be found here.) How people figured out how to take a prickly, thistled vegetable and turn it into a creamy delectable to pleases every nerve-ending in your being is a subject for another post
Cook artichokes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. season well with salt. Add the juice of half a lemon (save a tablespoon of that lemon juice for later.) Add prepped artichokes in simmering water. Simmer for 6-10 minutes (until artichokes are tender.) Drain well.
Garlic Aioli: In a blender or in a tall bowl for an immersion blender, combine eggs yolks, 1 pinch of salt, white pepper, water, remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and minced garlic. Slowly pour in your canola and olive oils while pulsing until mixutre begins to emulsify. (Which will happen quickly.) Continue to pulse (if using an immersion blender - keep the blender low towards the bottom of the bowl.) Pulse for about 1 minute until it is the consistency of mayonnaise or - is mayonnaise - which it is.)
Whip your cream.
Mousseline Sauce: In a large bowl gently fold your aioli into the whipped cream. Then fold in your Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Broil: Arrange drained artichokes in 1-1/2 quart gratin dish (or - you know - something similar). Gently spoon mousseline sauce over all. Broil on high for about 3-4 minutes (until some of the sauce is lightly browned on the top). Serve immediately. One serving is 348 calories with a healthy dose of 80 grams of fat. I didn't bother to figure out the points! When an artichoke gratin falls into my lap, I merely say "thank you!"

As current events unfold, I have discovered what for me - is the wonder of blogging. As I read with great interest what is on the dinner table in Japan, Malaysia, Italy, Canada, Syria, Lebanon, France and all across our country - we are a community that comes together for dinner.
We break bread together and take turns stirring the pot. We share, create, laugh, sigh, sizzle and embrace - each other's lives, each other's meals and cultures with respect. Not a bad blueprint for becoming one world.


Mister Meatball said...

One day we should all wrassle up some grub, fire up the laptops, turn on the Skype and "break bread" together.

Mary Bergfeld said...

You had a wonderful year to recall and a great one to look forward to. The album is a wonderful idea and I'd love to try that gratin. Have a fabulous weekend, Claudia. Blessings...Mary

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I love your photo book and I'm a traditional gal too - white or black background is the best. The artichoke gratin sounds and looks great. Although you had a lot of wonderful things this year, you know what's best? Your mom nearby and able to be part of your life (and with groceries to boot!)

Claudia said...

Linda: Don't I know it! ANd it's grand to have her cooking again.

Meatball: A bread-breaking skype sounds magical and do-able.

Mary: Thanks for kind words and have a wonderful weekend.

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

I really envy your time with mom. I can relate, when mine was alive she always came over with bags filled with food.. things she and I loved! Thats how I learned the values of Italian fresh was the best always.. I miss her, and although its been 12 years, its feels like 50 she has been gone... its never gets easier... love the artichokes, love the photo, god bless you both enjoy!

Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina said...

Claudia, you are one "gifted" lady.....I met someone once who said that "God gives to those that He wants to give to".....I love those artichokes, gosh, I so need to fix these! Here's hoping for your continued gifts to all of us and to you as well! Blessings this season of Lent, Roz

Island Vittles said...

What a delicious looking dish! As you said, it has a few steps, but it looks and sounds like it`s worth the effort...Theresa

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Your special holiday book is beautiful, Claudia. My daughter makes Kodak memory books of all her special events and they always come out so nice.

The Bertolli event was such a wonderful time last year -- and I enjoyed meeting you so much!

Your artichoke Gratin looks so delicious! I am never that adventurous with artichokes ..I usually stuff them and steam or grill them. A gratin looks so gourmet and sublime!

Anonymous said...

Your photo book is very special, such a great idea! Love the baby artichoke gratin, super delicious for sure!

chow and chatter said...

lovely recipe wow 119 days hope it melts soon sweet Claudia and my Mum and Dad gave me one of those photo books for Christmas very cool

Anne said...

Everytime I come here I get soo hungry! I only wish there was a way to have cyber food. lol

Torviewtoronto said...

delicious artichoke
thank you for sharing this lovely post

Angela said...

I love those photo books. They are so cool! They are great for little kids (like my nephew) who benefit from looking at pictures of the people and places in their lives. Your mom is an excellent cook.

