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TIP OF THE DAY: Spring Artichokes, Steamed Whole

March 16th is National Artichoke Hearts Day, but today, the first day of spring, we take on the whole fresh vegetable, a spring arrival.

The artichoke is actually a large flower bud. If left in the field, the fuzzy choke in the center becomes the blossom (photo #3), which is supported by the thick, spiny leaves.

The familiar globes are harvested prior to flowering (photo #4).

The outer leaves, heart and stem of the artichoke are equally (and similarly) tasty. The toughest outer leaves and the choke (the light, fibrous section on top of the heart) are discarded.

RECIPE: STEAMED ARTICHOKES

Artichokes can be braised, fried, grilled, roasted or stewed; but to cook a whole artichoke, the technique is to steam.

The process is actually very easy. All you need is a large pot and a steaming tray. Serve them as a first course, hot or cold, with your choice of dipping sauce.

Our pasta pot fits six large artichokes. We like them large, as you get more to eat with the same amount of effort.

While many retailers chop the stems off, we look for those with the longest stems. Surprise: The heart grows from the stem, and the stem tastes like the heart. Don’t throw them out: Enjoy them!

Some people peel the stems first, as they do with asparagus. We find that most do just fine with some extra steaming. As a hedge, you can cut the stems and steam them separately, in case they need some extra time in the pot.

Finally, artichokes have traditionally been served with the melted butter (with hot artichokes) and aïoli or vinaigrette (hot or cold artichokes), we find that most steamed vegetables are delicious without anything else.

A large artichoke (162g, 5.7 ounces) has just 76 calories.

Ingredients

  • Whole artichokes
  • Fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving as desired
  • Optional garnish: snipped parsley or other herb to scatter on plate
  • For dipping: aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), melted butter or vinaigrette
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PEEL off some of the tougher outer leaves. While some people undertake a severe removal, we recommend steaming more rather than less. Steam the artichokes until you can easily pull off one of the outer leaves, and taste it. If it’s soft enough to scrape off with your teeth, you get more artichoke!

    2. With a scissors, snip off the thorny ends of the leaves. This is the most time-consuming part of the preparation. (Our colleague Ruth, the consummate crafter, uses pinking shears.) With a sharp knife, cut the off top center of the globe—the small, thorny leaves that are inside the large ones.

    3. CLEAN by placing the globes upside-down in a large bowl of water with the lemon juice (to prevent browning until you’re ready to cook them). Parsley stems also prevent artichokes from browning (another reason to save those stems in the freezer). You do this part in advance. When ready to steam…

    4. FILL the pot with water up to the bottom of the steamer basket, and add a tablespoon of salt. Place the artichokes in stem side up. This enables the steam to get into the interior leaves, and allows you to test for doneness.

    5. COVER the pot and bring to a boil. Steam until until the heart (the bottom of the artichoke where it connects to the stem) is tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, and inner leaves pull out easily, 25 to 35 minutes. Check in the latter half of steaming and add more water to pot as necessary.

    6. SERVE hot or cold with a ramekin of melted butter or vinaigrette and a lemon wedge. Garnish with fresh herbs as desired.

    If the bottoms of the globe are level (i.e., no protruding stem), you can stand them up on a plate for presentation. Otherwise, present them on their side.

    A BRIEF ARTICHOKE HISTORY

    Artichokes are members of the thistle family native to the Mediterranean region, that are cultivated as food.

    They were bred from their lesser-known cousin, the cardoon (photo #5). The familiar globe artichoke, Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus, is a variation of Cynara cardunculus, the cardoon.

    Cynara is a genus of thistle-like perennial plants in the sunflower family. Cardoons are long, edible stalks that are similar in flavor to the artichoke stalks. The tops and flowers are also very similar. The difference is that the artichoke has an edible heart within the leaves on top.

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

     

    Fresh Artichokes

    Steamed Artichoke

    Artichoke Flower

    Sangria Artichoke

    Cardoons

    [1] Fresh artichokes from California, cut up for a recipe (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [2] Steamed whole and served with aïoli (here’s the recipe from Fine Cooking). [3] In the field, artichokes grow on long, thick stems (photo courtesy Frieda’s Produce). [4] A flowering artichoke (photo courtesy Sierra Flower Finder). [5] Cardoons, which look like celery (but are no relation), are the predecessor of the globe artichoke. There is no heart; the stem is what’s eaten (photo courtesy Fine Cooking).

