Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Recipe: Artichokes

This time of year--I know there are the daffodils, the tulips & all the blossoms but for some reason, nothing says Spring to me more than ARTICHOKES!  (Maybe it's because I can't eat a daffodil! : )  I love them as does my entire family--minus my son, but I have no doubt-whatsoever!-that I will win him over one day soon.  (He's 3.)

 I love the way artichokes look; the color of a fresh artichoke is one of my favorites and there is just something so primal and pre-historic, to me, about their shape.  They are part of the thistle family & I imagine and love the fact that all those little barbs at the end of each leaf are there to protect it's heart.  I almost always feel bad when I start cutting and trimming one down, but that doesn't last too long.

Often times in the Spring, I make artichokes part of our Sunday meal--as a special treat for my family.  I don't know why, but they just seem so civilized and elegant and maybe after a long, cold winter...they are just the sign of Spring we have been looking for!!  I have the preparation down pat and I thought I would share it with you.

Here is how I prepare an artichoke.

First: with a knife, trim the stem down an inch or so and then, with scissors, snip away those little barbs and discard all lower leaves.  Cut the top off about an inch or so down from top--so its flat.

I like to steam my artichokes with lemon and herbs de provence.
You can also add salt, garlic, bay leaves and other dried herbs to water.

Add a steamer basket to your big pot and fill with a few inches of water.  Add the artichokes & seasonings.  Bring to boil.  Cover; lower heat to a simmer and steam for 25 to 45 minutes or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off. 

Note: artichokes can also be cooked in a pressure cooker (about 15-20 minutes cooking time). Cooking time depends on how large the artichoke is, the larger, the longer it takes to cook.  
This is reason enough  to make me want to run out and buy a pressure cooker!! 

There are many sauces that you can make to dip the leaves into...melted butter is classic and delicious!  Some people like aioli with a little balsamic vinegar mixed in...for some reason my favorite is a dijon mayonnaise that is very easy to throw together...

1/4 cup good mayonnaise
2-3 teaspoons dijon mustard
squeeze of lemon
dash of salt...that's it!

You may need to adjust mustard to your taste; adding more or less.  
This is quite a delicious dip for french fries as well!

And this is what you get in the first few moments you set the plate on the table.  Or at least this is what I get when my 6 year old attacks the poor things with the fury of Spring thunder storm!  Don't forget to eat the heart!! When you get down to the really thin leaves and then the choke (that inedible fuzzy part)--cut it all out, with a knife or spoon-- what the choke is covering, the remaining bottom part, is the heart.  
Cut into pieces and dip into the sauce...Best part, in my humble opinion!!
It didn't last long enough for me to get a shot of it!!

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