As a child, I hungered to be a movie star. I recently had my on-screen debut in a starring role in a two-part how-to series titled: "Bert Greene, the Vegetable Lovers Video Cookbook." I had a supporting cast of hundreds: every low-calorie, high-vitamin vegetable that sprouts in a garden or supermarket year-round.
I have appeared as a regular guest chef on television for years, but no prior performance at the range gave me the slightest clue on how much hard work it takes to produce an 87-minute film for the VCR.
If you ask me how it feels to make a movie, I will admit that it feels dirty. During the preparation work for an initial segment on artichoke cookery, I cleaned 15 to 20 bulbs, running my hands under each thorny choke to remove it until my nails ached. Then, for a second segment on cooking beets I demonstrated how easy it is to remove the peel after steaming. But as a result, the beet juices dyed the raw flesh under my nails a deep purple color. A grimy hue that neither lemon juice, peroxide, nor typewriter white-out provided by the makeup man would eradicate.
What follows are two of the best dishes from my larder. The first is devised of artichokes, the other beets.
The most surprising artichoke recipe I know stems from Rome's Jewish quarter. The dish is about 100 years old but obviously is untarnished by time or changing palates. It is best made with baby artichokes but is equally delectable with any size globes thoroughly de-choked. Serve them as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to any broiled entree.
12 baby artichokes, or 4 medium
1 lemon, halved
4 cloves garlic
If using baby artichokes, cut off stems, rubbing cut surfaces with lemon. If using larger artichokes, trim off stems and pull off tough outer leaves, leaving only pale interior ones. Remove chokes and rub all cut surfaces with lemon.
Place artichokes, 1 at a time, upside down on flat surface. Push down on each artichoke to slightly flatten tops.
Pour oil into heavy saucepan to depth of about 1 inch. Heat oil and add garlic. When oil is very hot, add artichokes, tops down. Using small lid, press down on artichokes to flatten tops. Cook, pressing constantly, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
Turn artichokes over and continue to cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Baby artichokes will take slightly less time. Drain on paper towels. Season to taste with salt. Makes 4 servings.
1 1/2 pounds small beets, trimmed
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger root
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely slivered lime peel
Place beets in saucepan. Cover with cold water. Heat slowly to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until barely tender, about 25 minutes.
Remove just enough beet liquid to cover raisins in small bowl. Let stand 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, drain beets under cold water. Remove skins and cut beets into slices. Reserve. Drain raisins. Reserve.
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in ginger. Cook 5 minutes. Add reserved beets and raisins, sugar and vinegar. Cook until warmed through. Sprinkle with lime peel. Makes 4 servings.
"Bert Greene, the Vegetable Lovers Video Cookbook" will be released in two volumes comprising about 25 recipes each. Recipes are superimposed on the screen after each sequence. They may be found wherever videotapes are sold, or write to: Videocraft Classics, 1790 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10019.