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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Vegetables/Salads/Herbs

TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Use Fresh Spring Peas

Lovers of green peas (also called English peas and garden peas), you’re in for a treat. Spring is the season.

It’s time to serve sides of fresh-steamed green peas and make some delicious fresh pea soup.

But what else should you be doing with these bright green jewels? Their sweet flavor and bright color can grace your table in so many other ways.

You can use almost any cooking method, from boiling, braising or microwaving, to sautéing, steaming and stir-frying. Add them raw to salads and pop them into your mouth as a snack.

They take only a few minutes to cook. In fact, you need to watch them to avoid ending up with mushy peas (if this happens, make a quick pea purée; and if they’ve lost their bright hue, add a teeny drop of food color). We aim for “al dente.”

Create recipes with these flavor accents:

  • Cured meats: bacon, chorizo, pancetta, prosciutto, smoked ham
  • Fresh herbs: basil, chervil, dill, mint, tarragon
  •    

    English-peas-3-thechefsgarden-230w

    Fresh picked and divine. Photo courtesy The Chef’s Garden.

  • The onion group: chives, garlic, green onions, leeks, ramps (spring onion), shallots; red, yellow or white onions
  • Proteins: chicken, duck, lamb, fish (especially cod and, salmon), seafood (especially scallops), tofu
  • Spring produce: asparagus, fava beans, fennel, fiddlehead ferns, Meyer lemon, morels, mustard greens
  •  
    We can’t think of anything more delicious than fresh peas with asparagus, fiddleheads, morels and ramps—or as many of these as you can get hold of—sautéed with garlic in olive oil. Garnish with a chiffonade of fresh mint.

    Don’t dally: The season is short! For inspiration, here are just ways to use the bounty of fresh peas.
     
    GREEN PEAS AT BREAKFAST

  • In an omelet
  • As a side with fried, poached or scrambled eggs
  • Atop Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
  • In a green smoothie
  •  
    GREEN PEAS AT LUNCH

  • In macaroni, potato or rice/grain salad
  • In a green salad or Greek salad*
  • Pea soup (try a spring recipe, with fresh mint)
  • Spicy fresh pea salad (recipe)
  •  
    Plus:

  • As a snack, raw
  •  
    *Romaine, bell pepper, red onion and feta, with a fresh dill garnish. Add some lemon zest to the vinaigrette.

     

    ricotta-pea-toast-chalkpointkitchen-230

    Easy, peasy: an appetizer or snack of crostini
    with ricotta and fresh peas. The recipe is below. Photo courtesy Chalk Point Kitchen |
    NYC.

     

    GREEN PEAS AT DINNER

  • Asian style: blanched or sautéed with ginger; then tossed with a soy, wasabi, ginger and garlic marinade
  • Bibb or butter lettuce salad with radish and green onion (scallion)
  • Blended half-and-half with cooked rice or other grain, topped with grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Spring pea risotto, with pancetta or bacon plus garlic and onion
  • Cooked in olive oil and stock (recipe)
  • Pasta, especially with a white or olive oil sauce (add some prosciutto, bacon or a few grilled shrimp)
  • Pea & mint soup
  • Pea pesto, as a sauce or dip (recipe)
  • Pea purée as a side
  • Quickly sautéed in olive oil or steamed and tossed with butter
  •  

    RECIPE: GREEN PEA & RICOTTA TOAST

    Enjoy this for breakfast, as a first course or a snack. We chose a rustic Italian loaf with sesame seeds, but any peasant bread will do.

    Ingredients

  • Rustic bread loaf
  • Ricotta cheese (see if you can find it freshly made, at a cheese store or Italian market)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Green peas
  • Optional: lemon zest
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garnish: baby arugula, pea shoots, microgreens or sprouts
  •  
    Preparation

    1. STEAM the peas to al dente and let cool. Combine the ricotta with salt, pepper and lemon zest to taste. Stir in peas to taste (few or many).

