Archive for the ‘Vegetarian Tour of California’

Vegetarian Tour of California | Hot Artichoke and Dill Dip

May 21, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Snacks/Appetizers, Vegetarian Tour of California

Hot Artichoke and Dill Dip
Vegetarian Tour of CaliforniaAs we wind down the Tour of California, I had to end on a high note (much like the Mt. Baldy climb) and feature what I think is a phenomenal recipe. But, first, a little background on the main ingredient – the artichoke. When thinking about the artichoke, most people find them to be a bit fussy to deal with. In fact, the lady and scholar, Miss Piggy, once summed this up quite nicely, “These things are just plain annoying. After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual “food” out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps. Have the shrimp cocktail instead.

Before you pick up your shrimp fork, give artichokes a chance (especially with the recipe below).


California is overflowing with artichokes. Due to its ideal growing conditions, the city of Castroville, California has even declared itself the “Artichoke Capital of the World” and hosts the yearly Artichoke Festival – which happens to be going on this weekend. By the way, the first Castroville Artichoke Queen back in 1947 was none other than Marilyn Monroe. (Couldn’t find a picture of her as Artichoke Queen, but, did find a pic of Ms. Monroe on a bicycle…a little more appealing that Miss Piggy on a bike, no?)

marilynmonroeonbikeArtichokes made their way to California in 1922 – about 25 years before Monroe was crowned.  Andrew Molera, who lived in Monterey County California, leased his land to Italian farmers. Trying to make a little bit more money, he convinced them to grow a “new vegetable”, which would be the artichoke, rather than the sugar beets he was previously growing there. The Italian farmers were able to get more money on the market for the artichokes and thus Molera could charge higher rent to them. Now, California provides nearly 100% of the artichoke crop for the United States.

Let’s get down to some cooking…

Sure, you can save some time steaming the artichokes in the microwave, but I happened to be cooking some other stuff at the same time so I went with the boil on the stove method described below. You could also save some time by using a can of artichoke hearts but you won’t get the freshness nor the ability to use the leaves to scoop up and eat this dip.

This dip is packed full of cheesy goodness and the dill adds a fresh and bright flavor. Peter Stetina who is currently riding for Team Garmin-Cervelo in the Giro, probably won’t be eating this dip as part of his daily race eating regimen due to all the cheese. But, I’d definitely invite him, or any other pro-cyclist, to come over during the off-season and I’ll make this for them. It’s pretty addictive and pretty durn good.

Hot Artichoke and Dill Dip
from: Cookstr


  • 4 medium globe artichokes (about 10 ounces each), preferably with stems attached
  • 1½ cups (6 ounces) shredded havarti or Monterey Jack
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise (I made this recipe by splitting this 1/2 fat-free mayonnaise and 1/2 fat-free Greek yogurt)
  • 2 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed through a press
  • 1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs (whirl crusty bread in the blender or food processor)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the artichokes and place a heatproof bowl or plate on top to keep them submerged.

Hot Artichoke and Dill DipCook until the artichokes are very tender and the leaves are easy to pull off, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle.

Hot Artichoke and Dill DipWorking with one artichoke at a time, pull off the leaves until you reach the thin core of very tender leaves. Place the leaves in a plastic bag and refrigerate to serve with the dip, if desired. Pull off the core to reveal the heart. Using a dessert spoon, scoop out and discard the fuzzy choke. Using a small sharp knife, trim off any tough skin from the hearts and the stems, if attached (the inner stem has the same flavor as the heart).

Hot Artichoke and Dill DipChop the heart and stems into ½-inch cubes.

Hot Artichoke and Dill DipMix the chopped artichoke, havarti, Parmesan, mayonnaise, dill, and garlic in a medium bowl.

Hot Artichoke and Dill DipTransfer to a 3- to 4-cup baking dish. (The dip can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)

Hot Artichoke and Dill DipPosition a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on the dip and drizzle with the oil. Bake until the dip is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes (longer if it’s been refrigerated). Serve hot. Make-Ahead: The dip can be prepared up to 1 day ahead, then baked just before serving.

Hot Artichoke and Dill Dip

Tour of California: Green Goddess Dressing

May 17, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Other, Salads, Vegetarian Tour of California

Vegetarian Tour of CaliforniaSo, the Tour of California certainly got off to an interesting start (or, rather, non-start? or, perhaps a stutter start?) For this next recipe featuring California cuisine, I take us to the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. In 1923, the English actor George Arliss was staying at the Palace Hotel. The chef was inspired to create a recipe in his honor and serve a meal to the actors in the play. He whipped up a salad dressing featuring anchovies, mayonnaise, vinegar, green onion, garlic, parsley, tarragon and chives. And, he named it after the play Arliss was starring in – The Green Goddess.


The Green Goddess, the play, involves a convoluted story of jealousy with Arliss playing a Raja infatuated by one of three survivors of a plane crash that landed in his, fictional, kingdom. Unfortunately, the woman, Lucilla, is married to another survivor. Hilarity ensues. (Hostages! Kidnapped children! Sacrifice!) Lucilla is eventually killed by a bomb leaving the Raja to end the story consoling himself with the line: ““She’d probably have been a damned nuisance.” (Why this was left off of the Top 100 Movie Quotes, I’ll never know.)

greengoddess_1930This dressing is still served at the Palace Hotel, and is known around the world, meanwhile, the play and the subsequent movie are pretty much all but forgotten.

