Lately I have been working what we call the peanut butter shift at the restaurant. It is the shift, that, like the nutty spread in the sandwich, works between the the lunch and dinner, holding them together like bread, making sure each is stocked and rescuing when things get heavy on the line. This means short mornings to write or pick beans on the farm, and little left of the night, or my energy, by the end of it. And after essentially preparing for two meal times, I have little incentive to cook a third for myself when I get home, opting for whatever can be made in one pot, takes less than fifteen minutes to prepare while munching a salad, served with bread and downed with wine. And lately, that has meant eggs, or steamed fish and veg (it would be cereal if it didnt seem so strange eating it with the absoltely necessary big glass of wine). Too much chopping for one day, I just want simple sustenance before it all has to begin again.
So tonight, I had a steamed artichoke. Dipped in mayonnaise. With a big hunk of double-baked-swiss loaf (a crusty bread for the strong jawed). Not the healthiest of meals, but for me, one of the most satisfying.
I love artichokes as much as I love breakfast--hell, I love artichokes for breakfast, baked with eggs, parmesan, parsley, and oregano. Canned or fresh, they make their way into many of my meals: on pizza with zuchinni, fontina, and basil, or kalamata olives and asiago; in risotto with fresh mint; in a ragout with shelling beans, new potatos, and summer savory; in salads with arugula and shaved fennel; baked, steamed, sauteed, straight out the can. I love their odd grassy flavour, like no other vegetable. The are what my friend Johnny calls brutto ma buono-- Italian for ugly but good. its true, they are not very pretty, but I couldnt imagine my food life without them.
Which brings me to a little aside. This spring I decided to embark on the ever-more-popular-Hundred Mile Diet--albeit a cheaterès version. You see, there are certain things that I just could not give up, things that will never be a part of the Okanagans incredible bounty. Alot of pantry goods for one (spices like cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, rice, certain flours, etc), coffee (though I buy beans that are fair trade and roasted here to ease the guilt of addiction), lemons (theyre as intrinsic to my cooking as olive oil, another exception to my miled limits), and artichokes. To survive this year, I am allowing myself artichokes, of all things, and this winter it may be the only green thing I have to eat.
And tonight it was all I wanted to eat. I got home around nine thirty, not knowing what I wanted, only that I was hungry but too tired to pack away a bowl of pasta (another go-to after a day on my feet and no real serious substance in me). And there it was in my veg drawer: brutto ma buono. It took twice as long to eat as to make, dipping each leaf in the aoili, but going even later to bed never felt so worth it, This could be a new peanut butter shift routine...
Steamed Globe Arti with Lemon Garlic Aoili
For the Artichoke:
Trim a large artichoke, removing most of the large outer leaves, cutting the poiny tips off the remaining leaves, and slicing an inch off the top and removing the fuzzy choke. Place upside down in a small sauce pan, pour in water about a third of the way up the arti, a glug of olive oil and some white wine. Add a bay leaf, some parsely sprigs, a couple of sage leaves and summer savory sprigs too (you can use other combinations of herbs as well--thyme works nicely), and half a lemon, squeezed and dropped right in. Bring the water to a simmer, cover, and steam until tender, 20-30 minutes. Remove arti from pan and dip each leaf, one by one, in the aoli. savour. sleep.
For the Aoili:
1é4 cup mayo
zest of half a lemon
1 tsp minced fresh or 2 tsps roasted garlic