Artichokes are sexy. You eat them with your hands and pull them through your teeth. They are even considered an aphrodisiac by many. In the 1600’s only men were allowed to eat them for fear of how women would react.
Artichokes are the buds of the flower of a plant in the thistle family. The flower if allowed to mature is very large, purple and fuzzy. Kind of sexy. Artichoke are in season from March through May. Most in the United States come from California.
Many people are intimidated by the idea of cooking them at home. In reality they are not difficult. First buy artichokes that are a good green color. The leaves should not look dry and brown. When you squish the artichoke you should hear the leaves squeak.
When you get your artichoke home store it in a plastic bag in the fridge. To prepare for cooking tear off the lower tough leaves and peel and trim the stem. If you are not cooking right away rub with lemon to prevent them from turning brown. Turning brown does not affect the flavor but is unattractive. Bring water or broth (you can season with garlic, onions, spices or herbs) to a boil. Drop the artichokes in, reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes. They are done when a fork pierces the bottom easily. Drain well. Artichokes are delicious hot or cold with hollandaise, mayonnaise or plain lemon and butter.
To eat an artichoke simply tear off the leaves and dip in your butter or sauce. Scrape the meaty part off between your teeth. When the leaves become to small and soft pull them all off. You will see fuzzy white That is the choke. Scrape the choke off with a spoon, what you have left is the heart. Cut the heart up, dip and enjoy!
Black Beans and Rice
When Max was about five he used too much Tabasco on his black beans and rice. He had tears running down his face but would not let me get a new plate ” because it was so good”. Max was an adventurous eater and black beans and rice was a favorite. We still have this for dinner every week or two. It is a great meal if you are serving a vegan or vegetarian. Sometimes we serve it as a side dish with baked chicken breast or pallomilla steak (another Cuban specialty). I simply serve sliced avocado and mango sprinkled with fresh lime juice. And of course Tabasco.
I use brown rice which is not traditional. I think I started using the brown rice to get more nutrition in the boys when they were young. As time went by we decided that we liked the nutty flavor and added bite. I suggest you try it.
Don’t miss wine and beer pairings at the bottom of the page!
Black Beans and Rice
1 onion chopped
1 red pepper chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1-2 jalapenos minced
1 teaspoon coriander
salt and pepper
3 15 ounce cans of black beans drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups brown rice
5 green onions diced
Handful of parsley chopped
1. In a large sauce pan over medium heat wilt the onion and pepper.
2.Add garlic, jalapenos, cumin and coriander salt and pepper.Stir till fragrant.
3.Stir in beans and broth. Bring to a boil then lower heat to simmer. Simmer 1 hour with the pan partially covered.
4. In a second large saucepan add rice and 31/4 cups water. Bring to a boil, drop to simmer and cover for 45 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 15 minutes.
5. Serve the beans and rice in separate bowls, family style, with the green onions and parsley for each person to garnish to taste. And of course Tabasco!
“For the white wine I would use a Dry Riesling from Washington State or a California Chenin Blanc
For the red I am leaning towards a Medium Bodied Red Zinfandel from the Paso Robles region in California or a Medium bodied French Cotes Du Rhone.”
“As far as your Spicy Black Beans and Rice, I’m going to recommend a classic brown ale. Bell’s Best Brown or Jackie Os Chomolungma Honey Nut Brown would be good choices. The rich dark sweet flavors of a brown ale would go very well with the deep, dark notes from the beans.”
Mango red pepper salad
One of the first signs that spring is in the air is the arrival of champagne mangoes in the market. The champagne or ataulfo mango is a variety from Mexico. It is small, kidney shaped and yellow. This variety has the best texture and flavor available outside of the tropics.
This salad brings back memories of trips to Toronto and a wonderful little restaurant called Herb. The combination of roasted red peppers and mango always stuck with me. This is my version many years later.
Roasted Red Pepper and Mango Salad with Cumin Lime Dressing
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 Tablespoon liquid from roasted pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1 mango diced
1 roasted red pepper
8 cups baby arugula
1. Combine lime juice, pepper liquid cumin and shallot.
2. Wisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Pour dressing over mango and red pepper. Let marinate 15 minutes.
