When I was about 8 years old I won $100 worth of candy from a giveaway at my local grocery store. It didn’t come as a complete surprise, as my friend Rachel and I had stuffed the ballot box while my mother shopped for groceries. My excitement at winning $100 worth of candy was somewhat tempered when my mother insisted on using some of the money to purchase chocolate for baking (bor-ing!) What’s worse, whatever candy I was allowed to select I didn’t get to eat all at once—this dreamed-for sugar orgy still looms large in my imagination—but instead was stored in the freezer and doled out to me in more appropriate servings. Still, this candy bonanza has long since provided the high-water mark for Things I Have Won. Short of winning the lottery, I wasn’t sure what might surpass it.
Until I won a case of heirloom artichokes from Ocean Mist Farms and @artichokerecipe! My childish love of candy has abated somewhat over the years, but I might say it has been replaced with a near-obsession with artichokes. I love them—graceful petals, prickly exterior, sensuous heart. They take some work, and it’s worth it.
In honor of this momentous occasion, I’d like to share my three favorite artichoke preparations.
Seriously, just steam and eat the thing. It’s delicious. I cut the stem to just below the first leaf, and cut the top off. Stand it upside down in a steamer for 20 minutes or so (until a leaf pulls out easily.) I prefer it with a simple olive oil and lime vinaigrette, but it’s also good with aioli (add some roasted garlic to the foolproof Serious Eats 2-Minute Mayonnaise.)
This is my go-to fancy preparation, and is the first thing I’m going to try with my heirloom chokes. I follow this braised artichokes recipe from Mark Bittman, sometimes substituting lime for the lemon. The trick with this recipe is making sure to remove enough of the tough outer leaves. I take off what seems like too much, then remove another layer. The sauce over these artichokes is divine.
Baby artichokes are my absolute very favorite food in the entire world. So tiny! So adorable! When they are available in stores I buy them in vast quantities. Lest you think I’m cruelly preventing these baby chokes from reaching their prime—the veal of vegetables—“baby” artichokes are a fully mature, smaller choke picked from the lower part of the plant, according to Ocean Mist Farms.
Baby chokes are delicious braised; I serve them and the tasty sauce over angel hair pasta with scallops or shrimp. But roasted baby artichokes are, perhaps, my most very favorite preparation of my very favorite food. They couldn’t be simpler. I cut them in half, toss them with some oil and salt & pepper, and roast them around 400 for 20 minutes or so, until they are nicely browned and crispy. They’re great in a salad or simply eaten out of a bowl drizzled with vinaigrette.
Finally, let me share my favorite joke from the age when I was stuffing the box to win a candy drawing. I am not kidding, this really was my favorite joke as a kid:
Tired of being broke and stuck in an unhappy marriage, a young husband decided to solve both problems by taking out a large insurance policy on his wife and arranging to have her killed.
A “friend of a friend” put him in touch with a nefarious underworld figure, who went by the name of “Artie.” Artie explained to the husband that his going price for snuffing out a spouse was $5,000. The husband said he was willing to pay that amount, but that he wouldn’t have any cash on hand until he could collect his wife’s insurance money.
Artie insisted on being paid in part up front. The man opened up his wallet and displayed the single dollar bill that rested inside. Artie sighed, rolled his eyes, and reluctantly agreed to accept the dollar as down payment for the dirty deed.
A few days later, Artie followed the man’s wife to the local Safeway grocery store. There, he surprised her in the produce department and proceeded to strangle her with his gloved hands. As the poor unsuspecting woman drew her last breath and slumped to the floor, the manager of the produce department stumbled unexpectedly onto the scene. Unwilling to leave any witnesses behind, Artie had no choice but to strangle the produce manager as well.
Unknown to Artie, the entire proceeding was captured by hidden cameras and observed by the store’s security guard, who immediately called the police. Artie was caught and arrested before he could leave the store.
Under intense questioning at the police station, Artie revealed the sordid plan, including his financial arrangements with the hapless husband.
And that is why, the next day in the newspaper, the headline declared: “Artie chokes two for a dollar at Safeway.”