The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

8:43 PM

Food Tip~Taming the Artichoke

Posted by Magic of Spice

Taming the Artichoke

In the previous post where we roasted artichokes, I was asked by a few readers
 both in comments as well as by email, how to work with artichokes. It seems
as though these little guys are just a tad on the intimidating side. But don't
 let them fool you, they are quite easily tamed! 

Now I must tell you upfront that our artichoke models here are both young
long stem artichokes. But as they are what I had on hand, and they are
far from camera shy...they agreed to indulge :)

Both the type of artichoke as well as the age, will help in determining what you
want, or need to do prior to serving artichokes. As I stated before, my roasted
artichokes were prepared with very young long stem artichokes, and these
typically will not need either trimming  of the leaves or "bracts" nor
 removal of the "choke" ( un-bloomed flower portion). So let's explore
 a few types of artichoke that you are most likely to encounter. 

The Globe Artichoke, this is perhaps the most commonly found variety, and is
generally the larger of the bunch. With this variety the stem is usually removed
and inedible. And depending on the maturity will have edible portions 
including, the lower portion of the leaves and the heart. You can identify
this variety by the larger "globe" like shape, that may or may not have 
thorny leaves depending on maturity.

The Baby Artichoke: this is not actually a baby in the sense that most
other vegetables referenced that way. The artichokes are fully matured
but grow at the lower level on the plant, so they remain small. They are
however generally more tender as the other mature artichokes, and
especially when roasted can be nearly completely edible including
the"choke" area above the heart .

The Long Stem Artichoke: this variety is unique in the fact that
the stem is also an edible part of the artichoke. Although the outer layer of
 the stem is tough and should be peeled, or id you are planning to quarter the
 artichoke, it can be eaten in much the same way as the meat portion
 from the leaves. And as it is an extension of the "heart portion" it also has
 that wondrous nutty flavor. This is another, like the baby artichoke that 
when young will not have thorny leaves and the "choke" portion will
usually be tender enough to eat after being cooked. 

There are a few other heirloom or hybrid varieties around, but
the preparations will be pretty much the same and more
based on cooking method and maturity.

The Trimming:

Once your artichoke has been cleaned under cool running water and leaves or bracts
are free of debris. Trim off the top portion of your artichoke about  1/2 inch or so,
this will enable easier handling as well as more even cooking depending on the 
method of cooking chosen. As an example, when being prepared whole. If
you are planning to halve or quarter your artichokes this step can be optional 
when working with younger or baby artichokes.

Now onto the trimming of the leaves or bracts...this step is primarily done for
 presentation purposes, but if you are working with more mature artichokes and 
the thorns are on the tough side, this may be a step you will want to make sure to do.
 Generally though the thorns soften during the cooking process.

It is also easy enough to accomplish with a pair of kitchen shears by
just snipping off the upper 1/3rd portion or so of each leaf. You 
should also remove the randomly scattered lower leaves as they
tend to have little or no meaty potions. 

Once the trimming is complete we can now remove the "choke" portion, 
again depending on the type or maturity of the artichoke you are working with.
It is easy enough to tell if the "choke" should be removed as it will
have numerous hair like fibers just above the "heart" portion. 

You may also remember the floral or flowering artichoke from the previous post.
The artichoke itself is a "bud" with thick arch shaped leaves, also known as bracts. 
These leaves have a meaty lower portion that is edible, along with everyone's
 favorite the "heart". The inner most portion of the artichoke located above
 the heart are the florets, or un-bloomed flower. This portion is what
 we call the "choke" or sometimes refereed to as the beard.

This portion of the artichoke is not edible in your more mature artichokes.
If you have baby or younger chokes these fibrous like hairs will be few
or non present. If you are unsure, this step can be done after you
have cooked your artichokes, especially is boiled or steamed. 

Will will go over removing this portion below when we discus the heart
portion of the artichoke and how to "get to that". 

Getting to the Heart:

If you are just wanting to use the "Heart" of the artichoke, then there are a few
simple steps to follow. But first you should determine your needs and depending
on the age and type of artichoke, what sections will you want to maintain. Not
to mention the proposed cooking method. These will all have a factor in
how you proceed, but the basics are quite simple. 

