June 2011

Know what this is?

Yes, that’s right, its a prickly pear cactus bloom.
And what that means is that all of these buds,

could become fruit that look like this.

(image found here)

And then could become all manner of deliciousness like pricklybeena or jam.


Just wanted to share a few photos from my quick trip to Oregon this past weekend. It was lovely! They have moss and primeval looking ferns like you wouldn’t believe (which I actually did not get any worthwhile photos of).

They also have restaurants/fish marts where you can actually find out how, where and by which boat your fish was caught. Talk about locavore friendly! This is at Local Ocean, in Newport (click to embiggen to read the little fish signs!).

There were really cool things at the aquarium we visited.

And on the way out, some lovely mountains.

It was a picturesque and a second (more leisurely) trip is definitely in order.

Although I have spent most of my life living in Pennsylvania and Maryland, neither of my parents grew up in the area. My mother is from the Carolinas (yes, both), and my father is from California. So even though I grew up near Philadelphia, I didn’t have a really good cheesesteak until I was in college – because Pat’s and Geno’s just weren’t part of our vernacular.

However, in place of much of the local Philly cuisine (don’t laugh, we have 3 Iron Chefs now!), we had southern inspired and west coast inspired foods that most of my friends would have scorned, because it wasn’t typical Mid-Atlantic cooking.

From my mother I learned about savory corn bread and pepper vinegar pulled pork; from my father I learned about eating squid and smoked oysters and artichokes. Usually we eat artichokes steamed, pulling off the petals and dipping them in hollandaise or mayo – however, when they aren’t in season, and you really need an artichoke fix, this dip is the way to go.

This is a heavily modified version of a recipe I was taught at a party once – and I continue to bring it to potlucks and parties on a regular basis (including to the Hip Girl’s Potluck 2 months ago, where I was told to post this recipe ASAP! So much for being timely). Enjoy!

Cheesy Artichoke Dip

This is the before shot, there is no after shot because it was completely consumed!

  • Ingredients:
    • 1/2 c olive oil based mayo
    • 1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 c shredded fresh mozzarella
    • 1/2 c shredded Dutch Chevre (this is a semi-soft cheese, not the soft French kind)
    • 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
    • 1/4 c rehydrated or fresh chickpeas
    • crackers, chips, or veggies to dip

  • Methods:
    • 1. Put chickpeas into a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped. Preheat the oven to 350.
    • 2. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing well. Transfer into an oven safe casserole dish with a lid, and smooth the mixture out so it is even.
    • 3. Wipe down the insides of the dish if you made a mess, the residue will burn during cooking.
    • 4. Place the dish on the middle rack and cook for 20-30 minutes, until the dip is melted and beginning to brown around the edges.
    • 5. Serve and enjoy!

  • Notes
    • You can use the spicy artichoke hearts, including the pepper, if you want a hotter dip.
    • I have successfully substituted smoked mozzarella and feta for the mozzarella and chevre – it was just as good. The main thing to remember when substituting cheese is that you want as much dry/hard cheese as softer cheese. Too much soft cheese makes the dip greasy.
    • Even if you hate chickpeas, do not skip them! The chickpea pulp soaks up any excess grease from the cheese, and gives the dip a better consistency. At that point the chickpeas are so cheesy, you actually won’t notice they are there.
    • Technically you can eat this while knitting – I brought it to a knitting group dinner, and we managed to eat it all without dropping a single stitch. Just be sure to keep napkins handy!