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Artichoke Exploration

On a Sunday afternoon there I was at my neighborhood grocery store staring at organic produce and wondering what to have along side our weekly roast chicken.  I decided that it was time to try cooking an artichoke or two again.

Califlower artichoke 017
I admit it they were also calling to me as photogenic food – but what a better excuse to attempt to find their heart?

Furthermore, one of my oldest friends and email correspondent compatriat Jeremy who still lives in our hometown Duluth, Minnesota asked me in one of our conversations about the location of an artichoke's heart.  Had I ever seen one?  He thought they were a myth.  It sounded like a case for Paprika Angel to explore. 

Califlower artichoke 013

Theoretically, the artichoke is easy to cook.  You steam it, you peel its leaves, you dip them in some type of tasty sauce until you reach its inner most heart – which you eat and enjoy.  Except the heart of a self-steamed artichoke is never like a jar of artichoke hearts on the shelf smiling at you.  Is there some secret access code to artichoke love?

I first turned to my trusty Visual Food Encyclopedia – best book ever gifted for my 19th birthday – thank you Mom.  Here is the illustration accompanying the artichoke entry.

Artichoke 001

So the artichoke is made up of leaves, choke, bottom and stem.  No heart. Hmmm…

Well, not to be discouraged when on a mission for a friend I decided to follow the recommended steaming method and set the artichokes in for a 30 minute steam bath prior to dissection.

Califlower artichoke 025

While the twins were steaming I dug around the internets and found some ideas for the other part of this experiment – the dip.  I narrowed in on mayo, lemon, wheat-free tamari and balsamic vinegar.  With absolutely no formal measurement technique or notes I mixed up a tasty batch of balsamicy salty mayo goodness. If you would like to repeat do about two heaping spoonfuls of mayo to a splash each of lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and tamari – it equals yum.

Artichoke and agua verde 001

I peeled back the layers of leaves, plated them with the dip in front of Lamar – next to roasted cauliflower and chicken and received a raised eyebrow.  I told him it was an experiment in the name of art and he picked up a leaf, dipped in and all protests were quelled by mayonnaise artichoke goodness.

Artichoke and agua verde 004

To eat an artichoke leaf you simple scrape the thick backside with your teeth. It looks a little something like this.

Artichoke and agua verde 009

You can choose to dip the leaf or just go plain – I alternated.

The heart of my steamed artichoke twins was another story.  I have no good pictures of my two artichoke hearts from this experiment because, well, I was distracted and failed to photograph them – and they just didn't look that pretty.  But they did exist – and were tangible food items that could be chewed and enjoyed upon the removal of the choke fuzz.

The moral of the story – anyone can find an artichoke's heart with a little help from illustration and instruction.  It might not look perfect or be easy to get to but it will be rewarding and full of healthy essential folic acid and other nutrients when you eat it.


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