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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Artichoke intimidation

I don’t have a bucket list but if I did, cooking and eating a whole artichoke would have been on it.  And it would have been marked off as “Done” today!  I’ve always liked artichokes, but have always been a little intimidated by them. Well, actually, intimidated a lot by them, with their thorns and scales.  They remind me of some sort of warrior vegetable dressed in scaly, thorny , spiky armor malevolently  daring me to try and get at its delicious little heart. But the little heart is what I’ve always enjoyed about them. And fortunately, it has always been  a comfort to know that  someone else was brave enough to wrestle the warrior and  put the hearts in a can or marinate them in a jar for me to enjoy.

The California Artichoke Advisory Board  reports that “One large artichoke contains only 25 calories, no fat, 170 milligrams of potassium, and is a good source of vitamin C, folate, magnesium and dietary fiber.” They also note that according to some recent studies artichokes contain an unusual amount of anti-oxidants, in the form of phytonutrients and that a  study done by the USDA ranked  artichokes as the number one vegetable in anti-oxidant count. The phytonutrients  in artichokes have  positive effects on the liver and are also useful in curing hangovers! There's an awful lot of good stuff packed in those mean looking little warriors.

After seeing an enticing  photo of  an artichoke drizzled with shallot vinaigrette  in Annabel Langbein’s  cookbook, I decided the time had come  to  cook and eat an artichoke.  So when we went grocery shopping at Publix  the other day, I put two in the cart. Interestingly enough, our check-out person  confessed that he wouldn’t have the slightest idea  how to go about cooking or eating  one of those things, so apparently I am not the only one intimidated by them.
Annabel Langbein's  beautiful  artichoke

I was going to cook them last night, but  with the kitchen gremlins camped out in the kitchen, that didn’t happen.  I needed to use up some smoked salmon that was in the fridge,  and decided to make smoked salmon carbonara for tonight's supper. I thought the artichokes with vinaigrette might be a good appetizer.

Guess what?  Artichokes aren’t intimidating after all.  Their fierce appearance is a false front; their spiky armor  is transformed into soft delicious petals when cooked. I followed Annabel’s instructions for trimming them and boiling them, put them on a plate, pressed   scraped the  tender flesh from the bottom of the leaves with our teeth before  finally reaching the tender little heart.  Eating an artichoke is not something to be done in a hurry.  It is better enjoyed as a leisurely activity, so you can savor each delicious  morsel of  goodness.
My   artichoke lotus, without benefit of a food stylist's  talent. ;-)
down slightly on the top and they transformed into lotus-like flowers on the plate. I drizzled them with some of the vinaigrette and we used the rest as a dip for the leaves. We pulled the tender leaves off, dipped them in the vinaigrette and

Tonight’s supper  was  very satisfying and  had the added bonus of  helping me overcome my fear of artichokes. If you are  intimidated by artichokes too and have  been afraid to cook one “from scratch”  you should  try  it. Let's stamp out the fear of artichokes!

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