Vegetating on Lunch

We’re a month into the CSA adventure and I gotta say, I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by vegetables.IMG_6267

Yesterday was Wednesday, i.e. delivery day, and this is not even everything we still had in the fridge from the week before.  We really need to be cooking big dinners every night to get through this, and it’s just not happening.  And I’ve gotten busy enough that I’m heating a good half of my meals in the car on the way to somewhere, which makes cooking hard.  But yesterday I had a gap in the middle of the day and decided that I was going to make myself a nice lunch.IMG_6270

I don’t think I’ve ever expressed my love for our mandolin here before.  Let me do that now.  I LOVE OUR MANDOLIN.  It cuts things so much better than I can, and faster, too.  Well, technically I’m cutting them with the mandolin, but it does it better than I do with a knife.  And when I’m trying to cram time to actually cook lunch into the middle of a fairly packed day, that’s nice.IMG_6277

I was envisioning this meal as a deconstructed lettuce wrap stir fry thing.  Honestly, there wasn’t a very clear plan other than “it might be nice to plate it with some of this OMG TONS OF LETTUCE at the bottom.”  It’s possible that I’m tired of having salad for lunch and acting out with strange plating techniques.IMG_6285

This part is really just stir fry.  I threw in some soy sauce and some fish oil, then got tired of trying to plan the meal while compulsively checking my email (negotiating counter offers turns me into an obsessive phone monster) and decided that if Thai Peanut dipping sauce/marinade was good enough for the glass bottle, it was good enough for my stir fry lunch.IMG_6288

I’m playing with quinoa.  This marked the second time I’ve cooked it.  It’s actually pretty easy to get decent flavor from and the texture is nice.  Plus it has some protein in it, which saves me from needing to throw in eggs or cheese or something to flesh out the nutritional content.IMG_6293And that was the final product.  It was tasty, and it kept my sated until dinner time.  I wouldn’t call it a success, though.  I should have just gone ahead and made it lettuce wraps (which would have made it harder to eat while working, but oh well) because as it was, I wound up with giant leaves of lettuce on my plate staring up at me and saying, “How did you think we were getting eaten, again?” The bottled Thai marinade did its job on the flavor front, but I spent most of the time longing for mushrooms in the stir fry.  The snap peas were critical to the dish working at all, though – their firmer texture were about all the sass this had.

Not one of my finer showings.  But hey, nobody but me had to suffer through it, and you got pretty pictures, so we can still call it a win.

Also, wow is the lighting in the kitchen massively different in the middle of the day than it is when I’m usually taking pictures in there.  Especially with giant clouds taunting me with maybe-rain going by overhead.

Israeli Couscous Stir Fry Bibimbap Thing


So, we have vegetables.  A lot of vegetables.  We are, as predicted, not keeping up with eating them as quickly as we’d like.  We get our CSA delivery on Wednesdays, and there we were, Tuesday night, with tons of veggies still in the fridge.  Something had to be done.  The name for that thing is “Middle Eastern/Eastern Fusion cuisine.”  Which is foodie speak for, “I was totally making it up.”IMG_6252

Bibimbap is kinda the best thing ever.  To describe it completely inadequately, it’s Korean stir fry.  If you’re at a Korean restaurant, order it.  Order it in the hot stone pot, if that’s an option (and it better be.)  The rice gets nicely crispy in the pot and it’s fantastic.  We had no rice, and no hot stone pots, so I used Israeli couscous and gave up on presenting it remotely correctly.  Actually, I didn’t even look up a recipe for bibimbap.  Best to call this dish “loosely inspired.”IMG_6258

I threw the chicken in with some onion.  I used olive oil and a dash if chili oil.  Then I seasoned it with a mishmash of things.  Honey, because I seem to be putting honey in everything these days, soy sauce, fish sauce, sriracha, sesame seeds, and freshly grated ginger.  I can’t swear I didn’t throw in some other things, but that’s the bulk of it.IMG_6259

I took out the chicken once it was cooked and threw in the vegetables.  This was the entire bunch of broccoli, half the kohlrabi, and a quarter of a cabbage.  Then I threw in more of the same seasonings I put in with the chicken and let the vegetables cook down until they looked done.  Looking done is entirely subjective, especially since this marks exactly the second time I’ve cooked a kohlrabi.  IMG_6261

This is what I decided “finished” looked like.