     

  • The earliest references to artichokes appear in the 8th century B.C.E. Both Homer and Hesiod, a Greek philosopher and naturalist, wrote of them as cultivated plants.
  • Theophrastus (371-287 B.C.E.), the successor to Aristotle, 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 Italy, France and other areas of Europe.

    They were among the fruits, vegetables and animals brought to the New World by colonists. 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, leased land to Italian immigrant farmers and encouraged them to grow the “new” vegetable, as artichokes were fetching high prices. [Source]

    Artichoke lovers: Give thanks to Mr. Molera for the popularity of artichokes in the U.S.

    MORE ARTICHOKE RECIPES

    Spinach and artichoke dip is one of the most popular dips in the U.S., so it’s surprising that we can’t find information on its origin. If you know it, please let us know.

    Our mom recalls that in the 1950s or 1960s, a recipe appeared on packages of dry soup mix or a sour cream.

  • Ways To Use Artichokes
  • Warm Artichoke Dip With Gorgonzola
  • Artichoke Dip With Sundried Tomatoes
  • Creamy Artichoke Dip With Gorgonzola & Fontina
  • Hot Crab & Artichoke Dip
  • Roast Leg Of Lamb With Stewed Artichokes
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    TIP OF THE DAY: Customize Your St. Patrick’s Day Bagel

    Green bagels are a novelty on St. Patrick’s Day. But here’s a more elegant way to enjoy your bagel, with green fruits and vegetables.

    The concept can be applied to any holiday or occasion with theme colors (see the lists below), and can be part of a bagel buffet for brunch. Bonus: It’s a way to add an extra helping of produce to your daily intake.

    On top of the cream cheese, arrange fruits and/or vegetables in your color theme, as demonstrated by Arla Foods, maker of the cream cheese spreads used on the bagel (photo #1 and photo #6 at the bottom).

    Fruit on bagels beyond a raisin bagel? See photo #5, below—and try it on English muffins, too.

    Pick some fruits and/or vegetables from your color list, and get started. The green group has the most options.

    (Note: Specialty colors, such as yellow watermelon or purple bell peppers, aren’t typically found at supermarkets. Head to a specialty produce store or a farmers market.)

    GREEN FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli (including rabe and rapini)
  • Capers
  • Cucumber
  • Edamame
  • Green apples, figs, grapes, plums
  • Green beans
  • Green bell pepper
  • Green olives
  • Green onion (scallion) tops
  • Green peas
  • Herbs (basil, dill, parsley, etc.)
  • Jalapeño
  • Kiwi
  • Lettuces (everything from arugula to watercress)
  • Pickles/gherkins
  • Sprouts
  • Sugar snap peas, snow peas
  • Zucchini
  •  
    ORANGE FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Chiles (aji amarillo, habanero, Thai yellow chile)
  • Dried apricots
  • Kumquats
  • Mango
  • Orange bell pepper
  • Orange cherry or heirloom tomatoes
  • Orange or mandarin segments
  • Orange watermelon
  • Papaya
  •  
    PURPLE/BLUE FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Berries: blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries
  • Dried blueberries
  • Eggplant (grilled)
  • Purple figs, grapes, plums
  • Purple olives
  • Red cabbage
  • Specialty varieties: purple bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, corn, potatoes, string beans
  •  
    RED FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Jalapeño or other red chile
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Radicchio or red endive
  • Raspberries or strawberries
  • Red apples, grapes, plums
  • Red bell pepper
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Red grapes
  • Red onion
  • Red tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  •  
    YELLOW FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Apples (golden delicious and others)
  • Chiles (aji, banana, golden cayenne, lemon, Hungarian yellow wax, pepperoncini, etc.)
  • Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Yellow bell pepper
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Yellow watermelon
  •  

    Green Bagel Toppings

    Green Bagels

    Green Bagels

    Shamrock Bagels

    Bagel With Fruit Topping

    [1] and [6] The alternative solution from Arla Foods. [2] Conventional green bagels from Einstein Bros Bagels. [3] Fancy (and $6 each!) at the Wynn Las Vegas. [4] The creativity award goes to the shamrock bagels at Sunrise Bagels and Cafe in Wyckoff, New Jersey. [5] Fruit-topped bagel from Number 2 Pencil.

