People say we don’t have seasons in LA. Oh but we do my friends, we do. For example, now is Artichoke Season, a time when (if you’re lucky) you can find a farmer harvesting huge heavy artichokes with a long stem still attached. The artichoke head that we eat is the bud stage of a giant gorgeous purple flower. As the artichoke ages the “leaves” of the bud open ultimately revealing the choke which turns deep lavender. For eating you want the bud pretty tightly closed. And look for heavy artichokes. Heaviness means freshness. When the artichoke is freshly cut it’s cells are full of water. As time goes by the water transpires and evaporates leaving the vegetable light and dry.
You can use the artichoke heads as you wish: boiled, steamed, stuffed, trimmed and braised, hearts only. But don’t throw away the stems. If I’m feeling selfish I simply peel away the fibrous outer portion and munch the tender, crunchy, sweet and nutty inner stem. If I want to impress then I make this artichoke stem salad. You get one small portion for each stem. So it’s fun to have a two course meal. First, a pretty plated salad, then one big beautiful artichoke each to pluck, dip then scrape with your teeth.
Big Stemmed Beauties
Artichoke Stem Salad
Peeled artichoke stems are sweet, crunchy and surprising. When paired with parmesan and olive oil they are sublime. Splurge for some good imported Italian parmigiano reggiano for this salad. You can buy the cheese already shaved or buy a small chunk and shave it yourself with a vegetable peeler. Figure one stem per person on average.
Cut the stems from the artichokes leaving about 1/2" to protect the heart.
Notice how the core of the stem is a lighter color? This is the sweet nugget we want for the salad. Our goal is to trim away the fibrous part of the stem that surrounds the core. This is another reason why you want big artichokes with big stems.
If the stems are long cut them in sections that are comfortable for you to work with. Trim the base of the stem so the stem doesn't wobble on cutting surface. Use a sharp knife. Cut the fibrous outer portion of the stem away until just the tender inner core remains.
Now you have the lovely cores of the stems. Cut off a slice and taste it. Rub the cores with the cut lemon to prevent them turning brown. Cut the stems into slices. You want them thin enough to be pretty and delicate but thick enough to have some crunch. Mix the stem slices with a squeeze of lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside.
Mound the slices on a serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Top with the parmesan shavings. Serve immediately and wish you had more.
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