Monday, April 5, 2010

Is it really worth it?

Or, as they say in Italian, "Vale la pena?" Is it really worth it to go through all the trouble of using artichoke hearts? Right now artichokes are just coming into season, so we can find them very easily. They're still not super-cheap, but they're at least affordable and incredibly tasty. I decided to have a go at using fresh artichoke hearts, harvesting them myself from a whole artichoke. With them, I was going to make an artichoke parmesan quiche that looked pretty delicious. If that went well, I had plans to make artichoke au gratin potatoes for Easter.  Marcella Hazan, author of my new cookbook, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, just made my mouth water for artichokes going on about how tender, enjoyable, delectable, and glorious artichoke hearts are.  When she wrote "the only exacting part of this recipe is in fact the trimming away of all the tough, inedible parts that usually makes eating artichokes a chore," I think she made a profound understatement.  It probably took me half of an hour to prepare two artichokes.  First, wash them.  Then, snap back all the leaves from the outside inward.  Next, run a paring knife around the inside to scrape out all the prickles, taking care not to damage the most tender heart.  Finally, still using the paring knife, peel the stem and trim any tough leaves (most of the outside).  To be fair, the second one went a lot faster than the first.  The results are below. On the left is a fresh and untouched artichoke.  On the right is the pile of discarded and unusable leaves, stem, prickles, etc, from the first artichoke I did.  Then, the tiny pile on the bottom is the artichoke heart and stem that I harvested for my recipe.  Really?  Is it worth it?

This pictures below is the artichoke after I had stripped it of inedible leaves and prickles.  Not the prettiest job (I guess that comes with practice, assuming I ever do it again).

And this final pictures shows the two cut up artichokes being sauteed in butter.  I must say, they were mouth-wateringly good.  It was a shame to have them covered up in a quiche.  I would have preferred to enjoy their delectable qualities alone, unsullied by any other flavors.  Perhaps next time, that's what I'll do.  Then they will be worth the trouble to enjoy their glory in full.

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