Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

You may choke on chokecherries, but not on artichokes

One of the few disappoints of my fabulous prairie childhood was picking a luscious looking cluster of chokecherries from a bush, carefully picking the berries from the cluster and popping them all in my mouth at once. An automatic chewing motion took place, rapidly followed by an automatic spitting action. My poor puckered up mouth must have emitted a piercing scream because every other berry picker in the family crew laughed their sadistic heads off.

I remember it well. From that point ever on, Miss Piggy tried a tiny taste of any new and strange food before making a commitment to actually eating it. I approached my first artichoke with a great deal of trepidation. They look fierce with their thorny leaves--who in the world would want to eat a thistle? Not me. Whenever a thistle looked at me, I looked the other way.

Artichokes are a thistle and a thistle is not an easy vegetable to learn to love. But, once you have tasted the satisfying meat in the fat ends of the leaves and the very meaty heart of the artichoke, you will become as addicted as the Italians and the Spanish who often rank them as their favorite vegetable.

When you are buying an artichoke look at the leaves. If they seem to push away from the head that means their bases are fat and full of good meat just waiting for your teeth to scrape it loose. Withered leaves mean the artichoke has left the mother stalk some time ago. Let the old critter die a peaceful death anywhere but in your kitchen or cooking pot.

Fried Artichokes As Done in Barcelona

Serve as a hors d'ouvre, a first course, or to accompany a meal. Trim the sharp points from the leaves with scissors, pull the outer leaves off and simmer or nuke them separately for another meal or scrape out the meat and use in soups, dips or breads.

4 medium to large artichokes
Extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped

Trim the artichokes down to their hearts by flipping back each outer leaf until it snaps off. When you reach the tender inside leaves, cut the top sharp points off. Using a melon baler or a spoon, reach in and remove the choke. Thinly slice the artichoke hearts and place them in a bowl of water to which you've added a generous pinch or two of salt. Artichokes can be kept this way for up to 2 days in the refrigerator, though the water will discolor. When you are ready to fry them, drain and dry the sliced artichokes on absorbent paper; pat dry. Heat about an inch of extra virgin olive oil in a nonstick frying pan until it smokes, then carefully add small amounts of the artichoke slices until they are all in the pan and covered with the oil, or partially covered. When the slices have browned on one side, turn over and continue cooking until all of the artichokes are browned, some lightly, some more darkly. They should all be tender inside and crisp on most of their outsides. Remove from hot oil to absorbent paper, toss with the garlic and sprinkle with salt. Serve right away. Or, make ahead up to the point that they're cooked, then reheat on a baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes in a hot oven. Sprinkle with garlic and salt and serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Linguine with Artichoke Hearts and Lemon

Add salad, crusty bread and a glass of wine for a simple supper that you can vary by adding thin slices of red and yellow peppers, or mushroom slices, or bits of ham or bacon.

9 ounces linguine
1 cup or more of quartered artichoke hearts, fresh or frozen*
1 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or dried rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup vegetable broth or chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
3 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Lemon wedges

Cook linguine and artichoke hearts in boiling, salted water until barely tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile in a frying pan stir scallions and rosemary in oil until scallions are limp. Add, broth, wine, cream and lemon peel; stir until boiling, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain pasta and artichoke hearts and return to pan. Add sauce, broth, wine, cream and lemon peel; stir until boiling. Add parsley, salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over pasta. Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Artichoke Bottoms, Goat Cheese & Marinated Vegetables

Serve as a first course or as a vegetarian entree.

1/2 pound goat cheese, soft and ripe
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Coarse salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
6 artichoke bottoms (fresh or frozen), cooked
1 zucchini, small
1 yellow squash, small
3 asparagus stalks
2 tablespoons olive oil

Blend goat cheese with 2 ounces olive oil; add chives, salt and pepper. Reserve. Prepare vinaigrette by combining 1 cup olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Whisk until combined. Whisk in basil, salt and pepper, to taste. Place cooked artichoke bottoms in shallow dish. Spoon vinaigrette over artichokes. Reserve. Cut zucchini and yellow squash in half lengthwise and discard seeded centers; slice and chop. Peel asparagus and cut stalks into narrow rounds. Cut asparagus tips into fine julienne. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in sauté pan. Add zucchini and squash and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add asparagus and cook and additional 15 seconds, stirring. Spoon vegetable mixture into small bowl and chill. To assemble: Remove artichoke bottoms from vinaigrette and place on a platter or on 6 individual plates. Place equal amounts of goat cheese mixture onto artichoke bottoms. Smooth cheese with a knife. Add chilled vegetables to remaining vinaigrette and spoon mixture over cheese. Serve with sourdough toast or crackers. Makes 6 servings.

Quick Dip for Artichoke Leaves & Hearts

Give each person a small dish of dip plus a bowl for discarded leaves. You may have to offer training in stripping the meat from each leaf with your lower teeth.

2/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons capers, lightly mashed with a little of their brine

Mix together the mayonnaise and capers. Makes 4 servings.

You sure won't choke on chokecherry jelly. That's gooood stuff!


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