No Thorns, No Heart

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That’s what they say in Castroville, CA, home of the Artichoke Festival, where they celebrate all things artichoke. I celebrate when I see nice big ones on sale and I do it by making Artichoke Sauce.  Look for chokes that feel “heavy” and have tight leaves and long thick stems, since the core of the stem is as tasty as the heart. To judge freshness, bend back a leaf, it should “snap.” Ignore brown patches on the leaves, that’s just harmless frost damage.

Prepping the chokes is the hard part, but it’s worth the effort. Have a bowl of acidulated water nearby – that’s just water and the juice of a lemon. Bend back and snap off the outer leaves until you reach the pale green or white ones, then cut those off just above the heart. Cut off the very bottom of the stem and using a vegetable peeler, remove all the green on the stem and the heart. Quarter the artichoke and remove the actual choke from each quarter, then cut each one into four pieces: two with stems and two without. Place in acidulated water to prevent browning.

Sauté a few cloves of diced garlic in about 1/4 cup of olive oil until soft, then add a tablespoon of fresh oregano and the artichokes. Add a cup of water, cover and cook for 5 minutes, then uncover and cook for another 5 minutes, until most of the liquid is gone. Add a 28 ounce can of Italian tomatoes for every 4 artichokes and simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes until the chokes are tender.

Here are my favorite uses for the sauce:

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Fettucine con Carciofi

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Frittata con Carciofi

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