Thursday, May 19, 2011

Living In The Seasons--Spring

For centuries people lived in the seasons.  Their diets were determined by their geographic location, the temperature, weather, and the food they had access to.  Nowadays we are able to shop in grocery stores where most fresh fruits and vegetables are available year-round.  However, as we learn to eat fruits and veggies in their seasons, the tastes are so much more vivid, alive, and delicious.  Every spring I look forward to the fresh crop of artichokes that hits the local farmers markets.  The artichoke is an unusual vegetable, and some may find its spiny appearance intimidating, but it's so easy to prepare and so rewarding--especially when you get to the toothsome, flavorful heart--that it will likely become a regular feature of your spring menus as well.  A special bonus that the artichoke offers is healthfulness:  One large artichoke has only 25 calories, no fat, and 170 milligrams of potassiums, and is an excellent source of vitamin C.  Artichokes also contain folate, magnesium, and lots of dietary fiber.  Try this delicious and healthy recipe from my book, Coming Home: A Seasonal Guide to Creating Family Traditions.

Spring Artichokes With Lemon Butter (serves 4)

4 large California globe artichokes
Juice of 2 lemons
1 clove garlic, smashed, plus 2 cloves minced
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) good quality-salted butter

ARTICHOKES
Wash the artichokes under cold water.
Cut off the stems at the base and remove any small leaves.
Fill a large pot with 2 to 3 inches of water.
Add half of the lemon juice and the 1 smashed garlic clove.
Bring to a boil.
Place the artichokes upright in the pot.
Cover and cook at a low boil for 35 to 45 minutes, until the artichoke's base can be pierced with a fork or you can easily pull off a leaf.
Drain the artichokes upside down.

LEMON BUTTER DIPPING SAUCE
In a small saucepan, heat the butter, minced garlic, and the remaining lemon juice.
When the butter is melted, pour it into individual ramekins.
Serve the artichokes with the lemon butter as a dipping sauce.

Tell your guests to pull one leaf at a time from the artichoke and dip it in the sauce, then scrape the leaf with their teeth to pull off the tender inner flesh of the artichoke.  After the large outer leaves are all eaten, paper-thin leaves remain.  These can be pulled out in sections and eaten, but the best part of an artichoke is the heart.  After you've eaten all of the leaves, remove the hairy choke with a tablespoon until you reach the heart.  Dip the heart in the butter sauce, and enjoy!



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