--Thomas Aloysius Dorgan
I remember eating artichokes when I was a kid. We dipped the artichoke leaves into mayonnaise. In my teens, I learned to enjoy the heart of the artichoke and discovered it was the best part. Hitchhiking (yes, I was a bold post-hippie chick who traveled around America with my devoted black Labrador Stonefox) to Big Sur and other coastal landmarks, I recall artichoke stands where you could buy dozens on the cheap. And I can't forget selling flowers on a corner next to a place that sold fried artichoke hearts. And, of course, I grew up less than 50 miles from artichoke country--Castroville. So, yes, as a native Californian (who probably will never leave the Golden State) artichokes have a genuine history in my heart, spirit and soul. Today, it's truly a nice warm and fuzzy feeling to revisit these prickly vegetables (that make you work like a sporting dog to enjoy their healthful benefits) and give 'em a new spin...
I'm keeping my promise to me and you and will be exploring and enjoying more vegetables. Since it's a holiday I'm not sure I want to cook up a storm, and steamed artichokes--healthy gems that are low in fat, cholesterol, calories and chock-full of nutrients and postassium) seem like an easy way to get one vegetable coming my way. I recall during my Woman's World diet and nutrition columnist days, we wrote that artichokes are a good food to eat if you're trying to lose unwanted weight because it's an exercise of learning how to eat and enjoy s-l-o-w-l-y leaf by leaf.
So, it's time to wash two artichokes, cut the stems, and put water into a large saucepan, bring to a full boil. Drop in artichokes, boil for about a half hour or till tender (pull off a leaf or two and if it's easy does it, it's done). (I read to keep it's color, add fresh lemon slices to the water.) Boil for about 30 minutes. The artichokes are done when an outside leaf pulls away easily. Then, it's vinaigrette time with a Mediterrranean flavor of garlic, onions, and olive oil.
Mix 1/2 cup lemon flavored extra virgin olive oil, 3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped, 1 tablespoon red onion, chopped, and a dash of freshly ground pepper. Chill for a couple of hours. Warm in microwave and drizzle over warm or cold (either way are tasty) artichokes and/or dip leaves and the heart into vinaigrette.The other day, I purchased two large artichokes--$3.00 a piece. It could be because I live at Lake Tahoe where produce can be pricey. I thought artichokes were in season but if they are the price doesn't show it. No matter. One of these monsters dipped in the good heart-healthy stuff will be fun and different because I'm giving my old artichoke friends a new, improved Mediterranean makeover. And like a kid I will anticipate enjoying the meat on the leaves as well as getting to the heart of the matter. FYI: Here's a great link to everything you want to know about artichokes and your health but were too busy to ask.