Vegetarian Vuelta a España: Artichoke Rice Cakes with Manchego Cheese

August 22, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Vegetarian Vuelta a España

Continuing on through the Vegetarian Vuelta a España we get to one of my favorite subjects – Cheese! Manchego is a grassy, crumbly sheep cheese produced in the La Mancha region of Spain. Spaniards don’t mess around with the production of this cheese outlining particular qualities for a cheese to be designated as manchego.

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These qualities include the cheese being produced in a particular region, it can only be made from a specific breed of sheep raised on registered farms in this specific region, the cheese must be aged for at least 60 days and it must be produced in a cylindrical mold to very particular height and diameter specifications.

Well, with all this work to identify manchego cheese, we must appreciate its grassy and tart flavor with a great recipe – and this is it.

I quickly discovered that even before forming the rice into little cake, the rice mixture itself was so good that I feared we ate too much of it to make it to the frying stage. All you need to do is throw some shaved manchego on top of the prepped rice and you’re good to go for an amazing side dish. But, where’s the fun in that? Push your sleeves up, dig in, and get your hands gloopy making these rice cakes. Fry them up and enjoy. I did discover that if you place them in the pan and press them with your spatula, the cakes have a tendency to break apart. So, resist the urge to squish.

Finally, the original recipe calls for a fresh artichoke, but long-time readers know me…I get into the kitchen and the less to fuss with the better. Find good quality jarred/canned artichoke hearts in water and you’ve saved yourself some time and that pesky fuss.

Enjoy the manchego!

Artichoke Rice Cakes with Manchego
adapted from Spain Recipes

  • 8 quarters artichoke hearts from a jar, packed in water (not oil), finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice
  • 2  – 3 cups hot vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup Manchego cheese, very finely diced
  • 3-4 Tablespoon fine corn meal
  • olive oil, for frying
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • fresh flat leaf parsley, to garnish

Melt the butter in a pan and gently fry the chopped artichoke heart, onion and garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the rice and cook for about 1 minute.

Keeping the heat fairly high, gradually add the stock, stirring occasionally until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked – this should take about 20 minutes.

Season well, then stir in the Parmesan cheese. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Leave to cool, then cover and chill for at least 2 hours Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the palm of one hand, flatten slightly, and place a few pieces of diced cheese in the center.

Shape the rice around the cheese to make a small ball.

Flatten slightly, then roll in the corn meal, shaking off any excess. Repeat with the remaining mixture to make about 12 cakes.

Shallow fry the rice cakes in hot olive oil for 4-5 minutes until they are crisp and golden brown.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot, garnished with flat leaf parsley.

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

Artichoke Lasagna Rolls

November 30, 2008 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes

Have guests coming over later in the week? Make these lasagna rolls a few days ahead, throw them into the refrigerator and then pop them into the oven about 45 minutes before you are going to eat. Your hands do get a little bit gloppy when rolling up the lasagna noodles. But, it’s worth it.

Artichoke Lasagna Rolls
adapted from the 1994 edition of “New Vegetarian Cuisine

5 wheat lasagna noodles
2 cups spaghetti sauce (see note)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (optional: see note)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (optional: see note)
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 cup nonfat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup coarsely chopped artichoke hearts
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded nonfat mozzarella cheese

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the noodles for 10 to 12 minutes, or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Meanwhile, in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, simmer the spaghetti sauce, basil, tomatoes, and oregano for 5 minutes. Set aside. (Note: Or, use a pasta sauce with the flavors desired. I used an organic tomato and porcini mushroom sauce from Middle Earth Organics with plenty of flavorings and herbs. I simply heated it up for a few minutes in the microwave. And, it saved some chopping of herbs.)

In a large no-stick frying pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the mushrooms and onions; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add the ricotta, artichokes, peppers, sun dried tomatoes and Parmesan; mix well.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8″ by 8″ baking dish. (Note: Skip this step if making the rolls ahead of time.) Lay the noodles flat on a work surface.

With a small spatula, spread about 1 tablespon of the tomato sauce along the length of each noodle. Spread each with equal amounts of the ricotta mixture. Roll up the noodles to enclose the filling. (You may assemble the rolls ahead and refrigerate them until you’re ready to bake them.)

Place, seam side down, in the baking dish.

Top evenly with the remaining tomato sauce and the mozzarella.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly. (Note: If you are about to bake them after storing them in the refrigerator, cook for about 40-45 minutes, or until bubbly.)

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