     
    Green Bagel Toppings

    [6] Bagels with a buffet of green fruits and vegetables (photo courtesy Arla Foods).
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Spuds For St. Patrick’s Day

    Broccoli Stuffed Potato

    Basiron Green Cheese

    Colcannon Baked Potato

    Green Colcannon

    ]1] Broccoli-topped baked potato. Instead of cheddar, pick up [2] this Basiron Green Pesto Gouda (check Walmart or iGourmet). Here’s the recipe from Skinny Taste. [3] Conventional colcannon in a baked potato, versus [4] green colcannon from Food Wishes | YouTube.

     

    Turn a stuffed baked potato into a St. Patrick’s Day spud with creative toppings or fillings.

    Some work with a conventional topping of sour cream and chives; others take on a personality all their own.

    BAKED POTATO TOPPINGS

  • Corned beef and cabbage: diced corned beef and sauerkraut. Check out this recipe for Reuben Stuffed Potatoes.
  • Green vegetables: favorite cooked green vegetables(photo #1).
  • Guacamole.
  • Salad: Lightly dress a salad of baby spinach and baby arugula or watercress, and top the potato.
  • Shaved green cheese: Use Basiron Green Pesto Gouda (photo #2).
  • Sour cream and green tobiko.
  • Sour cream tinted green, topped with minced chives.
  • Spinach dip with lots of spinach and a sour cream base.
  •  
    BAKED POTATO FILLINGS

  • Pesto mashed potatoes: Scoop out the potatoes, mix with bright green pesto, season and stuff the potato shell.
  • Colcannon: Make the special green colcannon recipe, below. You can fill the baked potato, or eat the colcannon straight.
  •  
    CHEF JOHN’S GREEN COLCANNNON

    Thanks to Chef John for making colcannon more green for St. Patrick’s Day.

    Colcannon is a traditional Irish mashed potato dish made from potatoes, kale or cabbage, milk or cream, butter and salt and pepper added.

    It can also contain a member of the onion group: chives, green onions (scallions), leeks or regular onions (different types of onions and how to use them).

    Chef John makes the traditional colcannon (shown stuffed in a baked potato in photo #3) more green, by adding more kale and green onions in addition to the leek.

    Ingredients

  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces kale or chard, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 leek, light parts only, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions), chopped, white and green parts separated
  • 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons butter, for serving
  • 1/4 cup green onions to garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BOIL the potatoes in a large pot of salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and lightly mash the potatoes.

     
    2. BOIL the kale and leek in a large pot of water until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and transfer to a blender. Add the white parts of the green onions and 2 more tablespoons of butter. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed, 1 to 3 minutes.

    3. STIR the puréed kale mixture into the bowl of potatoes, and continue to mash. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    4. ADD the cream and stir until the desired texture is reached. Garnish with 2 tablespoons of butter and the green parts of the green onions. For a baked potato, the optional butter is not required. Just garnish with the green onions.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Roast Your Roots

    While we wait for spring vegetables to appear, we’ve been eating lots of root vegetables.

    Root vegetables have sustained mankind through millennia of winters, because they last for long periods in cool temperatures.

    Before the advent of modern refrigeration, root cellars provided vital cold storage that kept a family fed through the winter.

    Growing underground (photo #1), the root are generally storage organs, enlarged to store energy in the form of carbohydrates. These large roots are eaten as vegetables.

    WHAT ARE ROOT VEGETABLES?

    Root vegetables are plant roots eaten as vegetables (photo #2).

    Beet, carrot, parsnip, potato and sweet potato, radish, and turnip are widely consumed in the U.S.

    Some roots, such as galangal, ginger, horseradish, turmeric and wasabi, are used for condiments or seasonings. Arrowroot is used as a thickener. Gingseng is used medicinally.

    To give you a perspective on the category, here’s a categorization of the root vegetables more familiar in the U.S.

