Tuesday, June 12, 2012


                                     A FEAST FOR THE GREEN BIN
A good day for my kitchen green bin

In my Strawberry blog I neglected my green bin terribly, so this time I will make up for it by disposing of  multitudes of thick, thorny compost. We are talking about THE ARTICHOKE here, and green bin is lovin'  it!   I confess I am not a big artichoke fan; I approach them with caution and curiosity. Those prickly thorns on the tips of the tough leaves are dangerous, and the heart, the only really edible part of the plant, is surrounded by a hairy choke which must be removed. So much foliage for so little reward!  Of  course, my loss is green bin's gain. Pliny the Elder, the Roman naturalist, had a point when, in 77 A.D., he called the choke "one of earth's monstrosities." However, I do appreciate the fact that artichokes are actually  flower buds and if allowed to bloom, make a nice arrangement.

Flowering Artichokes

Perhaps my apprehension stems from the fact that I led an artichoke-deprived Midwestern childhood. My husband, however was plucking leaves and dipping them in melted butter at a tender age; he grew up in Walnut Creek, California and made annual trips to Carmel with his family. En route they passed nearby Castroville, "artichoke capital of the world!" Artichokes were everywhere. In fact, all artichokes commercially grown in the U.S. are grown in California.

Artichokes rule in Castroville

It was during my junior semester abroad in Florence when I first tasted an artichoke. One Sunday supper, Signora Rusconi, with whom I lived, served a frittata filled with strange, drab, inedible leaves.  Mamma Mia!  During the same semester I was doubly confused when I tasted a dark brown, bitter-sweet  Italian liqueur called Cynar, made from artichokes and thirteen different herbs. It purported to make foods that followed taste sweeter.  What a concept—  a vegetable unpleasant in both solid and liquid form!  But  Cynar's label was impressive. 

The Italian digestivo made from artichokes and herbs

It was not until twenty five years later that I discovered tender baby artichokes at a Berkeley farmer's market. After steaming them quickly and devouring the entire luscious morsels with only a little salt, I realized what the fuss was all about!

Artichokes at the Berkeley Farmer's Market

On a more recent trip to Rome, I enjoyed an international favorite,"Carciofi alla Giudea" (deep-fried artichokes, Jewish style) at Ristorante Piperno in Trastevere. Delicious as it is, I don't prepare it at home. More fear of frying.  Plus, I always need an excuse to return to ITALY!

Carciofi alla Giudea or deep  fried artichokes  (Rome) 

Ironically, the recipe I do make at home uses canned artichokes, not fresh.  I love it,  but my green bin doesn't approve.


1 can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, chopped

  • Heat oven to 350
  • Mix all ingredients by hand or in food processor
  • Spoon into shallow ovenproof dish
  • Bake 15 to 20 minutes until hot and bubbly
  • Serve warm with crackers, warm baguette slices or fresh vegetables

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