Cardoon Moroccan Stew (Vegan!)

Cardoon Moroccan Stew.jpgCardoons, or Cardoni, are one of those things that you’ve probably passed by in someone’s garden or a city park, not realizing that a delectable treat was just at your fingertips (if you’re willing to brave the prickly leaves, peel away the fibrous strings, chop them, and boil them for thirty minutes before you even get close to eating them). But bare with me, because they’re worth the work.Cardoons.jpg

If you don’t believe me, trust the millions of Mediterraneans who have enjoyed this vegetable for thousands of years, Imagine a meaty, juicy stem that tastes like artichoke. See? I told you they’re worth it.Cardoon Moroccan Stewjpg

I first discovered cardoons two years ago while working on a small family farm in a remote village of Spain. The farmer’s mother, who lived down the road, marched over at least every other day in her black shawl and wool skirt at a pace that was shocking for her 80+ hard-lived years. I usually found her collecting eggs to take back home to make a tortilla de patata for her husband. But one day I spotted her cutting away giant stalks from a large prickly plant that I had assumed was some sort of annoying weed or a lazy artichoke plant that didn’t produce artichokes (they are, in fact, a type of thistle related to the artichoke). I walked over and asked her what it was. “Cardo, niña,” she said. And then she started to explain how she cooks it, all whilst hacking away at the plant and tossing the stalks in a pile on the earth with more energy than I had felt all morning at my easy task of collecting asparagus. “No te preocupes, yo te lo traigo. Ya veras.” Not surprisingly, she promised to bring me some later to try. Typical hospitable Spaniard.

Farm in Spain.jpeg

Dusk on the farm in Spain

Later that day she delivered on her promise and brought me my first pot of cardoons. Those giant, intimidating stalks with their prickles and fibers were transformed into tender morsels that had soaked up the flavor of the olive oil and garlic she sauteed them with. I reacted with such love and appreciation for her dish that she invited me over for lunch the following Sunday, where I got to enjoy more of her good cooking. When my time at the farm came to a close a few weeks later, I spent my last evening chatting with her in her kitchen.

Leaving the farm

Leaving the farm

Once I knew that cardoons existed, I started seeing them around town, in stores and in the ground. Berkeley Bowl has cardoons in Spring, and the workers in the produce department have lots of great tips on how to prepare them. It was chatting with one of them that gave me the idea to introduce more of of the Moroccan spices that so remind me of Spain, and to serve it on couscous, as I do in this recipe. But if you don’t want to bother with all that, you can try the cardoons “Esperanza style” with a drizzle of good Spanish olive oil and sauteed garlic. Either way, I think it’s impossible not to love them.Cardoon Moroccan Stew.jpg

Cardoon Moroccan Stew (Vegan!)

Caroon Moroccan Stew.jpg

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch cardoons
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 Tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 pound red potatoes cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 pound tomatoes, chopped
  • ⅔ cup assorted olives, pitted
  • ⅔ cup chopped cilantro
  • ⅔ cup chopped parsley

Fill a pot with cold water and squeeze the lemon juice into it. Bring to a boil while you prepare the cardoons. Cut the base off the bunch of cardoons and discard. Cut the tops containing any large leaves off each stalk and discard. Now working with each stalk one-by-one, use a paring knife to peel away the long edges of the stalk to remove any remaining small leaves or prickles. Then peel away the strings and thin silvery skin along the length of the stalk (similar to de-stringing celery) using a paring knife, or scrape them off using a sharp flat-edged knife on its side. Once the entire stalk has been cleaned, chop it into 2-inch pieces and place them in the pot of lemon water so they don’t discolor. Boil for thirty minutes and drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or flat-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onion and saute for 5-10 minutes until the onion is softened and begins to caramelize. Meanwhile, pound the saffron, ginger, turmeric, garlic, and brown sugar in a mortar and pestle until it forms a paste. Add to the onions and saute for an additional 2 minutes to release the flavors. Add the drained cardoon pieces, water, wine, salt and pepper, potatoes, tomatoes and olives and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes and cardoons are tender.