4. Arrange arugula in 4 bowls. Spoon mango mixture over salads.
roasted red peppers
I love roasted red peppers. I serve them with a bit of olive oil and a drizzle of salt. They are also used in many recipes. Sure you can buy the ones in a jar but homemade are cheaper and so much better.
You can roast the peppers over your gas burner or in your oven. I prefer the gas flame method unless, I have a lot to do, because it is faster and leaves a fresher flavor and texture.
gas flame method
The gas flame method is just that. Roast your pepper directly on your gas burner, turning it with tongs until it is blackened all over. This takes about 7-10 minutes. When the pepper is all charred put it in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or foil for 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle you can rub the charred skin off with your fingers. DO NOT use water! That just washes a lot of the flavor away.
pepper with the skin rubbed off
For the oven method preheat to 450 degrees. You can put as many peppers on a foil covered rimmed baking sheet as you like as long as they are not touching one another.
Roast for 20 minutes. Then turn over and roast another 20 minutes
Time to turn over
When the peppers are done roasting put them in a covered bowl or even a tightly closed paper grocery bag for 20 minutes. Just like the burner peppers the skin comes right off with your fingers. DO NOT use water.
With either method the peppers are ready to use once you remove the seeds and pith. I reserve the liquid they exude to use in dressings and such.
two champagne mangos
Mangos are easy to handle if you know how. The mango has a large flat seed in the center, so you need to cut around it. Hold the mango upright on a cutting board and start cutting down the center of the wide side. When you hit the seed just work right along it. Then turn and repeat. This is what you will have.
Now score the fruit with a paring knife and scoop out diced mango with a spoon
scoop out with a spoon
There you go! Your mango is ready to use!
You can not beat a great hamburger. This is one of our favorite variations. First you start with freshly ground chuck. I only buy ground meat that has been ground in house the day I am buying and using it. I choose chuck for the fat content, about 15-20%. The fat adds flavor and keeps the burger juicy. Then be careful not to over handle. An overly tightly packed burger will be tough and dry. Remember any burger needs salt and pepper, generous amounts.
Goat Cheese and Chipotle Burger
1 3/4 pounds ground chuck
3 chipotles in adobo minced
4 ounces goat cheese
generous salt and pepper
4 hamburger buns
1. Gently mix all ingredients and form into 4 burgers.
2. Preheat broiler to high.
3. Toast buns in the broiler
4. Broil 5 minutes per side. (These can also be grilled)
5.. Serve on buns topped with guacamole on top.
1 avocado peeled cored and chopped
5 cherry tomatoes quartered
3 green onions chopped fine
1 Serrano minced
juice of 1/2 lime
1. In a small bowl mash avocado roughly ( I use a potato masher)
2. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Taste for salt.
3. Put a good dollop on each burger.
“I would have to recommend 5 Lizard
from 5 Rabbit in Chicago with the Goat cheese chipotle burgers. 5 Rabbit is the first “latin-styled” craft brewery and the the 5 Lizard is their wit beer made with lime peel, coriander and passionfruit. Really rockin’ stuff! The goat cheese’s “farmy” character will still stand out and the fruitiness of the beer and the fruitiness of the guac should go well together.”
Most cole slaws are too sweet in my opinion. I like something a little more savory with a bit of tang. My dressing relies on mayonnaise (I use Hellmann’s) and yogurt. Plus somewhere along the line I started adding tarragon. I like the cabbage sliced thin as opposed to shredded, I use a mandoline. The cole slaw is best when made several hours in advance and allowed to meld flavors. Try it you will like it!
Tangy Cole Slaw
1/2 head cabbage thinly sliced
2 carrots grated
4 green onions sliced on diagonal
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon chopped
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic grated or minced
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large bowl combine the cabbage, carrots and green onions.
2. In a medium bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Season well with salt and pepper.
3. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and mix well. The slaw is best if refrigerated for several hours.