Artichokes are silly. What I really want to know is who was the first brave soul to try to eat one? And did they use melted butter, or ranch dressing, or hollandaise sauce for dipping, or did they just start munching away without bothering to even cook it?
I caught a TV show today as I flopped on the couch, exhausted from the gym. It was some famous Italian cookbook author showing what to do with artichokes. I finally got up, got my notebook and a pen and took notes, since I have a forest of artichokes in my back yard – no kidding.
Now, I’m a good cook, but I often look for shortcuts that mostly involve the microwave. Not the pressure cooker, because the damn thing scares the bees knees out of me if you get my drift. (I think fear of the pressure cooker was passed down to me from my mother’s very DNA. Her mother apparently had a traumatic experience with one…) My best friend swore by her pressure cooker for artichokes, but it’s so totally against my grain that I found a shorter short cut in the microwave.
Normally I trim the stem so it’s flat, I cut the tops off so I don’t poke myself, then I wash them and, still dripping, pop them into a ziplock bag without closing it all the way. Then I put them in the microwave, hit the “fresh vegetables” button, and away they go.
(By the way, before I had a fresh vegetables button, I’d cook them for six minutes, twist them around so the inside was to the outside, burning my hands in the process, and put them in for another 4 to 5 minutes depending on size. )
But the lovely Italian chef wanted me to peel the fairly long (2″) stem until bright green showed. Then, after trimming as above, she suggested cutting them in half and putting them in a large pan. Add chicken stock, water, fresh chopped mint and parsley, and garlic and then cook away until they’re done. (I didn’t ever hear a time. Just “until they’re tender and cooked”. Um, okay.)
The theory went that, after you cooked them that way, the tough hairy choke would just pop out with the slightest pressure from a spoon. I’m sure it would; I’m also sure a lot of the nutrients of the artichoke would get left behind in the water it’s cooked in. But of course she had a suggestion for that as well – use that liquid as a kind of sauce over the artichoke.
And that’s where I kind of lost my patience with her. I mean, come on. Artichokes are a delivery system, pure and simple. They deliver either melted butter to your tongue, or freshly made hollandaise sauce (I’ve got an easy-peasy recipe, if anyone wants it). Maybe a ranch dressing. The nub of the artichoke is a bonus bit of tastiness.
Yes, the way I make artichokes means you have to physically cut out the choke; but really, it’s not so bad; just be careful with that sharp knife, especially if you’ve been drinking wine. And then you have more yummy artichoke to dunk in whatever butter may be left. (Not that I favor salty, yummy, melted butter with artichokes. Not at all. Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my chin.)
Artichokes, if you live in a temperate climate, grow like weeds. I planted a couple of plants several years ago. If you knew me, you’d know that often things die in my garden because I forget to water. Hey, it gets hot here in summer, and when it’s over 100, I don’t go outside except to slip into an air-conditioned car. But these babies, once they’re established, don’t need any kind of regular watering. My garden is proof of that; if they did, I wouldn’t have a single artichoke plant out there by now.
The biggest of my plants is a globe artichoke, and it’s threatening my Bearss lime tree. It’s also spawned smaller plants. Those smaller plants are quickly growing big. We’ve taken eight artichokes off the plant this year so far and there are still four left. And that’s from one plant – we’ve now got six that produce, which makes my friends very happy.
So that’s my wisdom for today. Artichokes are silly. Hard to kill once established. And very good with hollandaise sauce! (Or butter. Seriously.)
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