Roasted Artichokes – 30/67

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I am not really an animal person. I don’t ooh and ah over dogs passed on the street or with their owners on the train (RIP going anywhere). I hate movies about animals, I think zoos are dumb, and I would gladly never watch a cat video again on youtube. I don’t really like the term “fur baby” or “dog mom” because… how could an animal be like a baby? It never learns to talk or read, it will always get in the way of vacations, and kids eventually wipe their own butts. I love my friends and family who love their pets, and so I give as much love as I can to their pets. I don’t dislike them! I promise! I just didn’t really get the point. 

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This is not a popular opinion. It doesn’t make you liked at parties. In fact, it makes people think you’re a psychopath. 

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I’m not a psychopath! I just didn’t grow up with animals. I may have been slightly traumatized by a friend’s giant Newfoundland in first grade and a dog bite or two in elementary school. Animals don’t really like me either, so ha. 

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And so it is slightly incongruent that I have now found myself the owner of a very cute cat. I have officially had a cat in my house for one week… and I like it!

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A couple things incited this progression. In our old garden unit apartment, we had a bunch of strays living in the backyard. And oh my lord were they adorable. They just kept breeding and breeding, so there was a new crop of kittens every few weeks. They played and climbed and stared at us through our window. They warmed my cold, animal-averse heart! And then I started spending more time with a friend’s two adorable cats. I found myself wanting to hang out with them. The cats! Not just the friend! So we began to talk about fostering. 

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And then this whole quarantine thing happened. Now was the time! We signed up to foster with 4 different agencies and — there were no cats left in NYC. Sigh. Good for the kitties, bad for us. But then, lo and behold! Our friend Becky was one of those lucky fostering ones, and she happened to have a wonderfully cute and friendly and curious cat who turns out she was allergic to and did we want her?? 

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And this is how I’ve found myself a new card carrying member of the I Have A Pet club. And I am totally smitten with Sadie Pumpernickel! She’s a little love. I can’t stop taking pictures of her. And poking her when she’s sleeping so she’ll wake up and play with me. I’m not sure I’m at “cat mom” level yet, but I get you, loved people, who want to talk about your animals a lot. I don’t blame you. Let’s send each other pet pics! This little cat is breaking up the monotony of isolation and bringing us so much joy. I’m so glad she’s here. 

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This artichoke recipe came from my friend Erin, who I’ve likely offended in the past with my pet feelings. I’m sorry, Erin! Your dog is a total sweet face! I promise it wasn’t personal. I have you to thank for seeing a wonderful, committed pet owner in action. And also for forever changing the way I’ll make artichokes. These are so great, so permeated by the garlic and flavorful after basting in their own juices. These roasted artichokes are the purest, highest calling of one of the most magical vegetables. Make them now, it’s artichoke season y’all!

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Roasted Artichokes

from my friend Erin, thanks!

fresh artichokes
some peeled garlic cloves
lemon juice
olive oil
kosher salt

melted butter
mayo thinned with lemon juice
toast

Preheat oven to 425F. Cut off the top third of the artichoke. Snip any pointy leaves. Cut down the base. Rub all over with lemon juice to prevent browning. Pull back inner leaves of the artichokes, stab with a knife, and stuff with whole garlic cloves. At least 2-3 each. Drizzle all over with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and add a final squeeze of lemon. Wrap tightly in two layers of tin foil. Roast for an hour and twenty minutes, until the bottom is soft when pricked with a paring knife. Remove from oven and let sit til cool enough to handle. 

Spread garlic on toast. Dip bottoms of leaves into your sauce of choice. Or not! They’re so delicious even without. Don’t forget the heart, the best part. Avoid the choke.

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Stuffed Grape Leaves – 29/67

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My high school graduation party was catered by a little mom and pop Egyptian market in the suburb next to ours. Instead of burgers and potato salad, we had vats of falafel, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, hummus, buttery rice pilaf, and stuffed grape leaves. My mouth waters just typing all those words in a row. I’m not sure where my Middle Eastern food obsession began (maybe the Lebanese restaurant next to my dad’s work that was a treat when we’d visit him there?), or how/where/if it collides with my Jewish roots, but I do know the love is deep. I’m not interested in debating ownership of my favorite foods — I know many countries claim creation of falafel and hummus and dolmas, but I will not engage. I will happily eat all varieties. Whichever is nearest is the best. (Except for my vast disappointment while teaching in Azerbaijan a couple years back, where I learned ALL dolmas there have meat. They called this rice-filled stye “fake dolmas” and looked down their noses at it. I had zero stuffed grape leaves in Azerbaijan 😦 .) 

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The owner of that mom and pop market loved my parents and got to know them a bit — I mean, they’d order TONS of food for big parties every so often, how could they not. At some point around high school he told us that he couldn’t wait to cater my wedding someday. I’m sure I was immediately embarrassed and rolled my eyes and said yeah sure, whatever…

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And then ten years later, lo and behold, I was engaged! And the first thing I knew I wanted at my wedding (besides the right husband 😉 ) — was the food! Stuffed grape leaves, falafel, mezze and dips galore. Homey, bright, flavorful food with history. No chicken breasts or veggie pastas. We started from food and made decisions from there. As the wedding was not close to my childhood home, alas, we could not fulfill the prophecy made by Mr. Market Owner, but I never forgot his words.  We hired a different mom and pop operation — or I guess it was more like pop and friends — and it was more Turkish than Egyptian, but oh man I feel pretty good about claiming we really had the best ever wedding food. The grape leaves were lip-pursing with pomegranate molasses, the hummus silky smooth, the fattoush crunchy and seasonal. I only wish I ate more of it. 

