Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Beer-Battered Stuffed Chokes by Chef Tomm

Chef Tomm, of Culinary Secrets, spent some time at OceanMist Farms the week before the Artichoke Festival and created this recipe especially for his demonstration. Though I am not typically a fan of fried anything, these were scrumptious. Besides, you know me and beer - love it!
10 Baby artichokes peeled,parboiled with the choke removed
2 tablespoons Butter
1 tablespoon Garlic fine dice
3 tablespoons Onions small dice
1 cup Mushrooms cut into quarters
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Blue cheese crumbled
TT Salt and pepper TT= To Taste
1 Beer batter

Beer Batter Recipe
7.5 ounces All purpose flour
2.5 ounces Cornstarch
1 tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon Black pepper
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
16 ounces Beer

Stuffing: Place your butter into a sautee pan over medium heat and melt. Add in your garlic and onions and cook until the onions are translucent. Add in the mushrooms and cook for about five minutes while stirring. Remove from heat and add the breadcrumbs and blue cheese then stir until everything is mixed in. Season To Taste with salt and pepper. The filling is now ready and can be made a few days in advance.

Beer Batter: Mix together the flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add the beer and stir until smooth. Hold for service

For service: Place the filling into the artichoke and pack lightly. Dust with flour then put into the beer batter. Place into a 350 degree preheated deep fryer and fry until golden brown. Remove from oil and put onto a pan with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Season with salt and serve. Enjoy!

Artichoke Sushi!

That's what it's all about at the Artichoke Festival in Castroville, California. And being that we were THE artichoke family this year, that's what we were all about last weekend for the 51st Annual Artichoke Festival.

From a farmers' market to cooking demos and sampling the chef's creations, it was one big ode to the edible thistle.

Here was one of my favorites - the offering from Chef Uncangco from Roy's at Pebble Beach: artichoke sushi! Instead of a roll topped with fish, thinly sliced artichokes were draped over the top and drizzled with a mango sauce. It was fantastic!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cheesy Cardoon Pie

A spinoff on spanikopita, I created a phyllo-crusted creation featuring artichoke's cousin cardoons.

Clean and chop the cardoons into bite-sized pieces and boil them until soft. Cool slightly and stir them into beaten eggs seasoned with sea salt and cinnamon.

Layer your baking dish with 6 layers of phyllo dough, brushing each sheet with melted butter.

Line the bottom of the crust with a layer of lowfat cottage cheese. Pour the cardoon mixture in and sprinkle with feta cheese. Top with 4 more layers of phyllo, brushing each layer with butter. Roll the edges in to form a crust lip.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until the phyllo is crisp and golden brown. Serve with a green salad dressed in an oregano dressing.

A Good Ol' Day

This past weekend, we were all on the Artichoke Festival float in the Good Ol’ Days parade in Pacific Grove.

Lionel, the Artichoke Man, created a wonderful float - complete with music and a spinning choke. Riley had a blast on his throne and Dylan stayed on. I’d say that was a success.

We smiled, waved, then afterwards explored the booths for a grand ol' time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Artichokes' Kissing Cousin

Cardoons look menacing, kind of like celery on growth hormones. But they are actually closely related to artichokes. When I find them at the farmers' market, I buy them and make sformato di cardi (cardoon flan). It reminds me of Spring in Rome.

1 pound cardoons, ends trimmed, stripped of fibers, and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/4 cups milk
3 eggs
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano

Boil the cardoons until they're half cooked in lightly salted water, drain them, and sauté them in half the butter. Salt them, and when they have absorbed the butter, sprinkle some of the milk over them and simmer them until done.

Using the remaining butter, milk, and a level tablespoon of flour, make a beciamela sauce. Beat the eggs, mix all the ingredients together and check seasoning. Transfer the mixture to a buttered smooth sided mold. Bake the sformato in a 325 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes or until sets. Serve hot with a tossed salad and a crisp white wine.

EcoChokes by EcoChic Designs

This being the year of the artichoke and all, when I located a supplier of sterling silver artichoke charms, I immediately bought his entire supply and launched into making a line of one-of-a-kind pieces. I'm slowly listing necklaces for sale at http://www.ecochicdesigns.etsy.com/. Here are just a few...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ramping Up

I've been oddly silent on all things artichoke as of late. My other culinary adventures were in full swing though; check out that blog.