    2. TOAST the bread and slice as desired (depending on the diameter of the loaf, cut the toast into manageable pieces).

    3. SPREAD toast with the pea-ricotta mixture. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Garnish and serve.
     
    HOW TO BUY & STORE FRESH PEAS

    Buying Fresh Peas

    For the best flavor, choose small peas. They’re younger, sweeter and more tender than large ones. Look for medium-size pods that are firm and green, with no yellowing. Break open a pod and check the peas. They should be small, bright green and firm. Taste the peas in the pod: They should be tender and sweet.

    Freshness counts. As with corn, once picked the peas’ high sugar content begins to convert to starch. Don’t pay for mature peas. You might as well use frozen peas.

    Don’t pay extra for shelled peas. You don’t know how fresh they are; and since you aren’t shelling peas day in, day out, it’s a fun activity.
     
    Storing Fresh Peas

  • Store the pods in the crisper drawer of the fridge in a plastic storage bag. Use them within two days.
  • Once they’re shelled, the best way to store peas is to freeze them. First blanch them for a minute or two in boiling salted water and then shock them in an ice-water bath to stop the cooking and maintain ther bright color. Drain and freeze them in freezer storage bags for up to six months.
  •   

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Spinach Day

    Popeye may have enjoyed his spinach straight from the can, but for today, National Spinach Day, we can come up with 20 better suggestions.

    BREAKFAST

  • Spinach omelet or fritatta (recipe)
  • Eggs Benedict With Spinach (recipe)
  •  
    DIPS & SPREADS

  • Green Mayonnaise (Julia Child’s recipe)
  • Spinach Dip With Walnuts (recipe)
  • Spinach Pesto (substitute spinach for the basil in this recipe)
  • Warm Crab & Spinach Dip (recipe)
  • Warm Spinach & Mascarpone Dip (recipe)
  • 13 Ways To Use Spinach Dip Or Spread
  •  
    LUNCH & FIRST COURSES

  • Curried Spinach Tart (recipe)
  • Grilled Cheese With Spinach (recipes)
  • Mac & Cheese With Spinach (recipe)
  • Spanakopita (Greek spinach pie—recipe)
  •    

    spinach-mascarpone-dip-vermontcreamery-230

    A warm spinach dip, creamy with mascarpone cheese. Photo courtesy Vermont Creamery.

     

    beet-spinach-apple-salad-butterball230

    Beet, spinach and apple salad. Photo courtesy Butterball.

     

    MAINS

  • Pasta With Spinach: penne pasta with a garnish of fresh spinach leaves and cherry tomatoes (recipe), bow tie pasta with chicken and spinach (recipe) or cheese tortellini with spinach (recipe)
  • Spinach Stuffed Pork Roast (recipe)
  •  
    PIZZA

  • Feta & Spinach Pizza (recipe)
  • Spinach & Grilled Shrimp Pizza (recipe)
  •  
    SIDES

  • Wilted Spinach With Tzatziki (Greek yogurt dip—recipe)
  •  
    SALADS

  • Beet, Spinach & Apple Salad (recipe)
  • Spinach & Grapefruit Salad (recipe)
  •  

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Baby Purple Artichokes (Fiesole)

    In season now, these little artichokes are a treat for artichoke lovers and a lovely shade of vegetable for Easter dinner.

    Called fiesole (fee-YEH-so-lay) in Italian, the baby purple artichoke—the size of a large egg—belongs to the botanical genus and species, Cynara scolymus, which includes the green globe artichokes and purple globe artichokes.

    Artichokes are the immature flower heads of an herbaceous perennial thistle plant in the Compositae botanical family. The cardoon, or artichoke thistle/wild artichoke, is a different species: Cynara cardunculus. Here’s more about artichoke varieties.

    The tulip shaped baby purple artichokes have the same great flavor as their large green and purple kin and are easier to eat because they haven’t developed the fuzzy portion of on top of the choke. They are bright violet in color; the colors fade only slightly when they are cooked.

