Memories of Highway One and Artichokes

One of my fondest memories of living in Northern California is traveling on Highway One. it was a relatively short trip over the Santa Cruz Mountains to arrive in the town of Half Moon Bay. There you hit Highway 1. Two lanes in many places with breathtaking views, this road runs off and on along the coast of California. Head north, and you’d wind up in San Francisco with all its iconic city sights. but if you turned left and headed south, an entirely different adventure awaited.highway one sign

Highway 1 heading south would take you to ruggedly beautiful beaches that were the perfect place for family adventures…Scan_Pic0032There were walls of rock that were fun to climb…Scan_Pic0033 There was plenty of sand and not a lot of people…Scan_Pic0041and for the young and brave of heart, surf to frolic in.Scan_Pic0028

The coast is also the gateway to some amazing farmland. If the jaw-dropping coastline gets boring (if that is possible), the other side of the road offers interesting  agricultural views. From cattle to Christmas trees, Brussels spouts to artichokes, the variety is astounding. I can remember the first time i saw an artichoke field. Seeing the beautiful green globes perched atop their ruffled thrones made me love them even more.artichoke field 1

The Central California Coast is artichoke country. In fact, virtually all artichokes come from here. The area is ideally suited to this beautifully edible thistle. Cool summers and mild winters make for happy artichokes. Castroville the self proclaimed “Artichoke Center of the World”, is home to nearly 2/3 of all artichokes. There’s even an Artichoke Festival held there. The season by the way, has just begun and will run through June. With luck the quality and price in stores will be better.

DIGITAL CAMERAArtichokes are an amazingly delicious vegetable. They also hold romantic memories for me. One of the first meals I shared with my husband when we were dating included artichokes that we dipped in butter. That is still my favorite way to prepare and eat artichokes. My children grew up eating artichokes. So did my grandson. In fact, they are on almost every “special dinner” menu. in our family.

I’ve found the easiest way to prepare them for eating whole is in the microwave. Cut the stems off even with the bottom so they will sit up when served and cut about 1/2 inch off the tops Use a scissors to snip off the pointy tips of the leaves. Wash then well and they are ready to cook.DIGITAL CAMERA

Place the artichokes in a microwave safe shallow dish (pie or quiche pans work well). Put water in the pan about a half an inch up on the artichoke. DIGITAL CAMERASqueeze half a lemon over the artichokes to flavor and preserve the color.DIGITAL CAMERA Add 3 smashed garlic cloves, the squeezed lemon, and drizzle it all with a little olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 18 minutes or until the bottoms feel soft,DIGITAL CAMERA

Simple and Delicious Artichokes
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This recipe is the essence of artichoke. These are wonderful warm or at room temperature.
Simple and Delicious Artichokes
Print Recipe
This recipe is the essence of artichoke. These are wonderful warm or at room temperature.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cut stems off artichokes even with the bottom. Slice 1/2 -3/4 inch off the top of the artichoke. Snip sharp ends off the leaves. Wash well and drain.
  2. Place the prepared artichokes top side down in a microwave safe shallow pan. Add enough water to come up about 1/2 inch on the artichokes.
  3. Squeeze the lemon half over the artichoke bottoms then place it in the center of the artichokes. Drizzle with the olive oil. Cover it all with plastic wrap
  4. Microwave on high for 15 minutes. Without removing the plastic, press on the bottom of the artichokes. They should yield easily to your touch. If they don't microwave another 3 - 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from microwave and carefully remove the plastic wrap. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Place upright in individual bowls. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.
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Eating an artichoke is a process. Every leaf has a tender bit on the end waiting to be Scraped off with your teeth. Dipping it in butter or the sauce of your choice adds another level of flavor. The coolest thing about the artichoke is that the tender bit on the leaves get bigger and better as you get closer to the heart. Oh, and the heart is so worth the wait. Protected by its choke, once exposed is pure heaven on the tongue.

Artichoke season is short, but you can enjoy artichokes year round. The hearts come in cans, jars, and frozen. While not quite the experience of eating them whole, they are very versatile. Everyone loves Spinach and Artichoke dip. It’s become an institution. I’ve taken those two flavors and come up with a soup that is satisfying and healthy. Simple ingredients combine to make a satisfying soup.DIGITAL CAMERA

Spinach and Artichoke Soup with Chicken Sausage
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Spinach and Artichoke Soup with Chicken Sausage
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Stock Base
Soup
Servings:
Instructions
  1. For the Stock: Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and garlic and cook stirring frequently for 5 minutes or so. Add the stock to the pan and raise heat to high. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, Cover and cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Using an immersion blender puree until smooth. Add the Italian herb blend stir and set aside.
  2. While the stock cooks, prepare the soup ingredients. Heat the olive oil in a medium fry pan. add the chicken in a single layer and cook 2 minutes or until lightly browned on one side. Turn and brown other side. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside.
  3. Add the onions and red pepper to the drippings in the pan. Cook about 5 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic and spinach to the pan and cook another 3 minutes or so. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. To Broil the Artichoke Heats: Pre-heat broiler.Spray a rimmed baking sheet with the non-stick spray. Lay the artichoke hearts on the tray making sure they are not touching. Spray lightly with the cooking spray and sprinkle with the Italian herb blend. Broil for 5 minutes. Turn the artichokes spray the other side lightly and sprinkle with a little more herb blend and broil another 5 minutes. Remove from broiler and allow to cool. Slice in half length-wise. Set Aside.
  5. Once all of the ingredients are prepared, return the pan of stock to the heat. Bring stock back up to temperature and add the onion spinach mixture, the sausage, and the artichoke hearts. simmer everything for 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
  6. Serve with shaved Parmesan or Romano cheese.
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A perfect supper that is much lower in fat than the decadent dip it’s based on.DIGITAL CAMERA
The time is right for giving artichokes a try. I know that once you try them they will be part of your spring vegetable parade every year. Love, Mama D

One thought on “Memories of Highway One and Artichokes

  1. David Alan Dedin

    I love artichokes, especially in Italian dishes like Buca deBeppo’s Chicken Saltimbocca. I love when artichokes appear in a “salty” dish, cooked with capers…or prepared in a hot spinach/cheese dip. I’ve never had the courage to use artichokes as a recipe’s primary ingredient, though. Artichokes have a flavor that’s stronger than most vegetables, and I’m very traditional when I cook. Again – I hate to keep using the word “salty” – but I love artichokes’ zing in appetizers and entrees. This soup looks absolutely delicious.

    Reply

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