You will want to trim your stem back just about 1/4th of an inch is you have a
 long stemmed artichoke. Then simply begin removing the outer leaves of your
 artichoke.I find this easily accomplished just by pulling them away from
the body until they snap off.

Continuing to remove the outer leaves until you start to see pale leaves that
are yellowish in color with some purple depending on the artichoke. As
you continue to remove leaves you will notice that they become thinner 
and more tender as you proceed. 

Now you can take a sharp knife and trim around the bottom sides of the 
heart portion, removing any leaf stubs that remain until you have a 
smooth whitish section. 

Now decide exactly what you want to do with the varied edible portions
of your artichoke. Even if you are planning something that uses only the heart
 portion, or the heart and the most tender inner leaves. Keep in mind
that the other portions make great snacks :)

They type of dish or preparation can help you decide just what portions you
want to use and for just what you will want to be using them for. 

Here are just a few common cooking methods for artichokes, and my take on
ways you may consider using up the edible beauties...

Steaming: great for whole, halved or quartered artichokes with the upper most top
portion removed. For more mature artichokes, the "choke" potion can be removed
 prior to steaming or after, if needed. Then served with a dipping sauce. 

Boiled: another great one for whole artichokes, in fact my preferred method for
 more mature artichokes, with the "choke" portion removed after cooling. 
Then again served with a nice dip or sauce.

Roasted: this is my favorite for younger artichokes or baby artichokes,
typically halved or quartered with the entire artichoke being utilized. In
fact with some of the smallest baby artichokes the majority if not
all of the leaves are tender enough to eat whole. Serve seasoned
or with a dipping sauce if desired.

Grilled: this is a method I just love, and done much in the same way as
 roasted. And like roasted, these could be done whole, but I prefer
to halve or quarter them. 

Note: remember the "trimming" portion is optional in all methods of preparation. It
 makes for a nice clean presentation, but not a requirement unless you feel that your
 artichokes thorns are very sharp...and in that case I would probably return the 
artichoke as it may be a bit past it's desirable maturity mark :)

Here are a couple of previous posts to get you started if you have yet to
dive into the lovely world of The Artichoke!

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Tequila Lime Roasted Garlic 
and Chipotle Roasted Artichokes

Yesterday was National Garlic Day, and as you can see here...I am a day late.
Better late than never, I hope :) To make it up to you I offer a Tequila Lime
version of the always amazing Roasted Garlic! And since I am trying to maintain
favor, I thought perhaps I should go a bit further and offer some Chipotle
 Roasted Artichokes as well. Sort of a 2 for the price of 1 special!

Speaking of garlic, have you ever seen or prepared Fresh Garlic,
also known as Spring Garlic? If not, look forward to some fun
with these beauties in the near future...

When working with artichokes, the center portion is very beautiful, but
alas, inedible. Inedible not in the sense of poisonous or harmful, but more that
 they are a bit brissaly. It is actually the un-bloomed flower bud. As the artichokes
 are harvested for consumption more often than not, these blooms are
something we do not always get a chance to admire.

But while perusing one of my local farmers' markets...look what I found
 for you! Nature is the most amazing thing, is it not? It sort of looks more like a
 sea creature...but it is actually the way the afternoon is hitting the bloom.
To the naked eye these blooms are more of a brilliant purple. 

Now these beauties are Globe or French Artichokes...I think perhaps they
warrant a post dedicated to them, so we will peruse these loveys again soon.

Spicing up these two lovelies adds a bit of variance, but of course not limited to.
How ever you want to add some love to these roasted beauties is all good!

Here I was in the mood for some spice-up, and my consideration was leaning
toward putting these together. So some Tequila Lime and chipotle goodness
was a match made in heaven as far as I was concerned.

For the garlic, we have a Key Lime seasoning, blended with a bit of
tequila...and some wonderful smoked peppercorns.

Then for the artichokes, we are going sweet spicy with some ground
chipotle chili, course ground sea salt and rock sugar...  