    The only thorn in the flesh is exactly that: The leaves still have sharp tips.

       

    baby-purple-artichokes-melissas-230

    Baby purple artichokes. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     
    Harvested young for tenderness and rich flavor, baby purple artichokes typically have intense fruity and nutty flavors and grassy tones, and are considered to be the most flavorful of all baby artichoke varieties.

    If you can’t find the artichokes locally, you can buy them from Melissas.com.

    HOW TO BUY BABY ARTICHOKES

    Look for firm, thin, compact leaves (called a tight core) that are bright without discoloration. If you squeeze the artichoke and it squeaks, it is fresh!

    Store the, unwashed in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to two weeks.

    Here’s a photo spread on how to prepare artichokes for cooking.
     
    HOW TO SERVE BABY ARTICHOKES

    Baby artichokes are easy to prepare. They may be baked, boiled, braised, marinated, poached, roasted or steamed. When slow-cooked, artichokes become tender and more flavorful, absorb the flavors with which they are cooked. [Source]

    Artichokes pair well with both fatty and high acid ingredients: anchovies, bacon, basil, butter, cheese (especially goat and feta), cream, garlic, lemon, hollandaise, mushrooms, pepper, sausage, thyme, tomatoes, vinaigrette, white wine and truffles.

    You can find many recipes online, but here are two thoughts:

  • Appetizer: Simmer in olive oil, then fry at until ther leaves open. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and serve.
  • Main: Slice in half and braise the artichokes in olive oil, white wine, garlic and herbs. Serve them with risotto.
  •  

    purple-artichoke-friedasFB-230r

    A purple globe artichoke. The variety is called “Sangria.” Photo courtesy Frieda’s.

     

    A BRIEF ARTICHOKE HISTORY

    Artichokes were first cultivated in the Mediterranean region thousands of years ago in Maghreb, the region of North Africa west of Egypt, where they still growing wild. They spread through the Mediterranean region.

    The Greek philosopher and naturalist Theophrastus (371-287 B.C.E.) wrote of artichokes being grown in Italy and Sicily.

    The Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (40-90 C.E.), a surgeon with the Roman army of Emperor Nero, wrote about artichokes at the time of Christ.

    Ancient Greeks and Romans considered artichokes a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. In the ensuing centuries, they were grown in France and other areas of Europe.

    In America, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery contains a 17th-century recipe entitled “To Make Hartichoak Pie.” In the early 1800s, French immigrants settling in the Louisiana Territory planted artichokes.

     

    In 1922 Andrew Molera, a landowner in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County, California, lease land to Italian immigrant farmers and encouraged them to grow the “new” vegetable, as artichokes were fetching high prices. [Source]

    Fiesole artichokes are named for the city of Fiesole, Italy, an ancient Etruscan town located in the hills above Florence. They were initially bred from the Violetta de Provence artichoke, a purple variety native to southern France.

    As for its botanical name, Cynara scolymus: The genus name comes from the Greek kynara, artichoke. Scolymus derives from the Greek word for thistle.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Castelfranco Chicory

    Californians are so lucky. Between the great growing climate and consumer demand for the best, local farmers grow produce not often seen in other parts of the country.

    Take this Castelfranco chicory, a joy to behold. The round, slightly open lettuce* heads have pale green leaves that are speckled with burgundy red.

    Italians call it “a flower for eating.” It’s almost too pretty to eat! Castelfranco is the sweetest of the radicchio-type chicories: crunchy with an interesting, slightly bitter flavor.

    Other names for the lettuce include variegata di Castelfranco, radicchio Castelfranco and Castelfranco variegata. It’s an heirloom radicchio-type chicory from the Veneto region of Italy, where it is abundant and popular. Castelfranco is a town in the area.

    A pretty salad by itself, it can be mixed with other greens.

    The crop from which this head was picked was grown by Dirty Girl Produce, a certified organic family farm in Santa Cruz County. It’s sold at farmers markets, to restaurants and artisan food markets like Good Eggs.

