By Danielle French

Artichokes

Artichokes are a vegetable that I do not eat all that often – they usually are in season in my grocery store closer to March and then only for a few weeks. I spotted them this past week and snapped a few up. Sometimes they are large and luscious and other times, like the ones I got this past week, with grey spots from long travel. Either way, I often buy them and look forward to eating them as an appetizer. I realize they are not a local food but I love them. I make them very simply and serve them room temperature with a basic vinaigrette. 

When I was pregnant with Aubrey Rose, I had cravings for them. I am not sure what that means or what implications it had for her.  They are a great source of folate and fiber, vitamins C and K and high in antioxidants. Eating them is a bit of a process, first taking off the bitter outer leaves and then slowly making your way to the inside to the heart peeling away each leaf, dipping it in the vinaigrette and letting the fleshy part slide through your teeth. 

These photos here do not do a really beautiful artichoke justice as when you can find them large and firm. They are a beautiful vegetable and a pleasure to cook and eat. These smaller ones are a little on the bitter side to start out with – but no matter to me. 

artichokes ready for cooking

To begin – peel off the first outer layers and compost. Cut the stem to about 1 centimeter from the base. If the leaves are prickly, then I cut the tips off to make handling easier. 

Boil or steam the artichoke in salted water until the outer leaves are tender – about 30-40 minutes for the small ones and longer for the very large artichokes. Remove from the water and let it cool.

Meanwhile, in a container for an immersion blender or a blender, mix together 1 heaping tablespoon dijon mustard, 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper, 1 clove garlic and ¼ cup of sherry or white wine vinegar. Mix thoroughly and then slowly drizzle in ¾ cup of olive oil until you have a mayonnaise consistency.  Taste. Adjust any salt or pepper. If I have any fresh dill on hand, I might add it to the finished vinaigrette and the dill head into the cooking water. Enjoy this cold weather transported to a patio in Paris with a baguette and artichoke in front of you. 

artichokes and vinaigrette

When serving, place the artichoke on one edge of the plate and a tablespoon of the sauce/vinaigrette mixture on the other side. Begin by eating the tougher leaves (or not) and then working your way into the interior, leaf by leaf. When you get to the centre there is a hairy part – remove this carefully with the tip of your knife. This reveals the artichoke heart. I then use my knife and fork and cut the heart into quarters, serve with the vinaigrette and enjoy. So satisfying and the process of the meal allows for slow dinner conversation which is always a treat. 

illustration: Carlyle Apps
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Danielle French - Ash Naylor Photography

About Danielle

Looking for a simpler way of life for her four daughters and herself, Danielle moved from Toronto to this farm in the Bethany Hills of Southern Ontario, and over time together with her family and her partner Shawn, restored the barn, the iconic heritage silo and the land.

Danielle loves to create unique settings and menus for the many events she offers at South Pond Farms, such as authentic farm-to-table gatherings, bread-making workshops, culinary classes, and weddings. Danielle’s vision is to inspire others to share her vision of a traditional life and way of cooking and to feel the sense of history on this beautiful land.  

Danielle was also the host of a television series called Taste of the Country

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