Spring is here in California! Rejoice and celebrate your love of the artichoke. Frost kissed from the cold and ready to eat steamed, braised or baked, eating these mighty thistles is something we look forward to every year as we bring them in to the kitchen by the basket/bag/box full.
The babies are easiest to process as there is no developed choke to discard, but as the buds mature, the flavor develops and the hearts and bracts become bigger and tastier. Fresh is best and we use them as fast as we can upon delivery or pickup from farms like Pezzini (we road trip to Castroville when we can). We slice the hearts raw for salads, steam them whole to eat with aioli or drawn butter, and pare them down to only their most tender parts to braise. Braising allows us to use these flower buds for a myriad of easy dishes including pastas, paellas and the frittata that we lay out for you below.
Things to know before hand:
Frittatas work best for a crowd, use a 10 inch nonstick skillet, 12 eggs and 1/2 cup of cream, sour cream or yogurt will be the right ratio for a 10 inch skillet, season liberally as you will want to serve your frittata room temperature, not hot (therefor salt will be harder to perceive once the eggs have cooled), use really good cheese (we use an excellent one from Monterey County), don’t cook too high and fast or too low and slow (350f-375f is best) and remember to pull your frittata out of the oven when still slightly ‘jiggly’ in the middle so it can finish cooking in the skillet before being inverted onto a serving platter.
Also good to remember:
The total antioxidant capacity of artichoke flower heads is one of the highest reported for vegetables, so eat up and feel good about it!