Artichoke Day!

When I opened up my Facebook today I saw a post from a page that I follow (Click Here) saying it was Artichoke Day. So I clicked on the link and found a great article all about artichokes. Artichokes: Tips + Tales + Recipes You should take a look at it if you like artichokes, it’s worth reading.

I love artichokes. And living my whole life in California, at one point living quite near Watsonville, one of the largest producers of my favorite prickly foods, I’ve eaten tons of them, in many different ways. So I thought I would share some of my thoughts and insights into this unusual food.

Wikipedia says:

The Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus)[2] is a perennial thistle originating in Southern Europe around the Mediterranean. It grows to 1.4 metres (4.6 ft) to 2 metres (6.6 ft) tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery glaucous-green leaves 50 centimetres (20 in) – 82 centimetres (32 in) long. The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8 centimetres (3.1 in) to 15 centimetres (5.9 in) diameter with numerous triangular scales; the individual florets are purple. The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and the base, known as the “heart”; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the “choke” or beard. These are inedible in older larger flowers.

What it doesn’t say is that it’s a scary looking plant, most thistles are, and that it’s a wonderful vegetable to eat.

This is just the way I prepare artichokes normally, cleaning and steaming them.

Preparing the Artichoke.
It’s an easy task though it’s a bit prickly if you’re not careful. And this is how I prepare a large one for cooking. First I put it on the cutting board on it’s side. Taking a sharp serrated knife I cut off about an inch of the top where the thorns are. If you want you can also take a pair of sissors and clip the thorns off the remaining tips but I don’t bother with that step. Then I cut off most of the stem, they can be really fiberous and hard to eat but you can peel them with a vegetable peeler and eat them if you like. Then I pull off the small leaves, usually they are split, that are nearest to the stem since they don’t have much to eat on them. If you aren’t going to cook them right away you can submerge them in lemon water to prevent the cut surfaces from turning brown.

Cooking the artichoke.
In a large pot with a lid I put a steamer basket and about 2 inches of water, coming up the the bottom of the basket. Pile in the artichokes making sure there is some room around each of them. Squeeze a lemon so the juice gets into the leaves/heart of the chokes and sprinkle on a pinch of salt onto each one. Cover the pot and bring the water for a boil. Once boiling I turn down the heat to medium and let it cook for about 30 minutes, 45 minutes if they are really big. Once the time is up turn off the heat and let them sit covered for about 10 minutes longer.

Serving the artichoke.
This is a finger food, sorry, there is no other way to eat it. The easiest way to eat one is to peel off the leaves, one at a time, dip them in something, then scrape the inside of the leaf, with the dip, on your teeth. When you get towards the middle the leaves will be so thin and soft you can bite off the ends instead of scraping them or you might be able to eat the entire leaf. In the middle is the choke, which is the flower part of the artichoke.

This part you shouldn’t eat though I’ve known people to eat them. It’s kind of hairy and hard to chew. Scrape that part out with a spoon. The remaining portion, the heart and the cap and the stem, you can cut up and eat with a fork.

Dips.
Mayonnaise is #1 on the list. You can go with store bought or you can Make Your Own, personally I like the home made stuff better with artichokes since it is tangier than store bought. Or you can mix your mayo with something, like lemon juice or herbs, to make it more interesting.

Another dip would be a simple oil and vinegar, like a Balsamic Salad Dressing or something even simpler like 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper, 1 teaspoon dried basil. Mix well and serve in little dishes on the side for dipping.

Marinated Artichoke Hearts.
A favorite of mine and so easy to make.
Find some baby artichokes, if you can’t find them in a store you may be able to get them at a farmer’s market. 2 to 3 pounds should do. Trim the stems up until they are about 1/2 inch long. Peel off the outside leaves until the color starts to get lighter. Don’t peel off so many leaves that you can see the heart, just a couple layers. The inside leaves will be tender enough after cooking to eat. Trim off the top of the artichoke making sure you’ve got all the points off. Use a knife and trim the bottom of the leaves off the cap.
This is a great step-by-step guide on how to trim your baby artichokes.
To cook them all you have to do is throw them into a pot of salted water and boil for about 10-15 minutes or until they are soft. Drain and let cool. Cut them in half, then in quarters making sure there is a bit of the cap on each piece. Pack them into a jar with 1 cup water, 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup white wine vinegar, 1/2 cup white wine (you can use red for both the vinegar and the wine but your artichokes will turn out purple), 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried basil, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, pinch of red pepper flakes, 3 large garlic cloves, sliced thin, and 1/4 onion, sliced thin. If there is a lot of artichokes not covered by the liquid you can add more vinegar and oil until most of them are covered. Put the jar in your fridge and every day give it a gentile shake. In about a week they are ready to eat but the longer they sit the better they are.

Cousin Ann’s Artichoke Dip.
Easy recipe, perfect for the holidays or any time really.
2 cups marinated artichoke hearts, drained, save 1/2 cup of the juice
1 cup mayo
2 cups parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together all the ingredients along with the 1/2 cup artichoke marinade. Press down into a baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, uncover, bake for another 10 minutes or until it is bubbly and the artichokes are starting to brown on the edges. Cool for 15 minutes and put in a serving dish/bowl. Serve with bread or veggies or crackers.

These are not the only ways to eat artichokes. The internet is riddled with recipes. So take a chance, try a new artichoke recipe. 🙂

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A Different Spinach Dip

I goofed. I was making spinach dip in the food processor and I wasn’t paying attention and I thought I ruined it. But it turned out great. Better than normal spinach dip I think. And the best part is that it won’t get stuck in your teeth like the old stuff does. (At least it always gets stuck in my teeth.)

A Different Spinach Dip

2 pounds fresh spinach well washed
1 packet onion soup mix
1 8oz block of cream cheese at room temp
8-10 ounces sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot put about 1 cup of water and all of the spinach. Cover with lid. Steam for about 3 minutes or until the spinach is mostly limp but not cooked to mush. Let cool so you can wring it out and get as much water/juice out of it as possible. In the food processor combine lemon juice and soup mix and cooled dry spinach. Pulse a few times. Add cream cheese and sour cream and pulse a couple more times or until the mixture is all green and there are no large lumps. Add pepper to taste and pulse a couple more times to mix everything together good. Put into a container and refrigerate overnight. Serve with veggies, crackers, chips, apple slices, or anything else you can think of. Enjoy!