Artichokes

Saturday January 30, 2016

Aioli is an infamous garlic mayonnaise that is an integral part of the cuisine of Provence in southern France.  There exists some knock-you-out versions made with probably heads of garlic, but a delicious, and not so deadly, aioli is made here with simply one clove.  It is an appetizer supreme, stuffing a giant artichoke with the aioli and letting guests nibble on the leaves.  Aioli is great on ALL steamed vegetables, room temperature or cold.

Rice Cooker Artichokes with Caper Aioli

Ingredients

6 to 8 medium artichokes, plus one very large artichoke

Caper Aioli

1 large clove garlic

1 large cold egg

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (can be)

Instructions

Cut off the stems and break off largest leaves off the artichoke bottoms.  Cut off the top of the leaves with the thorns.  Snip the tips of the leaves with kitchen shears.  Place the largest artichoke on the steamer plate down in the machine, with 2 to 3 inches of boiling water around it.  Place the artichokes, on their sides, in the steamer basket sprayed with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.  Place over the large artichoke.  Cover and steam until the leaves easily pull off, 20 to 25 minutes.  When cooked, cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a food processor with the machine running, drop in the garlic to chop.  Stop and add the egg and capers; pulse a few times to combine.  With the machine running, drizzle in the oil; the mixture will thicken and be smooth.  Scrape into a covered container and refrigerate until serving.  (Can be made the day ahead.)  Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Pull open the inner leaves on the large artichoke and remove, leaving the outer leaves intact like a shell.  Scrape the choke clean.  Fill with the aioli and place in the center of a serving platter.  Cut the rest of the artichokes in half and clean the choke, or pull off all of the leaves and arrange around the aioli choke.  Clean the bottoms, cut in half, and arrange with the leaves. Serves 6 to 8

Excerpted from The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2003, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

In 2013, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom named the artichoke the official vegetable of California. 100% of the artichokes in the US come from California, the area around Castroville and Salinas, with the remainder growing further south. The moderate climate with cool summers and mild winters, as well as the cooling fog make for ideal growing conditions. California offers two crops per year, the spring yield and the fall/winter crop. The Green Globe cultivar comprises the majority of commercial cultivation, but there are other varieties such as Desert Globe and Imperial Star from which to choose at your local farmers’ market. The artichoke is offered in sizes from large to “baby” and even a purple artichoke variety is available.

How to Buy:
Choose artichokes which are vibrant and free of discoloration. Make sure that they are tightly closed — an artichoke that has begun to open will have a tough and undesirable texture. To ensure a fresh artichoke always check the bottom of the stem as it is a good indication of when the vegetable was harvested.

How to Store:
For the best flavor eat artichokes within a few days of purchasing as they lose their flavor intensity over time.

Artichokes have to be harvested by hand, which is a labor-intensive proposition. Baskets of artichokes are sorted by size and type, then packed and brought to the markets fresh each week. Harvesting for the spring crop is from March to May, while the fall/winter crop is from September to December. The oval is the best shape for cooking whole artichokes; they can be in one layer.  If you only have a round, buy artichokes of a comparable size and fit them tightly side by side in the cooker.

Slow-Steamed Artichokes (Slow Cooker)

Overview

Cooker:  Medium or large round or oval

Setting and Cook Time: LOW: 6 to 7 hours

Serves 10

Ingredients

10 large artichokes

2 cups water

1/4 cup olive oil

1 lemon, sliced

4 whole cloves garlic, peeled, or 2 nice slices of onion

Instructions

1.  Cut the stem flush with the bottom of the artichoke so they can stand flat.  Cut off the top 1 inch and, with kitchen shears, snip the tip off each exposed leaf. Arrange with stem end down and packed together, standing up in the cooker; add the water, oil, lemon, and garlic into the water.

2.  Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 7 hours, until a leaf is very tender and separates with no resistance when pulled off.  Remove the chokes from the cooker with tongs.  Eat immediately hot, or leave at room temperature, or wrap in plastic and chill.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2005, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.


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