Sunday, June 26, 2011

St. Martin/St. Maarten Cuisine

My husband and I took a heavenly vacation to St. Martin/St. Maarten the first week in June. It was paradise! It was my first time to the Caribbean, but it won't be my last time to St. Martin/St. Maarten. We stayed on the French side at Grand Case Beach Club within walking distance of the main street in the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean, Grand Case. Here are some of the delicious meals we enjoyed!

First stop, Le Tastevin:

Scallop and Zucchini Carpaccio with olives,
pine nuts, parmesan and arugula pesto.

Cod topped with black garlic over
a saffron sauce and purple potatoes

Red Snapper filet, artichoke and old fashioned
red carrots, olive oil and vinegar marinade.

Spiga was a recommendation from a friend, and they didn't disappoint:

Homemade tagliatelle with spiny lobster flambeed in Grand Marnier
with artichokes, peperoncino and tomato sauce*
*a bit too much tomato sauce for my taste, but
the flavor was delicious

Rack of lamb in red wine reduction
with mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus

Today's Catch!
Marigot, the capital of  French St. Martin, hosts a
lovely outdoor market Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Spiny Lobster

Colorful and fragrant spices!

We enjoy sushi frequently in NJ and couldn't resist
The Sushi Place in Princess Casino. 
My recommendation: more sushi, less slot machines.

Tempura Shrimp to start


Sushi and Sashimi

My favorite dining experience was at Le Pressoir in Grand Case. A little history...Before the Europeans colonized St. Maarten/St. Martin, the original inhabitants, the Arawaks, had migrated there from the Amazon Orinoco basin thousands of year ago. They called their home "Sualouiga" or "Land of Salt" because of the many salt pans found on the island. Le Pressoir is named for the Salt Mill Press that resides in the town's city center.


Homemade slices of rhum jumbie marinated
foie gras with sweet wine

My husband and I both ordered specials.
This is the beautiful grilled lobster.

Curry dusted filet

Beautifully plated dessert trio
Delicious sweet bites to share and end an amazing meal.

Let me know if you ever make it to St. Maarten/St. Martin. We'd definitely return again, if not for the soft sand beaches, friendly people or zip line tour in the trees but for the culinary experience!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Spaghetti with crispy baby artichokes

Baby artichokes always look so adorable in the produce section. According to Produce Pete, their size is not due to immaturity, rather because they grow on the lower and shadier part of the plant. While they do take some time to prepare, they don't require removing the inner choke so most of this flower bud is edible. My question is, who approached this crazy looking vegetable and thought, "I wanna eat this!" ??

The recipe I prepared in May, (artichoke season is typically March, April, May), I based it on a New York Times article that sounded delicious. But, as is often the case with home cooks, I made some minor substitutions to use the contents of my pantry and fridge. I had extra artichokes leftover since I used less pasta, but it just made for a tastier version. Overall, it was a delicious spring dish that held up to reheating the following day for lunch. In fact, I could have just eaten the artichokes alone with a drizzle of evoo, a nice wedge of Parmigiano and some crusty bread.

2 lbs baby artichokes
3 tbsp capers, drained(I would have used more if I had them, 1/4 c probably works well)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 package thick spaghetti
1 cup pasta water
1 tbsp evoo plus more as needed
salt and pepper
Parmigiano cheese to taste

  1. Begin by trimming your artichokes. Have a large bowl set aside full of cool water and the juice of 1 lemon. You'll be placing your trimmed artichokes in here to keep them from browning. (Although mine always seem to brown a little bit.) Begin by cutting the top 1/3 off artichoke. This gets rid of most of the spiny tips. Then pull off all of the tough leaves until you get tender, light green ones underneath. Finally, using a paring knife, peel the bottom part of the bud and stem until you reach a softer center and place into the acidulated water.
  2. In a large, deep, stainless steel pan, heat the olive oil and saute garlic, onion and capers until lightly brown. season the vegetables with salt and pepper then remove them with a slotted spoon leaving the seasoned oil in the pan.
  3. Using a sharp knife, slice your baby artichokes lengthwise at 1/4 inch intervals and crisp them over low heat in the pan. Work in batches and do not over crowd the pan. Place the cooked artichoke slices on paper towels and drizzle the pan with more oil if needed. Once all the artichokes are cooked, keep the pan on the stove.
  4. Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until almost al dente. They will be soft, but a little too crunchy to eat at this stage. With tongs, transfer the pasta to the artichoke pan with 1 cup of pasta water and turn up the heat so the spaghetti continue to cook. As the pasta water reduces, add the onion caper mixture back to the pan to cook along with the spaghetti. Continue to toss the pasta and add more water from the pot as needed. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. When the spaghetti is cooked to your liking, plate it in shallow bowls and top with crispy artichoke slices. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano cheese and enjoy!