(photo from artichoke-festival.org)
One of the things - - that I may have mentioned before - - is that when I attend a cooking class, even though I usually know what the menu is before I go, a class will often open my taste buds to something different. Not necessarily a different food. There aren't many American foodstuffs I haven't eaten (except deep fried insects, and most organ meat). No, I mean that the chef/instructor makes something with a different twist. Or, makes something that would not have appealed to me if I'd just read the recipe. But at a class, it's there, he/she is making it and I eat it. And I find that I enjoy it. It's one of those a-ha moments. Like wow, this is really good. That's what keeps me going back to cooking classes.
So, this recipe came from a class several years ago, and I wrote on the recipe handout that it was "really good." I have my own culinary shorthand for note-taking at cooking classes. I scribble all over the handout, adding little notes here and there, describing cooking techniques, alternatives to ingredients, and even food additions the chef mentions. You'd be surprised how frequently the chef forgets to write in an ingredient or has the wrong measurement. Then, when the dish is served I have my hierarchy of (adverb) superlatives that I scribble in larger writing after the dish is served:
- no superlatives means it's not worth making
- "Good" means it's okay, probably not worth making
- "Very good" or "really good" means better than average and probably worth making
- "Excellent" means it was really very, very good
- "Fabulous" or "outstanding" means I must make this dish
The chef/instructor was Nadia Frageri. She's a native Italian who lives in San Diego, and still has a very pronounced accent. In fact her speech is so thick you must pay very close attention to her speaking, or you'll miss things. She's a very accomplished cook. Doesn't have her own restaurant. Doesn't even have a website. I don't think she does computers. I don't think she does catering. Hasn't written a cookbook, either. But she teaches lots of classes in the San Diego area, and some in our area of Orange County. Nadia isn't flamboyant or a comedian like some instructors are - she doesn't have a running glib commentary to offer; she's just a very good cook and wants you to go home with some of her family recipes.
So this is one of Nadia's recipes. She recommended buying the artichoke hearts frozen at Trader Joe's. The last time I checked they weren't stocking them, however. You don't want marinated ones for sure. If you can't find frozen, then use canned. But still don't use marinated. The goat cheese is the trump card here. It gives the artichoke hearts and garlic and cheese mixture a softness it wouldn't otherwise have. It's quite easy to make, the mixture can be made up ahead, and you just have to have the Italian bread on hand. French bread will work, but it has a much firmer crust, which you don't want. And a smaller loaf - smaller around that is - is what you want, rather than a 4-inch diameter loaf. Or buy 2 smaller loaves. The larger slices are too hard to handle as finger food. Try it and let me know what superlatives you'd give this one.
Bruschetta with Artichokes & Garlic
Recipe By : Nadia Frigeri
12 ounces artichoke hearts -- Trader Joe's frozen
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Italian parsley -- chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic
6 ounces soft goat cheese -- crumbled
1 whole Italian bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 whole garlic cloves -- peeled and sliced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Defrost the artichoke hearts and drain. In a medium skillet add olive oil, parsley and artichoke hearts. Season with salt and pepper and sauté about 3-4 minutes, adding a little water or chicken broth if necessary to keep the vegetables from browning. Remove from heat, cool, pour out onto a cutting board and chop coarsely. You may also pour mixture into the food processor and process just until the hearts are minced, but do not puree the mixture.
2. Add a little olive oil to the same pan and cook the garlic slowly. Do not brown; in fact, add chicken broth to prevent it from browning. Cook until the garlic is soft. Then, in a bowl combine the artichoke mixture, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. You may make this ahead to this point. When ready to proceed, add the crumbled goat cheese and the first portion of Parmesan cheese. 3. Meanwhile, slice the bread in 1/3 inch slices. Brush them with olive oil and quickly grill or bake until barely toasted on the edges. Do not overbake these or they become too brittle. Allow to cool briefly, then with the pieces of sliced garlic, rub each slice with it. Mound the bread with the artichoke mixture, then sprinkle them with the additional Parmesan cheese and dust with additional Italian parsley.
Serving Ideas : If you're watching the calories, you can reduce the amount of cheese, or eliminate it altogether, and add sun dried tomatoes, minced, instead.
NOTES : Italian bread is quite soft, and doesn't have a firm crust like French bread does, but you can use French bread instead. Just be careful not to overbake the slices.
Per Serving: 126 Calories; 11g Fat (73.9% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 145mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.