Monday, January 16, 2017

Artichoke Petals with Garlic Butter

     Life's Simple Pleasures!
     I feature artichokes in many of my recipes.  For something like a pizza topping, canned artichoke hearts are a good choice because they are a nice convenience.  For classic recipes, fresh whole artichokes are best.  Usually only the artichoke bottom or the artichoke heart is needed when preparing a fancy entrée or salad.
     Unfortunately, there are very few recipes that make use of the artichoke petals.  Most chefs simply discard the artichoke petals after trimming them off of the artichoke heart.  Personally, I rarely let any kind of usable food go to waste and this includes artichoke petals.  A classic Bagna Cauda happens to be one of the few recipes that requires artichoke petal "meat" scrapings.  I recently published an updated recipe for Italian Bagna Cauda that I have used for many years and once again, readers took notice.      
     Artichoke petals are usually called artichoke leaves by most people.  An artichoke is a flower, so the "green leaves" of this vegetable actually are indeed petals.  Flower buds always have parts that contain material that provides energy for flowering and seed development.
     For some flowers, the carbohydrate portion of the flower bulb turns into fruit.  For other flowers, the portions that store the carbohydrates simply wilt and fall off after the energy is spent.  This is kind of how artichoke petals are.  Toward the base of each fibrous artichoke petal, there is a small portion of soft edible carbohydrate material that provides energy during the flowering cycle.
     The artichokes that have the most carbohydrate material at the base of each petal are large artichokes that have not fully opened.  In other words, the more dense that the artichoke is, the meatier the base of each petal will be.  Large heavy dense artichokes have the best petals to munch on!
     Today's recipe is the easiest way to make use of artichoke petals.  This is a home style recipe that will probably never be seen in a restaurant.  All that needs to be done is to boil a large artichoke and make some garlic butter.

     One might wonder how to eat artichoke petals.  Artichoke petals are finger food, but there is a trick to the method.  Most of the artichoke petal is tough, fibrous and inedible.  Only the base of the petal has a tender meaty portion.  So, to snack on artichoke petals, follow these steps:
     • Pick an artichoke petal up by the tip with your fingers and dip it in the garlic butter.
     • Place the petal in your mouth between your front teeth.
     • Gently bite down and pull the fibrous part of the petal out of your mouth.  The soft meaty portion at the base of the petal will be scraped off with your teeth!

     Obviously, artichoke petals are not a good snack for somebody that has no front teeth, but even so, the soft meaty artichoke petal matter can be scraped off with a spoon.  There is only a tiny tidbit of soft material in each petal, but it sure does taste good, especially with garlic butter!  

     Artichoke Petals with Garlic Butter: 
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  
     One large artichoke per person is a good rule of thumb, as far as portions are concerned.  The problem is that snacking on artichoke petals with garlic butter is kind of addictive and there will be a craving for more.  So by all means, cook a few big artichokes and have a good time! 
     Step 1:  Place 1 whole fresh large artichoke in in a pot.
     Cover the artichoke with 2" of extra water.
     Add about 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 of a lemon.
     Step 2:  *The artichoke must be completely submerged in the water when boiling.  Artichokes do float in water.  Placing a small steel pan or bowl on top of the artichoke will keep the artichoke under water in the pot.  If there is nothing to weigh the artichoke down, then cover the pot with a lid to keep the steam in. 
     Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Boil till the artichoke is fully cooked and the base or stem feels tender.  (About 5 to 10 minutes.)     Step 3:  Cool the artichoke under cold running water.
     Cut off the stem.  (The stem is edible.  It can be peeled and sliced.)
     Gently peal off all of the artichoke petals, except the thin petals that surround artichoke heart.
     Set the artichoke petals aside.
     Step 4:  Remove the choke from the artichoke heart.
     *The purple flower choke in the center is surrounded by hard protective sharp petals that are inedible.  The purple flower center must be scraped out of the artichoke heart with a sharp knife before using the artichoke heart in a recipe.
     Save the artichoke heart and bottom for another recipe.  
     Step 5:  Place 3 ounces of unsalted butter in a sauce pot.
     Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Simmer till the garlic butter becomes aromatic.  (Do not let the garlic brown!)
     Place the garlic butter in a small ramekin and set it aside.
     Step 6:  Arrange the artichoke petals in a shallow soup bowl, so they look nice.
     Set the ramekin of garlic butter on the center of the bowl, so it is surrounded by the artichoke petals.
     This is a fun appetizer to share!  Garlic butter is the perfect dipping sauce.  Using the front teeth to eat artichoke petal meat is one of life's simple pleasures!   

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