     

    castelfranco-chicory-goodeggs-230

    A beautiful head of castelfranco chicory. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

     

    And people wonder why the first thing we do when landing in California is head to the farmers markets!

     
    *Chicory is in the same botanical family as iceberg lettuce and romaine (Asteraceae), but a different genus (Cichorium versus Lactuca).

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Artichoke Hearts Day

    artichoke-baked-potato-bonefishgrill-230

    Celebrate with an artichoke baked potato. Photo courtesy Bonefish Grill.

     

    Today is National Artichoke Heart Day, an occasion to mix up our favorite luxurious yet low-calorie dishes, “Luxury Salad.” It combines artichokes with hearts of palm, roasted red pepper, red onion and black olives in a white wine vinaigrette. Here’s the recipe.

    But we’re all about options, and we’re making a stuffed baked potato from some of the artichoke hearts.

    We were inspired by this photo from Bonefish Grill. The elaborate recipe topped with an artichoke heart seems an elegant way to celebrate National Artichoke Hearts Day.

    The potato is stuffed with some sautéed spinach, then crowned with a poached egg and the artichoke heart.

    RECIPE: ARTICHOKE STUFFED POTATO

    Ingredients For One Serving

  • 1 baked potato
  • 3 tablespoons sautéed spinach
  • 1 poached egg
  • 1 artichoke heart, drained
  • Optional: hollandaise sauce (recipe)
  • Garnish: tarragon chiffonade
  • Preparation

    1. BAKE the potato(es). When the potatoes are almost done…

    2. Sauté the spinach and poach the egg(s). Warm the artichoke heart(s) in the microwave.

    3. SLICE the top off the potato(s) to provide an even platform. Scoop out a bit of the potato to create a shallow well for the spinach.

    4. FILL the well with the spinach, top with the poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Crown with the artichoke heart, sliced in half as necessary. Garnish with the tarragon.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Pointed Cabbage, The New Brassica* In Town

    Even if you don’t eat cabbage regularly, you may be having some corned beef and cabbage tomorrow, St. Patrick’s Day.

    If you think there’s nothing new in cabbage, check out the new cabbage in town. Originally grown in Spain as Sweetheart or Sweet Heart cabbage, it is now grown in California branded as Kool cabbage.

    It is delicious pointed cabbage, another name by which it is known. Still other names include duchy cabbage, hearted cabbage and hispi.

    A conical-shaped member of the cabbage family, the leaves are more open (less tight) than those of a conventional green cabbage, with a softer texture and sweeter taste. It also requires less time to cook.

    Note that while a pointed cabbage is, in fact, cool, kool is the Dutch word for cabbage. It gave its name to koolsla, which in the U.S. became cole slaw (kool = cabbage, sla = salad).
     
    COOKING POINTED CABBAGE

    Kool/pointed cabbage is best enjoyed cooked, as opposed to raw in slaws and salads.

     

    sweet_heart_kool_cabbage_europeancuisines-230

    Sweetheart or Kool cabbage, known by a variety of other names. Photo courtesy EuropeanCuisines.com. Check out their recipe for Shredded Baby Cabbage in Cream Sauce.

  • Melissas.com, which sells the cabbage online, suggests removing the center core and using the leaves in stir fry, boiled or steamed as a stand-alone side dish or grilled as a topping for steak or lamb chops.
  • Cut the cabbage in half and then into quarters, removing the hard core from each quarter at an angle. Then slice and wash thoroughly.
  •  
    It’s easy to overcook cabbage and bring out those odoriferous sulfur compounds.

  • To steam cabbage, place it in a steamer and cook for 5-10 minutes until tender but still crisp.
  • To boil cabbage, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the prepared cabbage and cook for 5 8 minutes until tender but still crisp.
  • To stir-fry cabbage, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan, add the cabbage and stir fry for 4-5 minutes or until tender but still crisp.
  • To grill cabbage, preheat the grill to medium. Cut the cabbage into wedges (8 for a conventional cabbage) and remove the core. Place on a piece of foil large enough to wrap all the wedges. Season to taste (garlic powder, salt, pepper), seal in the foil and grill for 30 to 40 minutes until tender.
     