    True Roots

  • Taproots: beetroot (beet), burdock, carrot, celeriac (celery root), daikon, dandelion, jicama, parsley root*, parsnip, radish, rutabaga, salsify and turnip, and others not well-known in the U.S.
  • Tuberous roots: cassava/yuca/manioc, Chinese/Korean yam, and sweet potato, among others.
  • Bulbs: fennel; garlic, green onion/scallion, leek, onion, shallot and the rest of the Allium family.
  • Corms: Chinese water chestnut, taro.
  • Rhizomes: arrowroot, galangal, ginger, ginseng, lotus root, turmeric
  • Tubers: Chinese artichoke/crosne, Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke), potato, ube, yam.
  •  
    Roasted taproots and tubers are popular roasted vegetables in American cuisine. Even people who fuss over eating vegetables enjoy the sweetness of the sugars that come out during roasting.
     
    TWO WAYS TO ENJOY ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES

    There are endless recipes, of course; but here are two recipes from Idaho Potatoes with some added glamour.

    RECIPE #1: ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES WITH CHICKEN

    We like the convenience of this recipe. Root vegetables are hardy, and can keep for a few weeks. It’s easy to pick up a rotisserie chicken if you don’t have time or inclination to roast one.

    You can use substitute other root vegetables, or create a grain bowl with a bottom layer of a favorite grain.

    Ingredients

  • 4 russet Idaho potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 turnip, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and then cut into wedges
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup butternut squash, chopped and peeled
  • 2 beets, rinsed, peeled, cut in half and then cut into wedges
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, removed from stem
  • 3 cups Swiss chard, removed from stem and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup cooked rotisserie chicken, chopped
  •  
    For The Maple Aïoli

  • 3 tablespoons fresh mayo
  • 1 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  •  

    Root Vegetables Illustration

    Root Vegetables

    Roast Chicken & Vegetables

    Whole Roast Chicken

    [1] An old illustration showing how root vegetables grow (photo courtesy Etsy). [2] Harvested root vegetables (photo courtesy DIY Naturals). [3] Recipe #1: roasted root vegetables with chicken (photo courtesy Idaho Potatoes). [4] Rotisserie chicken (photo courtesy McCormick).

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

    2. TOSS all of the vegetables in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with thyme. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden and fork tender, flipping once, halfway through. Meanwhile…

    3. HEAT the remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium-heat. Sauté the Swiss chard with the chopped garlic, until wilted, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    4. MAKE the aïoli: Whisk the mayonnaise with the maple syrup and cinnamon until combined. Spoon into a serving dish.

    5. DIVIDE the chard evenly in serving bowls. Top with the roasted vegetables and chicken. Serve with the maple aïoli on the side for dipping.
     
    ________________
    *Parsley root is not related to parsley, the herb, but is a beige root vegetable that resembles a parsnip or turnip. The edible leaves that grow above the ground do resemble curly parsley leaves, but taste like celery. Parsley root is also called turnip-rooted parsley. In Germany it is known as Hamburg parsley, and is a popular winter vegetable in Germany, Holland and Poland.

     

    Scalloped Root Vegetables

    Purple Top Turnips

    Smithfield Honey Cured Spiral Ham

    [5] A three-potato gratin with turnips (photo courtesy Idaho Potatoes). [6] Turnips (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [7] We served the casserole with a beautiful Smithfield spiral-cut ham (photo courtesy Smithfield).

     

    RECIPE #2: SCALLOPED ROOT VEGETABLE CASSEROLE

    This casserole reminds us of a tian, a beautiful way to serve summer vegetables.

    It is actually a gratin†.

    This recipe serves a trio of potatoes plus turnips under a cloak of melted cheese. They work together in this recipe because they can be sliced into roughly the same sizes, which cook evenly.
    Ingredients

  • 4 large russet Idaho potatoes, sliced thin, approximately 1/8″
  • 3 red Idaho potatoes, sliced thin, approximately 1/8″
  • 2 sweet potatoes, sliced thin, approximately 1/8″
  • 3 turnips, sliced thin, approximately 1/8″
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 packages of whipped chive cream cheese
  • 16 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoon of salt, more to taste
  • Garnish: grated Parmesan and diced chives for garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Slice the potatoes and turnips and set aside in a large bowl.

    2. HEAT 1/2 tablespoon butter over medium heat in a medium, non-stick skillet. Add the onions and garlic; sauté until translucent.

    3. ADD the cream cheese, heavy cream, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and stir until smooth. Turn off the heat.

