Recently I was asked to name my favorite vegetable, and I was stumped — or torn, as I like so many. My sister, however, would not have hesitated for a second: favorite vegetable, artichoke; second favorite, artichoke; third favorite, artichoke. She might actually choose an artichoke over a slice of cheesecake. (Just kidding; she’d choose the cheesecake.)
My sister and I were quite young when our parents decided we were old enough to join them in having artichokes for dinner. An enthusiastic eater from an early age (my first sentence was, “More mayonnaise, please”), I was always happy to try a new food. My sister wasn’t quite so eager, but since there was melted butter involved, she was willing to play along.
The table was set with plates, napkins and the biggest mixing bowl we had, empty in the middle of the table. A steaming artichoke was placed on each plate. They taught us how to pull the leaves off (always taking care to avoid the thorns), dip them in the butter and then scrape the edible flesh off each leaf with our bottom teeth.
Thanks to that early training, I have spent my life as an exuberant artichoke booster. I still like eating them just like we did that first time (though a dish of homemade aioli is also good for dipping), but truly, I can’t think of a time when I’ve turned down any artichoke preparation.
We’re teaming up with food and garden bloggers to host Spring Fling 2011, a season-long garden party. In coming weeks, we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. Recently, we dove into the world of asparagus and rhubarb — today, we’re exploring artichokes.
An edible thistle, artichokes are one of those veggies that is easiest used from a jar or frozen. But if you’re going to pick one time of year to actually carve into an artichoke, spring is the time to do it, when fresh artichokes are at their peak. Don’t be intimidated by all those leaves and the inedible “choke” hiding inside – just follow the lead of Food Network chefs.