Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's peak artichoke season!

How lucky I am to live just 50 miles away from the artichoke capital of Castroville, CA. It means a steady supply of fresh artichokes is never far away. It was fun to introduce steamed artichokes to my visitors from northern Finland (where there is still snow on the ground) because they had never eaten fresh artichokes before.

They enjoyed learning how to eat it where you peel off each leaf and dip the meaty part in the herb-garlic-butter-olive oil dip that I made. Then removing the hairy part above the heart warning them that it might get stuck in their throats. My husband informed them that it was worth carefully removing the "hairs" because the "prize" was underneath... the coveted heart of the artichoke. He then demonstrated how cutting it in quarters and then soaking it for a few seconds in the dip was the best way to eat it.

Dip - butter & olive oil with fresh herbs
The herbs were cut fresh from my garden just minutes before preparing it. I grabbed some thyme, sage, marjoram, oregano, burnett and a little bit of rosemary (not too much because it can easily overpower the other herbs). I let my friend finely chop the herbs so she can enjoy the pleasure of smelling the freshly cut herbs, while I chopped a clove of garlic.

I cooked the herbs and garlic in the butter, added salt and removed some of the butter foam. I let it cool a bit before stirring in some extra virgin olive oil so as not to cook away the nice flavor of the EVOO.

I know what you're thinking... not everyone has a garden full of fresh herbs. But you can easily use dried herbs or even just 1 or 2 different fresh herbs from your garden, your neighbor's garden or from your local supermarket. Many perennial herbs are super easy to grow and come back every year (or evergreen in California) so if you have access to any dirt, consider growing some herbs.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Alice Waters honored by the French Legion d'Honneur

The article in this week's food section of my local newspaper focused on how Alice Waters continues to have high standards for her Chez Panisse restaurant - I really admire her standard of excellence.

There are so many approaches to and philosophies about food and cooking. Watch the Food Network and you'll see a wide variety of programs targeted to many different audiences. For me food is about many things, but mainly about nourishment and flavor - the best quality ingredients I can find, easy to prepare, tastes good and healthy for me, my family and the planet.

It's why Alice Waters is my food idol - she has influenced my approach to food more than any other food celebrity or chef out there. It's sometimes hard for me to succinctly articulate exactly why her approach agrees with me. There are many reasons and one of them is a point she makes in the article and she says it best herself...

"It's a moral issue for me," she said. "Everyone on this planet deserves to eat food that's really nourishing and produced in a way that is fair to the people who produce it. We have to get over the idea that food should be cheap. The people who take care of our farms are treasures. And in terms of the damage to our health, our culture and our planet, that extra cost is nothing."

I understand that low income families can't justify buying broccoli for the same price as 4 fast food hamburgers, but there is something wrong with our food system that it has come to this. That's another argument for another day (put the Food Inc. movie in your Netflix queue).

In the process of cultivating food (that nature helps to create) in manner of high integrity, we get food that tastes good, is healthy for us and healthy for our bodies. I'm grateful that she has passionately dedicated her life to changing the way America eats, she an many others who are dedicated to the same cause.

Congratulations to Alice Waters for being awarded the coveted French honor last week.