Wildly creative home artichoke recipes – from chips to cakes – and a peek at the passion behind them.
Thursday, May 3, 2012
They email things like “I am infatuated with the ritual of dressing up and then gradually undressing a beautiful artichoke, devouring it layer by layer.” They say things like, “They’re fresh, they’re here, they’re happening.”
They cook things like mini artichoke bundt cakes and even see their passion spill into the wider thistle family, crafting phyllo-crusted spanakopita spinoffs with artichoke’s cardoon cousins.
They are moms and sons and gardeners and bloggers – and keep day jobs as promotions directors and environmental consultants. Their interests are diverse and demanding. But they share something significant: beating loudly in each of their chests is an artichoke heart. They preach the epistle of the thistle. And they live among us, have more to tell and recipes to share.
With artichoke season in full sprout, the Weekly found them after helping a Canadian cooking show called Pitchin’ In seek out local thistle-thusiasts. Only the hosers couldn’t quite recognize true tasty greatness, so we get ’em and celebrate ’em, just like we got ex-Canuck legends like Wayne Gretzky, Neil Young and Jim Carrey. (How do you say “winning” in Canadian?)
For local KPIG DJ and longtime local music pillar Arden Eaton, artichoke heartiness has been part of a long-term meat-free lifestyle, and a marital aid, too.
“I’m a vegetarian – from age 15 to 56 – so I’m not going to change my mind,” she says. “My husband is a regular meat-eating guy. But if he wants meat, I don’t cook it.”
When National Paella Day struck in March, he resigned himself to the fact the dish he loves – piled with shrimp and Andouille sausage – was a no go. Eaton countered with a “arty” veggie paella.
“I knew if it had a lot of artichokes, it would have a lot of depth and flavor and tooth to it,” she says. “And it came out really good: Very flavorful. Rich – artichokes are almost creamy. Hearty. Nice complexity.”
Mom-blogger-office manager-and-seasonal-home-chef Camilla Mann found her pleasant obsession when she toured farms with her husband after his artwork gave the Castroville Artichoke Festival – which arrives May 19-20 – its flagship poster for 2010.
“I just love that it’s an edible flower,” she says. But no delicate little nasturtium here, she adds. “It’s so meaty, with such great texture.”
Having learned to cook in Italy, she lent the artichokes to a mouthwatering white lasagna, then took the inspiration to everything from cardoon pies to savory cakes like her mini chocolate-artichoke bundts with silky chocolate sauce.
“It’s similar to zucchini or carrot cake,” she says. “I like that it was surprising, how moist it was, and how it combined with chocolate. It wasn’t sweet and sour, it was sweet and savory.”
City of Monterey environmental programs coordinator and part-time caterer David Reichbaum takes his passion to a comprehensive place. It’s Reichbaum who waxes poetic about “undressing” the artichoke, which he calls his “dear culinary comrade,” saying, “It’s the most interesting thing to eat.” Artichokes are also the background of his Facebook page.
He insists it’s not just about stuffing the shell or claiming the heart, but using normally-discarded leaves for his “sexy artichoke chips” – and using any clipping or other scraps to make beautiful compost for gardens.
“The growing, the cultivating, the harvesting, the preparing, the eating, the composting,” he says. “I enjoy the process as much as the flavor.”
Find more recipeson the Food Blog, www.mcweekly.com/edible. The Castroville Artichoke Festival sprouts Saturday-Sunday, May 19-20, in downtown Castroville. $5/kid, senior, military; $10/adult. www.artichoke-festival.org