Magazine article Sunset

It's Time to Feast on Artichokes

Magazine article Sunset

It's Time to Feast on Artichokes

Article excerpt

LEAF AFTER LEAF, bite after succulent bite, the magnificent thistle--the artichoke--lures you to its inner recesses. Rip away the prickly, pointed, tender leaf crown, scoop out the fuzzy choke, and there, awaiting your pleasure, is the thick, smoky-sweet, meaty bottom.

Observe this ritual now. Artichokes are at peak season, with lowest prices. You might find really big ones for as little as three for $1. And tiny, mature (even though called babies or hearts) artichokes are often a bargain by the bag.

The source for these fleshy, usually thorn-tipped buds is the fog-shrouded coast of central California, from Half Moon Bay, through Santa Cruz and Castroville, to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Spanish explorers get credit for first bringing the artichoke from the Mediterranean basin to the West, where it has made itself perfectly at home.

Boil a batch of artichokes in spicy broth for a fondue feast; trim really big artichokes and bake, stuffed with lamb; or trim tiny artichokes down to total edibility and grill on skewers.

Artichoke Fondue

1/3 cup vinegar

3 tablespoons Worcestershire

2 dried bay leaves

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

2 tablespoons mustard seed

2 tablespoons cumin seed

1 teaspoon crushed dried hot red chilies

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 dozen medium-size (3- to 3 1/2-in.-wide, 8 to 10 oz. each) artichokes

Curry yogurt (recipe follows)

Mustard vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Melted butter (optional)

Mayonnaise (optional)

In a 12- to 14-quart pan, combine 5 quarts water, vinegar, Worcestershire, bay leaves, peppercorns, mustard seed, cumin seed, chilies, and oil. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, remove coarse outer leaves from artichokes. Trim stems even with bases. With a sharp knife, cut off thorny top third of each artichoke. With scissors, trim thorny tips off remaining leaves. Immerse artichokes in cool water and swish to rinse; shake out water.

Plunge artichokes into boiling liquid. Reduce heat, cover, and boil gently until bottoms are tender when pierced, 25 to 35 minutes.

Lift out artichokes and drain. Pour liquid through a fine strainer; reserve seeds for curry yogurt. Discard bay. (If making ahead, cool, cover, and chill artichokes and seeds up to 1 day.)

Serve the artichokes hot, cool, or cold. Offer curry yogurt, mustard vinaigrette, butter, and mayonnaise in individual bowls. Dip artichoke leaves and pieces of the bottom into sauces to eat. Serves 4 as a main course, 12 as a vegetable accompaniment or appetizer.

Per entree serving without sauces: 146 cal. (13 percent from fat); 9 g protein; 2.1 g fat (0.3 g sat.); 29 g carbo.; 277 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Curry yogurt. Mix 3/4 cup unflavored nonfat yogurt, 3/4 cup reduced-calorie or regular mayonnaise, the reserved seed mixture from cooked artichokes (preceding), 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, and salt to taste. (If making ahead, cover and chill up to 2 days.) Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Per tablespoon: 32 cal. (58 percent from fat); 0.8 g protein; 2.4 g fat (0.5 g sat.); 2 g carbo.; 47 mg sodium; 2.6 mg chol.

Mustard vinaigrette. Whisk together 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup water, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons minced shallots, 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves, and 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced. (If making ahead, cover and chill up to 1 day.) Makes about 1 1/4 cups. …

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