Click the image for recipes.
My first introduction to artichokes was an unpleasant one. Just after college, I was invited to have dinner with my friend and his parents at their home in a high-end New York suburb. They had the kind of dining room table that is perfect for Thanksgiving, but otherwise does not promote intimate conversation. We each held court on our own side.
To start off the meal, we were presented an artichoke apiece, an unusual budding flower head which was entirely unfamiliar. Certainly New Jersey, my birth place, provides impressive crops of corn on the cob and beefsteak tomatoes, but these? Since 100 percent of all artichokes sold commercially in the United States are grown in California, it’s not a wonder that we had never crossed paths, but still.
What could I do but mouth a plea of “Help…!” to my friend across the expanse of table. He got the hint and I was able to imitate my way through managing this tricky thistle. It was equally disconcerting when asparagus, another flowering perennial plant species that had not seen its way to my plate before, was served as a side dish. It was a challenging dinner.
Although neither item won me over on first try, both have become favorites, especially considering Castroville, the artichoke capital of the world, is now a not too distant neighbor.
Artichokes are readily available in spring and fall. Select globes that are deep green and have petals that are tightly closed rather than splayed out with a dehydrated look. They should feel somewhat heavy for their size and will squeak when squeezed.
To store, sprinkle with a little water and refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag. Do no wash before storing. They should last a week.
With a sharp or serrated knife, slice off the top 1 inch and most of the stem of the artichoke, snap off the small, tough outer leaves and with scissors, snip off thorny tips.
From there, go through the following steps:
Immediately add to lemon water where they will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days until ready to cook.
Here’s to enjoying them while you’re young!
Pan Roasted Artichokes
- 3 lemons, quartered
- 4 medium to large artichokes
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 4 to 6 peeled garlic cloves, crushed
- Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze in the juice from the four quarters of one lemon.
- With a sharp or serrated knife, slice off the top 1 inch and most of the stem of the artichokes, pull off the small, tough outer leaves and with scissors, snip off the thorny tips.
- Cut in half or quarters lengthwise.
- Separate the first few, purple-tinged leaves in the center from the base by pulling them away from the choke with your fingers.
- Use a spoon or melon baller to scrape the fuzzy center from the choke. (See slide show above.)
- Immediately put artichokes in the lemon water to help avoid discoloration. Keep in the water until ready to cook; they may be stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Just before cooking, spread the artichokes on paper towels, sliced side down, and pat dry.
- When ready to cook, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high flame. Warm the olive oil until nearly smoking. Sprinkle the pan generously with salt and pepper.
- Carefully place the artichokes sliced side down in the pan. Do not overlap. Season with more salt and pepper and slip the garlic into the spaces between the artichokes.
- Cook, shaking the pan occasionally to keep the artichokes from sticking, until they are evenly browned underneath, 6 to 10 minutes. Using tongs, lift 1 or 2 artichokes up to check for doneness.
- Add the quarters of the second lemon to the pan, place a piece of foil over the pan and cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and keep covered for 30 to 45 minutes or if longer, briefly re-heat over low flame.
- Transfer the artichokes to a serving platter. Squeeze the juice from the cooked lemon wedges into the pan and whisk to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Pour the juice over the artichokes, garnish with the remaining lemon quarters and serve with Garlic, Basil Dip.
Adapted from: The Food Channel
Garlic, Basil Dip
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Note: Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
It is an honor to have been selected April’s Blog of the Month by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution team. I became a fan of his before he was known as a food activist when a friend raved about a recipe she’d made from her new cookbook The Naked Chef. Once I got past what I assumed to be a typical literal reaction and was relieved of a somewhat disturbing image, I got to hear in detail about the book’s amazing but simple recipes like Rosemary, Garlic, Lemon Marinade, Pork with Peaches and Huge Yorkshire Puddings.
These days, Jamie Oliver is well-known for his pioneering efforts to address the childhood obesity crisis in the U.S. and Great Britain. He is a proponent of cooking in a simple, unadorned way (hence the nickname) mirroring my own Make It Simple Cooking Philosophy which is to:
Stock up on whole staples and fresh produce and proteins, use the guidelines of recipes and your intuition, enjoy what you create and worry not about perfection.
FOOD REVOLUTION DAY – FRIDAY, MAY 16
Next Friday, May 16th is FOOD REVOLUTION DAY, Jamie Oliver’s global call-to-action which he hopes will inspire the cooking and eating of good, real food and raise awareness of how what we eat affects our health and well-being.
The focus this year is on educating kids about food and where it comes from and equipping them with basic cooking skills.
Healthy diets are critical to healthy lives but our children lack the knowledge to make the right food choices or the skills to create healthy, wholesome and nutritious meals. Jamie Oliver
For a list of ideas on how you and your kids, school, workplace or community can participate and celebrate, click HERE.
