All choked up

Artichokes are one of my most favorite foods. When we were younger, my parents would buy them as a special treat. I was more excited by this than a more normal child might have been by a Twinkie or a trip to Pizza Hut. I loved the unusual flavor of the artichoke. I would slowly scrape away the flesh from each leaf and see the pattern created by the space between my two front teeth. Artichokes with dinner meant we were allowed to eat with our hands and play with our food. It was always a fun game to see who could remove the choke and disturb the precious heart the least.

My parents usually served artichokes with a very simple preparation – steamed and perhaps with some lemon to squeeze over it. The flavor of the flower really shines through like this. Over the years, I’ve had artichokes prepared in more ways – marinated, sautéed, baked, stuffed, and straight from a jar. I’ve seen them growing in a backyard in California and also recently learned that they are a type of thistle.

Artichokes are coming into season, so I couldn’t resist when I saw them on sale at the market the other day. Visions of all the different ways I could prepare them were spurred on by a featured article in Fine Cooking magazine. This article gave me some new ideas for artichoke recipes. I like the methods they show for trimming and preparing if you want to separate the bottoms to stuff and/or bake. Although delicious, I feel like this wastes the precious leaves and takes away most of the fun element. But a dip for the artichoke and the leaves – there’s an idea I can embrace and decided to try.

Artichokes are on other people’s mind as well. David Lebovitz recently did a post on a Spring-time impromptu meal planning that led to artichokes with eggless mayonnaise. Now there’s something that intrigued me. Mayonnaise has always been a condiment that I vehemently shied away from. It was more than just me being a picky eater. Mayonnaise actually triggered my gag reflex. At least it used to. A few years ago it transitioned from making me gag to being something I strongly dislike. Then, slowly, my tastes changed. One day I had a small amount of mayonnaise mixed into a salad (potato? tuna?) and I thought it was actually not that bad. My body however, still strongly disagrees with mayonnaise. I’ve since learned that Naoynaise gives me the lovely flavor boost  of mayonnaise and does not leave me sick to my stomach. I’ve heard much talk about homemade mayonnaise as being rich, silky and completely different from the store-bought versions we are so familiar with. With this in the back of my mind, I figured it could be worthwhile to try to make it myself, at least one time. If I still found it to my dislike or disagreement, then I could permanently swear off mayonnaise and never look back.

I’ve luckily discovered that eggless mayonnaise is tasty and does not make me sick. It also allows you to experience the wonders of emulsification.

Artichokes with Eggless Basil Mayonnaise Dip
Serves 2
2 fresh globe artichokes
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. saffron
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. kosher salt

1. Prepare artichokes by trimming stems. Cut off top 1/2 inch of leaves. Cut off top of remaining leaves to remove points. Scissors work best here. Remove any small outer leaves near stems.

preparing artichokes

2. Place steam basket at bottom of large stock pot. Fill pot with water until just below basket.
3. Add bay leaves, saffron, white vinegar, parsley, peppercorns and salt to water.
4. Place artichokes cut side down on steamer basket.
5. Bring pot to simmer. Cover.
6. Cook 30-40 minutes, until an outer leaf easily pulls off of artichoke.

mayonnaise ingredients
some ingredients for mayonnaise

Meanwhile, make the mayonnaise
1/3 c. cold milk, I used 1%
2-3 tsp. lemon juice (approximately 1/2 of a juicy lemon)
freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. oil (I used 1/2 c. olive oil and 1/4 c. vegetable oil)
2 generous handfuls of fresh basil. I used fresh Thai Basil.

1. Wash and dry basil. Roughly chop.

freshly chopped Thai basil

2. Use blender, stick blender, or food processor. I used my Cuisinart Mini Prep. Add milk and lemon juice.
3. Blend briefly to combine.
4. Add pepper and blend.
5. Slowly add oil, mixing as you add. If you are using a blender or a stick blender it is easy to add the oil while continually mixing. The Mini Prep does not have an opening in the lid. I solved this problem by adding a small amount of oil and then blending to combine. I would then add a little more oil and blend. I continued with this method of adding oil in small increments and fully blending after each addition.
6. When all oil is fully combined and emulsified into a thick substance, add salt and basil.

basil mayonnaise

7. Mix to combine.
8. Adjust lemon and salt to taste.

Serve with artichokes. This is too good to be healthy.