The 'A vegetables' have arrived.
Mon mari is an avid lover of the 'A's.
Three colors of asparagus; three kinds of artichokes and two kinds of avocados.
It's vegetable heaven.
Add in my favorite green garlic and it's a pretty intense veggie time.
(Not to be sacrilegious, but this is the second proof that god is not a woman: asparagus and artichokes both at the same time? And only for six weeks? Why not one following the other? Why not longer?
The other proof is that lettuce and tomatoes are not in season at the same time. I mean, come on! That's just really poor planning….. I digress….)
A bit of artichoke history: They were first mentioned in Italy in the first century. From there they traveled to Spain, and were grown by the Moors in by 9th century. A brief, uneventful foray into England in the 16th century (they were not a hit), and, finally to California with the Spanish in the 17th. They started to become widely grown in the 1920's but we have Marilyn Monroe to thank for making them famous, she was crowned Artichoke Queen in CA in 1948.
To be honest, I don't have an extensive repertoire of artichoke recipes.
I have never stuffed them, for example and I rarely go to the effort of trimming them all down to get at the tender bottoms.
We like to eat them steamed, either warm or cold, pulling the leaves off and dipping until we get to the bottom, then slicing and finishing off the sauce.
They are incredibly easy to fix – and, thanks to my new pressure cooker, done in no time.
To prepare large, globe artichokes: Cut off the stem of the artichoke and remove any tough lower leaves. Dip it in water to which a bit of lemon juice has been added (to prevent discoloration).
For a nicer presentation cut off the tips of the bottom half of the leaves using a scissors. Cut the top 1/3rd of the artichoke off and discard. Don't worry about the choke (fuzzy hairs inside)
To cook: Put in a steamer and steam 30 – 40 minutes, depending on size.
To pressure steam: Bring the minimum amount of water to a boil in the pressure cooker. Put artichokes on the rack, cover, lock and steam at high pressure for 8 – 12 minutes, depending on size. I did 15oz (450gr) trimmed weight artichokes for 12 minutes and they were perfect.
To eat: Pull the leaves off one by one, dipping and scraping the edible flesh off with your teeth. When you get to the bottom, use a sharp knife to cut the choke away, discarding, and eat the bottom.
Here are some of our favorite dipping sauces:
Creamy Yogurt Sauce
1 1/2 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp tarragon white wine vinegar
1/2 cup (4oz, 125gr) Greek or plain yogurt
1 1/2 tbs good olive oil
1/2 tsp dill weed
In a small bowl whisk mustard, lemon and vinegar. Add yogurt, olive oil and whisk until incorporated – this will get very thick. Add dill and stir well to combine.
1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1 tbs Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Fines Herbes this is a classic French herb mixture of equal amounts: tarragon, chervil, chives, parsley
3 tbs good olive oil
In a small bowl whisk mustard and vinegar. Slowly whisk in oil; whisk until it emulsifies (thickens and combines). Add herbs and stir well to combine.
This is the Spanish/Catalan method, without egg yolks. It's heavy on the garlic, and very hot! Yes, garlic packs a lot of heat when fixed this way! You can cut it with commercial mayonnaise if you like. This makes about 4 tbs of allioli. It can't be made ahead as it tends to 'break' upon sitting – still good, but it has to be pounded back together.
4 large cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp sea, kosher or other coarse salt
2 – 3 tbs olive oil, the good stuff
Info: You have to do this with a mortar and pestle. The garlic has to be mashed. A blender or food processor will not work – you'll get a bland garlic mayonnaise. The pounding pulverizes the cells, releasing allicin which gives it the sharp, hot flavor.
Method: Smack the garlic once with side of a knife to start breaking it down then put it in the mortar along with the salt. The texture of the salt is needed to help break down the garlic. Pound with the pestle until you get a paste. Yes, this will take awhile. (It took 10 – 15 total minutes for me to make this.) When you have a thick paste add the olive oil a few drops at a time and work into the garlic. Once the drops are incorporated, add a few more. Continue adding oil until it becomes difficult to incorporate then stop. If you add too much the sauce will break – the oil will separate from the garlic. This should look like a very thick mayonnaise.
3 tbs plain yogurt
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1 tbs good olive oil
Whisk together yogurt, lemon juice and mustard. Drizzle in oil, whisking.
And, just so you know I can make the littler artichokes the Euro way….
About smaller artichokes:
The size of an artichoke is determined by where it is on the plant. Artichokes at the top are larger and working down the plant, shaded by leaves, they get smaller.
Smaller artichokes have very little, if any, prickly choke and are normally eaten in their entirety. Simply pull off the tough, lower bracts, peel the stem, cut in half the long way and cook – outdoors on the barbecue with a bit of olive oil and salt or in a skillet with a bit of lemon and oil
You can't see it, but the artichokes above actually have 3 inch (7cm) stems which are just an extended 'bottom'.