Potato Skins with Artichokes and Fontina

I’m sure that other parts of the country are beginning to thaw (if they ever were really frozen), but up here in Maine, the idea of having the oven on for a couple of hours to bake potatoes, bread, pie and a roast while we pull our chairs up around the stove to warm our toes, hands and cheeks is still quite in vogue.

This is one I made yesterday when the wind was howling – still.  The crew was happy to run from the barn to the house to find a blast of warm air hit their cheeks as they came in for tea or to check on the new baby chicks.

Potato Skins with Artichokes and Fontina
5 russet potatoes
10 marinated artichoke quarters, coarsely chopped
6 ounces sliced Fontina cheese
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pierce the skin of the potatoes with a fork and place on the middle rack bake for one hour or until the potatoes are tender in the middle and give a little when you squeeze them.  You can do this step ahead of time.  When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the flesh on the inside.  Save the flesh for gnocchi or a soup and place the skins onto a baking sheet.

Reduce oven to 300 degrees.  Divide  the artichoke quarters evenly among the the potato skins and top with slices of  Fontina.  Grind the pepper on top and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer

Good to go in the garden as soon as the ground thaws

Artichokes – How to cut them, how to eat them

Artichokes are one of my favorite foods.  It’s a toss up between the flavor of them and how much fun the leaves are to eat.  This week’s column features these versatile veggie with:

Veal Shanks w/Artichokes, Mushrooms and Cream
Artichoke Leaves with Garlic and Lemon
Artichoke, Feta and Green Bean Salad

Don’t forget that the column links expire in 7 days!

Trimming artichokes may seem like a mystery, but like most everything, once you understand how to do it, it’s not that hard.  Jacques Pepin has a detailed slide show on how to trim artichokes.  One of the best I’ve seen.

Trimming an Artichoke
1.    Cut one lemon into slices and add to a bowl of water.  Slice another lemon in half to rub on the sliced areas of the artichokes.
2.    Cut 1/3 off the top.  Cut all but 1 1/2 – 2 inches off the stem.
3.    Remove the outer leave from the base – about two layers.
4.    With scissors, trim the pointy ends of the remaining leaves.
5.    Trim the base and stem with a paring knife so that they are smooth.
6.    For steaming:  leave whole.
7.    For braising:  Cut in quarters and remove the center purple leaves and the fuzzy choke with a grapefruit spoon.
8.    For a finer look:  remove all outer leaves with a chef’s knife until you have reached the light yellow leaves.  Separate them from the bottom and discard the purple, pointy center leaves, placing the yellow leaves in the lemon water.  Remove the choke (the fuzzy part) from the bottom and add the bottom to the lemon water.
9.    Rub finished artichokes with lemon and place in lemon water until you are ready to cook them to prevent them from browning.

Steamed Artichokes
4 artichokes
2 lemons (One for the water as indicated in the trimming instructions, 1/2 to rub on the exposed parts and 1/2 for the steaming water.)

In a saucepan or stockpot large enough to accommodate 4 artichokes, add 1 inch of water and 1/2 of a lemon.  Steam the artichokes, tops up, in a vegetables steamer for 30-40 minutes.   Drain upside down.  Serve warm or chilled with Parmesan Aioli.

Serves 4 as a large appetizer

Parmesan Aioli

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

In a food processor, pulse the first 6 ingredients.  With the food processor on, slowly add the vegetable oil going drop by drop at first and then increasing to a thin stream.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 1/4 cups


artichokes – Veal Shanks w/Artichokes, Mushrooms and Cream, Artichoke Leaves with Garlic and Lemon, Artichoke, Feta and Green Bean Salad,

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Seeds Came Today!

My stash of seeds from previous years is fairly large and while the germination of the seeds is reduced over time, they still do fairly well.  The new seeds, ordered from Seed Savers Exchange and John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds came today.  The excitement and eagerness that comes from tiny packets of seeds on a gray, wet day is familiar to gardeners who pour over catalogs dreaming of a garden filled with fresh, bright, healthy plants.  It always comes as somewhat of a surprise to me when I am, yet again, over the top excited about tiny specks, balls and flecks.  But when I see the seeds, I'm immediately transported into a future garden filled with strong, healthy plants that give and give.

John Scheepers had artichokes, which I've always wanted to grow.  The Seed Savers Exchange mailer was fuller as they had varieties of tomatoes, peppers and greens that were written about in the Arrows Restaurant CookbookArrows is a restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine which has been growing its own produce for years.  They are about two hours south of us, and I figured if a cold climate variety worked for them, it should probably grow well for us too.

Waiting for seeds to become seedlings