Saturday, June 16, 2012


The Santa Barbara Farmers' Market offers a splendid selection of produce, including many vegetables and fruits that simply don't grow back home in Michigan. The artichokes are especially fascinating -- it's really quite a pleasure to choose from several sizes and varieties.

Cooking artichokes isn't all that difficult if you have a steamer, and my small kitchen here fortunately does have one. After trimming the tips of the leaves with a scissors and peeling the stems, I steamed my artichokes until they were quite soft.

Above: trimmed artichokes in the steamer basket. Below: cooked artichokes ready for us to remove one leaf at a time and dip each leaf into mayonnaise or vinaigrette.

The first time I ever tried to eat an artichoke was with my parents and siblings. None of us had ever tasted or seen one. We tried to eat the whole thing, and after chewing away at the fibrous outer leaves for a while, concluded that they weren't much good. I think that happened to lots of midwesterners who had no background in these Mediterranean exotica. What surprises me is that my parents were even willing to try something that unusual. We normally stuck to our old favorite vegetables, many frozen or even from cans.

On my first visit to France, someone gave me a lesson in how to take each leaf from the whole artichoke, dip it in sauce, and scrape the soft part with my teeth until I reached the entirely-edible inner leaves. I've been an artichoke fan ever since. I like the way they make other food taste sweet.

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