    Don’t forget the corned beef!
     
    *Brassica is the plant genus that comprises the cruciferous vegetables, nutritional powerhouses packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants). They include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rapeseed/canola, rapini, rutabaga, turnips and others.

      

  • Comments

    RECIPE: Broccoli Madness Salad

    For green fare on St. Patrick’s Day, try this very green broccoli salad from Souplantation. It has plenty of added ingredients (bacon! raisins! cashews!) to make it a crowd pleaser.

    RECIPE: BROCCOLI MADNESS SALAD

    Ingredients For 6 Side Salad Servings

  • 1 head raw broccoli
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  •  
    For The Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  •  

    broccoli-madness-salad-souplantation-230r

    An easy broccoli salad, sure to please all. Photo courtesy Souplantation.

     
    Preparation

    1. WASH the broccoli and pat dry. Chop off the bottom 2 inches or so of stems and break the head into florets.

    2. PLACE the florets in a large bowl; add the bacon, cashews, raisins and red onion.

    3. MAKE the dressing: Combine the mayonnaise, sugar and cider vinegar in a small bowl; stir until smooth.

    4. TOSS the broccoli mixture with the dressing. Let it set 10 minutes or longer before serving. Serve on chilled salad dishes.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Green Bean Casserole

    green-bean-casserole-comteUSAfb-230

    A green bean casserole smothered with
    delicious Comté cheese. Photo courtesy
    Comté USA.

     

    In our mother’s day, green bean casserole was a popular family dish. We can’t remember the last decade we saw one, either at home or on a restaurant menu.

    So St. Patrick’s Day, coming up on March 17th, seems like the time to try a good recipe and put more green on the table.

    This recipe was shared with us by Comté USA, the American bureau for France’s popular Comté cheese. Also called Gruyère de Comté, it has a much milder flavor than the Swiss Gruyère, aged for only three months compared to 8 months with Swiss Gruyère.

    How popular is it? Comté has the highest production of all French AOC cheeses: around 40,000 tonnes* annually.

    Dating back to the 12th century, Comté is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France. Here’s some fun cheese trivia: Comté is made only during the summer months, in huge wheels. In the fall, milk from the same cows is used to make Vacherin Mont d’Or, a small, creamy cheese that couldn’t be more different.

    If you want to focus on Irish ingredients, look for a Gruyere-style Irish cheese like Glebe Brethan.

     
    *In American English, a ton is a unit of measurement equaling 2,000 pounds. In Europe and elsewhere, a tonne equals 2,240 pounds (1000 kg). Don’t assume it’s the same measurement with a different spelling!
     
    RECIPE: GREEN BEAN & MUSHROOM GRATIN WITH COMTÉ & FRIED SHALLOTS

    This is a sophisticated version of a classic green bean casserole. No condensed cream of mushroom soup, no canned French-fried onions!

    Ingredients

  • ½ pound shallots (about 6 whole), peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1¾ teaspoons salt, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 10 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms†, sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4-ounces Comté, shredded (2 scant cups shredded)
  •  
    †Cremini/crimini mushrooms are baby portabello/portobello mushrooms, often marketed as Baby Bellas. Check out the different types of mushrooms in our Mushroom Glossary.

     

    Preparation

    1. LINE a large plate with paper towels. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer and lightly smoke. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until light golden brown, about 7-9 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to the paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.

    3. BRING a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until crisp-tender, 4-5 minutes. While the beans cook, fill a large bowl with ice water. Drain the beans and immediately plunge them into the ice water to stop cooking. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel to dry.

    4. MELT the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and toss. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and the minced garlic; cook 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Whisk in the broth and milk and bring to a simmer. Cook 5-6 minutes, or until thickened.

