Marilyn Monroe Broiled Steak & Artichoke Carrot Salad – Celebrate Marilyn with a meal she would have loved, with recipes featuring some of her very favorite foods. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, will always be synonymous with bombshell. A platinum blonde, stunningly beautiful actress, her star may be the brightest Hollywood has ever seen. While Marilyn is more often celebrated for her stunning looks, she was also a very talented actress who took her craft quite seriously. She had an undeniable spark, a star quality that continues to captivate audiences today. As a food writer who is fascinated by Hollywood history, I wondered– what kinds of foods fueled this legendary talent?
When dishing about Marilyn and cooking, inevitably the conversation will lead to curves. Marilyn had curves in all the right places, and her fans were desperate to know how they might achieve a similar figure. In a 1952 article with now out-of-print Pageant magazine, Marilyn claims that she never considered her figure to be exceptional, but that she maintained it through a simple exercise routine and a high protein diet.
Pageant Magazine, 1952
“BREAKFAST. I’ve been told that my eating habits are absolutely bizarre, but I don’t think so. Before I take my morning shower, I start warming a cup of milk on the hot plate I keep in my hotel room. When it’s hot, I break two raw eggs into the milk, whip them up with a fork, and drink them while I’m dressing. I supplement this with a multi-vitamin pill, and I doubt if any doctor could recommend a more nourishing breakfast for a working girl in a hurry.
DINNER. My dinners at home are startlingly simple. Every night I stop at the market near my hotel and pick up a steak, lamb chops or some liver, which I broil in the electric oven in my room. I usually eat four or five raw carrots with my meat, and that is all. I must be part rabbit; I never get bored with raw carrots.
P.S. It’s a good thing, I suppose, that I eat simply during the day, for in recent months I have developed the habit of stopping off at Wil Wright’s ice cream parlor for a hot fudge sundae on my way home from my evening drama classes. I’m sure that I couldn’t allow myself this indulgence were it not that my normal diet is composed almost totally of protein foods.”
High protein diets hardly seem bizarre by today’s standards, but at a time when most meals were accompanied by a starchy side dish, her style of eating must have seemed a bit strange. I’m tickled by that image of young Marilyn, a busy actress in her hotel room, preparing steak for one in an electric stove.
It’s difficult to know if Marilyn had much talent in the kitchen. Based on what appears to be her only surviving recipe- a handwritten, complicated concoction for stuffing- some speculate that she may have been a domestic goddess. The recipe is a lengthy one made with sourdough bread, assorted meats, nuts and herbs – not one to be taken lightly by an occasional cook. I’ve made it myself, and… well, let’s just say after a very lengthy preparation, I wasn’t entirely enamored with the end result. It does seem that Marilyn enjoyed the challenge of making recipes from scratch. Laren Stover’s Bombshell Manual of Style (2001) includes an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine in which Marilyn shares a story about preparing homemade noodles for her dinner guests without knowing how long they would take to dry:
“The guests arrived; I gave them a drink; I said, ‘You have to wait for dinner until the noodles dry. Then we’ll eat.’ I had to give them another drink. In desperation, I went and got my little portable hairdryer and turned it on. It blew the noodles off the counter, and I had to gather them up and try again.”
In 2008 several of Marilyn’s 1962 grocery store and meat market receipts surfaced, revealing even further insight into her daily diet. The documents support the diet she described in her interview with Pageant – lots of protein, vegetables, milk and only one small treat. Among the list of items were lamb chops, steak, chicken, milk, cheddar cheese, eggs, English muffins, strawberry jam, cucumber, endive, radishes, corn on the cob and artichokes.
Marilyn Monroe, Artichoke Queen – February 20, 1948. Source: Castroville Artichoke Festival
Speaking of artichokes, in the very early days of her career, Marilyn was honored with an award that many are not be aware of – Artichoke Queen. The city of Castroville, California is known as the “Artichoke Capital of the World” and hosts an annual artichoke festival. On February 28, 1948, artichoke farmers Edward Modena, Enrico Bellone and Randy Barsotti spotted young Marilyn Monroe in the Castroville area endorsing diamonds at a local jewelry shop. They asked her to tour an artichoke farm, fed her a lunch of freshly cooked artichoke hearts, and honored her with a sash that declared her to be “Queen of the Artichokes.” Judging by her grocery receipts, Marilyn was quite happy with her new title– she did seem to enjoy eating them.
In honor of Marilyn’s birthday, I decided to create a meal she surely would have loved. I’ve broiled a beautiful ribeye steak in honor of her hotel-prepared, high-protein dinners. I’ve served it alongside a simple, delicious salad of artichokes (naturally), raw carrot shreds and endive. It’s a meal fit for a starlet. I only wish I could have served it to Marilyn myself!
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- 1 cup artichoke hearts frozen or canned
- 2 tbsp olive oil divided, plus more for the steak
- 1 whole carrot peeled
- 1 head endive sliced into strips
- 1 tbsp chopped fennel fronds or fresh dill
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp honey
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb ribeye steak 1 1/2 inch thick
- Set your steak out and let it come to room temperature before cooking. Set your oven rack 6-12 inches below the broiler. Place your cast iron skillet on the rack and preheat the broiler for 10-15 minutes, leaving the cast iron skillet on the rack so it will heat up with the broiler. The skillet will get quite hot, so be sure you have very thick heat-resistant oven mitts on hand.
- While oven heats up, place a skillet on the stovetop and heat up 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat until hot. Add the artichoke hearts (either frozen or thawed) and cook them until warmed through and golden brown around the edges.
- Pour artichoke hearts into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Use a non-serrated peeler to slice the carrot into long ribbons or strips. Set aside with the other salad ingredients.
- Rub the steak on both sides with olive oil, then season generously with salt and pepper.
- Use oven mitts to pull out the oven rack and place the steak carefully into the preheated skillet. Note that the oil with splatter a bit, as the skillet will be quite hot, and your kitchen will get quite smoky. Return skillet below the broiler and close the oven. Let the steak broil for 2-3 minutes, until top is well browned. Use tongs to flip the steak and continue broiling for another 2-3 minutes longer.
- Turn off the broiler and turn oven heat to 500 degrees F. Let the steak continue to cook in the closed oven for 2-3 minutes (rare), 5 minutes (medium) or 7 minutes (medium well). Remove steak from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes.While steak sits, combine the artichoke hearts, carrot ribbons, endive, and fennel or dill in a medium salad bowl. Stir together 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and 1 tsp honey. Pour it over the salad ingredients and toss until well combined. Season the salad with salt to taste. Serve steak with salad. One large 1 lb ribeye should feed two average adult appetites, but you can certainly add another steak to the skillet to make larger portions if you like.
Lee, Matt, and Ted Lee. “Marilyn Monroe’s Stuffing Recipe Stars in a Remake.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 Nov. 2010. Web. 01 June 2015.
Monroe, Marilyn. “How I Stay In Shape.” Pageant Sept. 1952: 120-26. Web. 22 May 2015.
“Marilyn Monroe.” Marilyn Monroe. Golden Globe Awards, n.d. Web. 22 May 2015.
Monroe, Marilyn. My Story. New York: Cooper Square, 2000. Print.
“Secrets of Marilyn Monroe’s Hourglass Figure Revealed in Receipts.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 12 Dec. 2008. Web. 01 June 2015.
Spoto, Donald. Marilyn Monroe: The Biography. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. Print.
Stein, Sadie. “Marilyn Monroe’s Daily Diet.” Jezebel. N.p., 11 Oct. 2010. Web. 01 June 2015.
Taraborrelli, J. Randy. The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe. New York: Grand Central Pub., 2009. Print.