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Friday, April 4, 2008

The other day I went to Monterey Market with a friend. It's a produce market in North West Berkeley that has amazing produce at amazing prices. One of the specials was a large bag of baby artichokes for $.98. I love artichokes more than is rational, so I grabbed a bag.

The plan was to experiment with cooking them the Jacques Pepin/Lidia Bastianich way, which is to cut away all that is not edible and braising or sauteing. Theoretically, once you've cut it all away, you're left with these cups with stems, which you slice.

Needless to say, Jacques's knife skills are superhuman, and my misshapen little lumps would make the poor Frenchman cry. Still, I thought, I'm going to fucking braise artichokes!

hmpf. I did so in olive oil with onion and garlic, following Lidia's recipe.

They were ok. Yes, only ok. I was really looking forward to all the wonders of the artichoke-y flavor, but actually, the flavor was not very present, and I think I'm deciding that I don't like garlic with my artichokes......



Maggie Jochild said...

I love artichokes more than is rational, too. I am so disappointed for you. Lidia seldom fails, in my experience.

The first time I ever ate an artichoke was in the Bay Area. My roommates had gone to some market during artichoke season and, like you, come home with a big brown paper bag full for a buck. (We were living on food stamps at the time.) I thought the things looked like the nasty thistles which grow in bar ditches in Texas, and I made myself something else to eat.

But when they steamed a pot full, old-fashioned way without Jacques' deft trim, and began their feast, moaning in appreciation with each bite, I had to try it. You could've knocked me over with a feather. Like no other taste on earth, right?

I was an instant convert. And I learned to like their dipping sauce, a mixture of tamari and mayonnaise.

So, my condolences.

kat said...

So, it turns out that I have a wealth of artichoke trivia. I didn't realize this till yesterday.

Artichokes have been a delicacy in France since they were first cultivated, in the 16th C. I really have to wonder about the person who was so hungry that he/she figured out that underneath all that thistle, there was something delicious.....Anyway, during WWII, German prisoners of war (in France) were sometimes given an artichoke to eat, but were not told how to go about it, or which parts were edible. They were just told it was a delicacy.

Let's take a moment to imagine the scene.....

Eventually, I'll try this recipe again, but using regular sized artichokes. I think they'll have a more pronounced flavor than the little baby ones. For now, though, I'll stick to steaming.

Also, in France, it's always melted butter or vinegrette as a sauce. Not mayo like I grew up with.....I find that the pairing of mayonnaise and artichoke is fabulous, though, so I'm not switching anytime soon.

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