Thistle Be Yummy!

Every few years my yard in Hawley, Massachusetts, is beset by a plague of thistles. Despite their gorgeous flowers, I detest the prickliness, the invasiveness, and the sheer tenacity of these plants.
I do absolutely adore a certain kind of thistle—one that thrives in only one garden in Hawley: the ARTICHOKE!
My neighbors who grow it have asked to be nameless since they have very few thistles to share each year. I can tell you this much: they’re MUCH better gardeners than I.
(Actually, just about anyone in Hawley is a much better gardener than I. But that’s another blog post and possibly another blog.)
I was thrilled when my friend Peter told me recently about the annual Artichoke Festival in Castroville, California. It takes place this weekend.
I won’t be able to go. But I will enjoy thinking of the joy of the folks in Castroville on Saturday and Sunday as they attend the festival’s gala parade, the exhibition of fruit and vegetable art, the classic car show, and the wine exposition.
Naturally, I’ll also eat some artichokes this weekend. They aren’t quite as fresh here as they are in Castroville, but they’re looking pretty perky in local grocery stores.
I’m a traditionalist when it comes to artichokes. Generally, I just boil or steam them in water and vinegar. (I may try lemon juice this weekend.) And I can’t resist serving them with a little melted butter.
The Artichoke Festival has inspired me to play with artichokes a little more. My nephew Michael adores pizza so the other evening we prepared an artichoke pizza.
I wasn’t sure what to put on the pizza so we tried a number of different topping combinations in different sections of the pan.
We experimented with mushrooms, prosciutto, ripe olives, and fresh basil leaves. Surprisingly since I love it, the only thing I decided to leave out of the final recipe was the basil. The herb overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the artichoke hearts.
I highly recommend this recipe for those of you who want to hold your own artichoke festival this weekend. With my usual modesty, I think our pizza would qualify as vegetable art in the festival’s Agro Art Show.
Artichoke Plus Pizza
Since I was experimenting with this pizza, I don’t have exact quantities for most of the ingredients. Sprinkle happily but not too lavishly and you should be fine!
1 1-pound package of commercial pizza dough (make your own if you want to)
10 ounces mushrooms, washed, trimmed, and sliced
a small amount of butter and extra-virgin olive oil for sautéing
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
a sprinkling of salt and pepper
a SECOND small amount of extra-virgin olive oil for the pizza
2 to 3 handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese
4 to 6 thin slices of prosciutto cut into small pieces
1 12-ounce jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and cut into quarters
1 cup (or so) feta cheese
1/2 cup pitted ripe olives, cut into rings
Bring the pizza dough to room temperature and preheat the oven as indicated in your dough instructions.
While the oven is preheating sauté the mushrooms in a little butter and olive oil until they are gently browned. Toss on the oregano, salt, and pepper, and set aside.
Next, roll and/or stretch the pizza dough out gently (this may take a few tries) so that it forms a 14-inch circle (or a rectangle to go onto a cookie sheet if you don’t have a pizza pan). Use a little flour to help with this if necessary.
Spray your pan lightly with cooking spray and oil it even more lightly. Place the dough on the pan. Spread a very thin film of olive oil on top.
Sprinkle the mozzarella all over the pizza, and arrange the pieces of prosciutto in a pleasing fashion, followed by the artichoke hearts, feta, and olive rings.
Bake the pizza until the cheese is nicely melted and the bottom of the crust turns golden brown. With my crust (from Trader Joe’s) and my oven this took 15 to 20 minutes.
Serves 4 to 6. 

Here's the pizza just before baking......

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6 Responses to “Thistle Be Yummy!”

  1. Sue Haas says:

    I’m with you, Tinky. Boiled artichokes in water (I don’t use vinegar or lemon juice, but will try that–sounds good) served with melted butter for dipping. My husband prefer a mayonnaise dip. I trim the prickly tips off of the petals with scissors–à la Martha Stewart (?). I usually cut them in half lengthwise and serve one half to each person. They’re pretty filling if served as a side-dish. If we have leftovers, I serve them cold with a vinaigrette–had them in France that way once. I love the poster! Thanks.

  2. Donna says:

    If you can get the baby artichokes….here’s what I do and love.

    Peel them down and trim the top and a little of the stem (if it’s there). Halve them and toss in acidulated water to keep them from turning black. Bring some salted water to a simmer and parboil the chokes with a hunk of lemon in the water. Simmer for about 3-5 minutes, they should still be pretty firm. Then shock in an ice bath and drain.

    In a large saute pan heat some butter and olive oil, throw in the artichokes and coat them with the oil and butter on medium heat. Turn up the heat and add salt, red chilli flakes and a ton of garlic then toss and flip until everything is mixed well. Turn the heat up and let them sit to get a little crusty before tossing again, in the final moments squeeze the juice of a lemon (meyer if you’ve got it) check for seasoning, a fresh splash of olive oil, toss once more and then plate them and serve. Then keep them away from me or you will not have any for yourself.

  3. I love the diversity of your recipes!

  4. tinkyweisblat says:

    Sue, I love the vinaigrette, too, although I never have leftovers. Donna, I will start looking for those baby chokes–yum, yum. And thanks, Frayed; life is never dull around here!

  5. I love artichokes so much and adore artichoke pizza – yours is adorable! But its so hard for me not to just poach them and eat them with a curry-dijon-mayo! It’s just plain fun 🙂

  6. tinkyweisblat says:

    EveryDay, I guess we’ll just have to have enough artichokes in our lives to eat them in many different ways!

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