AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Harbinger of Spring DATE: 3/30/2009 08:17:00 AM ----- BODY:
My dad grew up in the forties and fifties in a small town in western Pennsylvania. Fish came frozen and breaded, and vegetables were canned. When he went to graduate school in Manhattan, he discovered all sorts of new foods. One of them was during a date to a fine French restaurant. His girlfriend ordered artichokes and he followed along. As he watched her eat, pulling back the leaves and daintily nibbling the heart away from the leaves with her teeth , he thought, "This is how a proper woman eats artichokes, surely real men eat the whole leaf." Much to his discomfort, he discovered that real men also eat artichokes by nibbling off the heart from the leaves.

Artichokes grow in warm climates with cool nights: the quintessential spring climate of their native Mediterranean. I've read that they can grow in New England too, but require starting the seeds indoors and full sun when planted outside. Given my ability to start seeds inside and the conditions of my yard, I will leave the growing to others, and purchase them at my favorite green grocer. Look for tightly closed globes -- as the leaves start to open the hearts turn bitter and tough.

I typically braise artichokes in olive oil. This tenderizes the heart as well as the inner leaves, and takes away the tart after taste that makes artichokes so hard to pair with wine. Once braised, I'll roast them for a crispy exterior, top them on pizza with St. Andre cheese or mix them in with risotto. This recipe uses a lot of anchovies, which is great if you have an abundance.

Braised artichokes

4 artichokes
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup anchovies
1/2 cup garlic
1/2 cup capers
1/2 cup parsley
salt and pepper to taste

1. Clean artichokes by cutting back tough outer leaves and trimming stem back to the white part. Cut artichokes in half and scoop out the fuzzy choke.

2. In food processor, gently puree anchovies, garlic, capers and parsley.

3. Bring olive oil to a boil in an oven proof pot with caper mixture. Add artichokes and water. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 45 minutes or until leaves are tender.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types DATE:3/30/2009 09:38:00 AM I really enjoy artichokes but struggle with the time it can take to prepare them - this sounds much easier than what I've tried in the past, so now that spring is here, I think I'll give it a shot. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger adele DATE:3/30/2009 10:47:00 AM I usually steam artichokes to eat plain, but this sounds very good.

Love the story about your father. :) ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger cook eat FRET DATE:3/30/2009 11:02:00 AM beautiful
i want this!
it's perfect spring food

i might make these this weekend as i'm having friends over.

are they over oily? do they stay kinda green? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:OpenID burpandslurp DATE:3/30/2009 11:38:00 AM lol! that's an amusing story about your father!
I love, love, love artichokes,but never know how to prepare it myself except from a can. so thanks for the info! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Chiot's Run DATE:3/30/2009 04:13:00 PM Oh, I've only cooked artichokes once and I wasn't impressed. Probably more my fault than the artichokes, although I am very good in the kitchen when it comes to most veggies. Perhaps next year I'll try growing them in the garden and see what happens. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger jesse DATE:3/30/2009 04:40:00 PM What a great story about your dad! Hahaha! When I first ate artichokes, my cheapskate Chinese blood screamed, "WHAT A WASTE!! You have to eat ALL of it!!!" And I spent five whole minutes chewing the same leaf, too stubborn to spit it out, too grossed out to swallow. Stubbornness wins any day though, and I swallowed. That was quite an experience. Now I stick to just the heart. ^_^ ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Heather DATE:3/30/2009 08:37:00 PM HAHAHAHA! i love that story. your dad sounds adorable :D ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous we are never full DATE:3/30/2009 09:04:00 PM i can't get enough of artichokes. i really think i could eat them every day. i love how you added anchovy to your artichoke. i love doing my artichokes like you too - braise then roast. and breadcrumbs are not necessary! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:3/31/2009 09:55:00 AM T.W. -- Growing up, the only way I knew them was steamed whole. Very easy to prepare. This is pretty easy too.

adele -- it's definitely a nice change up.

ceF - they're not oily at all. I usually drain them before serving.

burpandslurp -- the canned variety taste so much different because they are packed with lots of citric acid.

Chiot's Run -- if you can grow artichokes in your garden I'll be thoroughly impressed and envious

jesse -- that's too funny!

Heather -- it's definitely one of his better stories. ;-)

WANF -- what do you braise yours in? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger melissa DATE:4/05/2009 02:14:00 AM I am so looking forward to cooking all the artichokes I can this season. I may even make some Steve will eat. ;) These sound beautiful! ----- --------