Serve garnished with cilantro and parsley over a bed of couscous.

Buddha’s Hand Scones and Marmalade

My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgJanuary is a great time for citrus, but the My Berkeley Bowl challenge means you won’t find any navel oranges on this blog. Nope, this blog necessitates something extraordinary. And I assure you, you won’t find a citrus fruit more extraordinary than Buddha’s Hand.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgIt’s not hard to guess how this fruit got its name. The long, delicate “fingers” evoke images of a young buddha with his hands in prayer like a blooming lotus. While this is the common interpretation, I think it looks like a radioactive squid, but “squid citrus” doesn’t sound quite as poetic.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgIn addition to it’s weirdly animate shape, Buddha’s Hand has another unique feature: an intoxicating floral aroma. It really doesn’t have any juice or flesh inside —  all its value is in its aromatic rind. For this reason, Buddha’s Hand is commonly displayed in homes and temples in Japan and China as a natural air freshener, and because it symbolizes happiness and good fortune. It reminds me of the perfumy scent of azahar (orange-blossom water), which the spanish love to add to baked treats like muffins, breads, and french toast. I guess that’s what got my wheels turning and taste-buds buzzing for this recipe: Buddha’s Hand Scones.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgNow, I don’t want to get roped into a philosophical debate about scones. There are already plenty of people engaging in passionate arguments about all aspects of scones, including how to pronounce it, if they should be round or triangular, if they should use butter or not, and even if the cream or the jam should be put on first (FYI, 57% say jam first). If you are one of those people and have your stronger-than-oak opinion about how a scone should be, I encourage you to just add the Buddha’s Hand to your recipe so that you’re sure to have the type of scone you like — buttery or dry, fluffy or dense, flaky or crumbly. My recipe is for a slightly crispy scone that is moist on the inside. (I don’t even know where my basic scone recipe came from, as figuring that out would be like figuring out where my chocolate chip cookie recipe came from.)My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgBecause one Buddha’s Hand has so much rind, it was really more than I needed for scones. I decided to use the rest of it to make some marmalade, which went quite nicely with the scones. Marmalade is not for everyone, as it does have that slightly bitter “kick.” But I find marmalade to be the perfect way to dress up things like scones, cheese, or other treats that you don’t want to overpower with sweetness.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scones.jpgOn this atypically rainy afternoon, I pretended like I was in the Cotswolds with my scone, jam, and hot tea. The Buddha’s Hand bits give the scone a hint of floral citrus without being overly sweet (if you do like sweet scones, I imagine you could candy the citrus bits first, but then it wouldn’t be a throw-it-together recipe like this one). Scones aren’t exactly a health food, so I made sure I enjoyed every last crumb to the sound of the rain pattering on my skylight.My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scone.jpg

Buddha's Hand Scones

  • Servings: 10
  • Time: 25 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Scone.jpg

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, frozen
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons cold buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped Buddha’s Hand
  • 1 Tablespoon demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl. Grate the frozen butter into the dry ingredients using the large holes of a cheese grater and lightly work the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry cutter until it resembles a coarse meal.

Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and the chopped Buddha’s Hand to the flour mixture and stir until it is just moistened and can be formed into a ball. Place the dough ball on a lightly floured surface and form it into an 8″ circle using your hands. Use a sharp knife dipped in flour to cut the circle into 10 wedges.

Place the wedges at least 1″ apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each wedge with the remaining buttermilk and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the scones are golden. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.

Buddha's Hand Marmalade

  • Servings: Two 8-oz jars
  • Time: 1 hour 30 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Marmalade.jpg

  • 1 Buddha’s Hand, finely chopped
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • Juice from 1 lemon

My Berkeley Bowl_Buddha's Hand Marmalade.jpg*For instructions on how to sterilize jars and preserve your marmalade for shelf-stable storage, see this recipe by Alton Brown. Otherwise, marmalade will keep covered in the fridge for about a month.

