Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Jumbo Artichoke with Fig Balsamic Dip, Black Beans with Corn (No Added Fat)

I couldn't believe that Weaver Street Market, a local coop, had so many great prices and items on sale a few days ago. They had, for example, jumbo artichokes for 99 cents apiece! I wonder how they could make money at this price!

Even more exciting, they had this hybrid melon called a melonade. Folks at the coop said that it tastes like lemonade and offered my daughter and me samples - wow, they're right!

I could only find two references to melonades online; one describes this as "sweet with bright notes of citrus, the Melonade Melon is a new variety melon. This crisp, juicy melon is one of the most refreshing we’ve ever tasted" and the other, apparently from May 2015, characterizes the melon as being of "Round shape, Tart-sweet, Tones of citrus". Surprisingly, its PLU code of 4325 searches in the International Federation of Produce Standards website as a "French Breakfast" melon.

Anyway, we're loving this melon and quickly finished 1 1/2 of them. I made "ice cream" out of the melon tonight for dessert! More on that soon, but first let me describe dinner.

It's been a while since I've served steamed artichoke hearts; I can find notes from 2012 and then, before that, 2009. I used to make a simple sauce out of melted Earth Balance margarine, either rosemary or oregano, salt, small bits of onion, and maybe garlic powder, plus lemon or lime juice. I did just that for my daughter so that her first experience with eating a freshly cooked whole artichoke would be more traditional, albeit with a bit of fat.

I had a bottle of no fat fig balsamic vinaigrette on hand. We rarely use salad dressings, but I wanted to try this for its flavor in a dish. Today was a good opportunity!

  • 3 jumbo artichoke hearts (raw)
  • Small piece of cut lime or lemon
  • 1 cup of water
  • Per serving (I had two - one for my wife and one for me):
    • Approximately 1/8 cup no fat balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (I used the fig one referenced above)
    • 5 leaves fresh oregano, finely minced (less than 1/4")
    • 1/2 t onion chopped into approx. 1/4" cubes
    • Pinch (or to taste) of salt
    • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
    • Pinch of garlic powder
  1. The cooking process was trivially simple - in the case of eating fresh artichokes, the eating process is what is complex! I started by rinsing the artichokes, being careful to direct water into the artichoke.
  2. I removed the stems, a handful of discolored and smaller outer leaves, and about 1/3 of the tops.
  3. I put 3/4 or 1 cup of water in my Instant Pot pressure cooker, put in my steamer trivet, and made sure that the water level was below that of the trivet.
  4. I put the artichokes atop the trivet and pressure cooked for 25m. I had considered pressure steaming, but food shouldn't touch the pot when pressure steaming; I was fortunate that all three artichokes fit, and was originally thinking that I'd need to use two of my three Instant Pots.
  5. While the artichokes were cooking, I mixed the dipping sauce.
  6. After the cooking was done, I waited a few minutes and gently released pressure, then served.
I also had made some black beans (soaked for about 5 hours initially with boiling water and then cooked with enough water to cover plus about 1/4" for 25m). After the beans were done, I transferred them to a pot and mixed in a little corn, bell pepper, onion, garlic, garlic powder, ground cumin, and salt, then heated gently till ready to serve.

For those who haven't eaten artichoke prepared from scratch, the initial goal is to dip the heart (deep) end of each leaf into the dip and enjoy, scraping off the little bit of white flesh in the mouth, then tossing the leaf onto a pile destined to be composted. Outer leaves often have little flesh and can just be composted.

When one gets near the heart, the sharp immature leaves need to be removed and, with the help of a spoon, the "hair" beneath also removed. What's left is the yummy heart, which is dipped and enjoyed. My wife actually took her time and found more than the deep ends of the leaves to be enjoyably edible.

I served "ice cream" for dessert, as I had mentioned. I froze some of the Melonade after cutting it into maybe 1 1/2" chunks. I put the chunks into my Vitamix blender, along with a little bit of Califa Farms brand creamer. Using the blender's "pusher", I pushed the fruit and creamer into the spinning blades on high; within seconds, I had "ice cream". (N.B.: This is an application where a standard blender would not work. Most blenders could not blend large chunks of frozen fruit, so this "ice cream" should only be made in this manner with a high-powered blender like the Vitamix or Blendtec.)


We all loved dinner! I was surprised by what my daughter said at bedtime. I always ask her to recap her day and describe her favorite activity - she had a lot of fun today but claimed that dinner was the hilight!!

Oh - the ice cream was divine! We all loved it, served with an organic strawberry atop. My daughter said that this is the best ice cream that I've ever made!

Ideas for the future

It's a fun and tasty process eating artichokes cooked from scratch. I should explore other no fat dips, such as perhaps miso-based. I might want to try a low fat dip, such as a nut-based "cheese" sauce.

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