Best if Used By 05/20/13
Eat This Now for the week of May 13th, 2013 features
Artichokes, Mangos, Romaine Hearts, Arugula
and Dandelion Greens
PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR | VALUE PRICED
A vegetable has enough obstacles in life. It shouldn’t have to be thorny, a task to prepare and confusing to eat too! Ah, so it is for the thistle’s exotic cousin: the Artichoke. But all this intrigue and mystery surrounding how to prepare, cook and eat Artichokes is blown out of proportion. Once you tackle making and eating fresh Artichokes with the help of a few pointers, you’ll be glad you did.
Satisfaction of doing it yourself + YUM (they’re delicious) = win!
Produce Geek VIDEO: Artichokes Basics. How to Prepare, Cook, Eat fresh Artichokes. http://youtu.be/zxaw1EKxx00
April and May mark the peak season for fresh, classic Globe Artichokes from the Castroville, CA area – one of the most prolific Artichoke growing regions in the world. This month will be a fabulous time to find great tasting, high quality Artichokes from small to jumbo sizes in produce departments. May is also the peak season for Baby Artichokes that can be cooked and eaten whole, petals and all. Select Globe Artichokes that feel firm, have tight petals and have a fresh squeak when you squeeze them. But handle carefully! Artichokes have sharp thorns this time of year.
Here are some basics to refer to:
- Wash to remove outer natural waxy coating (which can taste bitter)
- Trim ½” from base of stem, peel outer portion of the stem. Middle of stem is an extension of the edible “heart.” Or just remove stem completely.
- Pull off small petals from stem plus small petals at the bottom of the Artichoke.
- Optional: Snip the thorny tips of each petal with a scissors.
- Cut ½”-1” off the top of the Artichoke
- Optional: Rub cut areas with lemon juice or dip in lemon water to prevent browning/oxidation
COOKING – Artichokes are fully cooked when a knife slides easily into the bottom (like cooking a potato)
- Boil: 25-45 minutes in salted water, submerged, cover with lid
- Steam: 30-40 minutes, stem side up
- Bake: 55-75 minutes, double wrapped in foil, stem side down, minced garlic/olive oil/balsamic vinegar drizzled between petals
- Microwave: 15-20 minutes in ½” water in dish, dish covered with plastic wrap, garlic/olive oil/balsamic vinegar drizzled between petals
- Grill: use fully cooked Artichoke from one of the above methods, halve it, brush with oil, season with salt/pepper, grill 4-5 minutes per side
- Pull flesh from the base of the petal with your teeth. Many people prefer to dip the petals in melted butter, olive oil, balsamic vinegar or garlic-seasoned mayonnaise
- Remove the inedible, fibrous and fuzzy middle portion (the choke) with a spoon
- Below the Choke is the Artichoke Heart, this part is the meatiest and can be cut up and added to pastas, soups, casseroles, dips, antipastos and more.
21 beautiful and inspiring artichoke recipes from CookingLight.com can be found here. The experts at Ocean Mist Farms (where they grow more fresh artichokes in California than anyone else) have extremely helpful and professional videos for Artichoke beginners.
PEAK SEASON | VALUE PRICED | BEST FLAVOR
Mangos are now in peak season from Mexico. The popular Tommy Atkins variety is what you’ll likely find with dark red blush over dark green skin. I recommend cubing the flesh of Tommy Atkins Mangos since it can be a tad stringier than in other varieties like the creamy and yellow Ataulfo Mango. Don’t get me wrong, the Tommy Atkins variety Mangos from Mexico during May will be super delicious when ripe.
So, how do you pick a good one? The amount of redness on the skin is not an indicator of sweetness. Tommy Atkins variety Mangos do not give visual clues to when they are ripe, so judge by the softness when you squeeze them. Hard means they’ll be kinda crunchy, while a little give indicates a ripe Mango for snacking, smoothies and salsas. Recipes, cutting tips and more can be found here.
In the spirit of National Salad Month, but still recognizing that the grill is calling you – how ‘bout a Grilled Romaine Heart salad? Crunchy and juicy Romaine Hearts from California are plentiful and priced fairly this week. Or maybe this Chipotle Portabella Salad will intrigue you.
RECIPE: Easy Grilled Romaine Hearts
- Preheat grill to High
- 2 Romaine Hearts, rinsed, outer-most leaves removed
- Lightly coat Romaine Hearts with cooking spray, or brush with olive oil
- Place Romaine Hearts on grilling surface
- Season with coarse salt and cracked pepper
- Flip once within minutes when grill-lines are defined (you’re not trying to cook it, just char the outside)
- Chop it, then toss with your favorite Caesar Dressing, or crumbled cheese and Vinaigrette
PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR
Perhaps you’ve had Baby Arugula in a salad, but have you tried buying fresh bunched Arugula Greens from the wet vegetable case in the produce department? May might be just the time for you to try bunched Arugula since it is in season from local vegetable farms in New Jersey where it is often packed with the roots and all! Arugula has tender, buttery leaves and crunchy stems. The flavor is distinctly nutty for a lettuce green and has a slightly spicy finish. It can be used raw for salads and sandwiches, or can be cooked and sautéed to be used as a side dish or with pastas and casseroles. Here is a beautiful recipe collection featuring Arugula.
Select Arugula that looks vibrant and is free from slimy leaves. Store it in a zip bag in your fridge but try to use it right away since it is a highly perishable green. Be sure to thoroughly wash New Jersey grown Arugula since it is grown in sandy soil.
PEAK SEASON | BEST FLAVOR
My yard is full of Dandelions that I loathe, but vegetable farmers in New Jersey specialize in fields of them that they love! Cultivated Dandelion Greens are related to the common field weed, but grow tall with broad leaves. They’re high in vitamins and nutrients, and are a natural diuretic commonly used in juicing diets. On the other hand, those who enjoy flavorful vegetables can benefit from Dandelion Greens too! Dandelion is a bitter green, a flavor somewhere between spinach and spring mix. It can be chopped raw and used in salads or blanched then sautéed with garlic and onions. Here are some Dandelion Greens recipes to consider.
Buy Smart. Shop Healthy.
The Produce Geek, Jonathan K. Steffy