My Yellow Heaven, an Artichoke Paradise and Theodore Roosevelt

Within this lovely little town is a little yellow cottage flying Tibetan Flags.  A little yellow cottage my husband found.  When we came to the open house, the water was red with young couples hoping to live here.  And after a very apprehensive week, we won!  Beyond my wildest dreams it came with a garden.  Both thrilling and devastating news, as I had a steady history of killing plants.  Without shirking all responsibility I would like to put forward that my previous apartments were the main culprits.  Both were in urban areas that though they had windows, none of those windows faced the sun.  So there was no light and yet I persisted with the slaughter of innumerable African Violets and one brave basil plant.  But now I have my very own patch of mother earth to lavish upon.  I’ve been reading a wonderful garden/cookbook hybrid, that has me constantly inspired to garden.  I dream of digging my fingers into rich earth, biting a red ripe tomato, even fending off pests.  OH!  And trying his grandmother’s blueberry slump tucked away in the recipes in the back.  Jimmy Williams has become sort of a personal hero, which I barely managed to hide when I met him at the farmer’s market last week stammering out “I..have..a …garden!” Currently the garden is a bit of a process, I inherited a garden and have let it bloom through the spring in order to identify the plants.  Only to learn, I don’t know many!

 Thyme is front and center, but the herb in the background and on the right side elude me.

I can’t stop using the Mint, Sage and chives I have discovered hiding under my rosebushes.

And Lettuce! But the most abundant plant, the king of my little piece of land are the Artichokes.

All big massive 4 plants and 2 varieties!

I am a sucker for food history, food is so incredibly important and so powerful connected to our history and culture.  So you will have to indulge me. Artichokes originally came from North Africa and the mediterrainean.  originally brought to Lousiana and California by French and Spanish immigrants. In California in particular they grow huge and abundant, as evidenced by my yard.  It appears as though my particular breeds are Italian and French, which makes me very pleased.  Also, Artichokes have always been entwined with popular myths of love throughout human history.  The greeks believed the Jupiter fell in love with a women who refused him.  He turned her into the artichoke, a heart hard to get too.  In Lisbon on June 13th, one thinks on their beloved while roasting an artichoke that has begun to bloom then plants it in the ground, if it blooms the next day your love will blossom.  As someone who unabashedly loves love for lovesakes, I have decided it is a good sign to have hearts blossoming outside all my windows.  And yet, if there is one vegetable that eludes me, one that no matter how many times I have tried to cook it…is the mighty Artichoke.  In my hands it just turns to a floppy beige mess, heartbreaking!  And it baffles me because I can remember my mother making them, in a seemingly spectacular easy manner.  Just steamed with a little mayonnaise for the dipping.

So I am taking it as an unexpected challenge, one to rise to and conquer because the artichoke harvest might go on all summer.  But first, I will let Mim cook it well for you.

Simple Steamed Artichokes


What you need:

 Water

Lemons

Lemon Pepper (optional)

Garlic Powder

Artichokes

Olive Oil (optional)

Choice of Dip!

What you need to do:

Take a knife and cut off the top of the artichoke about half an inch down.  Trim the stems at the base as close as you can without cutting off any leaves.  Use a kitchen scissor to cut the thorn off each leaf.  With a paring knife, some people make an X in the bottom where the stem had been. Rinse them under the faucet and then soak them in lemon water until cooking them.  The soaking isn’t necessary if you are going to cook them right away. As an option you can add a couple tablespoons of olive oil at this point. Season each Artichoke with fresh lemon juice and shake garlic powder into the crowns.  Put them in a steamer pot with plenty of the lemon water you soaked them in. Add all the lemon rinds and two small bay leaves.  You can shake lemon pepper into the crown, as well.  Bring them to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook until tender…sounds easy enough. Large artichokes take between 1 1/2 – 2 hours .  The best test is to eat a leaf about half way up, and you can also stick a kitchen fork or small knife through the bottom into the heart to check for tenderness. Mine needed a little longer time, perhaps because they are wild, yum. May be served hot, cold or room temp with mayo, melted butter, or aioli. Enjoy.

And now I have to confess, I have  been hiding a very prominent member of our household.  He is my constant kitchen companion, my biggest leftover fan, our alarm clock, the guard of the house, avid couch potato, giver of licks and nudges… please meet Theodore Roosevelt.  He is an eight year old resuce, we think is a lot younger.  Theodore is known around the house as TR, Tedders, Alford Lord Tedderson but most often responds to Teddy.  Like his namesake is is a true rough ryder, with a torn ear and a bullet in his chest.  The stray bullet from the LAPD is what inspired the name, as Theodore Roosevelt was also shot in the chest…and finished his speech.  And we think that’s just the kind of dog our Teddy is.  He guards our yard and house with some impressive fierceness, explore behind all the plants on all sides  and loves to sit in the middle of the garden where he has a good view of the whole place.

You see it may be my house, but it is his yellowstone.

avec amour, ton petit fraise

What are your favorite artichoke recipes?

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2 Comments

Filed under Cottage Kitchen, Garden Patch

2 responses to “My Yellow Heaven, an Artichoke Paradise and Theodore Roosevelt

  1. Saban Hess

    Not mayonaisse! Mayonaisse was for the asparagus spears, Mom used to make a Bechamel sauce for artichokes. I finally got her to show how she made both to me several times in a row and now I can make it the way she does.

    Shall we cook artichokes when I visit?

    Please say yes.

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