Tag Archives: mint

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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The Bonk-Preventer: Quinoa Tabbouleh

John and I have been mountain biking a ton lately, so I’ve been on the hunt for “power foods” to keep us from bonking on the trails. I’ve experimented with a bunch of different ingredients and the one I keep coming back to again and again is the magical, mighty quinoa. Packed with protein – the most of any grain on the planet – I find that it digests easily and provides us with plenty of energy to sustain us through long, grinding climbs through the spectacular redwood forests near our home.

Quinoa is out of this world, and it sort of looks like it, too. When cooked, each grain has a little ring around it and resembles a tiny Saturn. So cute! But since John thinks quinoa is only eaten by stoned, dreadlocked white guys named “OneLove YogiMoonglow,” I have to disguise the cosmic grain to get him to eat it. Lucky for me, the ever-versatile quinoa has no problem being a caped crusader.

One of my new favorite ways of preparing it is in a yummy tabbouleh. The focal point of this tabbouleh isn’t the quinoa, it’s the crunch of cucumbers, the zesty tasty of tomatoes, the cool breath of fresh mint and the tang of lemon juice. In this recipe, the quinoa easily takes the place of bulgar (which is what Middle Easterners traditionally use as the base of tabbouleh) and provides a slightly crunchy platform for the rest of the ingredients to take center stage and shine. John eats this all the time, but he has yet to discover that he’s eating quinoa. When our friends joke with him about Operation Carnivore Conversion and tease him about becoming “a quinoa-eater,” he bursts out laughing and emphatically declares: “I don’t eat it! That stuff is gross!” That always makes me snicker inside…or maybe it’s more like a devious Vincent Price-like evil laugh…but I digress…

Talk about versatile – we can eat this dish for breakfast, lunch, as a side-dish and as a snack. When we’re preparing for a long day on the trails, I break out the big spoons and we shovel down our quinoa tabbouleh. I’m happy to report that it prevents the dreaded bonk while we’re on long rides!  If you don’t know what bonking is, here is a visual representation for your amusement (John would die if he knew I was posting this, so this is our little secret. 🙂

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Serves: 6 as a side dish, or 2-3 for a main meal
From fridge to table: 15 minutes

1 ¾ cup water
1 cup quinoa
¼ tsp salt (plus some for finishing)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil (preferably meyer lemon infused olive oil for a divine flavor – I get mine from http://www.11Olives.com and it is delicious!)
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Two Persian cucumbers or pickling cucumbers, skin on, diced
4 scallions/green onions, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup fresh flat parsley, finely chopped (really depends on your taste)
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
salt, to taste

In a medium sauce pan, bring the quinoa, water and ¼ tsp salt to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until water is fully absorbed by quinoa, about 10 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes then fluff with a fork.

While quinoa is cooking, chop all the other ingredients and squeeze the lemon juice. Once quinoa is done, transfer to a big bowl and toss with all the other ingredients. Start with 1/4 cup olive oil and add more to taste. Finish with a little bit of salt. Then go out and burn some energy!

Mmmm, Minted Peas!

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God! English peas are finally back at the farmer’s market and in grocery stores! (You’re doing a happy dance right now, aren’t you? You know I am!) To celebrate, we’re making Minted Peas, a super fast, easy and drool-inducing side dish. Of all the dishes I make, this one is the most requested by friends and my husband – people can’t get enough of this, and neither can I. It’s so good that my carnivore husband actually *requests* it – that’s a pretty big deal for a guy who sees the ‘wisdom’ in congress declaring that pizza is a vegetable. I put a California-twist on this English dish to blend the slightly sweet flavor and crisp texture of peas straight from the pod with a refreshing splash of mint, and round it out with a buttery, smokey seasoning. This is a fantastic dish.

If the thought of peas doesn’t inspire you to break into an impromptu River Dance, it’s probably because you’ve never had freshly shelled English peas. These are not the squishy, mealy, weird smelling pellets borne from a can or a frozen bag that your parents force-fed you as a child. Ug, it gives me chills when I recall my mum saying: “Cimeron, please just eat one spoonful of peas or you’ll get scurvy.” I would dissolve into tears and beg my mum not to make me eat the “spongy aliens.” A couple of decades later when I discovered English peas in the pod and shelled them myself, I fell head over heals in love with these crisp yet tender heavenly orbs of joy. Fear not – these fresh peas bear no resemblance to those “spongy aliens” found in cans (and in my childhood nightmares). Freshly shelled English peas are better than candy – seriously! When John craves something sweet, he munches on peas, which are a healthy and tasty high-fiber snack.

We’re going to flash-cook (aka blanch) the peas to keep the centers crisp and delicious while giving the exteriors a wonderfully smooth texture. So prepare yourself to have a new favorite side dish!

Mmmm, Minted Peas

Serves: 2-3
From fridge to table: 5 minutes

1.5 cups freshly shelled English peas (you’ll need to buy a couple pounds of pods)
2 tbsp fresh mint, finely minced
1/2 tsp parsley, finely minced
1/4 tsp smoked sea salt*
a pinch of ground sage
1 tbsp Earth Balance (or any other butter substitute)

* If you haven’t yet tried smoked sea salt, now’s the time! It imparts such a lovely smokey flavor that makes ordinary dishes extraordinary and it’s just divine with the minted peas. Trust me – once you try it, you’ll be using it in everything: in soups, on veggies, in potato dishes. I get mine from SpiceHound.com; you can also find it at gourmet grocery stores, cooking shops and even on Amazon.com. A little goes a long way, so it lasts forever.

In a medium saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a rapid boil. Toss in the shelled peas and cook for 30 seconds. Drain immediately and put the peas in a serving bowl. Toss in the herbs, seasonings and butter substitute and mix thoroughly. Serve hot and enjoy! Mmmm!