Roasted Artichokes with Garlic and Chive Aioli

Wow, it has been a hot minute since Troy and I have had a date night. And not just a night on the town date night, but even a stay in and have some wine with a nice dinner date night.

Life has been very unpredictable lately…to say the least. I will be jumping back into the swing of things here pretty soon (hopefully).

With school being out and Troy going into the office, I am on my own during the day. Trying to find a schedule for myself, as well as activities to do, has been difficult. With the pandemic still in full swing, and quarantine still a very real thing, I am stuck at home majority of the time. This is definitely not an easy transition and I need to stay on top of it to make sure I’m not in pj’s all day, eating chips in bed, and watching reruns of my favorite food and design shows….hypothetically speaking…*ahem*.

When Troy and I see artichokes on a menu we almost ALWAYS order them. They sound like a daunting task at first, but when you become familiar with the process of making them it becomes an easy feat and makes you look like you worked really hard…and who doesn’t like that, right? I will for sure be making these again for our next stay at home date night!

How to break down an artichoke:

It sounds harder than it actually is–I promise! And if you need a visual there are lots of videos and websites that have a step by step process.

Step 1: Peel any leaves on the stem of the artichoke.

Step 2: Using a sharp knife, cut about an inch off the top of the artichoke.

Step 3: Cut the pointy part of the leaves off around the artichoke with scissors.

Step 4: Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise and drizzle with lemon juice. This will keep them from turning brown while you work with them.

Step 5: Using a spoon, hollow out the artichoke to remove the “choke”. This is the fuzzy part at the stem. Rinse with water to make sure it is removed.

Step 6: Rub the cleaned artichoke with a lemon to keep it from browning. Repeat with these steps with remaining artichokes.

Ingredients

2 artichokes, whole

1 lemon, cut in half

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/3 cup Toum (Mediterranean Garlic Sauce)-recipe coming soon– or 4 garlic cloves microplaned

4 tsp Italian seasoning

4 teaspoons dried dill

Salt and Pepper

Instructions

Roasting the artichoke:

Prepare the garlic and chive aioli- recipe is below.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Rub the artichokes with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper all over.

Working with the flesh side up, evenly distribute the Toum or microplaned garlic into each of the artichokes cavities.

Top each artichoke with a teaspoon of Italian seasoning and dried dill. Flip the artichokes over, flesh side down on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes cover the pan with foil and continue roasting for 25-30 minutes until a knife can easily pierce the stem.

Serve artichokes with garlic and chive aioli and lemon wedges.

Garlic and Chive Aioli: Mix 1 cup of mayonnaise with 1/2 tbs lemon juice, 1 large microplaned garlic clove, and 1/2 tbs of fresh chives. Salt to taste. Leave aioli in the refrigerator while you prepare the artichokes. If you are a big fan of garlic, feel free to grate an extra clove in there! We are BIG fans of garlic in this house so there is always more, lol.


Spicy Chorizo and Clam Pasta

Last night Troy and I were suppose to go on our first date night since the pandemic started. We planned it out– we were going to go to a small restaurant, sit on the patio in the fresh air, and enjoy a glass of wine. Unfortunately my body told us otherwise and we had to stay in. To make it up to him I planned this special pasta dinner with chorizo and clams.

It is such a simple recipe and shines in its short list of ingredients. This takes 30 minutes, at most, to put together and your significant other is sure to be wowed! Clams, to me, is a date night food. I NEVER cook them on the regular so when we do have them it is pretty special.

They only need a bit of prep before you cook them, but it couldn’t be more simple. Before you begin cooking you are going to need to clean your clams. If you skip this step you will have grit and sand in your pasta…and honestly that is not the type of texture rf flavor anyone wants. To clean them follow these easy steps:

1. Place your clams in a bowl of cold water and let them sit for 20 minutes.

2. Lift them out and place them in a new bowl of cold water and let them sit for another 20 minutes. **Do not pour them into the next bowl because all the sand they have released will go with them and then really what was the point of the first step….**

3. Take them out 1 at a time and gently scrub them with a dish brush and place them into a new (and last) bowl of clean water.

Now they are ready to use 🙂

Happy Eating!

