artichokes. Coming into their peak season now, though they're available all year long, the artichoke is a favorite vegetable of mine. It's a favorite vegetable of Significant Eater's. If we could be any place right now, eating artichokes, it would be...well, to be honest, it would be Rome. I mean, how can you resist Roman carciofi alla Giudia?
|Carciofi alla Giudia at Sora Margharita|
Or carciofi alla Romana?
|Carciofi alla Romana at Armando al Pantheon|
You can't, can you? But if you can't be in Rome, what to do? Well, there's always California - and that's where Significant Eater and I spent a few nights last week, celebrating a birthday and an anniversary, with a short get-away to San Francisco.
On our first full day, we hopped into our rental and took a drive along the coast, one of our favorite things to do. A mere hour away from the city (in either direction, actually), and you're practically in another era (if you stay on the coast, that is; otherwise, you're in Silicon fucking Valley). On this day, we headed south - Pescadero was our destination, and this was our objective...
|California artichoke growing behind Duarte's|
The California artichoke. California grows literally all of our artichokes, and the main growing areas are along the coast, with Castroville, in Monterey County, the center of it all...as a matter of fact, Castroville calls itself the "artichoke center of the world" (though Romans will argue, 'cause they'll argue about everything). And that's enough info.
In Pescadero, there's a 100+ year-old restaurant called Duarte's Tavern
, and their specialty, Sig Eater's favorite, and the reason we took the drive, is cream of artichoke soup...
|Duarte's Tavern's Cream of Artichoke Soup|
I used to make a mean cream of artichoke soup. I also used to be able to get nice, meaty artichokes at 3 for $1...so making soup was thrifty. Now, at $3, $4 or $5 a pop, I like my artichokes to provide more fun - and even to last a little longer. For instance, I found these beauties last week at Whole Foods, for $3 each...
|Big-ass California artichokes|
And I made steamed artichokes, because that's also how we like 'em. You see those little thorns at the end of each leaf? They hurt - be careful when, well - just be careful. Pick off the crappy leaves, then cut a bit off the bottom; the stem is edible once peeled - don't waste it. Cut off the top, about an inch or two down - use a serrated knife - it's easier. Trim each leaf with a good kitchen scissors. Rinse well and turn upside down to drain. When you're done, they should look like...
I like to stuff thin slices of garlic in between the leaves before steaming - a good dozen or so per choke. Then they get stood up in a steamer, sprinkled with salt, drizzled with olive oil, and steamed until tender. No, I don't know how long it'll take, but if you can pull a leaf out easily, that usually means they're done. You can also slide a paring knife into the base of the artichoke - if it meets little resistance, done. For serving to loved ones, and even those you like just a little, it's nice to take the choke out. Do I have to describe how to do that
- it's a pain in the ass, but a grapefruit spoon works well.
There, you're all done. Oh - you'll also need a nice dipping sauce for the leaves and the heart - here I'm serving them with a nice lemon and Spanish Pimentón aioli. Better known as Hellmann's mayo with lemon juice and smoked Spanish paprika all stirred together - it works.
|Steamed artichokes with dip|
What are you waiting for, a trip to Rome? Go on - steam an artichoke now!
Steamed Artichokes - A Recipe
As many artichokes as people. Then, read the post above.