These made for some delightful crostini, with our roasted garlic and the
 tender leaf  portion of our artichokes. I chose a seeded baguette kind of snack! 

What you will need:
For the roasted garlic
1 elephant garlic head, or 3 small heads
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tequila
1 1/2 teaspoons key lime seasoning
1/2 teaspoon smoked peppercorns
Garlic roaster or foil

For the roasted artichokes
1 globe artichoke
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili, ground
1/4 teaspoon course sea salt, ground
1/4 teaspoon rock sugar, ground

For crostini
6 ounce baguette, wheel sliced
A scoop of roasted tequila lime garlic
A few tender leaves of your asparagus

Let's get cooking:
For the roasted garlic
Start by adding your spices to your olive oil in a small bowl and
allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature.

In the mean time, remove the outer paper thin layers on your garlic bulb.
Then cut off the top, about 1/4th inch deep, or until you have cut into the bulb.

Now pierce the individual garlic cloves with a small sharp knife. Then place
onto the bottom portion of your garlic roaster or into a foil packet. Now
drizzle on you spiced tequila oil mixture.

Place in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees, for about 1 hour. Depending on
if you are using one large elephant bulb or smaller bulbs. Check after 45-50
minutes. Bulbs should be very tender and spreadable.

For the artichokes
Mix together seasonings with olive oil and set aside for 15 minutes.
Trim the top of your artichoke about 1/4 inch off the top.

If you have long stems or pre-trimed, slice from stem down
the center of the artichoke until slit in half, then quarter.

Baste with you seasoning/oil mixture. Then place on a foil covered
banking sheet or pan. Placing artichoke quarters a bit close
together, Then roast for in a 375 degrees oven for about
40 minutes, depending on size. Roast until tender.

For the crostini
Take your 6 ounce baguette, slice into small wheels, then brush
with olive oil. Toasts for a few minutes until desired consistency.
Top with a nice helping of roasted garlic and tender
 leaves of asparagus.

There is a garlic day event going on over at Girlichef, and there should be
 some serious garlic love going on soon :)

Update: here is a new tutorial on working with artichokes...
Food Tip~Taming the Artichoke

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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White Stilton and Cranberry Breakfast
 Grilled Cheese with Fig Marmalade

Who says grilled cheese sandwiches are just for lunch? 
This is a quick and sweet way to start your day with an always
 classic pairing of fruit and cheese.

And since we did a "Grilled Cheese Series" last summer,
I will link those varieties below as well :)

What you will need:
8 slices of your favorite bread, sliced
8 ounces white Stilton with cranberries, sliced
4 ripe figs, optional
4 tablespoons fig marmalade
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1 tablespoon cardamom, ground
Griddle or frying pan

Let's get cooking:
In a small bowl mix sugar and cardamom together.
Butter one side of 4 slices of bread.
Spread jam on one side of the remaining bread slices.
Have all other ingredients ready, then heat griddle or heavy
 bottom pan on medium until hot.
 Place buttered side down slices of bread, layer on cheese and fig slices.
Place remaining slices of bread on top, jam side down.
Brush top sliced with butter and sprinkle with sugar mixture.
Cook until cheese has melted and bread is golden brown,
 or to desired doneness.

Serve open faced or closed
Serves 4

For more grilled cheese ideas try these~

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Red Quinoa and Jade Pearl Rice
 with Sage Brown Butter

We hope that all who celebrate had a lovely Easter...
And that everyone got to enjoy a long weekend!

We are in full bloom over here at TAE, both in the garden
as well as with some of out farmers' market finds. There is nothing
that says spring quite like a blooming bud, and we have just a
couple that we are working with here today.

The first beauty is the Spring Onion Chive in full bloom...
how pretty are these! And the second is from our garden,
the gorgeous flowering answer to spring, in the form of Sage.

As for our Market finds these delightful little legumes are fresh chickpeas,
or garbanzo beans. They make a perfect snack to just munch on and
have a bright nutty spring green flavor. We added them raw to our
quinoa dish for an added spring touch.