But we're about to launch into full-blown artichoke mode this week: Jacob will be hanging a show at The Trailside Cafe on Cannery Row (with several artichoke paintings) tomorrow and the entire family will be on the Artichoke Festival float in the Good Ol' Days parade next Saturday.

Stay tuned...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lasagna Bianca con Carciofi

Lasagna Bianca con Carciofi (White Lasagna with Artichokes)

Beciamela Sauce...
Olive Oil
White Wine
Shallots, thinly sliced
Chicken, cubed into bite-size pieces
Shredded carrots
Fennel Seeds
Sea Salt and pepper to taste
Whole fresh basil leaves
Fresh baby spinach
Italian/Flat-leaf Parsley, coarsely chopped
Chopped Artichoke hearts

The rest of it…
Lasagna Noodles
Ricotta cheese (or cream cheese)
Cottage Cheese
Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Make a basic Beciamela Sauce (White Sauce) –
Melt butter with a splash of olive oil so that it doesn’t brown. Once the butter is melted, add flour to make a roux. Add milk, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Once you have the amount and consistency that you want, add a splash of white wine and cinnamon. Whisk again until smooth. Set aside.

Make Chicken for the sauce –
Sauté the shallots in olive oil until softened. Add and brown the chicken. Add fennel seeds and carrots, cook until carrots are done. Wilt the spinach and basil leaves. Turn off heat and add parsley and chopped artichokes. Combine the beciamela and the chicken.

Assemble The rest of it –
Spoon a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13” pan. Then alternate noodles, mozzarella (to cover the seams), chicken sauce, ricotta, cottage cheese, and parmesan cheese. Repeat until you reach the top of the pan. The last layer should be the chicken sauce.

Bake at 350°F (covered in foil) until the sauce bubbles along the side of the pan, usually an hour. Then top with parmesan cheese and bake another 10 minutes, uncovered, to brown the top.

Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mini Chocolate-Artichoke Bundts with a Silky Chocolate Sauce

When I told a friend I'd make artichoke cupcakes for her tea party, I should have warned her that I rarely, if ever, make the same thing twice. So instead of the artichoke cakes with a cream cheese frosting, I opted for a chocolatey version. Thank goodness, she didn't mind...and everyone seemed to enjoy these decadent treats.

Chocolate-Artichoke Cakes

4-1/2 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 C Dutch process cocoa powder
2 t baking soda
2 t salt
2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground cloves
2 sticks softened butter
1 C canola oil
2 C raw sugar
1 C blue agave nectar
4 eggs
2 t vanilla extract
1 C buttermilk
2 cups chopped artichoke hearts
8 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325. Mix dry ingredients. Beat butter and oil until well-mixed. Add sugar and beat until lightened. Beat in agave and eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Beat in half the flour mixture, then the second half. Stir in chocolate chips. Scrape batter into pans. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the cake is well risen and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack. Top with silky chocolate sauce.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Another One Done

Jacob is putting the finishing touches on another artichoke painting. He's too close to it though and doesn't like it. But I LOVE it! What do you think?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Back at it...

When I came home from the farmers' market, Jacob was ensconced in his studio with artichokes on his easel.

Love how his edible flowers just jump off the canvas!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Not Just for Spinach...

I modified my spanikopita recipe to include artichokes!

Line a pie pan or tart dish with 6 layers of phyllo dough, brushing each sheet with a mixture of melted butter and olive oil. Mix chopped, blanched spinach and chopped artichoke hearts. Add 2 C lowfat cottage cheese and 1 C shredded parmesan. Season with cinnamon and sea salt. Stir in 2 beaten eggs and pour into the baking dish lined with phyllo dough. Top with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with the butter-olive oil mix. Roll the dough edges to form a seal and brush the crust with the butter-oil mixture. Bake at 375 , covered for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Let set for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Carciofi Cake

After the Artichoke Festival mixer last week, I decided to try my hand at an artichoke cake. Why not, right? Carrots and zucchini make great cakes. So, here you go...and, naturally, there are marzipan artichokes on top.

Camilla's Spiced Artichoke Cake with Ginger-Scented Cream Cheese Frosting (this makes 2 large rectangular layers, halve the recipe for a smaller cake)

4C white whole wheat flour
4t baking soda
4t cinnamon
1t all-spice
a splash of vanilla
8 eggs
2C packed brown sugar
1C raw sugar
1C canola oil
2C whole milk yogurt
4C chopped artichoke hearts
1/2C pumpkin puree
1C white chocolate chips

Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add wet ingredients (oil, yogurt, pumpkin) and moisten. Stir in artichokes and chocolate chips. Split between two baking pans. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting -
8oz cream cheese
8oz marscarpone
16T softened butter
splash of vanilla
1/2C ginger syrup
2C powdered sugar

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Two words that are undeniably compelling for me: 'jewelry' and 'artichoke.' Add to those 'unique' and 'handmade' and whatever it is becomes virtually irresistable.

