Sunday, February 22, 2009

Artichokes with Garlic Pimiento Vinaigrette (Page 519)

RECIPE #946

  • Date: Friday, February 6, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Terry, Teri, Karen H, and Dave
  • Recipe Rating: B


A few weekends ago my parents and my special gentleman's parents both came to visit. For this occasion I made a big dinner. I wanted some vegetable dish to go with the meal, but the Vegetables section of The Book is running quite low. For whatever reason, though, I hadn't yet touched the artichoke recipes in that section. The section starts with three artichoke recipes in a row: Artichoke Bottoms Braised in Olive Oil with Garlic and Mint, Artichokes with Garlic Pimiento Vinaigrette, and Fried Artichokes. I chose the middle one because it looked like the least work (which, when you are making a big meal, can be very important!). Artichokes are one of those foods where you have to wonder, who ever thought to eat this thing? The edible part of an artichoke is pretty small relative to the entire thing, and also pretty well hidden. It's encapsulated in leaves and topped with an inedibe fuzzy choke. It's as if the whole vegetable is screaming, "Don't eat me!" But if you can get past its various defenses, artichokes are tasty little guys. There seem to be two choices in preparing artichokes:
1. A lot of work for the person preparing the artichokes.
2. Slightly less work for the person preparing them, but a lot of work for the person eating them.
The first artichoke recipe I mentioned is a good example of type 1 (I will blog about that recipe soon). It involved extracting everything edible from the artichoke before cooking it, making it very simple to eat. This recipe, however, was more of a type 2.

I started by doing the following process, one artichoke at a time. I cut the top 1/2 inch off the artichoke, then used a scissors to cut off whatever leaf tips remained. I rubbed the cut surfaces with lemon. Then I carefully opened out the leaves until I got to the purple ones inside (cursing all the while -- some of those little leaves are pointy, and they kept stabbing me!). I pulled out the purple leaves and enough other leaves to expose the choke. Then I scooped out the fuzzy mess with a melon ball cutter and squeezed lemon juice into the artichoke. Repeat. Once they were all ready to go, I cooked the artichokes until the bottoms were tender in boiling salted water with lemon juice added. I dunked them in ice water to stop the cooking, then I drained them. I topped the artichokes with a vinaigrette of garlic, salt, white wine vinegar, olive oil, finely chopped pimientos, parsley, and pepper.

Then came the challenge of eating them. Ok, challenge is the wrong word. It wasn't hard to eat them, only time consuming. The delicious edible part of an artichoke is at the bottom of each leaf. Eating them, leaf by leaf, scraping off the tasty part with your teeth, takes quite some time. Half of the diners gave up on their artichokes before ever reaching the heart (which is the best part, but also the most hidden). Overall, the dish was fine. Often artichokes are served hot just with a dish of melted butter for dipping the leaves, and I think I prefer them that way. The vinaigrette in this recipe tasted good, but I would have prefered eating the artichoke warm. I liked the dish well enough but I am not sure it was worth the effort for either the person preparing it, or the person eating it!

The recipe in The Book is the same as this one, but the one in The Book has the ingredients for the dressing doubled.

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