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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Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Soup with Orzo

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As soon as that well-deserved mythical short-lived apparition called Spring in New York City appears, I notice my fellow city-dwellers in what can only be called trendy clothes. Gone are the layers of coats, grandma hats, tights-under-leggings-under-jeans, and here is…fashion. As someone not particularly privy to this world of fashion, due to a combination of genes, money, and just not caring very much, I still feel the pull to present myself as, well, presentable. And instead of rushing to a thrift shop or *gasp* an actual store with regulated price tags and employees who are really freaking good at folding, I head to the strange and wonderful world of the back of my closet.

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And so this is how, year after year, I find myself wearing this same dumb light purple, zip-up, three-quarters sleeved, stretchy-fabric abomination. Originally purchased circa 2005 at Marshalls/TJMaxx, the shirt has since made an appearance in my senior yearbook photo and whenever I try something high-waisted.

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Today is one of those days. Today I feel 10 years younger, stressing out about my geometry test and writing notes to the cute boys who would play poker during class as our batty teacher Mrs. Corbasero looked the other way and I memorized lines for my Starring Role of the Moment, and I angstily daydreamed about moving to New York City and Living the Life, which probably involved frosting for breakfast and a movie star boyfriend. Well, 10 year ago me, frosting for breakfast leads to expensive dental appointments and actors (tend to) suck as boyfriends. Try soup instead. (And programmer-climber-photographers.)

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leftover vegetable-skin detritus has taken over the table.

This soup is goooood. For dinner or breakfast or whenever. It tastes freaking delicious and doesn’t give a shit about your 15-year-old (or 25-year-old) insecurities. Also I didn’t follow a recipe, so who needs math now, Mrs. Corbasero?

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Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Soup with Orzo 

a Swanky original

3 bell peppers (I did 2 red and 1 green)
1 large eggplant
olive oil
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
3 sprigs rosemary
1 head garlic (or ¾ of a head, if that’s what you’ve got…)
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 T sherry
½ c dried orzo
1.5-2 c veggie broth
¼ c parsley, roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 big T tahini

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Okay, you’ve gotta roast 4(!) separate vegetables. But don’t worry; it’s easy! Stick all trays in the oven at the same time.

  1. Arrange whole peppers on roasting tray. Stick in oven. Turn peppers every 12 minutes or so with tongs. Don’t worry when skin darkens. Peppers are done when they’re completely charred, anywhere from 35-50 minutes. Out of the oven, wrap peppers individually in foil and let sit for about 10-15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Peel, discard skins, and roughly chop. Two peppers will be pureed for soup; 1 should be reserved to give texture (if that’s your kinda thang…)
  2. Cut stem and bottom off eggplant. Cut in half lengthwise. Score inch-thick diagonal lines across eggplant halves, careful not to pierce skin. Working quickly, rub olive oil on scored flesh; about 1-2 t per side. Place on roasting sheet, cut side down, and stick in oven. Eggplant is done when skin is puckered and flesh is soupy and browned. Depending on the size of your eggplant, this could take anywhere from 20-40 minutes. Check frequently! After eggplant cools for 5 minutes or so, scoop flesh into a bowl; discard skins.
  3. Cut garlic head in half lengthwise. Rub with olive oil and s&p; wrap in foil. Toss in oven (on eggplant or pepper tray) for 45-60 minutes. When cool enough to touch, smoosh out individual roasted segments and add to eggplant. Discard skins.
  4. Drain canned tomatoes, reserving liquid. Cut tomatoes in half; place on a third roasting tray with rosemary, a drizzle of olive oil, and s&p. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are a bit browned and shrunken. Discard rosemary.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot with 1 T olive oil to medium-low heat. Add onions and a big t salt and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add carrots; cook for another 10 minutes. Add sherry, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the pot. Keep on a low flame until ready to use.

In small saucepan, cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Once all parts are ready, it’s blender time! Combine: eggplant, roasted peppers (reserving one to give the soup some texture), half of roasted tomatoes, most of onion-carrot mixture, 1.5 c broth, and parsley. Puree until smooth, adding extra broth and s&p as needed.

Pour pureed soup over remaining onion-carrot mixture in big pot; add sliced roasted peppers, chopped roasted tomatoes, tahini, ¼ c tomato liquids, s&p. Simmer together until warmed through.

Serve topped with orzo and chopped parsley.