Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Artichoke Griddle Cakes

From Everyday Greens, by Annie Somerville

I am in love, love, love with Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. It is a vegetarian's dream. The first time I went, it was our one-year wedding anniversary, and I was feeling only slightly guilty my husband had sacrificed yet another night of eating meat to go to a vegetarian place- until I had the best caprise salad of my life (ridiculous tomatoes! amazing balsamic! where did they find this stuff?!), followed by an out-of-this world fresh-corn filled crepe with tons of veggies.... followed by the best lemon dessert in the world... seriously, I cannot gush enough about the food at Greens. The second time we went, it was even better, and my parents AND my husband (none of whom are vegetarians) were all blown away by the freshness, the flavors, the overall just plain delicious food. I actually savored eat bite, literally- and when was the last time you really remembered doing that?

Hmm... so I may have built up this dish a little too high then. My point is, Greens is awesome, so I was inspired to get one of Annie Somerville's cookbooks. I'm certain she would do a much better job than I did at making these tasty little griddle cakes, but it's worth trying your hand at them.

  • 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced and washed (about 1 cup)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 white wine.....optional: plus a glass or two for yourself while you're cooking :-)
  • 2 lbs of SMALL artichokes, trimmed (3 and 1/2 to 4 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 lb whole milk ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 3 large eggs, separated (keep both the yolk and the white, in separate bowls)
  • 2-3 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2-3 Tbsp)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp chopped chives
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp minced lemon zest
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Vegetable oil for the pan
  1. Prep the little artichokes: Little artichokes are side shoots of the artichoke that are too young to develop a choke inside, so you just need to trim the top and bottom and peel off the tough outer leaves. This can be done ahead of time: just store them in lemon water in the fridge.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat and add the leeks, 1/2 tsp salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cook until they begin to soften, about 2-3min. Add the garlic and cook 1 min more.
  3. Pour the wine into the pan with leeks & garlic and cook until pan is nearly dry, about 3min. Add the artichokes and water. Simmer until the artichokes are completely tender, about 10 min. Drain off any excess liquid and set aside to cool.
  4. Once cooled, coarsely chop the artichoke mixture.
  5. Combine the ricotta, egg yolks, cheeses, milk, herbs, lemon zest, and juice in a large bowl. Stir in the artichoke mixture, flour, baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, and a pinch of pepper.
  6. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks and gently fold them into the batter.
  7. Coat a skillet with vegetable oil. Over medium-high heat, spoon the batter into the pan, allowing about 1/4 cup per cake. Cook for about 3min on each side, until the cakes are lightly browned. Add fresh oil to the pan between batches of cakes.
Notes: So, in case you were thinking of it, no, you cannot use regular-sized artichokes. I tried and failed miserably. I ended up using frozen artichoke hearts instead, which are actually not a bad substitute if you can't find the little artichokes, and a fairly nice time-saver- just be sure to use the correct amount. For the life of me, I could not get those darn egg whites to form stiff peaks, so I finally gave up and just added them to the bowl...which may have led to my next problem: My first batch would not stick together. But, like regular pancakes, the first batch isn't usually the best, so I kept on and ended up getting some nice cakes after that- I think it works best to keep them small and be ready with TWO spatulas to flip when you see little bubbles coming through the top. (I did save the scrambled mess from my first round and had it for lunch the next day, because hey, it still tasted good, and Gruyere cheese isn't cheap). I stored the griddle cakes in a heated oven until ready to serve all of them. Finally, my husband was determined to put something on them, so I suggest some sour cream with fresh chives. Overall, I found this recipe neither quick nor easy- there are a lot of ingredients and some fairly intensive steps-but it was tasty!

Annie has a nice description of how to prep the artichokes in her book (step 1 summarizes her tips). I'm excited to try more recipes from this cookbook (but wary of the culinary skills and ingredients that might be required....)

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