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer on low for about 1 hour or until the volume has been reduced by half. Then increase heat and bring to a bubbling boil until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 220 degrees fahrenheit. Pour into jars and let cool before serving.

 

Roasted Leeks with Blood Oranges

MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpegThis week’s recipe is one that I developed for an article I wrote for Bay Area News Group, just released this morning. Given the Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg“mainstreamedness” of the readership, I had to keep things a bit more tame to be accessible to a wider audience, while still giving the recipes an “exotic” spin to stay true to the My Berkeley Bowl theme. This recipe must be my favorite of the four new ones I developed for the article, because I’ve made it five times in the past month.

While neither leeks nor blood oranges are blow-you-out-of-the-water exotic, I figure that since blood oranges are not readily available at most “normal” grocery stores, they fall on the exotic side of the line. And leeks — well, most people that have used leeks have only sliced them up as a muted ingredient playing a minor role in the background of soups or casseroles, like an extra in a movie. So in that sense, I think this recipe is super exotic because leeks are the star of the show for once.MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 I remember the first time I took a bite of protagonistic leeks like a girl remembers her first kiss. It was a cold, rainy day of February in Northern Spain and my mom, husband and I were on a road trip. We ordered a roasted leek salad in a nondescript bar filled with old spanish men sipping beer and escaping the rain. (Spoiler alert: when you order whatever dish is carelessly scrawled across the chalkboard hanging over a dingy locals’ bar on a quiet street in a Spanish town, Spain always delivers.) This salad came out topped with caramelized leeks as thick as rolling pins, and when I bit into them, I was blown away by how velvety, delicate, and exquisitely flavorful they were when prepared that way. My mom immediately shouted “otra!” to the waiter, knowing that we’d need at least one more salad if she actually wanted to get any (she couldn’t out-fork Mike and I when it was that good).MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 That salad we had in Northern Spain was the inspiration for this dish, in which I braise leeks with wine and thyme until they are just as velvety and rich as the ones I had that rainy day in February. The sections of blood oranges add the brightness and color that make this dish all the more memorable. It makes a beautiful and unique side dish for a dinner party, or if you love leeks as much as I do, you can enjoy it on its own as a light dinner like Mike and I have been doing.MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 As a side note, I discovered in my research that blood oranges are actually a result of a natural mutation! How splendidly wonderful is nature?!? Apparently, the Italian dude that first peeled one of his oranges thinking it was just a regular old orange-colored orange was so shocked to see the deep red color that he shouted “tarocco!” meaning “fake” or “phoney” in Italian, and is now the name of one of the three main varieties of blood oranges (along with Moro and Sanguinella). How rare is it now in day to find that something so beautiful and unique is made that way naturally, not by some gimmick or trick? MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpegFortunately, this whole dish is free of gimmicks — just 100% natural, delicious, beautiful goodness. I hope you enjoy this first recipe of 2016.

Roasted Leeks with Blood Oranges

  • Servings: 4 as starter or side dish
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg

  • 6 leeks, roots and dark green tops removed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 blood oranges

Dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
  • Black pepper and a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the tougher, outermost layers of the leeks and discard. Slice them in half lengthwise and run under cold water to remove all the grit, ensuring to rinse between the layers. Place the leeks in a single layer in a 9×13″ roasting pan, cut side down. Drizzle with the olive oil, wine, and vegetable stock (the liquid should come about halfway up the leeks), and snip the thyme sprigs over the top. Roast for 35-45 minutes, flipping the leeks over halfway through, until they are tender and lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Arrange the leeks on a serving platter. Cut the rind off the blood oranges, slice into sections, and arrange over the top of the leeks. Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a small jar and shake to combine. Drizzle over the top of the leeks and oranges. Serve room temperature.

Carnival Cake (Vegan!)

IMG_20151115_223114As I already explained in Part I of Squash Week, this is a big freakin’ deal in our household. It’s like when the fair comes to town, except that instead of feeling all gross inside after gorging on funnel cake and corn dogs, we feel all warm and gooey inside after gorging on one of the world’s healthiest foods.

IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeFor Part II of Squash Week, and in honor of the fair, I chose this fun, bespeckled squash with the apt name: Carnival Squash. I realize that it’s kind of a cop-out to pretend that I created a recipe for an exotic produce item like Carnival Cake when, really, you could substitute any winter squash. But…well actually, I don’t have a but. I just have some delicious cake in front of me. So there.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeDid I mention this cake is vegan? And whole wheat? I have served this at many gatherings to unknowing carnivores and lacto-ovo vegetarians, and always leave with a tube pan full of crumbs.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeI’ll keep this cozy and sweet, since that’s how this cake tastes. If you’d like more background on winter squash or on Squash Week, see the previous post.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcake

Carnival Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 30 minutes active time, 100 minutes bake time
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print
IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups Carnival Squash puree* (or substitute any winter squash puree)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
  • Toppings: 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds and 2 Tablespoons demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a bowl. In a separate, large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (except for the toppings) and whisk until smooth. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and top with the pumpkin seeds and demerara sugar. Bake for 60 minutes. Allow to cool before removing the outer part of the tube cake pan and serving.

* To make the Carnival squash puree: slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, place cut-side down in a baking dish and add about 1/2 inch of water. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30-50 minutes or until the squash is very soft when you pierce it with a fork. Scoop out the cooked squash with a spoon and mash with a fork or blend in a food processor until you have a smooth puree.

Poached Quince and Beets, a.k.a. Quincy Jones Salad

wpid-2015-11-08_14.58.07.jpg

There’s a satisfying logic to why I named this salad after the legendary music producer, Quincy Jones. (Well, it’s satisfying if you love puns and music trivia as much as my family does.) Here’s the logic:

  1.  The exotic fruit I feature in this recipe is quince, Mr. Jones’ fruit namesake. I’ll talk more about quince in a minute.
  2. Like quince, beets also remind me of Quincy Jones. For those who love their music trivia, you know that he produced Michael Jackson’s Beat It (along with Thriller and so many other hit songs). Who doesn’t love a beet/beat pun?
  3. In an interview about Beat It, Quincy Jones said that to make a hit “…you have to go for the throat in four, five or six different areas.” This salad follows his recipe for success by going for the throat with five distinct flavors: quince, beets, fennel, mustard, and clove.
  4. Quincy Jones is a complete badass and deserves to have a salad named after him. If I were to list all the credentials and accomplishments that mark one of the most prolific musical careers of all time, I’d take up at least 45 minutes of your time. I would know, because my mom once spent an entire car ride from Sonoma to San Francisco reading all of Quincy Jones’ accomplishments off her iphone to my sister and me (she often gets wrapped up in her enthusiasm to learn about a new subject and falls into the rabbit hole of wikipedia). We eventually had to stop her because we’d reached our saturation point, and now “Quincy Jones” has become the code word we use to clue in my mom that she has been going on too long about a subject. E.g. “Wow mom, all that stuff about banana slugs is really interesting. I bet Quincy Jones loves banana slugs…”  (By the way, banana slugs actually ARE insanely interesting, especially what they do with that hole on the side of their head. You should wikipedia them.)

wpid-2015-11-08_15.00.02.jpgNow that I’ve explained the meaning behind the Quincy Jones Salad, let’s move on to why you’re really here: quince.wpid-img_20151108_145337.jpgQuince is a fruit that looks like a pear or yellow apple, but is sour and as hard as a rock (have I sold you on it yet?). But with some poaching, stewing, or roasting, quince transforms under heat to a soft, peach-colored, sweet fruit that has a wonderful floral aroma. Quince has a very high pectin content so it has long been used to make jams and conserves, such as the Spanish delicacy, membrillo, which is quince cooked down to a jelly-like paste and traditionally served with Manchego cheese (here it is on the menu of a Spanish restaurant right down the street, Venga Paella).wpid-img_20151108_145007.jpg