Then I fried eggs.  Ideally, I’d have deep bowls with straight sides, so you could break the yolk on top of the bowl full of tasty things and mix it in.  IMG_6263This is how dinner wound up presented instead.  I got a lot closer to the right flavor profile than I expected to given my lack of recipe research and just using ingredients I had on hand.  And the couscous worked remarkably well as a rice substitute.  Plus, it was tasty.  I call it a success.


This is How I Birthday

I’m rather fond of birthdays.  What with despising Christmas, they’re a holiday for giving or receiving presents and being self-absorbed, without all the ickiness that comes from the other major present-oriented holiday.  So while I’m prone to working on Christmas just to spite it, I always take my birthday off.  And that means last Wednesday was a total unadulterated day off.  I spent it making things I wanted to eat, then eating them.  Like this.IMG_6218

That’s an angel food cake.  I used the Joy of Cooking recipe.  I didn’t take any process photos because, meh, I’ve already taken a ton of pictures of well beaten eggs, and that’s about all angel food cake is.  However, for my birthday, simple angel food cake was not enough.  So I sliced that sucker into three layers.IMG_6221

I used a serrated knife and was super, super careful.  Angel food cake is not exactly made of structural integrity.  I did a pretty decent job of keeping the layers even, and didn’t tear or crumble any of them.  IMG_6225

That’s lemon curd.  Because I just happened to have lemon curd in my freezer.  That’s how we roll in this house.  IMG_6232

The lemon curd went in between all the layers, and then the cake had been put back together.  But no, I was not yet finished gussying up this cake.  IMG_6233That’s a lemon glaze.  In hindsight, artfully drizzling it over the cake would have been prettier.  I could have put more glaze on it for that look, but it would have been much, much too sweet.

This got served with the pint of strawberries that came in our Wednesday CSA box.  It was phenomenally good.  Once we cut the cake it lasted about half an hour.  I had three slices.  I am not ashamed.

Ground Chicken Lettuce Wraps


On the theory that with none of us travelling regularly for work anymore, that we are lazy creatures who nonetheless like fresh consumable plant things, and that having several weeks in the summer best described as OMG ALL THE SQUASH, we signed up for CSA box this summer.  For those of you not in the trendy local food scene, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Basically, you pay ahead of time for a summer’s worth of produce, and then every week a farm drops off a box full of whatever’s fresh that week, leaving you with the sacred mission to consume it all before it goes to waste.  Truly, this is a challenge we can meet.


First week in, we’re already behind.  We get deliveries on Wednesday and here we are Tuesday with  a completely untouched bag of arugula.  And a lot of cilantro.  And we didn’t really start on the radishes until yesterday.

That’s not the point.  What is the point is what I did on Saturday to both put a dent in our produce, and get me dinner faster than the 4+ my original plan of pot roast was going to take


That is a plate of ground chicken.  I threw a package of chicken thighs into a food processor with a roughly chopped onion, a few cloves of garlic, a dash of salt, and some “Chicken curry” seasoning mix I found in the spice cupboard.  Then I processed it until it looked like ground up chicken, and sauteed it in a cast iron skillet.  It took two batches.  That was okay – I was juggling several things and having multiple batches just meant my timing wasn’t utterly borked.IMG_6205

Among the things I was juggling was boiling broth for Israeli couscous, and chopping up the last snow turnip, plus all the turnip greens.  I didn’t do anything special to the couscous – it was most there as a starchy filler.  I cooked the turnip in the same skillet I’d done the chicken in, with the added bonus of pouring all the juice from the chicken plate back into the skillet.  I’ve never cooked a turnip before, but quick research indicated they’re tasty raw or cooked, so I wasn’t too worried about undercooking.  The greens I threw into the same skillet again (I loathe doing dishes) and seasoned with a dash of vinegar (hey, it’s good on beet greens!).  IMG_6208

As unimpressive as this bowl looks, this turned out to be the runaway best part of the dish.  I threw some soy sauce into a bowl.  Then, because this is how we roll, some sriracha.  Then a bit of honey.  Some vinegar.  Fish sauce.  I think that’s everything?  Really, I tossed in whatever looked good in that particular cabinet.  This was the last thing I had to do before eating, and I’d spent all day running from hither and yon with clients who want a hobby farm.  I was hungry.IMG_6211

This was rather extraordinarily too much food for two people, which was all I had for dinner on Saturday night.  That’s about 1/3 of that kind of lettuce we got in our CSA box last Wednesday.  It was the right amount for feeding two people.  The turnip was also portioned correctly.  There was too much chicken, couscous and sauce.IMG_6215This is what the wrap looked like assembled.  Actually, this is the only wrap that looked that nice, since most of the lettuce leaves were too small or torn to make good wraps.  But this one, let me assure you, was mega-tasty.