For our salt and pepper seasoning, we are going with a Fennel Salt
and a favorite pepper of mine the Tellicherry. They are both
fantastic additions to top off any dish, and add a bit of earthy
warmness to give a bit of a royal touch. However any of your
 favorites or what you have on hand will do nicely.

I enjoy using gourmet or finishing salts in the majority of my
recipes. I use less or no salt during preparation, then add
the salty goodness in desired amounts at the finale. But
we will explore this more in future posts.

We have also jazzed up our flavor profile just a bit, with the addition
of Sage Brown Butter...OK, so what does brown butter not make better?
The warming and earthy nutty notes of brown butter, paired with the
warming earthy notes of crispy sage...Oh Yea!

And if that is not enough to give you a warm and well loved spring tummy...
how about we prepare our rice in a lovely tea concoction of cardamon and
pepper corns, with a bit of laurel and cloves? Not enough...OK, so maybe
some pan roasted walnuts with Pimenta dioica berries (allspice)?
 Love me now?

What you will need:
For the quiona and jade peal rice
1 cup raw organic red quinoa
1 cup raw jade pearl bamboo rice
1 tablespoon cardamon pepper tea
(steeped in 1 cup boiling water)

For the sage browned butter
6 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, softened
10 large fresh sage leaves

For the toasted walnuts
1 cup shelled walnuts, crushed
1 teaspoon Pimenta dioica berries, ground

For the garnishes 
1 small bunch of spring onion chives
1 1/2 cups un-shelled fresh chickpeas
1 teaspoon fennel salt
1 1/2 teaspoons tellecherry pepper, ground

Let's get cooking:
For the quiona and jade peal rice
Begin by preparing your rice, 1 cup rice to 1 cup cardamon tea
and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to low
and simmer for 20 minutes, fluff with a fork and set aside.

Now for the quinoa, add 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water, and
bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10-15
 minutes or until liquid has absorbed, fluff with a fork. Place in
a large mixing bowl.

For the sage browned butter
Place softened butter in a sauté pan over medium heat, once butter
has melted, add torn sage leaves. Continue to sauté until butter
begins to brown having a nutty toasted aroma, and sage
is dark and crispy. About 4-5 minutes.

For the toasted walnuts
Place crushed walnuts in a hot pan over high heat, toss a bit
for about 1 minute. Then add your allspice and continue to move
around in the pan until well toasted and fragrant. About 2-3 minutes.

For the garnishes 
Place rice along with quinoa into your large mixing bowl. Toss a few
times to incorporate. Shell your fresh chickpeas and slice in half, toss
in with your quinoa and rice. Add sage brown butter and toss again.
Now add toasted walnuts and chopped spring onions. Garnish
further with spring onion and sage blossoms.
Serves 4-6 as a side dish

For more quinoa try out these dishes:
Quinoa and Black Bean Salad~That Skinny Chick can bake
Zucchini Quinoa Aalad with Microgreens~Gourmande in the kitchen
 Quinoa Tabbouleh with Endive~She's Cookin'

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Food Photography "A Perspective"~ 
Food Styling with Nancy Lopez-McHugh

Above photo property of

Perspective~ The classical definition is to Look Through or Look At. Or we
 could say The way one Perceives an Object or maybe the Visual Scope of
 something. The Artistic definition is defined a bit differently~

In Art the "Perspective" generally means a technique to capture the visual
aspects and draw attention to what we want to show, or a visual of what
we are trying to say. Typically with most mediums in art this begins on a
dimensional level. But we will get more into this a bit later.

For now, we are going to see just how we can arrange our subject(s) to
get across the feeling and/or message we are trying to portray.

My wonderful and amazingly talented friend Nancy has graciously offered
to show us some tips on how to get a wonderful subject to end
up being an extraordinary subject.

Nancy is the author of Spicie Foodie, as well as the cookbook
author of An Epiphany of the Senses. So please join me in welcoming
her once again to share her talents with us here...

Hi everyone, I'm Nancy. Before we begin I'd like to thank my lovely friend Alisha for inviting to participate in her new photography series. I hope you enjoy this tutorial and, if I do my job well, that you pick up a few new tips to improve your food photography.