In this recipe I lightly poach the quince with some clove and star anise until it has a tender yet firm texture similar to cooked apples. The end result goes really well with crisp fennel and earthy roasted beets, and the mustard vinaigrette brightens it all up a bit. To stay true to my Spanish roots, I crumbled some aged Manchego over the top of my salad, but you can leave it off if you’d prefer.wpid-img_20151108_145427.jpg

I’ll give it a rest before you all start commenting, “I wonder if Quincy Jones likes quince…”

Quincy Jones Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 35 minutes plus 1 hour roasting time
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print
wpid-2015-11-08_15.00.39.jpg

  • 2 large beets or 4 smaller beets, washed but with skins still on
  • 2 quince (substitution: you can try green apples or Bosc pears, but poach for half the time)
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 2-3 strips lemon or orange zest
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 fennel bulb, halved and sliced thinly
  • 4 Tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 oz aged manchego, crumbled with your fingers

Wrap each beet in foil and roast in the oven on a roasting pan for 45-60 minutes at 375 degrees F, or until the beets are tender. Once cool, rub the peel off (they should be easy to remove) and slice into wedges.

Meanwhile, peel the quince, cut them in half and remove the core/seeds. Slice each half into 8 slices and put them into a saucepan with the clove, peppercorns, anise, lemon zest, water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and let simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the quince slices are tender yet hold their shape, like cooked apples.

Make the vinaigrette by whisking the olive oil with the mustard, lemon juice, balsamic, salt and pepper. When ready to assemble the salad, layer the beets, quince and sliced fennel in a bowl and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with crumbled manchego cheese or serve as is.

 

Kicking it off with the Black Spanish Radish

wpid-img_20150317_122628331_hdr.jpgMaybe it’s the fact that I just returned from a year-long sabbatical in Spain, or the fact that I love radishes in winter, but after deciding to do my Berkeley Bowl Challenge my legs walked me straight over to the Black Spanish Radish. This little black bugger has been staring me down for years. At first I thought it was a type of truffle. Then I thought it was a beet.  Nope, it’s just a really, really, realllllly black radish.

After years of thinking about this dark and mysterious member of the brassica family, I have finally brought him home with me for my first recipe featuring an exotic veggie.  I took a small nibble to see what I was dealing with. My wheels started to turn, trying to think up a recipe that would incorporate something so peppery and, well, black.  This calls for tangy and sweet, don’t you think?  I decided that pickled kumquats are exactly what my Spanish radish needs.

As I let my kumquats pickle, I read up on the Spanish Black Radish to feed my dietitian brain. According to some studies and sites I perused, it’s quite a nutritional powerhouse; full of vitamins and minerals and with some unique perks for the thyroid and liver.

With my kumquats perfectly pickled, all that was left to do was slice up the radish on my mandolin, whisk together a dressing, and bejewel a bed of arugula with the goodies. The result was delicious, both visually and taste-budly.  I hope you enjoy it as a quick lunch or light dinner as much as I did.

wpid-img_20150317_124529834_hdr.jpg

Black Radish Salad with Pickled Kumquats (5 minutes)

  • 2 Tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • Juice and zest from 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 bag-full of arugula
  • 1/4c pickled kumquat slices (recipe below)
  • 2 black spanish radishes, sliced thinly (a mandolin works best)
  • 1/4 cup roasted pistachio nuts
  • 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese

To make the dressing, put the first seven ingredients into a jar with a lid.  Shake the contents of the jar until the ingredients are combined and then taste to adjust the seasoning.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and sprinkle the remaining ingredients on top.  When ready to serve, drizzle the dressing on top and toss the salad lightly to coat.

Pickled kumquats (5 minutes)

  • 1 cup kumquatswpid-img_20150316_151625842_hdr.jpg
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 3 cardamom pods

wpid-img_20150316_152059638.jpg

Trim the ends off each kumquat and slice each into about 3-4 discs.  Combine them with all the remaining ingredients in a small pan over medium heat.  Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat and pour the contents into a jar to cool and to use on the salad later.