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Recipes

ARTICHOKES 101

Late Spring is a favorite time for me on Cinnamon Bear Farm. The birds are especially active, providing entertainment while we plant and weed. Swallows and Blue Birds prefer the same size entrance holes for the numerous nest boxes that we have provided. They are the busy unpaid workers, swooping around, gluttonously devouring insects for us. Now that they are hanging out around the nests, they often perch on the top, long enough for me to have a conversation with them, while my husband remains amused at my attempts. 

Harvested Artichokes
Harvested Artichokes

Jack is an avid birder, going on trips specifically for sitings of special birds, with binoculars, spotting scope, bird identification books, and a “bazooka” telescopic lens on his camera. While I can identify many more birds than the average citizen, I am definitely not a birder. I am a “bird watcher”. I’m more interested in their behaviors and antics than looking for tiny little visual differences that categorize their identities. 

By late May, most of the summer plantings are in, ensuring future deliciousness. In the meantime, we have been enjoying artichokes, one of our favorite vegetables. This perennial plant stays in the garden year around, but mostly produces in May and early June in our climate. It’s actually a beautiful plant and it’s cousin, the Cardoon, is often used in landscaping. 

Artichokes belong to the thistle family and have been eaten in the Mediterranean area for centuries. The main part that is eaten is the flower bud, composed of triangular shaped bracts arranged around the globe shape and the internal base, known as the heart. In the center of the bud, the immature florets constitute the “choke”. The choke is usually discarded as the texture is too fuzzy to enjoy. 

As a fifth generation Californian, eating artichokes is something that I’ve grown up with, but I understand that this is a very confusing vegetable for some people who aren’t that familiar with it. There are so many delicious things to do with frozen or canned artichoke hearts, but it takes an abundance of artichokes and lots of time to prepare those from scratch. Instead, the instructions that I have provided are for the whole artichoke, straight out of the garden.

PREPARATION

The most simple thing to do to prepare an artichoke for cooking is to wash it and begin. However, some people prefer to snip off the pointy tips with scissors, as some of these can be thorny, depending on the variety. If you plan to cut an artichoke in half or cut off the top 1“ of thorny points, I prefer a serrated knife. It’s easier to do all of the cutting before cooking to prevent it from falling apart. The short stem is also edible, so I usually leave about and inch of it on. However, for some recipes, the stem is removed so that the artichoke will sit upright for serving. Pull off a few of the smaller outer leaves, as these will be too tough to eat. 

As we use organic methods, there are occasional ear wigs (insects) chomping on our artichokes, hiding among the artichoke petals. Then we simply soak the artichokes in salt water and the little critters come floating to the top. I prefer to get rid of them and not add this extra protein to my artichoke dish. If there is an ear wig problem, it will be obvious, as a few will come crawling out anyway. Most of the time, the salt water soak isn’t necessary as they’re usually gone before the artichokes arrive at market.

Artichokes oxidize rapidly, especially the cut stems, so if this discoloration matters to you, it can be minimized by squeezing lemon juice over the cuts.

Now for fancier, preparations, one can cut the artichokes in half, snip off the thorns, and remove the fuzzy part of the core with a spoon and paring knife. A serrated grapefruit spoon also works. For baking a whole artichoke, pull out the center leaves and remove the fuzzy core as suggested above, leaving a hollow center for stuffing. The fuzz can also be removed easily from artichoke halves, just before serving.

HOW TO EAT AN ARTICHOKE

If you are unfamiliar with artichokes, it’s a hands on vegetable. Start with the outer leaves and work toward the center. As you pull off one leaf, dip the soft end into a dipping sauce and place this end between your front teeth. Bite down enough to get a grip on the petal and pull it out of your mouth, letting your teeth scrape off the fleshy part of the petal. Depending on the variety and maturity, some artichoke petals will have more soft fleshy areas than others. As you work toward the center petals, they will be even softer and you can probably bite off at least 1/2 of the petal surface. 

When the petals are gone, you will notice a fuzzy area in the center of the artichoke heart. Occasionally, our artichokes are tender enough to eat this part, but the chokes on most commercial artichokes are usually too fuzzy and coarse to eat. Scrape this part of the thistle out with a knife or spoon. If the stem is attached, it’s also edible, but can be slightly bitter or tough if it’s longer than 2 inches. I take my knife and peel off the outer fibers, but my husband loves the whole stem. 

Now you have the best part of the artichoke to savor. If the stem is still attached, it can be used as a handle for dipping. The heart can also be cut into bite size pieces and eaten with a fork. Yum! 

INTRODUCING MICROGREENS AND BLOG 1

By Mimi Booth at Cinnamon Bear Farm

We finally have a website and hope you enjoy our new signage too! It is our goal that customers don’t forget that we have a great selection of varieties that are grown for their flavor. All of us at Cinnamon Bear Farm have a passion for farming and hope it shows. We love to share recipes, but honestly don’t have time for an interactive blog with comments. If you have a chance, come to farmers market and share your thoughts. We’d love to hear them. 

