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All Choked Up

All choked up

How I’m loving the newfound explosion of spring vegetables at the market — eensy heads of lettuce, demure little bulbs of fennel — but most exciting are the mounds of baby artichokes. (As opposed to the bad boys pictured above, from last month’s visit to San Diego’s Hillcrest Farmer’s Market.)

Seems everyone’s been jumping on the artichoke bandwagon lately. Ilva’s whipped up some delicious-looking (and of course gorgeously photographed) oven-baked artichokes with sausage, lemon and breadcrumbs; single chef Ben pairs them with shrimp for a springy salad; Gluten-Free Girl Shauna enjoys them in a creamy risotto; and Sam revisits her artichoke panzanella, making “the best thing she ever did” even better.

Matt goes to the source, getting chokes (and more stunning images) directly from the field. He prefers his steamed, straight up with butter and aioli. Who can argue with that? I also seem to have read a recommendation of serving them with hummus, which sounds both tasty and somewhat less artery-clogging.

The batch of babies I purchased at the market got two treatments: First, I pared them down and split them, then browned the cut sides and braised them in a little chicken stock, lemon, garlic and red pepper flake. Then, inspired by a salad I had at Incanto recently, I shaved them raw, thinly, directly into a salad of baby fennel and shredded romaine hearts with a light lemon vinaigrette. Raw, they had a bright, grassy flavor and a strong perfume.

But as bigger globes come available, I have some ideas in mind. At Woodhouse Fish Co.,
I enjoyed grilled artichoke halves stuffed with shrimp and crab,
dressed with a pungent lemon-pesto butter. While the grilling gave the
chokes a nice smoky char, the halves probably could have been steamed
just a bit to cook the hearts through better. Still, the combination of
fresh artichoke, succulent crab meat and a nice, hoppy beer is one of
the most syngergistic I can think of.

And since Easter is upon us, I just might have to whip up a batch of stuffed artichokes, benefitting from last year’s pictorial how-to featuring some star hand modelling on the part of my mother.

One year ago today … After pondering a trip to Spain over a nice cup of tea, I took things in a decidedly Japanese direction with miso-glazed black cod with dashi, bok choi and fiddlehead fern.

This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. The second I read the title I knew it was artichokes! YAY!
    I fry and salt and pepper the leaves (after trimming the thorns of course), for these yummy chips!

  2. I agree with Shuna, I love the simple pleasure of a steamed artichoke with a side of mayo.
    Next time I feel creative in the kitchen I’m going to take advantage of the oven-baked artichokes with sausage, lemon and breadcrumbs link. Thanks Sean!

  3. I’m with Shuna (our names our too similar to disagree that much) — steamed, my teeth dragging up the leaf, warmed butter.
    But that risotto that my love made (and you so kindly linked to) was damned fine too.
    But you have given me a new idea. Shaved with fennel? Wow. I know what I’m having for lunch tomorrow!

  4. What a pretty picture.
    Made me remember the first time I ever prepped an artichoke. (This wasn’t very long ago at all.) It’s amazing the lengths that plant goes to to protect its heart. I got stabbed in at least three different ways – the outer thorns, the splintery metallic “hairs”, me cutting myself with the peeler…
    Crab sounds yum.

  5. Shuna: There’s no denying that simplicity is the best appraoch here. But then again, you’ve never had my stuffed artichokes, have you? 🙂
    Garrett: An excellent idea! And a technique only a native Californian could come up with.
    Matt: You bet!
    Shauna: Glad to be of service — but extend the thanks at least in part to Chris Cosentino at Incanto, as it was his salad that inspired me. It didn’t have fennel, but did have shaved celery and mint. Yum!
    Michele: Yeah, I manage to barb myself a few times even with the dainty little things. It’s always worth the pain in the end.

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