Taming the wild thistle

artichoke

artichoke (Photo credit: wundoroo)

Ah, the mighty artichoke! According to legend, it was created by Zeus when he turned a rejected lover into one.  (Zeus had a habit of doing this).

Upset with the propensity for schools using Native American caricatures as school mascots, the Scottsdale (Arizona) Junior college adopted the artichoke for their mascot. At least their football stars must be healthy.

The artichoke is packed with nutrition, ranking seventh out of the USDA top twenty for  anti-oxident foods. It’s a good source of folate, dietary fiber, and vitamins C and K. Plus, artichokes look cool on the buffet table next to a delectable dip.

Have I convinced you yet?

My goal, when I found two in my coop food basket this week, was to learn how to cook them. And they can be a challenge. They are a thistle, which means the points of the leaves are prickery, hence the scissors; you trim each one.

Then you have to cut off the point. I tried two knives and found a serrated one worked best.

shot with teas

See all the pink leaves? Those come from the middle of the artichoke, once you cut off the top. You pull on these out–you haven’t lost anything by doing this: they are too small to hold dip.

all the equipment

After the pink leaves, you need to scrape out the inner stuff with the spoon. The official terminology for the inner stuff is  “a thicket of fuzz called a choke” according to the Joy of Cooking.  That takes care of the choke part; I’m not sure where the “arti” comes in!

Important to scrape it all out, because if you don’t it doesn’t go away, but rather, sits on top of the good part, the heart of the vegetable, like those fine fish bones you can feel on the tip of your tongue when you try to eat a piece of trout. (Ignore the trout, though, because this is a vegetarian recipe).

When you get through all this preliminary block-and-tackle work, the rest is a piece of cake.  Plunk the artichokes in a Pyrex dish and cover, then microwave for 5-8 minutes.microwaved artichoke

Nuke some butter to go with, and dig in:

artichoke with butter

The mortal remains fill a dish like lobster shells. And yes, I missed a thicket or two of fuzz!

mortal remains

 

A wealth of radishes

Saturday Morning Food CoopEvery other Saturday I make the trek to a close by town to harvest baskets of vegetables and fruit at my food coop. I put in my order on Monday, but it’s never guaranteed what will be there.

We follow the seasons: winter saw a lot of broccoli and winter squash; now I am seeing fresh sweet corn. The size varies: One time I got a ten pound butternut squash; this week the mangos are small and the zucchini enormous–just like you’d find in a regular garden.

You bring your own container, and pick up a basket of vegetables and a basket of fruit:

Food Coop Baskets

This week there was watermelon, Asian pears, bananas and mangoes; fresh sweet corn, asparagus, purple potatoes, endive, orange peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms:

basket close up

When I bring them home, Foxy has to sample. Who says cats aren’t vegetarian!

Cat eating vegetables

My challenge is to cook them all. Salad, of course. Vegetable broth for the leftovers. They sent along herbs as well this week: fresh basil, oregano, rosemary. My refrigerator is so fragrant.

food on table

Now the research and fun starts. Artichoke and endive? Egg plant? I’ve got some busy times ahead of me this weekend.