One of the great benefits of growing all of this food is that it goes into our homes also. It’s delicious and nourishing, but equally important, we are able to test the harvest and storage methods for our customers to provide produce at its peak. We are always learning, especially when growing produce that’s new to us. At the same time, we enjoy creating recipes for our friends at market and hope to supply preparation tips that will introduce people to the wider world of varieties that might not be seen in stores.

Microgreens are a whole new way of farming with these miniature bundles of nutrients. They stay in the seed flats in soil instead of planting in the ground and they’re ready in about 10 days. I like the spiciness of purple radish greens but sunflower greens are my favorite. It’s amazing to me that the nutty flavor is already in those tiny greens at two inches tall, packing a macro punch.

TIP: Don’t rinse them until you’re ready to use them or store them like lettuce. Rinse, spin dry, and wrap them in a thin dish towel (or paper towel) rolled snugly without smashing. As much as I hate plastic, if the the towel is now inserted in a plastic bag with the top open, it will hold in the minimal moisture, and last at least a week. The best container allows the contents to breath a little, yet hold some moisture in. 


SKIP TO THE RECIPE BELOW OR CONTINUE READING FOR A SHORT BIT OF MICRO GREEN INFO.


Microgreens are harvested immediately after the first leaves have developed. They are not to be confused with sprouts or baby greens. They are in between those developmental stages, harvested at the perfect time for maximum quality, up to five times the nutritional value of mature greens. Wow! They’re tiny little power houses!
These little morsels have been showing up in fine dining restaurants in California for awhile, both as visual and flavor components. This specialty genre of greens is starting to catch on in other states in upscale markets. Regardless of the trends in cuisine, we simply love them.
At this point, you’re probably asking, “So where’s the recipe?” Well, the ways to use micro greens are so easy, that it’s a no brainer. Yes, you can go online and find recipes for micro green smoothies, pestos, and cook them, but for me, that sort of defeats the purpose of using their assets, of seeing the beautiful colors and experiencing the crisp textures. Here are some really easy suggestions, followed by one real recipe with a Quinoa Salad. 


1. They really jazz up an ordinary sandwich such as a plain cheddar cheese. 

2. Micro greens add wonderful color and texture to a green salad.

3. Soups just beg for garnishes like micro greens, especially cold soups 

4. Go fancy and lay your meat, fish or other entree  over a bed of micro greens.

5. Add a handful inside some pita bread with hummus. 

QUINOA SALAD WITH MICRO GREENS
My version is a fusion of Greek and Inca ingredients. The flavoring for the dressing is similar to that for a Greek orzo pasta salad, but the salad is made with quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), a high protein ancient grain from the Andes. 
Some people rinse the quinoa before cooking to remove the tiny bit of bitterness. I just buy the sprouted quinoa (Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op) and don’t bother with that step. Let’s face it; I don’t bother with that step anyway.
First prepare the quinoa. Boil 1 and 3/4 cups of water with 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir in 1 cup of quinoa, turn the heat to medium low, and cover the pot. In about 20 minutes, remove the pot from the burner, take off the lid, and let it sit for 5 minutes. Scoop the quinoa into a bowl to cool enough to refrigerate. This can all be done ahead of time, as the quinoa should be cool before turning it into this salad so the other ingredients will stay crispy. 


Ingredients:About 4 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (this exact amount isn’t critical) 2 Tbs. finely minced fresh parsley 2 Tbs.  finely minced fresh basil 1 Tbs. lemon zest 1 red pepper, chopped 1 lemon cucumber or 1/2 larger variety, chopped. Add your favorite raw vegetables here, substitute, or amend the quantities. In the spring, I used Hakurei turnips instead of cukes.  


Dressing: 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup olive oil1 clove minced garlic 1/2 t. Salt (or to taste)Black pepper to taste

Hint: I prefer the above herbs minced extremely fine, so I add them to the dressing and run it through a blender. Sometimes, it’s tough to blend small quantities, so either use an immersion blender or double the recipe and save the remaining for other salads. 


Garnish:1 cup of micro greens
Stir the crisp, raw vegetables into the quinoa. Adjust the taste of your dressing if needed. Add more or less, depending on the amount of quinoa used. The garnish of micro greens can be attractively sprinkled over the top of quinoa in a bowl, maybe a ring around the edges, or the quinoa salad can be spooned over a bed of micro greens for individual servings. 

Variation: Trust your own creativity and personal tastes here. Try this with couscous, orzo pasta or other grains and add cherry tomatoes in season. In the photo, I added sliced olives (Kalamata, black, mixed etc.), minced chives, and feta cheese.