I had really thought that by now I would have been writing about our amazing trip to Cowichan Bay, BC and that I would be going on and on about crepes, scones, raspberry cake and berry cobbler…but something got in the way. It snuck up on me like a kitten that wants to destroy the belt to your bathrobe and it all started with a trip to the brand new Farmer’s Market in Las Vegas. This is a market unlike the block long markets on the streets and in the parks of Southern California – it’s in a business center – shielded from the 115-degree heat and Mario Batali is the man behind it all. His goal was to bring local farmers (yes – there are farmers in the Las Vegas area) to the limelight with the intention that chefs would use local produce in their restaurants. So far it’s small but it’s a huge success.
Last week I took a couple of girls from my office to check it out. I had absolutely no plans to buy any veg whatsoever. My fridge was already jam-packed but then they appeared…perfect baby purple artichokes. I think I squealed in excitement and before my brain could even register it I had a bag of 10 chokes paid for and gently tucked into my canvas bag.
My head was spinning with possibilities. What do I do with these?! Do I steam them and suck them down with melted butter, do I bake them with breadcrumbs and fresh herbs or do I (gasp) fry them?? What I decided on instead was to braise them in white wine, vegetable stock, lemon juice and a handful of fresh thyme (picked from my garden!!). The result was divine. The baby artichokes were so delicate and once infused with the wine and herbs they almost melt in your mouth.
If you can’t find purple artichokes at your farmer’s market, use traditional baby artichokes. The flavor is very similar. Make this is an appetizer to share among friends (or even just for yourself…I promise I won’t tell).
A little side note on how to eat them: Once cooked, peal the outer leaves off and use your teeth to scrape the tender flesh into your mouth. Don’t eat the whole leaf – your digestive track will curse you for days! Once you get past the first few layers the center of the choke should easily pull out and you can take nice bite out of that. Then comes the best part. The heart. Baby chokes don’t have the fuzzy center that traditional artichokes have so all your need to do it pop it in your mouth and savor the last bite slowly.
Please enjoy your baby artichokes and stay tuned for several great recipes from our Canadian adventure.
White Wine & Thyme Braised Artichokes
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves: 4
8 – 10 baby purple artichokes
2 cups vegetable stock (1 can)
1/2 cup white wine (anything but a sweet wine will work)
1/2 cup water
Zest and juice of one lemon
Small handful of fresh Thyme
1. Peel off several of the outer leaves of the artichoke and cut in half.
2. In a shallow pan add the veggie stock, wine, water, thyme, lemon zest and the juice of half the lemon
3. Cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes. Towards the end check the liquid levels. You don’t want them to get too low. You can always add a touch of water.
4. They are done when the leaves are tender. To test, pull a leaf out and eat it 🙂
5. Just before serving squeeze the rest of the lemon juice on and sprinkle with sea salt.