GETTING KIDS COOKING
What was the trigger that shifted my son from cooking spectator to once-in-a-while initiator and leader in the kitchen?
Had I suggested he make crepes or some other reasonably enticing item on his own, he likely would have insisted that many other priorities took precedence. It was cooking with a small group of classmates for a project that gave him an appreciation for the act of creating something delicious.
If cooking is not a part of the home routine, it is even more imperative that children learn at least the basics of cooking in school.
We need every child to understand where food comes from, how to cook it, and how it affects their body. This is about setting kids up with the knowledge they need to make better food choices for life. Jamie Oliver
Otherwise, as Alice Waters, the founder of The Edible Schoolyard Project who was recently honored one of Time Magazines most influential people of 2014, has said “We’ll pay out back if we don’t pay up front.“
Find a selection of Jamie Oliver’s kid friendly recipes HERE.
MORE ABOUT JAMIE OLIVER
PRIZE WINNING TED TALK: Teach Every Child About Food
RESOURCES for TEACHERS: Toolkits for Change
“These toolkits arm you with facts, empower you with ideas and support you in making real change on the ground. The Food Revolution Team has worked with experts in the field to create toolkits specific to a number of different issues facing our schools. They are meant to be used, printed, shared and passed on! Together we have an opportunity to support schools in making sustainable change.”
BIG RIG TEACHING KITCHEN
The mission of this 70-foot long mobile kitchen is to, through free teacher training, basic home cooking classes and take-home recipes, improve health and spread food education. The 40 week journey to underserved communities across the state of California winds up its tour in San Diego this month. See a schedule of events HERE.
If you’re celebrating Food Revolution Day next Friday, please share your plans below in the comments!
Farm to Table has become a common restaurant tagline as the burgeoning movement touting the benefits of local, organic foods is increasingly influencing patron purchasing decisions. The notion of garden beds brimming with perfectly aligned rows of greens or cattle grazing rolling pastoral hillsides can’t help but incentivize diners to drop in for some deliciously fresh fare.
Not only will you get a meal made with ingredients at the peak of flavor but you’ll be supporting restaurant owners and chefs who buy from local farm suppliers.
MARIN SUN FARMS RESTAURANT
David Evans, a fourth generation cattle rancher in Point Reyes, is a pioneer in the local meat movement. His restaurant Marin Sun Farms is more than just a dining destination as it is located at the gateway of a national seashore with endless possibilities of exploration. Just off the main street in Point Reyes Station, it’s a perfect start or end to a day’s adventures with incredible food that comes from the land that surrounds it.
For a review of the restaurant, click below for my segment on Check Please Bay Area or go to the KQED website for a written version.
IS GRASS-FED BEEF WORTH A HIGHER PRICE?
The price of a burger at Marin Farms will run you $15. It’s juicy and deliciously prepared with MSF Bacon, Gruyère cheese and house made pickles. And because grass-fed beef is lower in calories and has more omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, beta-carotene, vitamins and minerals, it’s healthier than your typical burger.
But taste and nutrition aside, is grass-fed beef worthy of a higher price tag? For many, the value lies in choosing to eat meat more responsibly with consideration to the welfare of animals and the environmental impact of industrial farming practices.
- For compelling insight on animal welfare and the merits of grass-fed beef for a sustainable food system, read this post by Michael Pollan. Or better yet, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, an incisive, engaging book about conscious eating.
- For finding sources for grass-fed beef for eating at home, see the Eat Wild website and their comprehensive directory of pasture-based farms, grass-fed basics and much more.
- For information on how to make purchasing grass-fed beef more affordable, check out You Can Afford Grass-Fed Beef! The Ultimate Guide to Saving Money by Eating High-Quality, Local Meat (Available on Kindle)
MORE on MARIN SUN FARMS
Sustainable Food Model and Food Shed
For information on Marin Sun Farms mission to create a more sustainable food system and their Food Shed approach, click here.
And for a list of their co-producers, click here.
Impact of Drought
Lack of rain in Northern California is reducing the amount of grazing land and impacting grass-fed meat production. For the first time, Marin Sun Farms is needing to supplement with grain. To be transparent, they have created three-tiered labeling system. For updated information, click here.
Tips for Making the Perfect Steak Indoors
from Marin Sun Farms Head Chef Paul Bondick
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Sprinkle kosher salt and pepper on both sides of the meat and rub with a little bit of olive oil. Let sit at room temperature for a 1/2 hour.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high flame until hot.
- Sear meat for 3-4 minutes a side.
- Place the skillet in the oven for 8 minutes for medium-rare. Use a temperature probe for accuracy.
