Thursday, May 1, 2008

Banquets and Artichokes

As I have mentioned in passing, we used to bowl on a senior's league in Hespeler, Cambridge. Unfortunately the alley in Hespeler is no longer there, however, several of the senior's league bowl on the Travel League and also we still have our bowling banquet with quite a few of the original league members. Tonight, is the night. We go to a golf club in Cambridge and eat dinner, drink a little and socialise. Of course we no longer have a prize giving, but it is fun to see everyone especially those we haven't seen since last year. On Monday the alley where we have been bowling recently has their banquet, in house. Not sure how this works, apparently we go at our normal time, 12:30 and then play games, not regular bowling, get prizes (we won't get any we haven't been there long enough to achieve anything) and then at 4:00 we eat. I have no idea what.

After all this, maybe I can get back to dieting, I didn't mention we also have dinner with friends on Saturday, so that's three occasions this week (my Weight Watcher week is Thursday to Thursday) where I am likely not to be too rigid with my diet. Oy vey. I will do my best. I have stayed at a loss of 13 lbs for several weeks now due to dinner parties, trips to restaurants and so on. I guess I should be happy I haven't gained.

I just saw a very sad story about two little girls with Niemann-Pick Disease which is very like Alzheimer's apparently and also, eventually, a killer. Because at least two of my relatives (maybe three) had senile dementia, it is always something I have been concerned about. However I had no idea that children could get a similar disease. I gather it is fairly rare, but it is pretty horrible. If you are interested read about it here it was yet another programme on Good Morning America.

I have just cooked myself a couple of delicious looking artichokes which I shall have for lunch today. I always used to eat them with a vinaigrette sauce, but these days I either eat them plain or use a Kraft Italian dressing. I don't use a vinaigrette sauce very much any more so I don't bother to make it although for years I always had a jar of it in the fridge. I learned to make it when I stayed with a French family in Paris and Madame taught me her recipe. Simple enough, but one of the secrets is to refresh it with newly crushed garlic every couple of days or so, or just prior to using it.

Talking of artichokes, and it being almost into the asparagus season, here is a recipe which we love but is absolutely killing in the fat and calories line. The first time Matt made this for me it was part of a surprise dinner for my birthday. A glorious hors d'oeuvres. It came from Great Italian Cooking by Luigi Carnacina. Not a cookbook I enjoy as it gives recipes with references to other recipes, i.e. 1 cup of recipe 456 and 1/2 cup of recipe 2233 and so on, I find this very irritating although Matt doesn't seem to mind it. However, with this artichoke recipe, I figured it all out and made it into one, pretty long, recipe.

Artichokes Ricca
Serves: 4

2 oz butter
1/2 tbs finely chopped onion
3 tbs sifted flour
2 cup hot milk
1/2 tsp salt
pinch pepper
pinch nutmeg
2 sprigs parsley
1/4 tsp dried thyme

2/3 cup bechamel (as above)
1 cup heavy cream
9 tbs grated parmesan
4 1/2 tbs butter

4 oz mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt (generous)
1/2 Tbs finely chopped onion
1 tsp butter
1 tsp oil
1/4 tsp minced parsley
pinch of pepper

18 asparagus spears, cooked til tender
1/2 cup grated gruyere
1/4 cup melted butter
1 recipe mornay
1 recipe duxelles
1 can artichoke hearts

BECHAMEL SAUCE: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion til transparent. Add flour, stir for 1 min. Add milk stirring, season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and bouquet garni. Bring to boil over low heat for 15 mins. stirring occasionally. Strain sauce, stir whilst cooling to keep from skinning.

MORNAY SAUCE: Mix Bechamel and cream in heavy saucepan, boil over medium heat, reduce to two thirds. Add cheese stirring til melted and well blended. Remove from heat and beat in butter, bit by bit.

DUXELLES: Put mushrooms in a bowl, sprinkle with salt. Stand for 30 mins. Gather in cloth, squeeze out juice. Soften onion in butter/oil over moderate heat for 3 mins. Add mushrooms, cook very slowly til moisture evaporated. Add pepper, parsley, cool and store covered in fridge til needed.

ARTICHOKES RICCA: Combine Mornay and Duxelles in shallow oven proof dish. Arrange asparagus in centre, artichokes round edge. Sprinkle with cheese and melted butter. Cook at 500 F for 8 mins or until cheese is light gold.

Try it, you'll like it. Make it for a celebration.

Have a great day.

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