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I can’t believe I’ve never tried to make grape leaves, long one of my favorite foods. I will always order stuffed grape leaves if they’re on the menu (well, if they’re meat-free and nut-less, not guaranteed), and rarely have I found one I don’t like. Daniel was iffy about them until I came along and showed him the light. Calling them “grape leaves” doesn’t do justice do the tangy, spicy, citrusy, poppy dare-I-say vegetal dumpling that awaits. And so this seemed like a great project for a Sunday afternoon during quarantine. I had a jar of grape leaves around from my bridal shower and had a recipe for them in #thebinder, but I went off script and used a completely different recipe, one that had Turkish spices, as we just bought black Urfa chili flakes and dried mint from my friend’s amazing spice company and wanted to put them to use, and because it was vegetarian. Daniel added some beef to his, but admitted it wasn’t necessary. We didn’t totally nail the cooking time on these, but they’re still amazing, and still highly recommended for a weekend project. 

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five years ago: grilled pineapple and baked bean tacos

Stuffed Grape Leaves

adapted from Give Recipe

1 lb jar of grape leaves (we didn’t use all of them)

Filling
2 cups white rice, rinsed
1 big tomato, peeled and finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
4-6 cloves garlic, finely diced
¼ – ½ cup fresh parsley, finely diced
½ teaspoon cayenne (these are on the spicy side! do less if you’d like)
½ teaspoon black urfa chili flakes (optional, but nice and smoky)
2 teaspoons dried mint
1 teaspoon sumac
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon tomato or pepper paste (optional)
juice of 1 lemon
½ cup olive oil

Ground beef, optional

To Cook
At least 2 cups water
¼ cup olive oil

Remove grape leaves from jar and soak in hot water to remove some of the brine. 

To make filling, mix all filling ingredients in a big bowl. To make a meaty version, remove about a quarter of the mixture and place in a new bowl. Add about a quarter pound of ground beef and mix to incorporate. 

Lay out a grape leaf. Cut off the pointy stem with a paring knife. Place about a teaspoon or two of filling in a line right above the removed stem. Fold the bottom of the leaf up. Fold both sides in. Roll up to form a small log. Don’t roll too tightly, as rice will expand as it’s cooked and you don’t want them to explode. (The video from from Give Recipe shows this folding process clearly.)

Repeat until done with filling. As you’re filling, remove any misshapen or torn leaves. Use them to cover the bottom of a wide pot or braiser. Then, stack all filled and rolled grape leaves in the pot. Pour 2 cups water and ¼ cup olive oil over your nested grape leaves. Cover pot and turn heat to low. Cook for at least 45 minutes. Check for rice doneness and continue adding water and steaming as necessary. Ours took another 20ish minutes. 

Try to stop yourself from eating the whole pan warm off the stove. Store in the fridge and serve with yogurt if you’d like. 

Hot Artichoke Dip – 3/67

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I’ve always loved Thanksgiving. I mean, we all know I love food. And a whole day (or letsbehonest, a whole! weekend!) devoted to food?? I’m down.

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We always have two celebrations, one with each side of the family, and then since we’re all together anyway, add a gift-exchange component to the day. On one side that means a Yankee swap, on the other it means socks. Both sides do fairly traditional Thanksgiving meals (although one turkey is always better than the other, not saying which). One side does cherry pie, the other does pumpkin. One leans into the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes, the other tries to get rid of them every year. And one side has artichoke dip.

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Artichoke dip at Thanksgiving is, I concede, gratuitous. But even though something is unnecessary does not mean it is unwelcome. I Love artichoke dip. Well, I love all things artichoke (oh wow, only one other recipe with them on the site!), so it’s no surprise that when mixed with roughly 6 kinds of dairy products and then baked until golden and bubbling and filling the house with incredible smells, I’d be a fan.

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This is my first Texas Thanksgiving, and when faced with the thought of missing my family’s traditions for a year, artichoke dip rose to the top of the list. How else would I ruin my appetite before the turkey meal?? Turns out, there are endless ways to do this, including decadent quiche for Thanksgiving brunch, cheesy salty Tex Mex the night before, and the Williams’ family own impressive appetizer spread, including deviled eggs, bruschetta, shrimp on cucumbers, and various pickled things. Texas always provides. And now I can provide Texas with artichoke dip! Family mushing in action. 

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one year ago: nothing of note, but I also made this cauliflower tart for the Big Meal. So good, so rich.
two years ago: nothing of note, but I also made this mushroom farro stuffing yesterday. This had lots of fans!
three years ago: blueberry lemon cake with ginger cream cheese frosting
four years ago: sweet sesame cauliflower, snow pea, and kale salad 

Hot Artichoke Dip

From Aunt Beth B – I one-and-a-halved Beth’s recipe, with some extra artichokes. The following is how I made it.

12 ounces cream cheese (one and a half bricks)
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded mozzarella
¾ cup grated parmesan
2 14-oz cans artichokes in water, drained and chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Using electric beaters, mix together cream cheese and mayo until combined. Add cheese and mix until just combined. Fold in artichokes, and a dash each of salt and pepper, with a spatula.

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. (Original recipe called for a pie pan, but I ended up using a small-ish casserole dish and a little square pan for the extra. I think I prefer it in a thinner layer because more surface area = more browning.) Bake until golden and bubbling — original recipe said 20 minutes but mine took closer to 40.

Serve with crackers and veggies, to kid yourself about any health value.