On its own, the chicken mixture was a bit bland – I should have added more curry seasoning and also probably tossed in a bit of soy sauce (and maybe a dash of vinegar, for consistency).  However, when I put away the leftovers, I just poured the sauce over the chicken.  That was brilliance prompted by laziness, and the leftover chicken is much, much improved over the original iteration.

I predict lots of pictures of vegetables coming up.


Attack of the Brownies!

Ok, no actual attack.  I’m just shamelessly making headlines.  You’ll forgive me, I’m sure, because I’m sharing my not at all secret favorite brownie recipe.  It comes from here, and I love it not just because people have a tendency to let their eyes roll into the back of their head and exclaim praise for my confection when they eat them, but also because they’re pretty easy to make.


You’ll note that instead of the nuts called for in the recipe, I have a bag of butterscotch chips here.  I generally leave nuts out of brownie recipes – I don’t like what they do to the texture, and when I’m baking for a large group of people (which I usually am if I do brownies) nuts are a good way to run afoul of dietary restrictions.  I don’t always mix something else in instead, but peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, and mint candies also make good choices.IMG_6189

The recipe says to melt the chocolate and butter together over the stove.  You can do this.  I usually just slap them into a bowl and microwave them on a low power setting instead.  I’m less worried about the chocolate burning if I don’t keep my eye on it in the microwave than I am on the stove top.  Which means I can set that to go, then prep the eggs and sugar and thereby maximize my efficiency.  I like efficient baking.IMG_6193

The recipe isn’t kidding when it says to let the eggs and sugar go for ten minutes.  It really does make the difference.  You incorporate a ton of air into the eggs by doing this which makes them fluffy and leads to the height and texture that makes these brownies so good.  True story: I own a stand mixer because I burned out three hand mixers in three months when I went through a phase of making these brownies nearly every weekend.  It was worth it.  IMG_6198

Once you add the chocolate-butter mixture, then stir in whatever thing you’re using as the nuts, toss it into a pan.  I never, ever, manage to butter the pan well enough for the brownies to come out clean.  This is more feature than bug, since scraping brownie off the pan is kinda awesome.  I should probably switch to using parchment paper when I make these brownies for readings, though, since scraping the brownies out is also slow and messy.IMG_6202And if you were at my reading at WisCon last Saturday, this is what you got the chance to eat.  Now isn’t everybody who wasn’t there jealous?  You should be.  I’m sure you’ll do better next time.

(P.S. Thanks to Keffy, Liz, and Grá for letting me share their reading slot, and for forgiving the general mayhem I inflicted on the reading by being late, and slow and whatnot)




Sometimes, after making a tasty dinner (first grilling episode of the year!), you’re feeling greedy.  It’s not that you didn’t get enough food.  You just need something else.  Something sweet.  Something chocolate.  And in this case, something pudding.


I’ve mentioned here before my general fondness for Bruce Weinstein’s Ultimate Recipe cookbook.  I poked at several cookbooks, and briefly flirted with doing pots d’creme or chocolate souffles instead.  But no.  I wanted pudding.  Largely because it was the easiest way to double the recipe and hold some back for Sunday’s crit group meeting.  Yay, planning ahead!

Since I was doubling the recipe, and since we had packets of chocolate meant for hot chocolate lying around, I got a bit creative with my choice in chocolate.  For half the chocolate I used chipotle hot chocolate, then went for standard unsweetened baking chocolate for the other half.


The really nice thing about doing a pudding instead of the other gloup-y chocolate options is that it’s unpretentious and easy.  You have to beat the egg yolks seperately, and since mine started frozen that took a bit of patience, but other than that, it’s really all about throwing things into a pot and whisking until you have pudding.