- Spritz with lemon juice. (Optional)
For meat perfectly done to your specifications, use the following for internal temperature:
Medium rare 130º-135º
Medium well 140º-150º
Well done 155+º
The grilled cheese sandwich, like many food items, has transitioned from plain to couture. At one time somewhat floppy and slightly soggy with a knack for permeating the kitchen, it has hit the big time with entire cookbooks devoted to the melted sandwich.
What’s not to like? A hot sandwich beats a cold one any day and is much more forgiving. Leftovers take on a tasty new life, a tomato that’s about to turn is revived and a bland slice of bread becomes flavorfully caramelized.
With its grander stature, the grilled cheese has achieved a more fitting designation … The Panini. And the Panini Press has arrived on the top of the list of gadgets that could be considered frivolous were it not for its true usability and value. There’s no end to suitable, delicious combinations – see links to recipes on the bottom of the page. But for an easy pleaser for all ages, try the Mini Panini recipe below for simple goodness. Kids go crazy over these.
If your interest is strictly sandwiches, the well-rated model below will expand your recipe repertoire significantly. The flat vs. ridged plates will more evenly conduct heat and be easier to clean.
Your sandwiches will have marks, but you’ll have a very versatile new cooking appliance.
FROM HOME: The Mini Panini
- French Baguette, cut in 1/2 inch slices
- Softened Butter
- White Cheddar Cheese, sliced
- Optional: Tomatoes, Spinach, Basil, Bacon, Ham or anything your taste buds find would go well between two slices of bread.
- Preheat the panini maker according to manufacturers instructions.
- Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch pieces. TIP – To avoid having your French bread go rapidly stale after purchasing, slice it into whatever size you typically use (I do a sandwich size and then slice for grilled cheese when defrosted) and freeze in a zip lock bag. Defrost on the counter or slowly in the toaster oven and slice.
- Cut or slice the cheese.
- Spread butter on one side of each bread slice.
- Drop half of them butter side down in the panini plate.
- Top with cheese and cover with the second half, butter side up.
- Drop top, let sizzle, open and eat.
TO HIGH END
If you’ve ever meandered the farmers markets at the San Rafael Civic Center or Marin Country Mart in Larkspur, you’ve likely come upon The Farmers Wife food truck and the emanating wafts of their outstanding melted sandwiches including Farm Egg & Arugula, Kimchee & Avocado and Magruder Ranch Smoked Ham, Gruyère & Mustard. Menu changes daily. They’re on the pricey side but well worth it.
Owners Kendra and Paul Kolling are on a mission to provide the best in locally sourced, seasonal products in keeping with the farming legacy of their extended family. Paul’s grandmother was the inspiration behind the unique, heirloom flavor blends in Nana Mae Organics apple juices which you can also find at the farmers market. With over 25 heirloom varieties, Paul farms in harmony with nature to bring out the best in the land.
And Kendra, as The Farmers Wife, sources the ingredients of her outstanding food truck sandwiches from local farms which set them a far notch above.
AND IN BETWEEN
And finally, another eating option at the Corte Madera Town Center. Parked outside the center entrance you’ll find The Melt Bus and a few tables for dining.
The menu of all-natural, wholesome items includes everything from the classic grilled cheese to braised short rib and pepper jack to aged swiss, portobello and grilled onion. They also have soups and milkshakes as well as breakfast options.
The Melt Bus is open Friday to Sunday, 11am-3pm.
Here are a few recipe links worth checking out.
Happy Grilled Cheese Day on April 12th!
An uplift in mood is clearly evident come spring at the farmers market. And the beauty of cooking and eating along a somewhat seasonal track is the joy that comes from seeing favorites return after a long absence.
Below are a few items you’ll find in abundance now along with links to some favorite recipes. Since the weather is more winter than spring at the moment, it’s a good time for roasting and braising which is not ideal in the warmer months.
If you do live in Marin, check out the Spring Schedule of Local Farmers Markets below.
Click images for recipes
This recipe is straightforward and full of flavor. Artichokes are trimmed, seared and then sit covered to cook for 45 minutes. And although a dip isn’t necessary, here’s a great one to accompany a more simple steamed artichoke.
Go with the fatter spears to avoid them becoming stringy when roasted. This recipe is a great meld of flavors.
A simple, versatile and tasty recipe. Feta works well too.
I usually make this recipe without the orange juice and use fresh or dried rosemary, thyme or a combination.
