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Giant Artichokes and a Chef’s Birthday Dinner….


For my Birthday this year, a night of peace and quiet.  Chilled Cracked Dungeness Crab, Steamed Giant Artichokes, and an excellent champagne make this a dinner to savor.  I love steamed artichokes.  It has to be one of my many favorite vegetables, : ) when I saw these giant beauties at the Farmer’s market on Sunday I had to get a couple.    The most commonly found artichoke in the United States is the Green Globe Artichoke.   When purchasing artichokes look for those with light green leaves. The leaves should be tight and cling to the body of the artichoke.  Occasionally Artichokes may be discolored by frost, but this does not affect flavor or quality, although as a benefit they may be sold at a lower price!   To prepare for cooking, remove the stem and any tough outer leaves at the base of the stem.  The next step is to trim the thorny part of each leaf off with scissors. I prefer simmering my artichokes to steaming.  To simmer, simply place the artichokes in a deep pot and add enough water so that the base of the artichoke is submerged.  I then add salt, two or three cloves of crushed garlic, a few branches of thyme and 1 lemon cut into slices.  Simmer for about 40 minutes or until tender.  The artichoke is cooked when you can easily pull the leaves away from the choke.

Artichokes are traditionally served with heavy sauces, such as mayonnaise, hollandaise or just plain butter.  Several people have recently asked me to come up with a *healthy* dipping sauce, and I have finally made one that both Pete and I are happy with.  It starts with a base of Greek Yogurt to which I added lemon zest, thyme leaves, parsley, a little garlic and grated shallot. It had a great mouth feel from the creamy yogurt and it was bright and flavorful with the addition of lemon zest and herbs.

Here’s the recipe.  Enjoy!

Lemon Yogurt Dipping Sauce

½ cup of Greek Yogurt

2 Tbsp. of olive oil (Optional, but adds richness and takes the sometimes ‘yogurt-y’ edge off.)

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 garlic clove, grated

1 Tbsp. shallot minced

2 tsp. thyme leaves, chopped

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

1 Tbsp. Rice wine vinegar (adds a little tang and is not as acidic as lemon juice)

½ tsp. salt

A couple of drops of siracha

Pinch of sugar (optional, but sometimes necessary to balance the flavors)

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir.  Taste, Season and Enjoy!

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