     

    comte-platter-comteUSA-fb-230

    Comté cheese. Photo courtesy Comte USA.

     
    5. TURN off the heat and add half of the shredded Comté, along with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir until the cheese is melted. Add the green beans and stir to coat.

    6. TRANSFER the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining Comté over the top. Bake 10 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle the fried shallots over the gratin. Serve warm.

      

    Comments

    TIP: How To Microwave Artichokes

    The globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) is a species of thistle cultivated as a vegetable. It is actually a flower head, a cluster of numerous immature buds of what would be a blossom if not picked before it bloomed. The cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) is a wild variant available in spring.

    The artichoke stem is also delicious. It is an extension of the artichoke heart.

    The thistle family is a group of flowering plants that have leaves with sharp prickles. They, along with the inner choke (more about that in a bit), make eating whole artichokes a labor of love, like eating a whole lobster. But like that lobster, what’s inside is more than worth it.

    ARTICHOKE HISTORY

    Native to the Mediterranean, the artichoke was popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Greeks called them kaktos and the Romans called them carduus. The English word evolved from the medieval Arabic al-khurshuf, which evolved into alcachofa in Arabic, alcachofa in Spanish, carciofo in Italian, artichaut in French and Artischocke in German.

    Artichoke cultivation spread to Italy and southern France in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The original artichokes were small, the size of hens’ eggs. Breeding created the globe.

     

    thistle-Cynara-scolymus-alvesgaspar-wiki

    An artichoke in bloom in Montpellier, France. One the flower blooms, the flesh becomes coarse and barely edible. Photo by Alvesgaspar | Wikimedia.

     

    The Dutch introduced artichokes to England, and they were grown in Henry VIII’s garden by 1530. They arrived in the U.S. in the 19th century, brought to Louisiana by French immigrants and to California by Spanish immigrants. [Source]

    And now, let’s eat!
     
    HOW TO MICROWAVE ARTICHOKES

    Microwaving is much faster than conventional steaming on the stove top. Prep time is 3 minutes, cook time is 7 minutes.

    While freshly-harvested artichokes are sweet, some cooks add a drizzle of lemon juice before cooking to eliminate any bitterness. (We’ve never had a bitterness problem.)

    Ingredients

  • Globe artichokes, 8-12 ounces (or smaller varieties)
  • Optional: lemon juice
  • Plastic wrap
  • Optional for serving: lemon wedge, melted butter or other dip (see options in Step 6, below)
  •  

    microwave-artichoke-melissas-230ps

    Melissa’s sells artichokes ready to microwave, wrapped in plastic with a red timing device that pops up when it’s ready. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. RINSE the artichokes, not just to clean them but to provide moisture for microwaving. Tear off any tiny lower leaves or leaves that are blemished.

    2. TRIM any leaves from the stem. You can leave the stem on, or cut it off at the base of the globe and cook it next to it. (NOTE: Some supermarket artichokes have already been trimmed of the stem.)

    3. USING a scissors, slice off the prickly tips of the leaves. Our mother, ever the creative kitchen artist, used a pinking shears to create a decorative edge. Drizzle a tablespoon of lemon juice into the wells of the leaves.

    4. PLACE the artichoke in a microwave safe dish with 1/4 inch of water in the bottom, and over tightly with plastic wrap. Alternatively, you can cook them in a dish with a tight cover that keeps in the steam. Microwave on high for 7 minutes for one artichoke; 10 minutes for two; 15 minutes for four; 19 minutes for six.

    5. CHECK for done-ness by removing a leaf from the center of the leaves. If it pulls out easily, the artichokes are done. If not done, continue to cook at 30-second intervals. After you try this technique, you’ll know what works for your microwave.

     

    6. PLATE and serve. While we love eating them plain, perhaps with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, others like to dip the artichokes in melted butter or another dip such as aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), rouille (red pepper aïoli), romesco sauce, yogurt dip with your favorite herbs or spices (dill or cumin are popular) or vinaigrette (try this green olive vinaigrette).
     
    You can serve steamed artichokes warm/hot, at room temperature or chilled.
     
    HOW TO EAT AN ARTICHOKE

  • Tear off the leaves one by one, as you are ready to eat them. Place the leaf between your teeth, inside up, and use your teeth to scrape out the flesh at the base of each leaf. Discarding the remainder of the leaf on your plate or in a separate bowl.
  • The outer leaves are less tender, but it no flesh is coming off, the artichoke needs further cooking.
  • The leaves become increasingly tender as you work your way to the heart. You know you’re there when you encounter a pale, thistle-like center, the choke. It is not edible, and removing every last tiny piece is the one pain in the process. With a small spoon, scoop out and discard the choke.
  • You’ll then discover the prize, the artichoke heart: a truly delicious treat.
  •  
    HOW TO BUY ARTICHOKES

    We look for artichokes with the fewest blemishes and the longest stems.

    As with any produce, don’t buy more than you will use in a few days. Keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them.

      

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    TIP: Microwave Kale Chips

    “I am so sick of kale,” our friend Bonnie exclaimed, as we sat down to a restaurant lunch. We have nothing against a kale salad, but we were trended-out by the kale Caesar salad as a menu item. We wanted the original Caesar salad: We wanted romaine!

    The one thing we agreed upon was kale chips as an alternative to potato chips or fries. Unlike baked kale chips, they can be ready in five minutes, in time to join a cold beer or soft drink.

    We made this recipe in advance of St. Patrick’s Day, to test how much we’d need for a party.

    You can make chips (of any kind) in minutes with the Microwave Chip Maker, a handy device from Mastrad. Two trays are $20. We bought a second set, since they can be stacked to turn out a greater volume of chips.

    You can use a microwave-safe plate also; or cook the kale directly on the glass turntable.

    Using herb-infused oil adds another layer of flavor to the chips.

       

    kale-chips-thepamperedchef-230

    Kale chips made with conventional curly kale. Photo courtesy Mastrad.

     
    RECIPE: MICROWAVE KALE CHIPS

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 bunch kale, cleaned and thoroughly dried
  • 4 tablespoons regular or herb-infused olive oil or canola oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  

    lacinato-black-tuscan-dinosaur-kale-beauty-goodeggs-230r

    Lacinto kale, also called black kale or dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale. Photo courtesy TheGoodEggs.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. REMOVE the stems from the dry kale. Tear the leaves into 2″ pieces. Toss with the oil to coat and place the pieces in one layer on the tray. Don’t overlap the pieces; doing so can cause arcing* in the microwave. Season with salt and pepper.

    2a. WITH MICROWAVE CHIP MAKER TRAY: Microwave on HIGH for 1½ minutes. Continue microwaving in 30-second intervals until the desired crispness is reached. Allow to cool before removing to a bowl.

    2b. WITH A REGULAR MICROWAVE-SAFE PLATE: Microwave for 3 minutes, continuing in 30-second intervals until the desired crispness is reached. Transfer to serving bowl.

    3. REPEAT with additional batches. For the best flavor and texture, serve immediately; but you can store the chips in an airtight container for up to a week.
     
    WHICH KALE SHOULD YOU USE?

    There are more than 50 varieties of kale, of which four are most often found in the U.S. Curly kale is the variety typically found in grocery stores.

     

    You may have to hit farmers markets or specialty produce stores for the others: lacinato kale (also called black kale, dinosaur kale, and Tuscan kale. among other names), redbor kale (ornamental kale, which is equally edible) and red Russian kale.

    For kale chips, we personally preferred using lacinto kale or red Russian kale. The leaves are longer, flatter and better to tear into chip-size pieces. But you may prefer curly kale, which was used in the photo above.

    Here’s more about kale.
     
    *Arcing, or sparking, is rare and the USDA can’t explain what causes it. Theories include the mineral or moisture content of certain vegetables; and foods with sharp rather than round edges arranged too closely in the microwave.

      

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