Steamed Artichoke with Harissa Butter.

Let’s use our imaginations for a second. It’s something like 100,000 years ago and you’re a primitive human, walking around and looking for food. You spot a green, tough, pointy-leafed, stringy-stemmed, hairy-hearted and bitter-tasting vegetable. Naturally, you do not eat it. And none of your fellow humans eat it either. It’s clearly a bad food option. You move on and continue your search. Are the berries on that bush non-poisonous? Only one way to find out!

Are you enjoying the imagination game? I find myself thinking about this kind of thing a lot: how many thousands of years had to go by before someone figured out how to prepare an artichoke so that it’s a delicious treat instead of the “problem vegetable” that it is in its untouched state? The artichoke is one of the weirdest vegetables there is, and it’s pretty labor-intensive to prepare, and yet it is all so worth it to get to that delicious heart and eat the meat off the bases of the leaves. Mmmmm.

Despite its baggage, I am a huge fan of these guys, and today I share with you the best artichoke and dressing I have ever eaten. The dressing is a simple combo of melted butter and harissa, a red spiced paste that comes from Tunisia and is usually made from chilis and olive oil. It goes so well with artichokes, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this combo before now. Please please please make this simple recipe as soon as you can – it it magnificent.

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INGREDIENTS (this recipe easily doubles/triples/etc.)

1 artichoke
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp harissa paste (or more, to taste)

Just the Recipe link: Steamed Artichoke with Harissa Butter

DIRECTIONS

Fill a pot with 1 inch of water, toss in the bay leaf, and set it to boil. Meanwhile, prep the artichoke for steaming. Using a serrated knife, chop the stem most of the way, and cut through the middle of the artichoke so that you trim off the leaf points. Pull the small leaves off the base and discard.

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When the water is boiling, put the artichoke in the pot, wide cute side down and stem up. Cover, turn down to a low boil, and cook 20-30 minutes. It’s done when you can easily pull off smaller leaves at the base near the stem. Remove the artichoke from the water and set is aside to cool down a bit.

To assemble the harissa butter, melt the butter and stir in the harissa.

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When the artichoke has cooled enough to touch, take out the choke. Take your tongs and use them to find the middle section of the artichoke, where the purple-y leaves are. Use the tongs to pull this section out of the artichoke and expose the hairy choke in the center.

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Then trade the tongs for a fork. To remove the hairy center, use the fork to gently loosen the hair from the heart. Pull it away and throw it out. Continue to gently loosen the hair and remove it until the heart is clean and exposed.

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Put your artichoke on a plate and spoon about half of the butter over the center, over the heart. Use the rest for dipping the leaves; I like to dip each leaf and scrape the base for the “meat,” and then eat the heart last. These are so unbelievably good!!

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And thank you, oh culinary pioneer of the past, who discovered the glory of artichokes and made this meal possible.

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Butter and Herb New Potatoes.

New potatoes are those little guys you see in spring and summer. They’re not fully grown when they’re harvested, hence the “new.” At a farmer’s market on Saturday morning, I found a whole big basket full of baby marbled potatoes, so I took a few home to cook for dinner. A word to the wise about this recipe: the whole time the potatoes and shallots were browning, I was cursing myself for having no bacon in the house. If you’re lucky enough to have it on hand, USE IT! And don’t you dare feel any food guilt afterward: potatoes, shallots, bacon, butter–that’s the price you pay for authentic French flavor. Just enjoy it.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups new potatoes
garlic thyme olive oil
small shallot, diced
thyme
parsley
salt
pepper
pad of cold butter

DIRECTIONS

Wash potatoes thoroughly. Place in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, let boil for  2 minutes, then drain.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add potatoes and shallot and cook until browned.

When browned to your liking, remove from heat. Sprinkle lightly with parsley and thyme, and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in butter until melted. Serve plain, or with sour cream.