So, when I came across a jewelry maker who had hand-formed an artichoke ring out of soft wax and cast it in solid sterling silver, using the lost wax casting method, I knew I had to have it...and it was the perfect size!

I did exercise some restraint by telling myself that I wouldn't buy the ring until I had sold enough of my own jewelry to pay for it. When Jenn bought a pair of my carciofi cairns, it sent me over the edge and I kept my fingers crossed that the ring was still for sale.

It was. And now it's mine! Read more about the artist, Ann Drewing, at her website http://dreamspiralart.com/. Or visit her etsy store for some truly stunning pieces http://www.etsy.com/shop/dreamspiralart

Innovative Artichoke Treats

I like to think that I'm fairly creative in the kitchen, but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought to put artichokes in cupcakes. Why not, right? I put carrots and zucchini in cupcakes.

I tried some at the Artichoke Festival mixer last night; they were delicate and delicious. I'll try my hand at them this weekend...topped with a cream cheese-marscarpone frosting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Grateful for Friends and Family

Thanks to all our friends who made an appearance to support Jacob at the Artichoke Festival Mixer tonight: great food, great friends, and a great time. You know who you are and you know we love you.

The Unveiling

Tonight was the great reveal of Jacob's painting for the 51st Annual Artichoke Festival.

And if this mixer was any indication of what is to come, we're in for a real treat - artichoke cupcakes, artichoke dips, artichoke taquitos, artichoke frittata... .

Thanks, especially, to Denice, Lionel, and the rest of the Artichoke Festival crew who made the event so spectacular. That was a wonderful kick-off.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

From the Monterey County Weekly

In the Monterey County Weekly, for Tuesday, January 19th, 5-7pm: Artichoke Festival Mixer. Take a peek at the 2010 festival poster, meet the artist, and enjoy artichoke snacks, wine, raffles and family fun in preparation for the main event in May. The painting, by Seaside artist Jacob Mann, is of a little boy in an artichoke field accompanied by the words "thistle be fun". Come mingle and network at the Artichoke Festival Office (didn't know there was one, did you).

Celery on Steroids

Have you ever wandered through the farmers' market, seen something resembling celery on steroids, and wondered: what the heck is that?!? Cardoons, or cardi, as the Italians call it. They are actually close cousins of artichokes and a classic Italian winter vegetable.

I've only seen them cooked two ways, this is my favorite - Cardi Nella Beciamela (Cardoons in Bechamel Sauce)...
Clean and prep the cardi by stripping the ribs, cutting them into inch-long piece, and boiling them in salted water until half cooked. Make a bechamel (cream) sauce and stir the cardi into it. Turn the mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle with grated parmigiano. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cardi fork-tender.

I usually serve this - when I can find it at the markets - with a roast of some kind. Squisito...pronto al tavolo!

Orange-You-Glad-We're Friends Dinner

We had a lovely, lovely dinner with the Novaks last night...so much so that I hardly took any photos!

Ever fond of cheesy word-play, I did an "ORANGE-You-Glad-We're-Friends" Dinner for a belated birthday celebration for Ulla. And even though the menu was chock-full of citrus, artichokes made an appearance in the salad!

On the menu:
Chopped Salad (endives, watercress, fresh mint, kalamata olives, caperberries, artichoke hearts, shredded carrots) in an ORANGE-champagne vinaigrette

Forbidden Rice Pilaf steamed with CLEMENTINE juice

Citrus-Stuffed Roasted Chicken with a Blood ORANGE-Shallot Glaze

Torta di Cioccolata with Candied MINNEOLA

Friday, January 15, 2010

Around Town

Let the Year of the Artichoke officially commence...here are some dates and times where Jacob's painting will be featured as the official artwork and theme for the 51st Annual Artichoke Festival: THISTLE BE FUN! The official unveiling is this coming Tuesday. We're practicing our smile-and-wave.

Float Debut

We just received a call from Lionel, the Artichoke Man, requesting that we be on the Artichoke Festival parade float during the Good Ol' Days Parade in Pacific Grove on April 10th. 10 am.