**Note** If any of your clams are open in this process and do not close with you tapping on their shell–toss them. That means they are dead and not good for eating. Also, at the end of your cooking if you have any that have not opened–toss them too.

Ingredients

8 oz linguine

1 1/2 dozen clams

8 oz Spanish chorizo, cubed

1 tbs olive oil

1 shallot, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper, plus more for garnish (this is a GREAT spice to use, but if you can not find it then use red pepper flakes)

zest and juice of 1 lemon, divided

1/2 c dry white wine (I used pinot grigio)

parsley, chopped

Instructions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. It should taste like the sea-that is how you know you have seasoned it correctly. Once boiling, cook your pasta according to the package directions or until al dente.

While you wait for your pasta to cook, place the olive oil in a cold skillet with the chorizo. This will help render the fat slowly out of the chorizo, and in this fat is all the tasty goodness for your sauce. Place the skillet on a burner turned to medium heat. Cook until the chorizo starts to become crispy and then remove it to a paper towel to drain.

Saute the shallots, garlic, and Aleppo pepper in the chorizo fat for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add in the lemon zest, juice from half the lemon, white wine, and clams. Place the lid on the skillet and steam for 3-5 minutes, until the clams open**.

Using tongs or a kitchen spider, add in the cooked pasta directly from the pasta water into the sauce pan. The starchy water that comes off of the pasta will help bring your sauce together. Add in half of your chorizo and remaining lemon juice and cook for 1 minute longer, tossing the pasta as you cook.

To serve: divide the pasta into two bowls and top with remaining chorizo, parsley and a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper.


Italian Ricotta Meatballs with Cheesy Polenta

Today has been a great day! I have been recipe testing in my kitchen all day-feeling creative and a tad bit like a mad scientist. I really do enjoy the creative aspect of cooking-combining flavors and textures that make people say, “Mmmm!”

I have been craving Italian food for a while now. Due to Covid I have been unable to go to my favorite restaurants to get my fix. I don’t know about you, but I rarely have a good experience with Italian to-go….it’s just not the same.

So this week I have Italy on the brain! I decided to make my hubby and I these ricotta meatballs with a cheesy polenta and it did not disappoint. These meatballs are SO tender and fluffy on the inside. And if you choose to broil them for a bit-whew! That crispy exterior just pushed them over the top!

I need to tell you though, I am not an egg inside of meatballs girl…there, I said it…. I personally feel that when you start adding eggs to meatballs you are making your way over to meatloaf. And meatloaf, as much as I love it, does not have the same texture that a really good meatball should have. #sorrynotsorry 🙂

So pour yourself a glass of really good wine and enjoy this dish with someone you love. And hey, it’s quarantine-you could just enjoy it on your own too <3

Ingredients

For the Meatballs:

1/2 lb ground beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1/2 cup ricotta

2 large garlic cloves, grated (or pureed in a food processor)

1/2 onion, grated (or pureed in a food processor)

2 tbs basil, chopped

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 tbs salt

1 tsp pepper

2 slices of bread, cut into chunks

1/2 cup milk or milk alternative

1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce

For the Polenta

4 1/2 c water

1 tps salt

1 c yellow cornmeal (you can buy grits if it is easier for you to find)

1 c grated Parmesan

2 tbs butter

Salt, to taste

Instructions

For the Meatballs

Preheat oven to 425.

In a small bowl, mix the bread and milk together and let soak as you prepare the meatballs.

In a mixing bowl combine the beef, pork, minced garlic, grated onion, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Carefully fold until just combined. Squeeze excess milk from bread and mix completely into the meatball mixture.

Roll into meatballs-a tad smaller than golf ball size- and arrange onto a baking sheet. Place into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. For a crispy exterior, turn the oven to broil and broil for 5 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on them. I can’t tell you how much toast I have burned from an un-watched broiler!

For the Cheesy Polenta

Bring the 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium size pot. Once boiling, add the salt and pour the cornmeal slowly into the stock, whisking as you pour. Whisk until there are no lumps.

Reduce the heat to medium low, whisking often, until the polenta begins to thicken-about 30-40 minutes. If the polenta is not as soft as you would like, add the 1/2 cup of water and loosen it up. Add the butter and Parmesan cheese. Salt to taste.

Serve meatballs on a bed of cheesy polenta. Top with favorite marinara sauce.