Yesterday, Kurt, my mom and my sister attended the Winter Strings Concert at Ken’s middle school. There were three orchestras: the Allegro (beginner), Presto (intermediate) and Vivace (advanced). We’ve heard the middle school orchestras previously when the grade school area orchestra held their concert at the same time as the middle school. I’m always impressed that their conductor, Mr. Taylor, can take kids who have only played since this fall and pull them together as an ensemble. Granted, they play pieces that Ken played when he was in fourth grade, but he had only played for a year then, too.
This was the first year Ken had to wear a uniform; for the area orchestra, they wore t-shirts designating their orchestra level (beginning or advanced) and dark pants. This year, he wore tuxedo pants, a pin-tucked shirt and a cummerbund– “Mom, I didn’t even know what a cummerbund was when Mr. Taylor asked if everyone had one!” I wasn’t sure Kurt would know how to put it on him (do the pleats go up or down?), but he managed. We told him he looked very grown-up:
Ken’s Vivace orchestra did a great job; I’ve seen most of these kids over the past four years and they have really come together well. Several of the 8th graders made it into the Junior District Orchestra, so you know they’re good. They’ve worked under Mr. Taylor for all these years, and you can tell how well-synchronized they are to his direction. It’s too bad I couldn’t upload some of the concert (and I almost upgraded my WordPress subscription to do that)!
Tonight, I decided to make a meal that Ken likes a lot and miraculously doesn’t involve any cream or cheese– shrimp scampi! I find it amusing that Ken eats almost all shellfish– crab, shrimp, lobster, mussels– but doesn’t care too much for fish. I also decided to serve whole artichokes with melted butter to him for the first time. I figured the experience of peeling off the individual leaves and dipping them in butter (!) would appeal to him. My scampi recipe is adapted from the Barefoot Contessa; the artichokes, from a native Californian. I start the artichokes first because they can just sit in their cooking liquid ’til serving time.
- 4 medium to large artichokes
- handful of Italian parsley (including stems)
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 1 TB olive oil (a good gulp, I don’t measure)
- 1/4 to 1/3 c white wine (generous splash, I don’t measure)
- 1 tsp salt
Toss the parsley (I broke mine in half), garlic, bay leaves, lemon (I squeezed them a bit to release some juice), olive oil, white wine and salt into a large pot. Add enough water to bring the level of the liquid to about 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Bring the liquid to boil over medium heat.
While waiting for the bouillon to boil, prepare the artichokes. Mine started out like this:
First remove the lower outer leaves (they’re yucky and tough). Second, slice off the stems to the base of the artichoke. Third, cut about 1 inch off the top of the artichoke and rub lemon on the cut edges. Lastly, cut the prickly points off the remaining leaves with kitchen shears. Voila, that’s it to the prep:
By now the liquid should be simmering, place the artichokes in the pan, standing on their bases. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer.
Cook 30 minutes or until the base is tender (pierces easily with a fork, like potatoes). I leave them in the pan, off heat until ready to serve. DON’T FORGET TO MELT SOME BUTTER! (I keep mine warm in the microwave).
- 3 TB minced garlic (5-8 cloves)
- 4-5 stems of parsley, minced (about 1/3 c)
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 lemon sliced into very thin rounds
- juice of 1 1/2 lemons (the one you zested and the other half of the one you sliced into rounds)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3 TB butter
- 1 to 1 1/2 TB olive oil
- 1 lb of very large (16 count) shrimp, peeled except for tails
- 3/4 lb thin linguine (linguine fine’)
Make sure everything is prepped ahead of time; this dish cooks quickly:
Start the water boiling for the linguine. Salt the water when it boils and add the linguine and set your timer for whatever the recommended time is for your linguine. Start the sauce by heating the oil and butter in a large pan (large enough to accommodate the pasta) on medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two (watch for burning)!
Add the shrimp. Cook these until just pink– anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes. I turn mine frequently.
When shrimp are cooked, add the lemon juice, lemon slices, lemon zest, parsley, salt and red pepper (which I forgot).
Add the linguine and toss well to mix.
I would love to say that Ken loved the artichokes, but alas, we could only get him to try one leaf, naked– not a drop of melted butter. Oh well, it was all the more for me, Kurt and my mom.