Monday, June 16, 2008

Artichoke Week

Isn't that just lovely? Of course, artichokes don't often get to this beautiful flowering stage because they are picked that they might be sold around the country for $3 a piece. Now is this price too steep for the fun of sucking a small amount of edible "meat" from the leaves in one of the more labor intensive vegetable eating experiences I have encountered? Well, apparently not for some. For my part, the word on artichokes is: I just don't get it.

I don't understand why something costs that much when it is virtually tasteless (mostly just tastes like the butter or mayonnaise you dip it in ) and I'm convinced any slightly slimy thing dipped in butter would taste about the same. And clearly artichokes don't want to be eaten. They stab you with their razor sharp leaf spikes as you descend them into a boiling pot of water. More vicious than lobsters! Artichokes probably assumed (you know, if they were sentient beings) that they were relatively safe for all that. I mean who would look at them and think "Now that looks tasty. I'm going to need to eat one of those right now." My mother, an unabashed artichoke lover, has often mused on the first person to eat an artichoke and how they must have been exceedingly hungry to attempt it. There must have also been a great deal of trial and error involved. I can't imagine eating a leaf, discovering it was bitter, and then thinking "oh I see, you can only eat this tiny milimeter at the bottom; the rest is just compost!"

But enough of a rant on artichoke leaves, which if you couldn't gather, I was not a big fan of. The real reason people outside of my family seem to like artichokes is to buy the hearts, and just the hearts, in little jars of water or oil. The existence of hearts in artichokes has the added benefit of being fodder for many a cloying vegetable joke, the sort published in Reader's Digest, like "Why are artichokes so sweet?" "Because they're all heart!" No really, I think I've read that somewhere. And for the record, artichokes are not sweet at all.

The hearts, in addition to being much easier to eat and a source of questionable humor (yes, even I look down on anthropomorphizing from time to time) are a great deal more versatile. I tried them in salads, on a pizza, and they can also be put in pastas. They were admittedly better in this easier to eat form, but I still don't understand the reason for the extravagance. They don't really seem to taste like much, and their texture reminds me of a hard boiled egg. Eggs are so much cheaper. Overcook one, chop it up, and soak it in olive oil, and I doubt there would really be a difference.

I did try some artichoke dips because I always try to like at least one thing each week and that seemed like my only option. I got two: an artichoke garlic dip and a spinach and artichoke dip. The last one was perhaps a bit of a cheat because I already liked spinach dip, and honestly that was the predominant taste. And because I had the tasty spinach dip as a crutch, I tended to eat less and less of the straight artichoke dip, which without comparison, really wasn't that bad. See? "Not that bad"! There is some end to my artichoke bitterness.

So yes, to sum up: artichokes--just don't get the hype. I think after this week I need something a little easier. I've been thinking I should tackle beans (other than the previously friended "green beans" from many a week ago). I'd thought about dividing this category because there are so many beans to chose from, but the idea of a straight "lima bean" week wasn't particularly appealing. Still, it does seem rather difficult to cover the category in a single seven day period. I thought about maybe making it into two (possibly consecutive) weeks. Right now, my plan is to just start with week one and see how I go from there. So yes, I'm relying on the advice of my commenters on what beans to focus on! Thanks!

Next week: bean (feast) week!


Anonymous said...

Re artichokes: Ouch!

On to beans: Great soup potential. Black bean and navy bean soup are classics. (not in the same soup). But there is that 7 bean soup -- that would cover a lot of bean types.

I really like garbanzos. They are good in salads (as are most beans), but also the basis of hummus and falafal.

There are a lot of vegetarian chili recipes out there.

Bean dip is also good.

Lima beans are pretty boring. The best ones by far are Fordhook.


Susan Thompson said...

About the theory is that a great deal of the appeal is the texture. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that people who like mushrooms would like artichoke hearts and vice versa.

Who doesn't like refried beans? Just last night I had the good fortune to watch my son's future mother-in-law make delicious refried beans. She sautees onion and garlic in a frying pan. Then she blenderized a can of pinto beans along with the liquid in the can and poured the blenderized beans into the fry pan. They are liquidy to start out with because they were blenderized along with the liquid in the can. She cooked them down until most of the water was cooked away and it had the right consistency. While it was cooking, she added chicharrones (fried pig skins), which adds to the deliciousness even as it subtracts from the healthiness.

My old way of doing refried beans was just to open a can of refried beans, put them in a sauce pan, add some chicken broth to loosen them up a bit, and season with chili powder and cumin and some onion salt and garlic powder. And that's not half bad, either.

And I love hummus, especially the kind with red peppers in it. They make a good dip with pita chips.

I also like garbanzo beans on a salad. I never could get the appeal of those bean salads soaked in vinegar, though.

Susan T.

Melody said...

Dang it. Mom (Susan T) beat me to the delicious pinto-refried bean recipe.

About artichokes - if you ever go to The Hitching Post (it is in the movie Sideways) they have an artichoke appetizer that is amazing.

Cody said...

Kept me fed for a week. Saturate with Tony Chachere's for extra goodness.

Melissa K. said...

that you're actually keeping up with this. Artichokes aren't my favorite either, unless they're in a spinach dip. Have you tried avocados yet (I need to go back through the archives)? Those are really useful. You can eat them sliced over a salad, mash them up into guacamole, and either way you can use the pit to grow another plant. We did that constantly in elementary school.