Friday, April 14, 2006

In Search of the Wild Purple Artichoke

I was inspired by a few weeks ago. She made a great looking artichoke dish, and her pictures always look SOoooooo good! So the thing sort of stuck in my mind.

Other than putting artichoke hearts packed in oil on an occasional pizza, and a few steamy episodes with steamed whole artichokes and butter sauce for two (the butter sauce was intended for the artichokes, not necessarily the two), I don’t really have a lot of experience with the vegetables (? fruits? flowers?). Well, whatever. But I had challenged myself to make some.

As often happens when something sticks in your mind, I saw some. Interestingly purple ones. Just sitting there waiting for me to come by.

So with no more thought in my head than “wow!”, I grabbed two. Half the challenge done.

On the way home, I figured they might become the basis for this week’s , sponsored by . But that presented a dilemma. How to prepare them.

It seemed like the goal would have to be to preserve some of the beautiful purple leaves (? petals? spiky painful things?). Well, whatever. So I didn’t want to sacrifice everything for the heart alone (jeez, that sounds cold – typical male).

And that turned out to be no challenge either. A single search on Google for ‘purple artichoke recipe’ turned up one from a Web site called ‘The Wild Artichoke’ as the third item. And the recipe looked pretty good. The artichoke is kept basically whole, and it involves shrimp, garlic and tomatoes. That sounds like a winner. Plus the name, The Wild Artichoke, was good as well. So the search ended almost before it had begun.

In doing a little more reading about artichokes, I was somewhat disappointed to discover that they seem to ruin the taste of wine that might be served along with the meal. A phenolic compound found in the artichoke, called Cynarin, makes everything eaten after it taste sweeter, including wine. This effect can transform the apparent taste of a fine wine into something much less palatable right before your eyes, so to speak.

On a more positive note, the artichoke phenols also have anti-oxidant and cholesterol lowering qualities.

So by eating them, you may live longer, but your wine will taste bad. Isn’t that always the way it is? You live longer, but you can’t enjoy it.

This recipe was a winner. Fun to look at. Fun to eat. Nice flavors. Light. And as you ate the shrimp, you could ‘eat’ the artichoke leaves by scraping the tiny bit of flesh off the bottom of them with your teeth (always fun to do), ending with the sweet heart of the artichoke to enjoy last.

I served a starter of Spaghetti con aglio, olioe e peperoncino, and an Apple Galette for dessert. And so the search for the wild artichoke came to a satisfying conclusion.

A Scampi Stuffed Wild Purple Artichoke
web site
(Serves 4)

2 Large Fresh Purple Artichokes
2 oz. Fresh chopped garlic
2 oz. Fresh chopped shallots
2 cups fresh diced vine ripened tomatoes
2 lemons for zest and fresh lemon juice
½ cup fresh basil chiffonade
½ cup of olive oil
12 u-10 Shrimp (peeled and deveined)
Note – we can’t get such large shrimp (i.e. 10 to the pound), so I used 2 pounds of much smaller (and cheaper) shrimp
6 oz unsalted butter
2 oz cognac or brandy
salt and white pepper to taste
Fresh herbs and herb flowers for garnish

Trim outer leaves of artichokes removing any thorny thistles with scissors. Split artichokes in half and remove furry choke. Cook artichokes in acidulated water for about 45 minutes or until artichokes become very soft. Remove and shock artichokes in cold ice water. For service preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Saute split artichokes (split side down) in olive oil with ½ of the shallots and garlic and place the in the oven to roast about 20 minutes until the artichokes caramelize on the outer edges.

While roasting the purple artichokes prepare sauté pan for shrimp. Heat pan to high heat then drizzle pan with olive oil. Add remaining shallots, garlic, shrimp and fresh vine ripened tomatoes to pan and cook till shrimp are firm and white, deglace shrimp mixture with cognac, lemon juice and add unsalted butter and fresh basil.

Remove purple artichokes from oven place on your favorite plate and fill artichokes with three shrimp and scampi mixture and serve. Garnish with fresh lemon zest. Serve. Enjoy!

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Blogger ilva said...

I have so far never seen such violet artichokes! Beautiful and I like the idea of the filling!!

1:04 AM  
Blogger ilva said...

Sorry, I forgot that I wanted to ask you if they taste any different from the usual ones!

1:07 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

They caught my eye too, definately unusual! I can't really compare the taste, as it's been so long since I've had an artichoke in general. It seems to me ones I've had before were 'sweeter' somehow. But there was a lot of flesh? meat? all the way down the stem, so that was interesting as well.

9:43 AM  
Blogger MM said...

The purple artichokes are so gorgeous! I would have been hard pressed whether to eat them, paint them or use them for a floral arrangement! But I love what you did with them.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Kalyn said...

Another wonderful find for WHB. I'd love to be able to taste this. They look great.

5:44 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Stephanie, Kalyn, thanks for the comments! They were beautiful to look at, and the dish was a nice way to highlight them. I'm glad I got a few pictures before they were gone!

1:08 AM  

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