24 June, 2013

artichokes for 2

I've been wanting to follow up those last 2 posts with a recipe but it's been a hectic few weeks. But now summer is here, and I kicked it off with my family, gazing at the super moon, and admiring some photography. Believe it or not, I'm looking forward to a month of studying and a break from the hospital. A cup of coffee and sunshine streaming onto my textbook instead of three-hour morning rounds, a load of online practice questions instead of the daily public questioning that one can never be adequately prepared for, and the freedom to step away from it all in search of inspiration, a wholesome meal, or a few sun salutations.

In that spirit, here is a nice simple recipe, perfect for sharing with a friend.

My mom always served steamed artichokes with Hollandaise sauce, which is delicious but full of fat and its need for precise, careful preparation intimidates me. This is a healtheir, easier alternative but just as full of flavor. Eating it is messy and completely occupying, so there's no room for multi-tasking or any distraction greater than a pleasant conversation.

Artichokes for 2:
 2 artichokes
6 cloves garlic peeled
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
a few springs of rosemary or thyme

Cut the stems off of the artichokes so that you have just about 1 inch remaining and a nice flat bottom. Pull the leaves open a bit so that you can shove the garlic cloves in, scattering them through 3 different layers and 3 different areas of the artichoke.

Fill a pot with about an inch of water, add a good pinch of salt and the fresh herbs, and set the artichokes in it. Ideally, the water won't quite reach the lowest leaves, the artichokes will balance well on their own, and a lid will fit over them without touching. But if any of those don't quite work out, it will probably still all be just fine.

Bring the water to a simmer, cover, and let steam for 30 minutes - 1 hour, depending on how small and tender the artichokes are. I usually try to pull out a middle leaf at around 30 minutes to see how well-cooked it is, just be careful not to burn your hands! Just put it half-way in your mouth and bite down softly with your front teeth; it should be soft enough that the meaty part near the base easily scrapes off.

When they're done, place each artichoke in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as well as salt and pepper if desired. Serve with an extra bowl or plate for discarding the leaves.

In case you haven't eaten an artichoke before, you should know that the center is the best part! When you get to the point where the leaves become translucent and prickly, stop eating, scrape those leaves and the soft fuzzy stuff underneath them out with a spoon, and eat the heart just as it is, sopping up any of the olive oil and vinegar that remains.

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