Proud Italian Cook said...

What goes around comes around Claudia, but I have to agree with Linda about having your mom nearby, that's the greastest gift!
Those artichokes I could dive into, let's see, 348 calories x's 3 = who cares!

Reeni said...

I love the photo book Claudia! Such a nice memento to have of your holiday. And the gratin is absolutely divine! Fatty and indulgent. I love it.

sweetlife said...

wonderful memories, i love the photo book...lovely gratin..119 days of snow, I hope it clears up soon..take care


That Girl said...

lately I've been making artichokes because my mom buys too many and gifts me with the extras!

fromBAtoParis said...

I felt tempted to write "lucky girl", but no, you deserve it;.It's your merit !! And the artichokes with that aioli? a dream come true! Well, if your mother does not know where to go next, you can give her my address...

Heather S-G said...

How wonderful! That book will be cherished, I just know it =) And the artichokes...garlic aioli...oh my, YES! Lovely.

kita said...

Love the idea of a artichoke gratin! My BF loves artichokes and they are something I hadn't had until meeting him. This looks delish!

Juliana said...

Claudia, your photo album is so precious...and the baby artichoke looks indeed delicious. SO SO tasty. Have a wonderful week ahead ;-)

Anna said...

How fantastic is it that we have blogging, our community of food loving folk are wonderful.
Artichoke used to frighten the life out of me, until a few years ago, in a kitchen in London. These little beauties look great. :)

Nancy said...

What a great photo book. Your artichoke recipes are so great, I need to hunt for some so I can try it. You've left me hungry :)

Barbara GF said...

Lucky you, Claudia, to have Mom nearby and have her prepare those wonderful artichokes! Your karma is definitely in the right place and working for you. You get what you give in this world. :)

tasteofbeirut said...

Blessed with gifts indeed! Your artichoke gratin is titillating my taste buds!

Lori Lynn said...

Hi Claudia - those memory books are the best! I like the black and white theme, classy!
YAY for spring and artichokes!

Magic of Spice said...

What fun it is to create treasures with a photo book....and the artichoke dish is just delicious!
Hope you are having a great week :)

FOODESSA said...

I am once more reminded of the importance of getting all my photos sorted and to get them organized in a beautiful book such as this one you put together Claudia. You must be very pleased with such a treasured accomplishment ;o)

Artichoke gratin is certainly going to be on the menu sometime soon...maybe even with a little snuck in Ricotta. LOL

Ciao for now,

Saji said...

First tyme here...loved it toattly

Unknown said...

Your mother must've been a wonderful cook, those artichokes gratin sound delicious. My mother doesn't shy away from prep work either, she cooks a lot of Greek food, which can be very tedious. But I think the effort is definitely part of what makes Mediterranean food so tasty :)

Angie's Recipes said...

Lucky you, Claudia!
I have never had artichokes gratin, not to mention to make I am seriously craving for some!

Savoring Italy said...

Such a lovely post, Claudia. The last words you wrote...just beautiful. These artichokes are gorgeous!

Sandra said...

Wonderful post full of memories! Love the recipe too..will try it soon!

Emily Malloy said...

Wonderful post.

These artichokes are so creative! Yumm!

Dimah said...

Thank you for sharing this lovely post!
These artichokes look delicious!

Anna's Table said...

Claudia, you merited all the wonderful gifts received in 2010. Best of all is your own gift,this beautiful book documenting years of celebrations. Your children are so fortunate to have this family album to be cherished for years to come. Your recipe post rings true for me, bringing to mind how fortunate I am to also have my mom close by,cooking side by side our traditional Italian recipes. It's always such a joy to read your blog. Have a lovely day.

My Little Space said...

Congrats on your gift! It's time for you to put everything in one place. Something special to remember. I'm sure your mom is an amazing woman. The artichokes looks really inviting. Thanks for sharing it. Have a fine day.
((hugs)) Kristy

momgateway said...

I feel so much for Japanese people suffering right now, I will be posting about Japan soon

OysterCulture said...

I've managed to come up for air and read your wonderful post. You'r artichoke recipe sounds divine and its amazing when you look back what all you've accomplished in the past year. I certainly had a blast tagging along.