Thursday, March 08, 2007

Artichokes

I think I have told you before how much I LOVE artichoke dip. So much so that it makes an appearance on our dinner menu from time to time. Healthy, I know.



Our lovely meal of hot artichoke dip, bread and a nice healthy salad...



with fried shallots and cheese, that is. Because I didn't have any croutons, and a salad is nothing without a little crunch.
You have tried frying shallots, haven't you? They're like those greasy, canned french fried onions only they taste good, and their texture and delicious, rich flavor make the perfect, quick little garnish for lots and lots of things. Because I love garnishes that leave you wanting to eat them by the handful.

Really, though. It's artichoke season and I'm psyched. Not that our dinner of artichoke dip made with canned artichoke hearts has any relevance at all to the glory that is the fresh artichoke, but since we're on the subject...

I did part of my growing up in SoCal, so I've eaten artichokes practically since birth. Along with avocados, I think native Californians consider fresh artichokes one of their civil rights. And don't even get me going on the delight that is the Haas avocado.

I think I introduced every boyfriend I ever had to the amazing experience of dipping steamed artichoke leaves in butter and using your bottom teeth to scrape off the yummy part. Fortunately, I was always wise enough to choose boyfriends who had all their teeth (in case you have been wondering what kind of girl I am).

Anyway, I just can't wait to get my paws on some big ol fresh artichokes. If you've never partaken of a freshly steamed, whole artichoke, I highly recommend it. They require almost zero prep, and the only tools you need to cook them are a pan with a lid and something to use as a steamer basket.
Trim the prickly leaf tips off with a scissors and cut the stem off flush with the bottom but don't forget to peel that stem and throw it in the steamer, because it's edible, too. Steam them until you can easily poke a fork into the bottom, maybe 30-45 minutes depending on size, and after a few minutes worth of cooling off, eat the leaves as I have described above. Once you get mostly of the way to the heart, the leaves will be very thin and tender and purply-yellow, and you can pull of several at a time and eat the whole lower part.
When you get to the point that the leaves are short and very small, stop, get a knife and fork, and start dissecting off the heart fur from the flatish, disc shaped part that is the heart.
Yes, I said fur.
There's a bajillion little hairs in the heart of an artichoke that you definitely don't want to eat. But the heart is the best part, and really, all that rigamarole with the leaves is just foreplay for the nirvana that is a big chunk of fresh steamed artichoke heart, so take your time and get them all cleaned off.
Trust me, all this work will totally be worth it.
When it's nice and tidy and fur free, cut a big chunk, drown it in butter (with a little fresh lemon juice added to it if you like) and eat. Repeat, and nevermind how much butter you're consuming because after all, you ARE eating a vegetable and that completely makes up for it.

YUM.
Welcome, Spring!

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Comments:
i grew up eating them with a dijon mustard vinaigrette. and i love them.com
 
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