Artichoke Hearts with Lemon-Anchovy Sauce

Over the long weekend at Smallpeace, I had a little more kitchen time to devote to slightly more labor intensive dishes, such as Roman-style artichoke hearts braised in olive oil and white wine. Some of you had asked about this dish a few weeks back, so here it is. If you’ve ever been daunted by this delicious thistle, take heart! This recipe is so worth the effort. Plus, artichokes are just so darned pretty.

Artichoke Hearts Braised in Olive Oil, with Lemon-Anchovy Sauce
(Makes 5 first course or side dish servings)

2 lemons, halved
(reserve the juice of one for later)

5 medium artichokes

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup or glug of dry white wine

2 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)

3 strips lemon zest

3 anchovy fillets, minced

Flat-leaf parsley for garnish

To begin, trim artichokes into hearts [See photo collage and cleaning directions from SmittenKitchen.com, below]:

Add lemon halves to a large bowl of cold water, squeezing to release juice.

Cut off top inch of 1 artichoke [1] and bend back outer leaves until they snap off close to base (keep stem attached). Discard several more layers in same manner until you reach pale yellow leaves. [2] Cut remaining leaves flush with top of artichoke bottom using a sharp knife. [3] Trim dark green fibrous parts from base and sides of artichoke. [4] Peel sides of stem down to pale inner core. [5] Put in lemon water while preparing remaining artichokes.

When your artichokes are clean, arrange them in a baking dish, cut sides facing up. Add zest and thyme. Pour in olive oil until it comes halfway up the artichokes, and then pour in wine to just cover them completely. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until all the splattering has stopped and the wine has evaporated. The outer edges of the artichoke hearts should be lightly golden.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the artichokes to paper towels to drain. Measure 6 tablespoons of the cooking oil into a small saucepan and add the chopped anchovies. Sizzle over medium heat until the anchovies have dissolved. Remove from the heat.

When ready to serve, arrange the artichokes on a serving board or platter, shower with the juice of the remaining lemon, and sprinkle with sea salt and chopped parsley.

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At Play in the Fields of Forget-Me-Nots

It’s May and I’ve just shoved on my gardening boots, but not before tucking the legs of my overhauls into my socks the way my neighbor taught me to do, to form a barrier against insects. Rain clouds are pressing north and away from us, and as they go, a pleasant blanket of sunshine washes over the lawn. I’m yanking out bunches of wild watercress that have, once again, overtaken our pond—a five-by-five foot breeding ground for bullfrogs, snapping turtles, and other prehistoric-looking creatures. Nosegays of wildflowers, encouraged by the warming temperatures, punctuate the moss-covered rocks with brilliant color bursts.

I recognize the blue blossoms as Forget-Me-Nots—or Myosotis—but I don’t know the names of any others.

The name Forget-Me-Not comes from the French ne m’oubliez pas, and was first used in English in c. 1532. Legend has it that in medieval times, a love-struck knight fell into a river while picking wildflowers for his lady, and was dragged to his death because of the weight of his armor. As he was drowning, the doomed knight threw the flowers to his lover, shouting “forget-me-not!” Needless to say, this story gives these common blossoms a more tragically romantic appearance.

Don’t forget to smell the flowers this weekend!

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A Morning Meditation

Yoga has been difficult post surgery, and it is clear that my practice—like my body—has to change. Until I can find a way to adjust to the physical differences (and stop mourning what I’ve lost), I’m going to have to try and train my internal lense to the sunnier side of the street. Perhaps its my melancholic, Eastern European genes, or the side effects of medication, but positivity isn’t innate in me, so it’s a practice that needs practicing.

The other morning, while meditating, I enjoyed a moment of such blissful connection that I hesitate to describe it for fear of it dissipating like a dream. But when these moments happen, I think it is important to note them, so we can string them together like prayer beads on a mala, accessing their happy effects again and again.

I take comfort in the kinship of all species, but I take particular comfort the kinship of one ornery beast, who on this particular morning only had eyes for me. The unfortunate part about being a human is that we are repeatedly reminded that our lives have an expiration date. My beast—my suitor from another life, my exquisite feline familiar—does not know this, nor does he care. He knows only that he is alive in this moment and adored, absolutely. And really, isn’t that enough?

These are early morning, breezy spring thoughts, as we sit together, cat dander swirling in diffused sunlight. That was the kind of blissful moment it was.

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A Hope-Filled Easter Vision

Every now and then, I forget to look up from the sidewalk while I’m walking. I usually realize this just in time to avert disaster, just when life’s obstacles like to present themselves. Those obstacles make simple happiness seem farther off than it is—like a great distance I am going to have to travel before I rest. Like 135 miles due north of Queens, perhaps?

Sometimes I resent the time I have to be away from Smallpeace, when work or other obligations keep me tethered to the city. But I am glad to have a job to walk to in the mornings, and I sometimes forget that it makes me glad. I thrust on my coat, search for my glasses, come back for my phone, kiss my husband, forget my lunch, and FINALLY trudge down the stairs and into the chaos, muttering to myself. That’s usually when I forget to look up and bump headlong into a wall, or step in dog poop, or trip off the curb. That’s usually when I am reminded of all the things I’ve been missing. Eager to try again, I step back into the blaring traffic, the din of construction, or whatever, head up, listening for quiet, grateful for hope-filled reminders.

Happy Easter weekend, everyone!

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Ode to Rough Mornings

Rough morning

I do not have to be happy.

I do not have to skip on tippy toes
for all eight blocks to the subway, whistling.

I only have to get from point A to point B
with eyes pried open

feeling cracked cement rise up to meet my boot

keeping vigilant

for random signs of life.

Preferably mine.

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Love is in the Air

There are turkeys living down our road. They live there all year round, yet they surprise and delight me every time I walk past Duke’s place. Now that the weather is warming, the gobblers are puffing and preening along the roadside, eager to seduce any and every passerby. They are not picky. Being mistaken for a turkey hen is yet another one of those experiences I’d never had until we came to this place, like seeing bobcats. I imagine that one day I’ll be far, far away—in Ireland maybe, or Spain—remembering those bobcats. I like strolling the length of our road with several randy toms in tow. It’s not exactly the gardens of the Alhambra, but then, I am no turkey hen, though apparently I will do for now.

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Ode to a Daffodil

So I am climbing up and up the park stairs to City campus one Monday evening when I pass a bed of golden daffodils laughing.  “Spring is coming, spring is coming,” they gaily prattle as their many-pointed heads jiggle and bow in the March air.

It’s been a mild winter, yet a difficult one, and I’ve been searching for some end to this stasis, some deliberate, physical gesture of renewal. “Keep death close,” a wise Buddhist teacher once said, “so fear is not an option.”

And so I have.

And so I will.

But today, just for today, I’d like to pause on the stairs and consider a golden daffodil and breathe and breathe and breathe.

Happy weekend everyone, see you at Smallpeace!

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