Monday, April 02, 2007

Dumpster Diving

I had to salvage two artichokes we bought maybe two weeks ago. Cranky suspects they're even older.
But because they came from a farmers market, they were as fresh as could be the day we bought them, so after a languid stay in the crisper drawer, they emerged today not terribly worse for the delay.
It was so lucky not to have to throw them away. The greater porportion of the body of an artichoke is inedible, so quite a bit of their entity must be discarded in the enjoying. At least we managed to save the edible bits today.
I love artichokes. I love all the "A" vegetables: avocadoes (a fruit, I know), asparagus, arugula, armenian cucumber. But especially artichokes, which you have to know how to eat.
At a dinner party many years ago hosted by a young couple hell-bent on getting their "Sophisticate" merit badges, guests were served a single steamed artichoke with cocktails. Everybody sat on the floor around the coffee table, metrosexually plucking off the leaves of this lone offering, dipping them into some sauce, and scraping the luxuriant flesh against our teeth before dropping the spent leaves into a discard bowl.
Pretty soon, the edible leaves had been devoured, and the urbane host tried to trot the presumably exhausted globe back into the kitchen, headed for the trash bag.
"Stop!" I cried. "Do you not know the best part of the artichoke?"
He did not. (Honestly, I was not assaulting his suavité. I just didn't want that artichoke in the garbage.)
I found a fork and knife, and removed the useless, chokey leaves and stickers from the inside of the artichoke. Scraped away the fur. Chopped off the stem. Cut the glistening, emergent heart into portions... and dipped. No scraping, no throwing away. Just perfect chewing. (I shared!)
Today's salvaged artichokes were served with homemade mayonnaise. I used an exceptionally green-tasting, peppery, local olive oil, and it was just right with the 'chokes.
So glad we got to bite the leaves and cut up the hearts before these beauties wound up in the trash.


Dagny said...

That's the best part of artichokes -- getting to that hearty goodness. As I still have not really made it out to shop, I must remember to add artichokes to the list. Because for some reason, I suddenly want one.

Chris said...

Yum! I am so jealous! I just butchered my attempt to make artichokes bought from the farmer's market. I love the hearts and was was so bummed after witnessing my debauchery. I will have to try it again...and with a homemade mayo! :)

Jennifer Jeffrey said...

Great story. Really, what is all that work for if NOT to get to the heart?

Catherine said...

Hey, I've got nothing against dumpster diving.

A friend called over the weekend. She'd bought some artichokes, roasted whole, from her local market. She asked me how to eat them, so I told her. Then she confessed she'd manage to chew and swallow several of the tough outer leaves before thinking she was doing something wrong and picking up the phone.

We both laughed till we cried.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Thankfully, my monkey LOVES artichokes, so we eat them often. Did these hardly even have any hairs or teeny thorns in the middle? Now, after the crisper lock-up, they look like ones sold as "frost kissed."

It seemed like there was a run for a few weeks, maybe a month ago when the chokes I was getting were completely edible on the interior. After the first few layers of scraping the "meat" off the leaves, you (okay, I, not the whole family) was just dipping the tender middle folded cone thing and popping it in my mouth. Unhhh! Man, they were good.

Dumpsta' divin' CC! I love it. Lets talk later about doing a Scharffenberger dumpster brownie bake. How's that for intrigue? (Sounds good with chicken, huh?)

ChrisB said...

CC have you been plotting with Sam her post is about artichokes !!

Katie said...

We're big on A vegetables, too. Weekends it's artichoke starters followed by asparagus....maybe an avocado in between
Thank god they're in season and really cheap!
Have you tried artichoke with aioli! A spanish treat - and seperates friends from ... you get the picture...

cookiecrumb said...

Dagny: I got the idea from you, didn't I? Yeah, your hummus dipping sauce. I'm gonna try that next time.

Chris: I wonder what went wrong. Overcooked? Or were you going all fancy and stripping them down? I've actually had some success cooking artichokes in a pressure cooker. It forces flavors right into the leaves if you drop in some lemon rind and dried chiles and a couple cloves of garlic. Doesn't take much water, either. Anyway, good luck for next time.

Jennifer: Well, I sort of reminded myself of George in a particular Seinfeld episode there... Anyway, yes, the heart!

Catherine: The first time I read your comment I laughed out loud. Now I'm weeping a little. Well, I might still be laughing. That is hilarious. So good of you to be her lifeline.

Monkey Wrangler: You are a lucky pappy. I loved them when I was a monkey, too. These were pretty tender, but there was definitely some fringe on top of the hearts. But I know what you mean about pulling off a whole cone of leaves at a time and biting right through them. I did that.
(Damn your clever eye; I was going to try to pass these off as "frost kissed" to anyone who asked, but in truth, they were emerald green all over when we bought them. At least I was honest about how old they were.)

ChrisB: No plotting. If I'd known she'd be writing about artichokes today, I might not have... Hers are much fancier than mine! (Click on the link in my reply above, coincidentally to Chris.)

Katie: Aioli is my friend. What a great "dunk."
And... I have some asparagus in the fridge. :D

Stacie said...

yay for the salvaged artichokes!! I spent a wonderful weekend once in a broken down van on the side of the road just north of Santa Cruz. While the boys fixed the cracked head (no you cannot put cold beer into a hot engine) I stole artichokes from a nearby field and cooked 'em on our coleman stove... yes, you can live on cheap beer and artichokes. Now that's suavité!!

janelle said...

Great pic! Yummy chokes.

Jennifer Maiser said...

If mom posts here, she'll probably talk about how my little sister used to dip artichokes in mayo and then not even scrape the artichoke with her teeth -- would just continue to use the leaf as a vehicle for more mayo (sprinkled with paprika as mom always did).

I am totally craving artichoke now. I am going to have to find a farmers' market tomorrow. :-)

cookiecrumb said...

Stacie: I love your story. I'll bet we all have a "stolen food" memory. But stolen artichokes? You win.

Janelle: Oh, I see you're into tomatoes. We should talk.

Jen: What a great idea. Just keep shoveling the dip into your mouth. Cranky was just amazed by not having to use very much of that potent mayo. Your sister might not have liked it, in fact. Darn. I could have used some Happy Quail paprika. !!

jen & annie's mom said...

jen's little sister might have well been one of Dian Fossey's studied 'rilla babies...the stiff little leaf lovingly snipped of its hurty pokey was a perfect tool.

cookiecrumb said...

Jen (and Annie's!) mom: Lovingly snipped of its hurty pokey... Darn, I didn't do that. We tangled directly with danger. Crikey.
You are a good mom.

asiam931 said...

my favorite part of the artichoke is still the dip.

cookiecrumb said...

asiam931: Well, it is a pretty convenient vehicle for scooping dip into your mouth. And if you're lucky, you might bite a little of the leaf.
(And there are so many possibilities for dips!)

tammy said...

Thanks for reminding me that I, too, have less-then-fresh artichokes in the crisper. I just love them stuffed with garlic, bread crumbs, and cheese a la Nonni.