    4. SPRAY a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place half of the potatoes and turnips in a separate large bowl. Slowly add 1/3 of the cream mixture into the bowl with the potatoes and turnips and mix to coat well.

    5. PLACE the coated potato and turnip slices into the baking pan vertically, using your hands. Make sure the slices are close together (see photo #5). Add another 1/3 of the cream mixture to the remaining potatoes and turnips, coating well. Layer them into the baking dish. Once all the slices are in the baking pan…

    6. POUR the remainder of cream mixture into the baking pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the foil and bake for an additional 40 minutes.

    7. REMOVE from the oven, sprinkle on the parmesan cheese and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. Garnish with the chives right before serving.

    We liked the recipe so much, we’re making it again today!

     
    †WHAT’S A GRATIN?

    Gratin (grah-TAN) is a method of food preparation in which a protein, vegetable or starch is served with a browned crust of grated cheese. The crust may also include breadcrumbs, egg and/or butter.

    Gratin originated in France and is usually made in a shallow baking dish. The main ingredient can be baked (roasted) in the oven or cooked on the stove top. In the latter case, the toppings are then added and the dish is finished in the oven or broiler.

    The baking dish is usually brought to the table piping hot. It’s a perennial favorite: Who doesn’t like their food topped with melted cheese?

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Breakfast Salad

    Breakfast Salad

    Breakfast Salad

    Granola Breakfast Salad

    [1] Bacon and egg over Caesar Salad. [2] Deconstructed Eggs Benedict: poached egg, julienned Canadian bacon and English muffin crouton atop a mixed green salad. [3] Romaine, apples and grapes with a honey-yogurt dressing, topped with granola (all photos courtesy Food Network; the recipes are below).

     

    We first heard of breakfast salad in 2014. Someone sent us a recipe, but it got lost in the shuffle.

    In the ensuing two-plus years, the concept has spread. So if you’re ready to move on from the last breakfast trend—overnight oats—here’s a roundup of the latest.

    Breakfast salad is a fusion of conventional breakfast items with salad greens or other raw or cooked vegetables. Example: bacon and eggs on a lettuce wedge, or yogurt and fresh fruit salad atop mesclun greens.

    For years we have served what we never thought to call “breakfast salad”: an omelet topped with lightly dressed baby arugula and watercress; and for brunch, poached egg on top of a frisée salad with lardons, or on top of a Caesar salad.

    So we decided to take a look at what other people were eating. We found:

  • Some were following the breakfast food-and-greens or vegetables concept.
  • Some were serving up fresh fruit atop greens.
  • Some were throwing an egg on top of a grain bowl.
  • Some were featuring luncheon salads (Cobb, spinach-egg-bacon) for breakfast.
  • Some were medleys of cooked vegetables (bell peppers, potatoes, root vegetables) with chickpeas for protein.
  • Some were featuring sandwich ingredients (smoked salmon and avocado) atop greens.
  • Some served what we would call side salads breakfast salads (diced squash and pomegranate arils atop greens, with some almond butter in the dressing).
  • Some tossed greens atop avocado toast.
  • Some even featured a liquid salad, i.e., a green smoothie.
  •  
    BREAKFAST SALAD RECIPES

    We decided to go purist. Here are some recipes that fit our bill of breakfast salad fare:

  • Bacon & Egg Breakfast Caesar Salad, the egg yolk served cooked on top of the salad instead of raw in the traditional Caesar dressing.
  • Egg, Sausage & Avocado Breakfast Salad.
  • Eggs Benedict Breakfast Salad, deconstructed Eggs Benedict.
  • Frisée Salad With Eggs & Bacon (what’s frisée and another recipe).
  • Greens, Grapes & Granola Breakfast Salad, romaine, apples and grapes tossed with a yogurt dressing and garnished with granola.
  • Grilled Wedge Salad With Fried Egg & Cranberry Feta Cheese.
  • Potato Breakfast Salad, an opportunity to eat pan-fried potatoes with some egg white and chickpeas for protein.
  • Quinoa, Ham & Pepper Breakfast Salad, a Western Omelet deconstructed on top of quinoa (or greens, if you prefer).
  •  
    Do you have a favorite breakfast salad recipe? Please share!

    And feel free to eat breakfast salad for lunch or dinner. The concept is no different from an omelet or any luncheon salad.

     
      

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