I was in college the first time I ever tried artichokes.
I was visiting my new roommate’s family the summer before we moved in to the sorority house together. Her family was the sweetest. They watched while I ate the full artichoke leaves and tried to sneakily spit them out in my napkin as I wondered why in the world anyone would eat these weird shaped vegetables.
After a few tough, stringy, inedible bites, one of those sweet family members showed me how you really eat artichokes. You know, the scraping the meat off the leaves method.
So much more enjoyable that way.
I am not one to shy away from a food that takes a lot of effort to eat. I grew up in Maryland picking crabs. I think there is something about eating artichokes one leaf at a time, one tiny nibble of meat at a time, that reminds me of eating crabs in my backyard as a kid. So much work, so little reward. But doesn’t that just make the food taste sweeter?
At the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, artichokes come in all shapes and sizes. They’re purple or they’re green. They’re a teeny tiny fistful or they’re as big as your head. And if the farmers let them grow a little past their peak, they turn into this wild, mesmerizing purple sea enemone flower.
In my house I simply boil them with plenty of salt until the heart is tender. Once they’re cooked, I’ll stand over the counter ripping off hot leaves and scraping every little bite of meat I can get at with my teeth.
The next night I’ll get home from a late night at work and snack on them cold, straight out of the fridge, dipped in whatever aioli we happen to have leftover from the week.
Or on a quiet afternoon, I’ll sear them up crispy on a cast-iron to eat them warm and crunchy, dipped in a minty, lemony, horseradish yogurt sauce. I’ll eat four or five whole artichokes before I realize that it’s not the most well-balanced lunch…
I’m a sucker for a creamy horseradish. And with the lemony kick and mint straight from the garden, this sauce tastes good enough to dip things in, spread over fish, or maybe even eat with a spoon. I mean, it’s just like eating savory yogurt… right?
Baby Artichokes with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce
Horseradish Yogurt Sauce:
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tbsp horseradish sauce
Juice and zest of half a lemon
3 mint leaves (and/or cilantro)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Prune the inedible parts of the artichokes. Cut off the prickly tip. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Turn to simmer and then boil the baby artichokes for about 15 minutes, or until a cake taster easily goes through the heart. You can eat them just like this – dipped in melted butter is delicious. I like to save them in the fridge to have whenever I have the artichoke craving. Whenever that hits, cut the choke in half length-wise. Get a cast iron pan screaming hot (this is my favorite husband expression), and then add a few tablespoons of olive oil. As soon as the oil is hot, put the choke cut side down on the skillet to sear. When they are deep brown and crispy, take them off and dip the leaves in the yogurt sauce.