Thistle Be REALLY Fun...the boys will be so excited. They always loved being in the 4th of July parades with their preschool. I guess I should start practicing my wave.

The Unveiling

Jacob's "Thistle Be Fun" poster will be officially unveiled at a Artichoke Festival mixer on Tuesday, January 19th. If you're in the area, stop on by.

5-7pm. North Monterey County Chamber of Commerce. 10683 Merritt St., Castroville, California 95012 (831) 633-2465

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Piggy Paints

Eureka! Having no little girls in my household, it might seem strange for me to be so enthusiastic for these products. Piggy Paints are nail polishes that are specifically marketed to little kids, or rather moms of little girls.


But I have searched high and low for nail polishes free from formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, Bisphenol A, ethyl acetate and acetone. I didn't paint my nails for over four years - the entire time I was pregnant, nursing, and pregnant and nursing again.

I am, admittedly, slightly freakish about things like this; even my OB assured me that I didn't have to be "quite that hardcore in avoiding chemicals." Still my fingers and toes stayed au naturale for years.

And to sweeten the deal, there is an "artichoke-y" color called Dragon's Tears.

I can't click "ADD TO CART" fast enough... Now the question remains: how many bottles do I need?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Flowering Thistle

For a dinner party I had tonight, my flower arrangement featured - what else? - an artichoke...along with some vibrant pink roses, carmine amaryllis, fragrant stargazer lilies, wispy snapdragons, waxy lemon leaves, and piquant rosemary. It's been a long time since I was a florist, but I still love working with flowers. The scents. The colors. All the texures.

I try to cook a different cuisine every month, just to expand my culinary repertoire and have some fun. Tonight was a South African Soiree to celebrate Brian's 37th birthday. It was a wild success!

Here's what was on the menu...Boontjiesop, Bobotie, Geelrys, Apple Sambal, Carrot Sambal, Cucumber Sambal, Candied Kumquats, Preserved Lemons and Melktert for dessert.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Carciofi Cairn Earrings

Completely serendipitously, I became a fan of the Mendocino Botanical Gardens on facebook, another fan saw my name and - because we share a surname though aren't related - clicked through to my website (www.ecochicdesigns.etsy.com), and ordered two pairs of Cariciofi Cairns. One pair was this set: thickly veined labradorite rounds are handwired with green recycled glass onto sterling silver and hang from sterling silver French wires.

Gotta love the internet!

CAIRN, noun, 15th century. Pronunciation: \ˈkern\Etymology: Middle English (Scots) carne; Scottish Gaelic carn; akin to Old Irish & Welsh carn.

Definition: a heap of stones piled or stacked up as a memorial, acknowledgement, or as a landmark.

"I CARCIOFI" is Italian for Artichokes.

Gorgeous, heavyweight stationery from LETTERkissed.com

I just received my order of "Thistle Be Fun" stationery from a great local company: LETTERkissed.

So, if you're ever in need of gorgeous, heavyweight stationery, Ashley Gamble is your gal.

Check out www.letterkissed.com and buy local.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Silk Painting

Last trimester I taught a silk painting class for 1st-3rd graders. We learned about the life cycle of the silk worm, the process from worm to fabric, and complementary colors; we used a salt technique and a water-based resist; we read legends from the Silk Road. When I was creating examples, I painted - what else? - artichokes.

Dylan was watching me one afternoon, prepping for class, while I was painting an artichoke and asked, "Mommy, what are you doing?"

I answered that I was getting ready for my silk painting class.

He nodded his head, "I get it. You're teaching a class about artichokes."

No, maybe that will be another trimester.

Here are some of the pieces the kids did - on display at the reception and exhibit we held on the last day of class. They did a great job!

Ode to a Thistle

When I was sorting through some paperwork, I stumbled across a menu from an artichoke brunch I hosted a couple of years ago. Apparently my love affair with the yummy thistle persists. Here's what I served... PRONTO AL TAVOLO!

ODE TO A THISTLE: An Artichoke-Infused Brunch

Sparkling Pinot Grigio
Artichoke-Parmesan Dip with Pita Chips
Bruschetta Topped with Chevre and Artichoke Caponata

Sauvignon Blanc
Cream of Artichoke Heart Soup
A Trio of Artichoke Salads

Herb Frittata with Artichoke Salsa
Stuffed Artichoke Halves

Amaretto Cordials
Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake
Coffees and Teas