Spring is for Artichokes

Spring has sprung and with it we are diving into our favorite vegetable of the moment, the noble and delicious artichoke. When I eat artichokes, I often find myself daydreaming about vacations in Rome, foggy drives through coastal artichoke fields in Monterey, and the incredible crispy “Carciofi Alla Judea” at Locanda Osteria in the mission — the stuff foodie dreams are made of. My family’s very favorite simple preparation, “Ali’s Artichokes”, is pretty dreamy in its own right. I think my boys mostly love artichokes because they are fun to eat and I suppose that’s just fine too. Happy Spring!

The noble and delicious artichoke.

"Ali's artichokes" our favorite way to eat them.

"Artichoke Friend" (with his pal the carrot), by Luca

We're waiting for Sherm, mascot of our garden, to start producing!

Ali’s Artichokes

My cousin Ali, a master of the grill, taught me to make artichokes this way. That little bit of crispness and char make them especially delicious.

  1. Start your steamer and have it hot and ready to go because artichokes start to discolor the moment you cut them.
  2. While your steamer is getting hot, trim your artichokes. Here’s a great video by Chef Ian Knauer (below).  If you’re planning to trim them ahead, toss them in a bowl of water to which you have added a generous squeeze of lemon to keep them from discoloring.   ** For this preparation, we like our artichokes trimmed and cut in half. We don’t bother removing the chokes, because they’re easier  to scoop out after steaming. **
  3. Steam until just tender. I steam them for 20 minutes and then start checking them every 5-10 minutes. Once tender, I let them cool a bit until they’re cool enough to handle. I scoop out the choke with a spoon and then “marinate” them in olive oil and sea salt. You can grill them right away or leave them covered in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Before serving, give them 5 minutes on a grill or under the broiler to crisp them and give them a bit of char.
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Charred Green Garbanzos

We couldn’t resist snatching up a giant bag of green garbanzos (fresh chick peas) when we saw them at our favorite neighborhood produce store. We love canned or dry chick peas in all kinds of soups, stews and salads but fresh chick peas are a totally new one for us. Our haul is enough for a few experiments, and our first was this simple charred green garbanzo snack. After washing the pods and drying them well, I chucked them in a hot, dry skillet and let them toast until they were blackened on one side (2-3 minutes). Then we tossed them with some good olive oil and our favorite sea salt. Eaten like edamame, they are super snack-able with a mild and slightly nutty flavor. Kids who like eating edamame will probably be more than happy to give these a try… and the beans inside also happen to look like tiny green brains which is pretty cool too.

I am thinking about batches flavored up with lime and chili, or perhaps we’ll give them the same treatment as Mythili’s edamame with coconut, cumin and chili. Chances are pretty good I’ll be making another run to grab some more while they’re still in season.

Container Garden in Bloom!

Living in an urban environment means we cannot fulfill my dream of having vast vegetable beds that I can walk out to and harvest vegetables from for our meals.  We make do with a tiny container garden on our front porch. That in itself has been delightful and full of surprises.  Ria’s favorite “begetable” is parsley !!??!

Spring has sprung and our onions, sage and thyme are producing unexpected and lovely flowers.  Plant something in a pot with your kids and watch it grow.  It truly feeds the soul.

Check out GrowCookEat (Visit goodLife {eats} on Fridays during spring/summer for a collection of tips and posts from other bloggers writing about gardening)

Happy Spring!

It’s feeling a lot like spring around here. The weather has been fantastic and we’re diving into our first baskets of strawberries from the farmer’s market. I’m excited about the start of such a delicious time of year — eating lots of strawberries (of course!) and dusting off my favorite asparagus and artichoke recipes. CUESA has a handy fruit, vegetable and nut calendar if you want to check out what’s coming into season.