things i like {july 2011}

It often feels like I blink and the weekends are gone. Distant memories before the sun has risen on Monday morning. As we settle in for the week ahead, I thought I'd share some things that haven been on my radar.

For starters, there's that garlic scape pesto you see above. I first fell hard for them last year, and adapted Dorie Greenspan's recipe, the big change being I swapped in pistachios for the walnuts. Pistachios have a lovely sweetness that helps temper the bracing bite of the young garlic. This year I decided to further discipline them with a quick turn on the grill. Wow!

I implore you all to give this a try too, and to keep things really easy, I just tossed it with some hot pasta for a simple, satisfying summer meal. In case you're wondering, it was an even split with the kids—Isabella in the nay camp, and Virginia asking for seconds.

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grill-roasted artichoke leaves

Last week Olga wrote about artichokes and falling in love with cooking them. Like so many before her, she'd been intimidated.  It's easy to understand why, with their gnarly look, tough exterior and those darn pointy thorns atop each leaf. They truly are nature's example of survival of the fittest.

Well, in the words of Maya Angelou, life doesn't scare me—and neither do artichokes. I was lucky enough to grow up with them at our Thanksgiving table every year. They were prepared with a homemade breadcrumb filling, then braised until the roots of the leaves were tender and succulent, the sauce requiring a crusty loaf of bread to sop it all up. Still, artichokes were reserved for holidays. I mean who has time to sit and linger over an item that yields such a small return? I'd rush through the leaves, then slowly let my teeth sink into each morsel of the heart, trying to savor the buttery flavor.

I was walking home yesterday and impulse bought a few. Surely I'm not the first to buy artichokes on a whim. Cleaning them can be daunting at first, but after you've done it once or twice, you get faster and the time actually passes rather quickly. Olga also recommends watching this video by Melissa Clark for a quick tutorial that demystifies cleaning artichokes. It really does show the simplicity and ease of prepping them.

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Ginger Soy Marinated Flank Steak

I’ll fill you in on a secret. Kids will eat meat that isn’t cooked until it screams for mercy. In fact, I’ve found many prefer their burgers and steak prepared on the medium-rare side. When I first started making them for Isabella, I followed the recommendations in most every parenting book and served it to her well-done. As she pushed it aside and looked at me tight-lipped, I just figured she might be exercising an early vegetarian preference.

Then I looked at the twice-killed steak and didn’t blame her. Who would want this charred piece of meat? I decided to trust my motherly instinct and started serving it medium-rare to medium. She still raises an eyebrow every time I make it, though, so those early well-done memories obviously left a lasting impression. When she asked what was for dinner recently and I told her steak, her prompt response was “you know I’m not going to like that”.

Honestly, I figured she was right because I’d decided to give it an Asian flair with some soy sauce and fresh ginger, but since my policy is to make one meal and hope there’s at least a few things she’ll eat, it didn’t matter to me. The rest of the meal was a buttery polenta, arugula salad with strawberries and toma celena cheese and fresh fruit—she’d surely find something there to please her palate.

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