Those of you familiar with my photography know that I use props minimally. I do not have a dedicated studio space nor storage area needed for excess amounts of props. Everything you see on Spicie Foodie is real food that I eat moments after the shot. I don't use oil to make foods shiny, no mashed potatoes disguised as ice cream, my salads and pastas are not "fluffed up" with styrofoam. The styling on my photos is all natural and I try to keep it simple.

Food styling is an integral part of being a food photographer. It doesn't matter if you are a pro or someone just looking to improve your blog's photography, styling is something you need to know. I promise it's much easier than you think and you don't need to have loads of props or equipment.

Learning a few styling basics can transform your photos from boring snapshots to interesting photographs that make the viewer want to reach in and grab a bite. There are literally hundreds of ways you can style food. Much has to do with personal tastes and individual perspectives. Some may focus heavily on props, others like myself, less so. There is no right or wrong way only your way and your style.

These photos were all shot using indirect window light and a small reflector to tone done the harsh shadows. The camera was propped up on a tripod, if your light source is minimal I suggest you also use a tripod. Let's begin with some biscuits on a table with no additional props and see how we can make them interesting.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

This is a bad photo. The problem is that I am zoomed in too close to the subject, so you can't really tell what it is. It is uninteresting and too busy with the viewers eye not really knowing what to focus on.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

In these two photos you can see that by rearranging the biscuits now the viewer has something more interesting to look at. Though much better than the first photo, both can be improved.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

When I'm photographing several items I've found that stacking can be quite interesting. Compare this to the photos above, better right? Did you notice how your eye follows the curvy path? Rather than perfectly aligning the biscuits and instead arranging them in this off pattern it made the image more interesting. Little details like this can mean so much, pay attention to them. The photo isn't bad but let's play with the styling a little more.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

Here you can see that adding an additional biscuit and moving it around gives the image a little extra something. Don't be afraid to shoot many photos, in fact shoot many photos. Keep playing with the arrangement until you find one that is interesting to you.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

Don't be afraid of showing a messy space. Sometimes a little mess can accentuate the feeling of wanting to grab a bite of the food. Think to yourself, what would this food look like if I was actually eating it right now? Eating biscuits is messy show those crumbs and bits and pieces.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

The previous shot was good, but we can add a little extra oomph with some color. Herbs, salad greens, flowers or plants can all add an interesting tone to your photographs. Here I've used a dried leaf to give the photo some color. You can experiment by moving the decorative prop around the subject. It is amazing how a simple extra ingredient or props can change an image from okay to a great photo.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

The green leaf above gave the image some oomph and extra pop with a complementing yet contrasting color. In this image I am showing you that even something of the same tonal range can add just as much oomph to an image. Additionally the wheat plant creates a curved pattern that draws the viewers eye from the left side, over the biscuit pile, and down to the crumbs. This is a good shot because it gives the viewer a couple of things to look at without overstimulating the eye.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

Another way of styling the biscuits is by simply adding a napkin or a piece of fabric under the stack. Again there is extra color and pattern to keep the viewers attention. Fabrics can be used in countless ways, practice and experiment to find what works for you.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

As I stated above, shoot many photos. Add, remove, and rearrange both subject and enhancing props. Also make sure you move yourself and the camera around to yield different results.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

In this last photo you can compare the results. You can clearly see that while there is nothing wrong with the photo on the left adding a little styling creates a more interesting photograph.

This tutorial is but one of the countless ways these biscuits could have been styled. They could have been placed inside a box, bowl, or in a bag. They could have a glass of milk alongside them. Extra color could have been added with some fruit. They could have been shot on a different surface, from a different angle and with different lighting. The possibilities are truly endless. While you can use this tutorial as a guide it is also important to develop your own style. All you need is practice and before you know styling will become second nature to you. Thank you and I hope you enjoyed the tutorial.

Thank you so much Nancy for joining us here and kick starting this series
off so beautifully! For more photography tutorials you can check out
Nancy's site here, or purchase some of here lovely photos here.  

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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