Long before there were artichoke hearts offered in salads and on pizzas and in your favorite Italian pasta dishes, my sister shared her love of this vegetable with us. While visiting from California she prepared a dinner for us. You can imagine the look on our faces when she poured these out on the counter and said “we’re having these artichokes for dinner”. We didn’t want to dampen her enthusiasm but we wondered how on earth we were going to eat these strange things. It hurt your hand when you tried to pick it up. Now this vegetable looks like a sweet green flower after being boiled for 45 minutes but before that it looked something like a pine cone. It can be prickly to touch so that is why you cut about a half inch off each leaf, cut the bottom so it can stand flat and cut an inch or so off the top. After washing it you boil it for forty five minutes with a few cloves of garlic, a bay leaf or two and some salt and pepper.
Pull off each leaf and dip it in some melted butter with seasoned salt and a dash of cayenne if you please. Turn it upside down and pull between your front teeth. The little bit of artichoke with the melted butter is marvelous. You do this until all the big leaves are gone then rub off the tiny needle like substance left (the choke) to enjoy the best part of all, the artichoke heart. You can really enjoy the large pieces left dipped in your seasoned butter.
Leave it to my California Chef Sister to add a pear to this already deliciously good salad. So with this new idea I decided to look up information on pears. I found out that most pears come from Oregon and Washington and most varieties have a long season from August to May. So why don’t we use them more? Well when you pick them up in the produce area of grocery store they feel hard and if you were to push on them it would cause them to bruise and rot. What to do? Be patient! Buy them, bring them home and put them in a brown paper bag for a day or two then eat them like they are or use them in a variety of different recipes.
I love baking in Alycia’s kitchen. The view from her window is spectacular and since you don’t have to worry about flying bugs she leaves the glass double doors open. She lives up high in the hills of Santa Barbara and you can see all the way to the ocean. The wind is almost always blowing and yet the sun is warm. Since I had hidden some of these delicious blueberries we picked at the blueberry farm I had enough left to make blueberry muffins with pecans this morning.
Besides eating all you want of these luscious blueberries we were able to bring enough home to make this wonderful blueberry buckle recipe from a grandmother of one of Alycia’s friends. I love recipes passed down through the generations. As you can tell from the picture Heather and her younger kids and I are visiting my sister and her family again in Southern California for our yearly reunion.