The Heart of an Artichoke

My favorite place to grocery shop is Fresh Market. My mother's too. Upon moving to Charlotte we lived in temporary housing while our house was under construction. Our digs were directly behind the Fresh Market. Talk about spoiled convenience. Upon entering you are greeted by a magnificent display of vibrantly colored orchids standing guard. Hang a right and you pass endless buckets of beautiful blooms. How can you possibly leave here without taking home a bouquet? I cannot. The shop smells wonderful, like a grocery store should and the space is manageable in size. No need to exhale restlessly if you forgot eggs or milk and have to trek across the continental divide to procure said. The aisles are inviting and a breeze to charter. They draw you in to linger and discover something new. Gluten free lasagna noodles anyone? The parking lot at my Fresh Market is civilized and easy to navigate. No aggressive, horn blasting patrons impatiently zooming by or hovering uncomfortably close to take my space. For the most part, patrons are here to take their time and enjoy themselves while shopping.

I encourage you to sign up for Fresh Market's email alerts, which regularly advertise what is on sale for the week and specific days. Thanks to one of these emails, I recently ventured there after work to pick up fish for dinner. While waiting for the butcher to wrap my wild caught Alaskan sockeye salmon, a woman asked what type of fish I had chosen. Fair question as their selection is quite robust. As I began to speak, I felt my gaze carefully wander. A snip of disclosure here; I have the habit of looking in other people's wagons while shopping. While I try to be impossibly prudent, I am quite certain that this is a faux pas somewhere in the world and will result in a scolding one of these days. Matthew always taps my hand lightly at the grocer when he sees my eyes begin to wander. So in due form, while scanning this woman's cart I stopped in my tracks upon seeing a bag of bright green artichokes.

Fish aside I nearly yelped, please tell me what to do with these. I told her of my affinity for cooking but said that some things perplex me. Case in point, the ever elusive artichoke. It should be noted that when I see them on a menu, I almost always order them. We have a favorite restaurant in Boca Raton that serves them on occasion. A plate full of hearts with a generous pool of melted butter. They are divine. The woman excitedly touched my arm and pulled one from the bag. She showed me where to cut and snip and then carefully explained how to prepare the artichokes. I couldn't believe my ears. I was then instructed to go grab a few, on sale and at such prices it would be a shame not to. Before carrying on with her business, I was advised to pick up a bottle of good Russian dressing for dipping. Her favorite of course.

I served our artichokes on a night when the weather was out of this world. The time it took to steam the greens coincided nicely with Matthew firing up the grill and preparing New York Strips, also from Fresh Market. Their meat is the cat’s meow. I picked up two pounds of beets as I was shocked by how cheap they were. 1.99 a pound is almost unimaginable. In turn, I wrapped the beets in foil for roasting and did my thing with the artichokes. Within an hour, we were ready to sit down. I served our artichokes with drawn butter but the dipping options are vast. Together we plucked leaves, dipped them and eagerly pulled the flesh from the skin with our teeth until we met the piece de resistance, a meaty heart. Our artichokes paired marvelously with the beef and magenta beets. A fun and rewarding meal for sure. Now that Spring is upon us, I plan to serve these on regular rotation. How do you like to prepare and eat your artichokes?


Wash your artichokes beneath running water. Cut an inch or so off the stalk on the bottom and two inches off the top. If you want, you can cut the pointy tips off of leaves but I did not. Put your artichokes base down in a big pot and fill with three inches of water. Also throw in a pinch of salt, 1 garlic clove, 1 slice of lemon and two bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then lid on and simmer for an hour. After an hour, they are done. You can test them by pulling out a leaf, which should slip out easily. Carefully pull the artichokes from the hot pot and serve them up. Note, once do a dent on your artichoke leaves, you will reach an almost fuzzy, prickly looking area know as the choke. Carefully scoop this inedible bit out until you reach the heart. Then, go to town. Be sure to pair with a sauce for dipping.

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