This is what everything but the yolks looks like when you’ve been whisking for a few minutes.  Most unappetizing hot chocolate ever, yes?  That’s okay.  Keep whisking.IMG_6173

Mmmm, better.  This is the “let bubble and thicken for 30 seconds,” stage.  Which means it’s time to pour our hot pre-pudding mixture into the egg yolks so they get cooked.IMG_6176

And here’s what the yolks look like with half the chocolate mixture whisked in.  I found the logistics of pouring a “Slow, steady stream,” from the pan into the bowl a bit challenging.  I’d recommend either having another set of hands nearby, or using a pan with a spout.  Or being a ninja.  Ninja skills would be super useful for this.IMG_6177

Everything goes back into the pot for more…if you guessed whisking, you win!  The book said to do it on low for about three minutes, at which point it would be bubbling.  After five minutes it was not bubbling, so I started cranking the heat, and did that slowly until it was bubbling.  Then I let it go a touch longer, just in case.

Unrelated note: glass top electric stoves are about the worst stoves ever invented.  They’re very pretty and sleek looking.  They’re also crap at evenly heating all but the perfectest of perfect pots, and a serious pain in the ass to keep shiny.  Do not buy stoves because they are pretty.  Buy them because they’re useful stoves.  (This one came with the house.)IMG_6182

That is the bowl of chocolate pudding I’ll be serving on Sunday.  The rest when into a different, less pretty container for consumption in the mean time.

IMG_6184And since everything else went so smoothly, gremlins intervened as I was pouring pudding into serving containers, and this was the result.  It’s very Jackson Pollack, if I do say so myself.

Sometimes You Just Gotta Crepe

Yesterday, I had a lot of time to think about what I was going to make for dinner.  This leads to planning, and spares me last minute dashes to the grocery store, or frantically thawing things from the freezer.  It also means that my plans can get a little extravagant.  I started by baking some bread.  This is not about the bread I baked.  It’s about the crepes.

IMG_6060Crepes were the very first savory dish I learned to make.  No, I really don’t do things by half-measures.  But when you think about them properly, they’re not nearly as fancy or difficult as they seem.  Savory crepes are basically a French burrito.  How intimidating can a burrito be?

I usually check the internet for a recipe to give me proportions for the crepes themselves, but this time around I remembered that we have a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  So I asked Julia Child for the proportions instead.  And I learned something new.  Crepe batter is even easier when you use a blender.

She instructs to let the batter sit for at least two hours.  I didn’t start the crepe batter until an hour before dinner.  Sorry, Julia, but the leftovers will be great.IMG_6070

For the filling I didn’t use any recipe.  (It’s not like I’d have followed it if I did use one)  Instead I grabbed a variety of tasty things lying around the house and designated them filling.  That’s Italian sausage, fennel, mushrooms and a yellow onion.  Mmmm, french-burrito filling.IMG_6074

I tossed the filling ingredients into a skillet oiled with bacon grease one at a time and let them cook.  I had the heat high, to make the onion carmelize, the mushrooms brown, and the everything cook quickly.  Too much free time, yesterday.  I was running late.IMG_6075Do you see the gunk cooked onto the bottom of that pan?  That’s flavor, also known as tasty.  Do not, if you can at all help it, let that sit in the pan.  It looks like it’s stuck there, but that’s an illusion.  What you want to do is de-glaze the pan.  Usually this gets done with something boozy, like wine.  I was still out of wine after using it all on the beef stew.  Instead, I used lemon juice and vinegar.IMG_6086

Scrape the brown liquid and loose solid bits into a sauce pan.  Then I added some chicken stock since there really wasn’t enough liquid.  Bring that to a boil, then whisk in butter.  I had whatever was left of the stick I’d used to make the crepe batter and grease the bread pan.  Then I thickened the sauce with some Wondra.  It could have gone thicker, but was fine as it was and I was hungry.


This was my first time using a cast iron skillet for the crepes.  Conclusion: OMG doing it this way from now on.  This was also the first time I managed the “Flip the crepe by tossing the pan,” trick.  These things are related.  Sadly, nobody was there to see my utterly bad ass crepe flipping.  NEXT TIME!IMG_6085

That, ladies and gents, is what a French burrito wrapper looks like just before it comes out of the pan.  Mmmm.IMG_6088And that, is what a French burrito looks like when you’ve assembled and drizzled it with sauce.

I’d have liked a leafy green inside the crepe just to mix up the texture and add an extra depth to the flavor.  Arugula, in particular, would have been nice.  The crepe batter, even in its under-rested condition, worked great, and pouring from the blender was awesome.  Thanks, Julia Child!

