Goodbye My Little Artichoke

Growing up the only artichokes I ate were marinated and came in expensive, tiny jars.  It wasn’t until I visited Morocco that I had the pleasure of enjoying the entire plant in its intimidating splendor.  Excited by the novelty of it all, I dipped the steamed leaf into a small hand painted bowl filled with crushed raw garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.  I finally reached the heart and it’s been a  lifetime love affair ever since.

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Kids are likely to develop a preference for foods they familiarize themselves with and eating artichokes the traditional way is a fun opportunity to slow things down and get your children involved in the kitchen.  After the entire vegetable is steamed, they get to to peel, dip and nibble the flesh of each leaf and work their way down to the best part, the heart!  The whole process is an invaluable learning experience where they get to see the inside of the plant from start to finish.  This kind of ritual can become bonding moments they will cherish and take with them to adulthood :)

Artichokes’ full bodied texture and earthy, yet subtle flavor is reminiscent of eggplant and portobello mushroom.  They give substance to any dish, from paella to quinoa recipes.  Frozen artichokes are also a great option when they’re out of season since frozen produce are normally harvested at their peak (meaning higher nutritional value) and the way they are steamed and frozen does a pretty good job at keeping the nutrients.  My absolute favorite is extracting the heart from a fresh artichoke and serving it steamed with sliced avocado, lemon juice and paper thin slivers of raw garlic.   This is a simple recipe with complex, out-of-this-world flavors!  Here’s a helpful 90 second video of how  to remove an artichoke heart.

Roman Style Artichokes from 'Savoring Time in the Kitchen' blog.

Roman Style Artichokes from ‘Savoring Time in the Kitchen’ blog.

If raw garlic might be a bit overwhelming for your little one, a sprinkle of garlic powder will do the trick.  Odds are, them watching you enjoy it will pique their curiosity and  increase their odds of acquiring the delicious, spicy taste eventually.  Leading by example instead of nagging is as effective for adults as it is for children!

I know this sounds crazy, but I’m pretty sure that in another life I was Mediterranean and lived off of artichokes.  This past year I’ve been fortunate enough to live on a  fruit and vegetable farm in Morocco, so you can imagine how I felt when I discovered the farm’s blossoming artichoke field!  Everyday before sunset I would collect a couple and have fun preparing them with my husband.  Turns out adults like using their hands as well!  Working side by side in the kitchen, laughing and listening to music was the perfect way to end the day.  Since cooking needs to be done regardless; why not make it a time to nurture and bond with loved ones, instead of treating it as a chore?

The cold winter days grew longer and we were scheduled to travel during the end of artichoke season.  When we came back from our trip my heart ached just a little as I walked towards the silvery field knowing the season had passed.  To my surprise, they had left us these bittersweet parting gifts and a promise of return.

Artichoke-Flower

 

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