Since we’ve got two cycling races going on now, we really don’t need to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen. This is an easy recipe that can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. I took the original recipe and adapted it a bit to fit the vegetarian or vegan taste. Capers are substituted for anchovies and the mayonnaise is cut with a little Greek yogurt. (Although, this recipe would work nicely with just the Greek yogurt if you find the taste of mayo overwhelming.)

Vegetarian Green Goddess Dressing
by Megabeth

1 cup fat-free mayonnaise (or vegan mayo)
1 cup fat-free greek yogurt
2 teaspoons chopped capers
1 green onion, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons chopped chives
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
!/4 teaspoon dried OR 1 teaspoon cut, fresh tarragon

Throw it all in a blender.

Blend until smooth. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours before using.


Vegetarian Tour of California: Chilled Avocado, Tomatillo and Cucumber Soup

May 14, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes, Other, Snacks/Appetizers, Vegetarian Tour of California

Chilled Avocado, Tomatillo and Cucumber Soup (1) Just to add a little more excitement for cycling fans in the month of May, the Tour of California now rides into the scene. (Yes, that’s right, for those following along at home, it goes on at the same time as the Giro d’Italia.) This eight day race takes us through some of the most scenic areas of the state, goes over some rigorous climbs and attracts some top-notch teams and riders.

California is truly a melting pot and its cuisine is influenced by a broad palate of flavors and styles.  Food in California is influenced by not only the immigrants that have settled in the state (Asian, Latin American, Italian, etc.) but also from the abundance of local foods that are easily accessible. Honestly, I’m always amazed at the wide-variety of fruits and vegetables that are available on the side of the road any time of the year.

Chefs from around the world have been attracted to the state and have created many popular fusion restaurants that highlight the local and international flavors. (Some places have a reservation wait list so long, you have to predict sometimes months, or a year, in advance to figure out when you’ll be free. Yeah, I’m looking at you French Laundry)

And, finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the health food and the general acceptance of the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle. Huzzah!

For those ready for a glass of wine, immigrants not only brought food influences, but also the beginnings of wine production in the state. In the 18th century, the Spanish brought the first grape vines and, well, the rest is history. Fast forward to the 21st century, and now California boasts over 90% of all wine production in the United States. Shall I also cite the 1976 blind taste test that vaulted California into the spotlight for producing decent wines to the Bottle Shock of France?

So, let’s get this California party started with a recipe from one of my most favorite vegan restaurants – Millennium in San Francisco. This recipe features many of the local ingredients found in California but specifically highlights the avocado. Avocados were introduced in California in 1871 by Judge R.B. Ord. (Yeah, that’s right, California history is so young that we even know the name of the guy that trotted across from Mexico with avocado trees and plopped them into Santa Barbara soil.) By the time the 1950’s rolled around there were almost 25 varieties of avocado being grown in the state.

This soup was divine – fresh, healthy and unique with the saffron-lime ice as an extra adornment. It went down smoothly on a warm spring day. It does make a lot (since there are only two of us in the house we had an enormous amount leftover). Note, avocado, by its nature, is very sensitive once it’s cut open so I wouldn’t sit on this soup for more than a day…or two.

Chilled Avocado, Tomatillo and Cucumber Soup
Millenium Restaurant –

Saffron-Lime Ice:

  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 1/4 cup warm water for 20 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian or Spanish paprika, toasted
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt


  • 1/2 yellow onion cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 jalapeño chile
  • 3 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 8 tomatillos, peeled
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, halved and seeded
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 teaspoons light miso
  • 3 cups water
  • salt
  • cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted and very coarsely chopped for garnish


To Make the Ice: Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and pour into a 2 inch deep pan. Freeze for 3-4 hours until solid.

Saffron-Lime IceTo Make the Soup: Heat a large non-stick sauté pan over high heat. Add the onions, garlic and jalapeño. Dry toast, stirring frequently, for 7-10 minutes, until half the onions, garlic and jalapeño are charred. Remove from the pan and let cool to room temperature.

Chilled Avocado, Tomatillo and Cucumber Soup

Peel and seed the jalapeño. Place the avocado in a mixing bowl with the cooled onion, garlic and jalapeño. Add the tomatillos, cucumber, cilantro, oregano, nutmeg, black pepper, lime juice, miso and water.

Chilled Avocado, Tomatillo and Cucumber Soup

In a blender, or using a hand-held immersion blender, blend the ingredients in batches until smooth.

Chilled Avocado, Tomatillo and Cucumber Soup

Chilled Avocado, Tomatillo and Cucumber Soup

Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until well chilled.

To Serve: Ladle the soup into 6 martini glasses. Sprinkle toasted almonds over the top of each. Scrape the saffron ice crystals off the pan with a fork, and place 2 teaspoons on each serving of soup. Serve immediately.

Chilled Avocado, Tomatillo and Cucumber Soup (2)

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