AN ORGANIC SPRING FLING
I love the seasons…each one brings new things to life for us to enjoy. Artichokes, although available pretty much all year are at peak in the early spring and early fall..so time to enjoy. Peaches are on their way, and fresh new lettuces are peeping their tender leaves through the ground.
When artichokes come into season, I always have to buy 2 at a time, even though I am cooking for one now. There is nothing I like more than a freshly steamed artichoke with lemon and melted butter or olive oil…
…unless it is a stuffed artichoke!
I buy 2 in order to avoid having to choose, simple!
The sight of an artichoke, even a gorgeous Organic Artichoke, can be intimidating to an uninitiated cook. It is a thistle, the bud of a huge purple flower, if left to bloom. The prickly thorns on the end of the outer leaves can cause some pain, so best to clip them off with a scissor before cooking or prepping the artichoke.
They have an ancient history, Mediterranean, and probably Arabic in origin…lots of folklore about their properties being an aphrodisiac…none of which has been proven. What has been proven is that one of it’s healthful phytochemicals, Cynarin, causes anything eaten after it to taste sweet. I recently catered a Wine and Food Pairing Dinner, and the Sommelier requested that I not use artichokes or asparagus as they alter the taste buds unfavorably to wine.
Fiber is the most touted health feature of an artichoke, but it’s vitamins and minerals are abundant as well, and there is even some protein available…overall a good, organic vegetable choice.
2 organic artichokes
1 lemon or 2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup Panko, regular or gluten-free
¼ cup crumbled Feta or Goat cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 large cloves garlic, one minced, one crushed
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
¼ cup chopped Kalamata and green olives mixed
½ cup chopped fresh parsley or basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
good quality, fruity extra virgin olive oil
Extra chopped parsley
- Prepare the artichoke. Cut off top about ½ inch down and cut stem bottom to flatten.*
- Set in a pot with water about 1 inch on the bottom and squeeze lemon juice on top of artichoke to keep it from turning brown. I add the lemon to the water for extra flavor. Cover and let simmer or steam for about 40 minutes until you can easily remove the leaves.
- While it is cooking, make the stuffing.
- Mix all the ingredients together starting with breadcrumbs, reserving the crushed garlic clove. You can moisten with stock or water to reduce amount of oil needed.
- When artichoke is cooled enough to handle, spread the leaves open, remove the center leaves and scoop out the furry center, the choke. Stuff the artichoke in the center and between the leaves.
- Place back in the pot with the crushed garlic clove, some olive oil and some of the cooking water.
- Cook on medium for about 15 minutes until hot and liquid is reduced somewhat. Serve with the reduced juices poured over and some freshly chopped parsley!
If you plan to make several artichokes you can put them in baking pan with oil and water and cover. Bake at 350 for about ½ hour.
For Carnivores add some chopped prosciutto or chicken.
If you prefer, in place of, or in addition to, sun dried tomatoes use, fresh tomatoes or chopped mushrooms.
For Vegan: Omit cheeses. Use Vegan Cheese or Nutritional Yeast in the crumb mixture.
*The stems are edible..I peel them and leave them on when steaming or baking or grilling artichokes.
Another time we’ll talk about Grilled Artichokes. They are amazing and you will need a bib and a roll of paper towels for your hands!
The following recipe is not Mongolian, nor is it authentic Chinese, but a Chinese dish found in Chinese American restaurants. Dark sweetish sauce, a little heat and” yummee” umami flavor, a variation on the traditional Lettuce Wrap found in Chinese restaurants.
LETTUCE WRAPS WITH MONGOLIAN CHICKEN or BEEF or MUSHROOMS
1 pound Joyce Farms chicken breast or Grass-fed Sirloin Steak, cut into strips, or 1 pound organic Mushrooms, sliced
2 -3 teaspoons organic coconut oil
1 tablespoon fresh organic ginger, minced**
1 tablespoon organic garlic, minced
1/4 cup sliced organic green onion
1/2 cup organic carrots, shredded
1/2 cup organic kale, chiffonade
1/4 cup water chestnuts (optional)
1/4 cup peanuts
2 tablespoons organic wheat free Tamari, Soy or Braggs
2 teaspoons raw honey
1 teaspoon potato starch, arrowroot or thickener of choice
2 teaspoons mirin or sherry
2 teaspoons Hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chili paste with garlic
Shred Carrots and chiffonade Kale. Slice green tops of White Picket Florida Sweet Onions.
Chop 2 tablespoons water chestnuts (optional)
Heat oil in skillet or wok. Add ginger and garlic, sauté until fragrant. Then add onion. Stir in chicken, or beef or mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes.
Add sauce ingredients and cook over medium heat until it thickens. Do not overcook if using arrowroot, it will break.
Separate washed Nevada Leaf Lettuce leaves. Put some meat or mushroom mixture in each leaf. Top with shredded carrots, kale, and water chestnuts if using. Add some peanuts for extra crunch and drizzle with any extra sauce from the meat or mushroom mixture. Wrap lettuce around it all and eat with your hands!
Just a note on preparing this and any recipe. The key to happy cooking is the classic principle taught to all beginning chefs…mise en place. If you have all your ingredients prepped and ready, cooking is easy. Can you imagine, family or guests waiting and you suddenly have to run to the store for an additional tablespoon of an essential ingredient?? Or having to wash, dry and chop something at the precise moment it is necessary to add it to a dish? A little prep and measuring ahead of time can make the cooking much easier and more fun.
**Easily peel ginger by cutting a piece and scraping skin off with a spoon.
Peach season is on its way here in Florida. When they are at peak, I need only to sink my teeth into the luscious flesh and let the juices drip, heaven. Until then, I am content to taste their sweetness in a cooked dish.
How does a Peach Pizza sound? Of course, this is another misnomer. The only thing this creation has in common with a real pizza is the fact that there is a crust and it has some toppings. The name is catchy, though, and its simple to prepare and versatile.*
1 recipe your favorite short crust dough, regular, gluten-free, or organic store bought ok too
If you make your own crust, form the dough into a ball and chill, wrapped in plastic, for about 1/2 hour. If you buy the dough skip this step and move on.
Roll the dough into a large circle or rectangle and fit it on a baking sheet. Push up up the edge to from a rim.
Chill for half hour.
Meanwhile chop about 1/2 cup toasted almonds. Add some potato starch, a tablespoon coconut sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and some nutmeg. I agree with Matthew, Penzey’s spices are the best, and I normally use them. Here I used a Cinnamon Vanilla blend my daughter brought from New Orleans. Sprinkle the mixture over the dough.
Peel several peaches and cut into thin slices. Arrange them in a pattern on top of the dough. Dust with a little more cinnamon and sugar. I added some shreds of fresh basil. Rosemary or thyme could be used.
Bake at 375 for about 1/2 hour until the crust is golden and peaches are soft. Brush the “pizza” with some almond or walnut oil (optional). Peach Pizza is appropriate for dessert, side dish, breakfast or snack.
Let rest about 5 minutes, then cut into slices and serve warm or room temperature.
* For a savory dish, omit the sugar and add some ham or prosciutto and a few slices of Brie or fresh Mozzarella.
For a richer dessert effect, spread some preserves, apricot or raspberry on the crust. Then top with the almonds. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
Love Spring and love your Organic Fruits and Veggies!