Beef and Dried Fruit Stew


While on my train trip out to the East coast, I may have wandered into a used bookstore, and I may have, in the process picked up a couple books, and left some cash on their desk on my way out.  But I was definitely a good girl and did not buy more books.  Because I’m responsible.  And one of the books I did not buy, just happened to carry out after dropping some cash, was Leith’s Latin-American Cooking by Valeria Vieiria Sisti.   In honor of the first day of spring, I cracked it open to cook dinner.  And since the first day of spring was so cold I’d lit a fire in the fireplace, I went for a beef stew.


I even followed this recipe pretty closely.  My biggest change was using chicken stock instead of beef stock, because chicken stock is what we keep in the house.  It doesn’t specify what kind of dried fruit one should use, so I went with what we had in the house, which was golden raisins, cherries, and cranberries.  I could have sworn we had prunes, but I’m either daft or they’re hiding.  (We have three pantries.  It really could be either)


This recipe isn’t really all that different from any other beef stew, but that’s ok.  If you’re looking for a good recipe to learn how to make beef stew from, I’d recommend this one.  I like the way the recipe instructions are written.  It’s a Do this thing: Details on how to do the thing style.  It means that I have all the information and nuance for what exactly to do, but when I’m in the middle of cooking I can get the next step info quickly and without hunting through the text for it.


This is a picture of raw beef, because I chopped up a roast and it was pretty.  Look, my knife skills, they lead to yum.


Browning the meat is possibly my favorite part of making stew.  It’s quick, satisfyingly productive – you see it browning right there before your eyes! – and you know all those lovely beefy bits are getting stuck to the bottom of the pan.


The browned beef goes into a bowl, and then you deglaze the pan.  I used the last of an ancient box of pinot noir as the wine in this recipe.  The beef was very happy to soak in its wine and cow juices mixture.  I know, because it mooed at me when I walked by.  (Or I was hungry.)


This recipe had me slow cook the onions over really low heat.  I’d usually do them on somewhat higher heat until they were a bit carmelized, but this worked just fine.


I used two carrots instead of the one the recipe called for.  Our carrots were fairly small, though, and one just didn’t feel like enough.  And I used a giant clove of garlic because yum.


This is where I did my other big divergence from the recipe.  I emptied the box of wine into the pan instead of measuring, so I’m sure I put in more than what it called for.  But since I left the pan on the stove for a good hour and a half longer than the recipe called for, too, I think the extra liquid was a good idea.


The extra cooking time was more because Nick stayed at work way too late, but it was the difference between the beef being adequately cooked, and falling apart into flaky awesome, so I think that was a win.


This is beef stew ready to eat.  Doesn’t that just scream spring?


The cookbook recommends serving over their recipe for fried rice.  I just used our harvest mix of rice because it was faster, and hey, I had work to do to and I’d already taken a lot of time out of my day for stew and, er, first day of spring fire and s’mores.

Definitely looking forward to playing with this cookbook some more, though.

Thai Peanut Spice Cookies

As any of you who’ve been paying attention know, I’m going to FogCon this weekend. I’ve got a reading on Sunday afternoon, which is exciting since I enjoy doing performing monkey routines. In fact, since I’ve had such good luck with convention readings so far, meaning that despite being a tiny little baby author, career-wise, that I’ve had no tragic, empty, or disastrous readings, that I’ve decided to really push my luck with this one. I’m either going to do a story I’m fairly convinced can’t be read aloud successfully (at least not by me) or one that I’m not sure actually works. One way or another, the audience is going to get to watch me fail in what will, hopefully, be a spectacular and amusing way.

Which means that I’d better have a consolation prize for them. This is where the cookies come in.


I wanted something that I could bake on Wednesday and which would still be good on Sunday, and which would also fit in my carryon easily and without breaking apart and becoming a problem. This basically demanded peanut butter cookies. So I went to “The New Best Recipe” and pulled out their recipe for peanut butter cookies. This, more or less, is what the starting ingredients look like. (I left vanilla out of the photo. Woops.)


Cream butter and sugar together. Throw in the peanut butter. Mmmm, buttery peanut butter.


