If you like artichokes, they truly are an experience to be savored! Artichokes are a perennial thistle and after some research on the internet, I believe Scotland’s (national flower) thistle and the artichoke are indeed the same thing. If that is incorrect, I humbly apologize Scots!
I can’t remember the first time I had an artichoke. I do remember being quite young and my mother showing me how to dip the leaf end in a wonderful lemony mayo. I enjoyed the taste, but if you think about it, the process of eating an artichoke (leaf to heart) would seem quite fun to a child. I am not sure how many children like artichokes but even when I was little, I thought it was quite sophisticated and grown up of me to enjoy them.
If you are dealing with fresh artichokes, anyone can tell you, it’s a labor of love. I’m accustom to the old fashioned way of boiling them in water with lemon and a bit of olive oil. Cut stem and ¼ of the top off and then rub with lemon and garlic. Depending on the size of the artichoke, boiling it can take a while. You know it’s done when you can easily pull a leaf from the bottom. Usually 30 to 45 minutes give or take. Also, it’s a lot of (eating) work for little reward, but it’s worth it! Pull the leaves off and scrape the end with your teeth, then remove the “choke” or thistle in the middle of the heart. In the end, you are left with a small round disk of wonderfulness! The flavor is mild and almost creamy, the texture is a soft yet firm bite.
Canned or frozen artichokes are most convenient! Some groceries have marinated artichoke hearts in an olive or antipasto bar, which are wonderful as well. This recipe for Cream of Artichoke Soup called for frozen artichoke hearts, which I found at Trader Joe’s. I was a little confused when the ingredient list for the recipe called for 2 lbs. of artichoke hearts and then the paragraph of directions said to take 2 cups of the hearts. I had already thawed 2 lbs. and 2 lbs. were going in the pot! It didn’t seem to make a difference in the taste. I went back to Saveur.com to see if there were any comments about this, as it may have been a typo, but no comments were posted.
Although this was my first time making this recipe, I made a few executive decisions along the way. The recipe said to first puree the hearts in batches with a blender. I did it with an immersion blender instead (less mess). Also, at the end, it said to strain the soup through a mesh strainer and remove the solids. I tried this with two ladles full and I could tell I’d be straining much longer than I cared to, so I grabbed my food mill, and processed it that way. A much better idea!
In the end, the soup was flavorful, graceful (if a soup can be graceful) and smooth in texture. I asked my husband if he thought I’d be more impressed with the soup had I ordered it while eating out. He said yes, defiantly. Lately I’m finding that since I know the details and intricacies of a recipe, AND put the energy and effort into making it, I’m less impressed. I’m not sure why. Does this happen to other cooks? Sometimes it’s hard to taste the love in your own cooking. It’s way easier to taste it in someone else’s cooking, I think. I guess that’s why it’s always important to let your cook know much you enjoy their cooking, because maybe they can’t taste it for themselves.
Recipe from saveur.com