Now that school’s out, it’s fine time for some juicy summer reading. While the kids work their way down their assigned lists, I’m looking forward to delving into that teetering stack of books on my nightstand. And though I cop to missing the e-book boat, I’m in no rush to let go of my beloved hardcovers.
Top on my list is Angella Nazarian’s Pioneers of the Possible: Celebrating Visionary Women of the World (Assouline, 2012). These deftly-written profiles of visionary women are crammed with mesmerizing stories and wisdom, perfect for a spontaneous read on a hammock over a warm afternoon.
Inspired by this fearless tribe of women, I plan to say “yes” more often this summer…“yes” to that sunrise hike, “yes” to river rafting with the kids, “yes” to foraging in the forest for something strange and unknown.
That’s how my family’s favorite Mac ‘n Cheese recipe turned into the dish here. With no macaroni in the house, I decided to wing it with artichokes instead (I use frozen hearts unapologetically because of the precious time they save). A classic gratin taken from the pages of kid cuisine, it roused a unanimous “yes” from my crowd.
If you are feeling particularly bold, toss in fresh chopped mint or basil, sautéed leeks, or perhaps a pinch of saffron. You could also add some Kalamata olives, tomatoes, diced prosciutto or crisped bacon (veggie ham for me, please). Any which way, it’s a fiercely flavorful one-dish meal for a balmy evening.
So in case you’re wondering whether I’ll be spending lots of my summer in the kitchen, the answer is “yes.” To quote Ella Fitzgerald from Angella’s book (with some artistic license from the Farmgirl): “The only thing better than cooking is more cooking.”
2 tablespoons olive oil or Earth Balance, plus a little extra for greasing the baking dish
2 (12-ounce) bags frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and dried well on a kitchen towel
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons whole wheat, gluten-free or all-purpose flour
1 cup milk of your choice
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
Zest of 1 large lemon
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese (preferably goat’s or sheep’s milk), cut into small cubes or grated
1/4 cup chopped chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup homemade whole-grain bread crumbs
1. Prepare a 9” x 12” glass or ceramic baking dish by greasing it with a little olive oil. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
2. In a food processor, place the frozen artichoke hearts and chop them roughly (this can be done by hand, too).
3. Make the cheese sauce: In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over a medium-low flame. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant (do not brown), about a minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for another minute. Add the broth and milk gradually, whisking constantly, until the lumps disappear and it has thickened slightly. Stir in the mustard, lemon zest and cheese until melted. Season generously with salt and pepper.
4. Add the chopped artichokes to the sauce. There should be enough sauce to coat the artichokes generously (if you prefer lighter sauce, remove 1/2 cup or so before adding the artichokes and save it for another time).
5. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish. Combine the Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs and sprinkle over the top. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
NOTE: The Chokes ‘N Cheese can be made 2 days ahead and kept in the refrigerator (or freezer for up to one month). The cooking time should be extended accordingly.
You might also like these other delicious artichoke dishes:
- Artichoke Heart Fries
- Roman Artichokes with Lemon-Caper Dipping Sauce
- Seared Salmon with Artichokes in Light Saffron Broth
Happy Summer 2012!