Spiky and sophisticated: I taste and create

We interrupt this ultimate vegan gluten-free Thanksgiving broadcast to bring you a LONG overdue Taste & Create update. For the November round of this event, which pairs food blogs and has them each make a recipe from the other’s blog, I was paired with the blog Little Ivy Cakes. Little Ivy Cakes is a supremely energetic blog documenting all sorts of amazing baking adventures. Luckily for wheat-intolerant me, she blogs about other cooking adventures as well.

I was so consumed by Thanksgiving this month that I did not have a moment to spare on a non-Thanksgiving-related cooking project, but finally the the stars aligned. I found myself with many baby artichokes, and Little Ivy Cakes offered up a recipe for braised artichokes that sounded perfect. I cut my lil’ guys in quarters and realized I didn’t even have to remove the chokes – these babies were too young to grow a beard! (They were choke-free.)

Braised baby artichokes

I followed the Little Ivy Cakes recipe to the letter and the artichokes came out really lovely. For relatively little effort I thought these artichokes looked great, sophisticated and ready to be part of an antipasto platter or something. The only hitch for me was, how the heck do you eat them?

Growing up in California, artichokes were a regular part of my diet. We ate them often, boiled or steamed and then served with a little dish of mayo (which I eschewed because mayo is gross). The way to eat them was to peel off each leaf, scrape your teeth along the meaty part at the base, and then toss the spent leaf into an empty bowl my mom had placed on the table. Once you reached the heart, you used a spoon or a particularly stiff artichoke leaf to scoop out the prickly choke. My mom would always say then, “Oh, the heart is the worst part, you don’t want that, let me take it off your hands!” but even at a young age I could see right through her tricks. This was the reward for all that patient scraping. The sweet and tender heart and the bitter but still delicious stem. After finishing my artichoke I would drink a glass of milk to enjoy the strange chemical reaction that makes the milk taste particularly sweet.

But what to do with these braised artichokes? Was I still to start at the outside and work my way in, layer my leafy layer? Even in baby form the outer layers of leaves were too stiff and prickly to even consider eating the artichoke quarter whole. Duck and I settled on a technique where we sort of gnawed at them, starting at the bottom inside edge where the heart and stem were, and chewing through the tender inner leaves until the unpalatable outer leaves were reached. They were delicious – Duck, especially, was crazy for them – but the whole gnawing thing was a serious erosion to the sophistication I remarked on earlier. So, basically, great recipe, but where are the operating instructions? I’ll have to follow up at Little Ivy Cakes and see if she’ll share her secret!

Don’t forget to check out Little Ivy Cakes’ adventure with my recipe for Sauteed Radicchio with Balsamic Vinegar!

Recipe follows…

Braised Artichokes (directly from Little Ivy Cakes)

With a big knife cut the artichoke in fourths. Remove the hairy choke with a knife or spoon-This can be tricky so be careful, you don’t want these choke hairs getting everywhere because they are a big pain. Once done, rinse the artichoke in water.

Then, coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil, toss in 1 clove of garlic coarsely chopped, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and fresh ground salt and pepper, let it sizzle on medium-high heat.

Add artichokes to the pot. Make sure each side of the quarters are coated. When artichokes are nicely browned, take off the heat and let cool for a couple minutes, then slowly add 1 1/2 cups of water. Put back on the medium-low heat and put lid on the pot to let braise for 30 minutes or until artichokes are soft.

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