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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cardoon Revisited

Cardoon Revisited:


Cardoon is a Mediterranean vegetable closely related to the artichoke which is cultivated for its edible leafstalks and roots.  Cardoon is a naturally occurring  form of the same species as the globe artichoke.   The cardoon is also called artichoke thistle, cardone, cardoni, carduni, or cardi. 


 Cardoon is native to the western and central Mediterranean, where it was cultivated in ancient times.  The cardoon was popular in Greek, Roman, and Persian cuisine and remained popular in medieval and early modern Europe.  It was common in the vegetable gardens of colonial America, but fell from fashion in the late nineteenth century.  Cardoons are a common vegetable in northern Africa and often used in Algerian or Tunisian couscous. Today cardoon is considered a weed in Australia and California because of its invasive nature and adaptability to dry climates.  Although not very popular today cardoons can be found in some supermarkets and farmer's markets, usually during the winter months.  Cardoon is harvested in the winter and spring.

My Story:

My first exposure to cardoon was working in a supermarket in Florida.   The box was marked "Cardone" and all the people in the produce department thought it was such a hoot when someone would come in around the holidays and ask for "cardooni's".  The sound of it kind of reminded me of "Father Guido Sarducci" from Saturday Night Live.  Cardoon was one of those items that you were required to carry, but you would be lucky to sell half the box before you had to throw it away.


Cardoons are only edible when cooked.  The taste has been described as a cross between artichoke and celery.  To cook, trim off any leaves or thorns and peel the stalks with a vegetable peeler to remove the indigestible outer fibers.  Cardoons discolor when cut so place cut pieces in cold water with lemon juice.  Cardoons can be braised, sauteed, boiled in soups and stews, or dipped in batter and deep fried.  One caveat though, depending on age they can take up to an hour to get soft and tender enough to eat. 
Cardoon has attracted attention recently as a possible source of bio diesel.  The oil extracted from the seeds of the cardoon is called artichoke oil and is similar to safflower and sunflower oil in composition and use.   Cardoons are used as a vegetarian source of enzymes for cheese production and are also grown as  ornamental plants for their imposing architectural appearance.   


Cardoon are available September to March.

Selecting and Storing:

Choose firm and very crisp cardoons with a touch of dew on them.  Discoloration of the cut end is normal.  To store cut in half crosswise and wrapped in a wet paper towel and put in a paper or plastic bag.  Refrigerate in the crisper for one to two weeks, but no longer.  Use the top half first.  Dried out cardoon is inedible.  

So...... Eat up!    Enjoy!   I'll show you how. 

Simple but Good

Fried Cardoon

1/2 bunch of cardoon trimmed of leaves, thorns, and outer fibers, cut to 3 inch pieces
lemon juice for simmering water
egg, beaten
seasoned bread crumbs
canola oil for frying

Add lemon juice to pot of boiling water.   Add cut cardoons and boil for 15 to 30 minutes.  They are done when you can easily push the ridge flat with a fork.  Allow to cool then dip the flattened cardoon in the egg and then the breadcrumbs.  Fry until golden brown.  Remove to a piece of paper towel to drain excess oil.   Enjoy while warm. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Acorn Squash

Acorn Squash:


Acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo var. turbinata) also called pepper squash or Des Moines squash is a winter squash with distinctive longitudinal ridges and sweet yellow-orange flesh.  Although considered to be a winter squash, it is the same species as all summer squash (including zucchini and yellow crookneck squash.  Acorn squash is often mistaken as a gourd.  
Most commonly dark green in color with a single splotch of orange on the side or the top.  Acorn squash can also be variegated (multicolored).  Its shape resembles an acorn giving it its name.  Typically the acorn squash weighs one to two pounds and is 4 to 7 inches long.  Acorn squash is good and hardy to save throughout the winter, keeping several months in a cool dry place, such as a cold cellar.  


Indigenous to North and Central America, the acorn squash was introduced to early Europeans by Native Americans.


Acorn squash is not as rich in beta-carotene as the other winter squashes, but is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, as well as smaller amounts of vitamin C and B, magnesium, and manganese.  


Acorn squash is most commonly baked, but can be microwaved, sauteed or steamed.  It may be stuffed with rice, meat, or a vegetable mixture.  The seeds of the squash can be eaten usually after being toasted.  The skin is also edible.


Available year round, the peak season is September through March. 

Selecting and Storing:

Select squash that is solid and heavy with dark green skin and some orange.  Avoid  squash with soft spots.  Store acorn squash in a cool dark place (like your pantry).

So ..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but Good:

Roasted Parmesan Acorn Squash

cooking spray
1 acorn squash 
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. with a rack in the middle.  Coat a rimmed sheet pan with cooking spray.  
Trim ends of squash, and cut in half from stem to opposite end.  Scoop out seeds and pulp, and slice into 3/4 inch half moons.  Place half moons on the pan and drizzle with oil and rub to coat.   Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan.  Turn the squash over and repeat.  
Roast without turning until the squash is golden brown and tender (350to 40 minutes).

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Brussels Sprouts Revisited

Brussels Sprouts Revisited:


The Brussels sprout is a variety of cabbage grown for its edible buds.  The Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, Belgium and may have originated there.   Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables in the same family as collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi.  Brussels sprouts grow clustered on a thick stalk but are most often sold loose or packaged in pint size cartons. 


Production of Brussels sprouts in the U.S. began in the 18th century, when French settlers brought them to Louisiana.  Thomas Jefferson grew them at Monticello.  

My Story:

What I remember about Brussels Sprouts in the supermarkets is they most often were packaged in one pound cup covered with cellophane.  After a time the outer leaves of the Brussels Sprouts would  begin to turn black.  We would open up the package and trim off the butt end the the dark leaves and re-package them for sale usually at a lower price. 

Health Benefits:

Brussels sprouts contain good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fibre.   They provide special nutrient support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development  as well as cancer prevention.  These three systems are 1) the body's detox system, 2) its antioxidant system, and 3) its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system.   Chronic imbalances in any of these three systems can increase the risk for cancer.   Brussels sprouts intake is most associated with the prevention of these cancers: bladder cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer. 


Brussels sprouts can be boiled, steamed, stir fried, grilled, or roasted.   As with many other healthful vegetables boiling results in significant loss of anti-cancer compounds.  Care should be taken to not over cook Brussels sprouts.  Over cooking will turn buds gray and soft, and then develop a strong flavor and taste that some people dislike. 


Brussels sprouts are available most of the year.  California is the largest producer of Brussels sprouts  in the U.S.  and they are available October through March.  Brussels sprouts are also grown on Long Island and upper New York state.  These can mostly be found on the market in the fall.  

Selecting and Storing:

Select fresh green sprouts free of wilt, yellowing, or spots.  Buy them on the stalk if you can.   Cut Brussels sprouts will keep in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to ten days.


 To cook rinse and remove any wilted or yellow leaves.  Score the stem ends with a knife.  Put into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook just until tender (about 7-10 minutes).   You can steam, which is actually preferred, just until tender (about  10-15 minutes).  Be careful not to overcook. 

Here are some common toppings or additions for Brussels sprouts:  balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, bacon, pistachios, pine nuts, mustard, brown sugar, and pepper.

So............ Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but good:

Dressed Brussels Sprouts:

1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 medium cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
1/4 cup shelled pecans
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional:  1 tablespoon dijon mustard; 1 tablespoon minced parsley

In a steamer let steam build up and then add quartered Brussels sprouts.
Let steam for 5 minutes.  Transfer sprouts to a bowl and add other ingredients and toss.  Serve warm. 

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