Then add the eggs and vanilla. Now all the wet ingredients have been mixed together. According to the recipe, that’s pretty much it. Toss in the dry ingredients and we’re good to go. Except I’m not done with the dry ingredients. Enter: Apparently I can’t follow a recipe ever because these things totally aren’t on the ingredient list.


Yeah, that’s curry powder. In the peanut butter cookies. Because I love my fans, that’s why.


This is what the dry ingredients looked like when I was done ignoring the directions.


Ladies and gentlemen, we have achieved cookie dough.


These look ready for the oven, yes?


I’m really pleased with the way these turned out. And I have twenty-seven of them with me, so you could wind up pleased with how these turned out, too. All you have to is show up for my reading and demand the baked goods. That’s 1:30 Sunday. See you there!

Artichokes and Fennel




I swear I am not purposefully engaging in acts of vegetarian cooking.  It just keeps happening, possibly because I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing and for some reason that makes it seem like a good idea.

Anywho, I got home from a fabulous trip wherein I visited my sister and her hubby, plus the rest of my family, and also the fabulous Noah (and met his nifty girlfriend) and took a longing look at my kitchen.  “I missed you,” I said you my kitchen.  “I can’t imagine why.  It’s not like you’d cooked anything for two weeks before you left,” it said back.  My kitchen, it is a jealous, harsh creature.

“I’m cooking dinner tomorrow!” I said, without so much as looking at my calendar.  I picked up a new cookbook in D.C. and was thinking of maybe wasting time I didn’t have pouring through it to pick out something cool and turning the whole cooking dinner thing into an extravagant waste of a Tuesday evening.  “We have artichokes and fennel in the fridge that need to get used,” the roommates reply.  Nevermind.  New plan.  Let’s cook not one, but two vegetables I know nothing about.


Doesn’t that just look like the start of something that is going to be awesome?  I poked around the internet a bit to get an idea of just what one does with artichokes and fennel, then decided that this recipe looked tasty.  Then, because I am a brilliant creature full of good ideas, I decided to sorta ignore the recipe a bit and throw in mushrooms for some protein-y goodness and also because they’re awesome.  Mushrooms make most things better. IMG_5911

I don’t think we own a steaming basket.  I’ve never really steamed anything before.  I got a bit creative and stuck the artichokes in a colander over a pot of boiling water and hope a lot that the plastic wouldn’t melt.  Also, that this jury-rigged system would work at all.IMG_5915

Chopping the fennel was easy.  This was the point, though, where I realized we were out of onion.  Oh well.  Mushrooms are like onion.  Sorta. In a “not at all and I can’t believe I just said that,” sort of way.  Let’s keep moving, shall we?IMG_5917

This was the part where I was tempted to just get a wooden spoon and start eating dinner out of the skillet.  It’s possible I have a weakness for mushrooms in skillets full of oil.  DO NOT JUDGE ME.  Also, this was taking much longer than I’d expected it to, what with lots of stopping to stare at the artichokes and fennel and go, “I think this thing I am doing resembles what the recipe says I should be doing.  What could possibly go wrong?  It’s not like whole parts of the artichoke are functionally inedible…wait…”IMG_5923

This may have been my favorite step in the whole process, possibly just because the artichokes were so pretty in the cast iron skillet.  Also, they made a nice sizzling noise.  And I was pretty sure at that point that I had successfully steamed them without destroying the colander and also possibly without letting horrible chemicals that will kill us with slow cancer leech into the food.  On reflection, I think next time I’ll use the metal colander.  Or get a proper steaming apparatus.




I’m usually skeptical about adding parsley to things, but it worked out pretty well here.  For one, the green brightened up the appearance on the mixture very nicely.  For another, it adding a nice leafy-green bite and flavor that made the whole thing nicer than just some fennel and mushrooms thrown into a skillet.  Between that and my executive decision to douse the whole thing in lemon juice I think I got away with the lack of onion.



The final product was very pretty, and the topping was really nice.  The artichokes themselves…hrm.  So I didn’t figure out until after they were out of the onion what the recipe wanted me to do with the step about trimming the leaves with kitchen shears.  That was, I think, basically to cut away the inedible bits of the artichoke.  Even if I had done that, though, there’s still not really a graceful way to eat the artichokes when presented like this.  The flavors all worked really well together, but I wouldn’t consider this a practical dish.  I’d do the fennel portion of the recipe again in a minute, but I’d probably serve it on top of a starch of some sort instead.