Archive | January, 2013

San Francisco Treat: Artichoke with Lemony Mint-Caper Dip

Artichoke with tangy, lemony mint-caper dip

In honor of our 49ers who are on their way to the Superbowl, here’s a truly San Francisco treat: Artichoke with Lemony Mint-Caper Dip. This is a really tasty and very healthy appetizer, perfect for say…oh, I don’t know…a Superbowl party! 😉

Since my carnivore’s idea of football-watching snacks are nachos or Philly cheese-steaks, my vegan alternative has to be seriously delicious or there will be much whining (and if you heard the whining, you’d know that it is to be avoided at all costs). Luckily, this unique creation has complex flavors that keep the palate happy and interested bite after bite, and the awesome artichoke – grown right here on the Northern California coast – is the perfect way to celebrate the best of the Bay Area.

I realize that capers, mint, lemon and artichoke sounds like a weird combo, but trust me on this one – it’s pretty amazing! Fresh mint compliments the briny, tangy caper , and together with a light hint of acidity from lemon and white balsamic, it brings out the creamy, mellow loveliness of artichoke in a really surprising way. So surprising, in fact, that it kept my carnivore (as well as our other carnivore friends) reaching for one artichoke leaf after another while watching the 49ers win the division. (It also turned out to be a great substitute for biting nails during tense moments in the playoffs.)

By the way, did you know that there are tons of benefits of artichokes, as well as watching football? Our leafy, thorny friends are full of antioxidants, they actually *regenerate* the liver (making them a spectacular hangover treatment), they help the digestive system and they prevent cancer. As for watching football, there’s a big benefit…at least for me.  I get a foot massage whenever John is watching a game. Score!!

So whether you’re a football fan or not, you can still celebrate the flavor of the Bay Area with this tasty appetizer. GO 9ers!

Artichoke with Lemony Mint-Caper Dip

Serves: 6
From fridge to table: 45 minutes

2 large fresh artichokes, stems trimmed
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
2 tsp capers, drained and finely chopped
1 tbsp white lemon balsamic vinegar (or a plain white balsamic vinegar combined with 1 tsp grated lemon zest)
3 tbsp meyer lemon olive oil (or plain olive oil combined with 1 tsp fresh lemon juice)
a pinch of salt

Cook artichoke any way you prefer: steamed or boiled. Personally, I just drop artichokes into a large pot of boiling water and cook until the flesh on the leaves is soft, creamy and easily scraped off by your teeth, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the rest of the ingredients and place in a serving bowl. Once the artichokes are ready, drain and serve them warm with the dipping sauce. Or, you can drizzle the dipping sauce all over the artichoke leaves – your choice. Then go cheer for the 49ers!

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“Cleansing” Chipotle Black Bean Chili

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One single day. That’s how long I had to wait after New Year’s before I heard a friend declare: “Oh man, I need to do a cleanse!” That’s a new record – last year it took three whole days to hear that proclamation. “Cleansing” has become an annual tradition among guilty gorgers who’ve spent the past month consuming their body’s weight in butter, chocolate cake and grandma’s rum-balls. Yeah, as if drinking cayenne pepper-laced hot water and eating tree bark for a week is actually going to roto-rooter their arteries, scrape down their intestines and magically make the 952 brownies they ate disappear.  (Well, perhaps if the last one they ate was a special “Dr. Chocopotomus’ cosmic brownie,” something like that might seem downright feasible, just like tap-dancing neon salamanders wearing Viking hats. But I digress…)

I don’t mock my friends too mercilessly for wanting to do these bizarre cleanses. Because at the root of it all is the desire to be healthier, and that’s awesome! For those who have had one too many cookies, I like to suggest a solution that’s much tastier and less likely to singe your eyeballs or leave twigs in your teeth: try eating delicious vegan meals for a week.

In honor of my friends who, like clockwork, are about to ask me for some quick, easy, appetizing and “cleansing” vegan dishes, here’s one of my favorites: chipotle black bean chili. This recipe takes all of 15 minutes to make, it’s filling, and it’s scrumptious in all of its smoky, hearty glory.

Research has shown that cleanses – like the cayenne lemon-water fad or the popular juice ‘detox’ – don’t actually do our bodies any favors. In fact, in addition to making people exceedingly cranky (which dramatically increases the risk of being smacked upside the head), they can also be very damaging due to the inherent nutritional imbalances of the cleanses. But nutritious high fiber foods – like black beans – are like a pipe cleaner for your intestines. (Sorry – that was a rather unpleasant visual). The key is to eat beans year-round, not just until the holiday guilt has worn off. And lucky for all of us, this yummy chili will make you want to eat beans every day of the week. Especially when it’s followed by magic brownies. (Kidding!)

Happy New Year!

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Cleansing Chipotle Black Bean Chili
Serves: 4
From fridge to table: 15 minutes

Olive oil for sautéing
1 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 14.5 oz cans organic black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz) organic crushed tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
a handful of fresh tomatoes, chopped
½ cup water
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp canned *chipotle puree *
1 tbsp rice vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned)
Smoked sea salt
Tortilla chips (for those who aren’t ‘cleansing’)

*Note – to make the chipotle puree: buy a can of “chipotle chilies in adobo sauce,” which you will find in the Hispanic food section of the grocery store. Put the entire contents of the can, including sauce, in a blender and whirl until smooth. Scrape into an ice cube tray and freeze it. Take out a cube whenever you need it.

To make chili:

Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat, add some olive oil and cook the onions and garlic until the onion is translucent and starting to brown. Add beans, tomatoes and their juices, cumin and ½ cup water; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors, about 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, chipotle puree and rice vinegar. Add smoked sea salt to taste. Serve in big bowls and crumble some tortilla chips on top if you’re feeling frisky. Enjoy!

(By the way, credit for this recipe goes to a magazine I read in my dentist’s office about 10 years ago. Unfortunately I can’t remember the magazine, nor can I remember how much of the original recipe I used, but I’d still like to say thanks to that magazine for combining black beans and chipotle, which is a brilliant combo!)