I’ve died and gone to heaven. Not only is it FINALLY summer in Holland, but more importantly, it is artichoke season at the Saturday markets.
I have seen them there for months, and I’ve been waiting. And waiting. And waiting (not so patiently) for the price to drop. Finally at a reasonable price (1 euro/one) I scooped up a few of these rather intimidating thistles and immediately started to fantasize about what deliciousness they would become.
I will never forget the first time I ate the pulpy leaves of an artichoke. I was lucky enough to have an Italian woman (my best friends mother) living across the street when I was growing up. She would always be cooking up rather exotic meals compared to the usual midwestern foods I was used to…and her Italian-style stuffed artichokes were no exception. One leaf at a time, with garlic-infused olive oil running down both arms, I attacked them! There was no going back after that. I became a full-fledged artichoke addict.
Interestingly, like my Italian neighbor to myself, the Dutch introduced artichokes to Henry VIII in 1530. He was reportedly so fond of them that he ate ‘generous quantities’. The artichokes became so popular that they were even forbidden to be served to women and were hoarded for men because of their believed ability to enhance male sexual power. Hmm. I’ll get back to you about this one after hubby has a try…;-)
So, if you are like me and your parents never prepared these euro-rooted buds, then you are likely preparing them for the first time. Good for you! You adventurous risk-taker you! And have no fear! The internet is here! I would recommend looking at this beautiful blog which tells you exactly how to cut, prep, and finally EAT this delicately flavored veg. Be careful though before you start digging in! Each leave of an artichoke has a tiny thorn on the top, that should be avoided…unless your into getting pricked, poked, bleeding, and that sort of thing…I don’t judge.
After you have trimmed the leaves of your artichokes, keep the chokes in a bowl of water with 1/2 lemon inside until you are ready to steam them. This will prevent them from going brown while you finish prepping the rest.
1 artichoke/person (or more if you’re Miss Piggy…like me)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 bottle of white wine (some people say a good wine…I used crappy wine…it was delicious)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bay leaf
Rub each artichoke well with the lemon half.. Place the whole chokes in a deep pot with enough water on the bottom of the pan to steam, about 1 inch deep. Add the bay leaf, wine, oil and garlic cloves to the water. Steam the artichokes for 30 minutes to one hour, or until the leaves can be easily pulled off the choke. Remove from heat, discard the liquid.
Parsley and garlic (vegan) butter
1 bunch fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic
1 cup vegan margarine (earth balance works well)
1/4 cup vegan mayo (optional)
juice of 1 lemon
Although the artichokes are perfect just the way they are, fresh out of the pot, it is also delicious to have a rich, savory dip for each fleshy leaf. Melt the vegan margarine over low heat until melted, then add the crushed garlic cloves. Heat on low heat for 5 minutes to infuse the butter with the garlic. Add salt if necessary.
Puree or finely chop the parsley and add along with mayo and lemon juice to the pan then turn off the heat. This will be enough dip for at least three artichokes.
After you have gorged on all the delicious dip and leaves, you will reach a beautiful purple inner part of the artichoke. The thin leaves are still edible on the bottom, and once you have eaten them all, you will reach the thistle. It’s so exciting! A furry surprise waiting to be discovered.
Now… don’t panic! Just carefully scrape with a knife or spoon away the thistle. What lies underneath is the delicious, coveted, and perhaps most delicious part….the artichoke heart.
Who said veggies don’t have feelings?
I know…terrible joke. I couldn’t resist.