MARIN COUNTY FARMERS MARKET Spring Schedule
SAN RAFAEL, 8:00-1:00, Marin County Civic Center Parking Lot
MILL VALLEY, 3:00-7:00pm, Tam Valley Community Center, 203 Marin Ave (Starts in May)
CORTE MADERA, 12:00-5:00 pm, Corte Madera Town Center, Highway 101 & Tamalpais
FAIRFAX, 4:00-8:00pm, Bolinas Park, 124 Bolinas Avenue (Start in May)
8:00am-1:00pm, Civic Center, Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium’s Parking Lot
6:00-9:00pm, Downtown San Rafael, 4th Street between Lincoln and B Streets
MILL VALLEY, 9:30am-2:30pm, CVS Pharmacy Parking Lot, 759 E Blithedale
BOLINAS, 2:00-6:00pm, Star Route Farm, 95 Olema-Bolinas Road
LARKSPUR, 9:00am-2:00pm, Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing Circle
When it come to side dishes, I gravitate to the quick prep/undisturbed cooking options because pre-dinner, a multitude of other interferences insist attention. Weeknights don’t tend to be the time for fuss. The default is to gather a variety of potatoes and/or veggies, toss them onto a baking sheet, glug on some olive oil and sprinkle with herbs and a seasoning salt before setting in the oven. Although the results hit the high mark sometimes more than others, you’ll get a tasty and reliable side staple regardless.
But something about this sweet potato recipe has me hooked. I made it three times last week. Like the stand-by, preparation is simple and there is no need to monitor, but it has a winning flavor and perfect bite every time.
Reheated leftovers are just as worthy. Or try with poached eggs! (see recipe below)
As an added benefit, this tuber vegetable side dish will up the nutrition quotient of your meal:
- Saturated Fat
- Glycemic Index
- Dietary Fiber
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Magnesium and Vitamin C
Sweet Potato or Yam?
Surprisingly, both of the above are sweet potatoes. Those yams we think we’re eating at Thanksgiving are more commonly harvested in West Africa are very rarely found in our supermarkets. These two have a slight consistency and taste difference but both work well in this recipe.
Conventional or Organic?
Sweet potatoes are on Environmental Working Groups Clean 15 List so are considered less likely to be contaminated by pesticides. Their strong outer layer would seem to provide a sufficient boundary, but this video-gone-viral of a little girls’ science experiment could give you pause next time you purchase them. She attempts to grow roots in jars using non-organic, conventional organic and local organic sweet potatoes. I think I’ll be adding a plus one to EWG’s Dirty Dozen List.
For more information on the experiment and Bud Nip, click here.
Savory Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- 3-4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into uniform sized pieces
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place sweet potatoes in a baking dish or on a sheet pan. Lining with foil will minimize clean up.
- Melt butter either in a microwave safe measuring cup or in a small saucepan.
- Add rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat potatoes and spread into a single layer.
- Drizzle with olive oil and top with parmesan cheese.
- Add water to baking dish.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until tender when pricked with a fork.
Adapted from It’s a Keeper
Poached Eggs and Bacon/Spinach Over Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes (Leftover)
- Bacon (optional)
- Spinach (optional)
- Begin heating a few inches of water in a frying pan.
- While waiting, start bacon and/or spinach. See instructions here for cooking bacon in the microwave or oven or on the stovetop. See instructions here for sautéing spinach.
- Add about 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar to the water which helps to keep the eggs intact.
- Break the first egg into a small bowl.
- Just as the water is starting to lightly simmer but before it comes to a full boil, turn down the flame to keep it minimally bubbling.
- Begin swirling the water with a spoon and gently slide the bowl into the water letting the egg slip out. Add the remaining eggs to the bowl one at a time and repeat the process. (If the white seems to be spreading significantly, you can gently push toward the yolk with a spoon or spatula.)
- When done placing the eggs to the water, set the timer for 3 minutes and line a plate with a paper towel.
- After 3 minutes, check the eggs. Remove when the whites have set, up to 1 minute more.
- Gently remove from the water with a slotted spoon onto the paper towel. If not serving immediately, remove the eggs at 3 minutes when they’re slightly underdone (whites aren’t floating and are close to set.) Place in a bowl of cold water, cover and put in the refrigerator. Reheat for a minute in lightly simmering water.
- Heat the potatoes in a microwave or oven. Place on a plate, top with bacon and/or or spinach, slip poached eggs on top.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
This recipe is a must try. I felt it necessary to make the post title a bit promotional given that cottage cheese happens to be the key ingredient. This cheese curd product is not something that has ever found its way into my shopping cart until this impression-breaking recipe came along. Continue reading
Seeing the new documentary Fed Up at the Sundance Film Festival last week inflamed an already nagging disbelief that this generation of children face a shorter life expectancy than their parents due to the rise in obesity. At the same time, it provided a sense of hope that the film may follow in the footsteps of producer Laurie David‘s 2006 Sundance hit An Inconvenient Truth which brought the issue of global warming to the forefront and galvanized a call-to-action that established it as not just a political challenge but a moral one.