It is artichoke season–a truly wonderful development if, as I do, you enjoy artichokes.
The artichoke, Cynara scolymus, originated, according to Greek legend, when Zeus grew bored with the women on Mt. Olympus and looked to earth for romance. Seeing Cynara, a Greek beauty, he fell in love but, alas, she rebuffed him. Zeus had anger management issues and threw a lightning bolt at Cynara, turning her into an artichoke. Bummer for Cynara.
Artichokes are the large flower bud of a type of thistle. Thistles are a member of the lettuce family. Somehow I never connected artichokes and lettuce.
Native to the Mediterranean region, artichokes are believed to have been cultivated as early as the 5th Century B.C. The wild variety of an artichoke is called a cardoon, by the way, and is smaller and more prickly than the artichokes grown today.
Like so many of our foods, the artichoke’s spread as a food pretty much followed the historical ages of exploration and colonization. The Moors introduced the artichoke to Spain. The Dutch introduced them to the English. The French brought them to Louisiana. And, ta da!, Italian immigrants brought them to California.
Score one for the Italian immigrants.
Modern-day cultivation of artichokes in California has long been centered in Castroville, California, and, if you are so inclined, you can attend the yearly artichoke festival there. Lest you sniff at the prospect of spending your days in Castroville celebrating the artichoke, Marilyn Monroe was the Castroville artichoke queen in 1948. If it was good enough for Marilyn…
At the Long Beach Farmers Market last week, artichokes were offered by several vendors and were being snapped up like…well…first-of-the-season artichokes. There was even some impatient jostling around the artichoke tables. It wasn’t pretty.
I bought four. On my way home, I stopped at Trader Joe’s. TJ had huge artichokes piled high in a center store bin. I bought three more. Fortunately, I didn’t stop at other stores on my way home!
Seven artichokes. One person.
My name is Lorraine and I lose control around produce.
I adapted this recipe from one that appeared online on the Epicurious site. The link appears at the bottom of this post.
If you are intimidated by the prospect of prepping an artichoke, here is a link to two videos explaning how it is done. It is easy.
3 T. olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 T. chopped cilantro (or Italian parsley)
4 artichokes (prepped and trimmed down to hearts–see video link above for directions on how to prep the artichoke hearts)
Cherry tomatoes (halved and sauteed in a bit of olive oil)
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and 1 T. chopped cilantro and stir for 30 seconds. Add trimmed artichoke hearts and stir to coat with oil mixture. Cover the skillet and cook until artichokes are tender. This will take 12-15 minutes. Uncover the skillet and simmer the dish until the sauce in the skillet thickens, stirring to coat the artichokes. This will take about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving plate and garnish with sauteed cherry tomatoes and the rest of the chopped cilantro.
Here is the link to the original recipe: