Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Artichokes and Wheat Berry Salad

One of the things I love most about summer, is artichoke season! Nate and I both share the same passion for artichokes... and unending love! We know Lilly (yes, our dog) belongs in the Moore family because she too shares this same feeling toward these tasty thistle-like plants. They can be somewhat intimidating to make and eat, if you don't have any experience with them. I have had several of my friends ask me multiple times, what exactly I do with them. It is really quite simple once you try it! Note: When choosing an artichoke, I have found that the LARGE ones have much better flavor than the baby ones. Just find one that looks nice, plump, full, and seems to call out your name.

Fun fact: Marilyn Monroe was crowned artichoke queen in 1948.

First, here is a picture of my favorite meal: artichokes, wheat berry salad, and wine!
I will post the recipe for wheatberry salad after we discuss artichoke making and eating.

First trim the stem an rinse the artichoke.
Next place the artichoke in a large pot of water (deep enough so it can fully submerge).
Then turn on the burner to high until it comes to a full boil. Slightly reduce the heat so it continues to boil, but not boil over.
(Any other teachers noticing my "transition words" in my "how to" story? I just realized I am using my first grade writing lesson ideas to explain this... not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but I'll go with it).
Depending on the size of your artichoke, boil 45 min- 1 hour. I usually test the leaves by plucking a random one (not too close to the edge, not too close to the middle), if it comes off pretty easy and is soft when you taste it, it's ready.
Now, here comes the fun part. I put mine in an artichoke steamer for serving because it holds it in place, but this is not necessary. I don't use the steamers to actually steam them because I have found the come out just as good by simply boiling them. Pluck some delicious leaves.

Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on the leaf or dip in Earth Balance butter (Nate's fav) if desired. Then bite of the "meat" of the artichoke leaf. This is my bite.
This is Lilly's bite. She is an artichoke hound. A professional.
Continue enjoying each leaf (except the ones on the very edge... they are not very good).

Soon it will look like this.

Finish the last few leaves until this is left.
Slice out the "choke" (That is what we call it... might not be the technical term) by running a sharp knife around the edges and all the way into the middle. This definitely takes practice- you won't get it perfect the first try. If you do, don't tell me. It took me several tries until I could get it right. Even if you leave some stringy parts, you can scoop them out with a spoon after. The section on the left is the "choke", we eat the part on the right:
Then slice into chunks.
I always say this is my "dessert" after eating my artichoke leaves... It is that same delicious flavor, intensified and even more scrumptious... 
This is our crazy dog begging for more artichoke. Notice (not that it isn't obvious) her crusty, greenish face, from devouring all the meat off the leaves we gave her. That underbite is always much more prominent when she really, really wants something. I love how she knows how to get the good stuff and leaves the rest, and ALWAYS comes back for more!
I realize this is a long blog post, but I must share my wheat berry salad recipe! It is too good not to share with you.

Wheat berry Salad
Adapted from Oh She Glows

1 cup dry wheat berries, cooked and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 English cucumber, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 cup fresh cilantro, diced with large stems removed
4 green onions, diced (optional)
1 avocado, diced (squeeze a little lemon juice on it to keep from turning brown)
Kosher salt + pepper, to taste

Dressing Ingredients:

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, minced

Directions: Place the wheatberries in a medium sized pot, covered in 3 inches of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour. Drain and cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the diced vegetables (cucumber, red pepper, tomato, cilantro, green onions, avocado). Add in cooked and drained black beans (or other bean of choice) and stir.

In a small bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients (olive oil, water, balsamic vinegar, mustard, soy sauce, fresh lemon juice, garlic). Set aside.

When the wheat berries are ready, drain, rinse, cool, and then stir into the salad. Add the dressing just before serving and stir well. Now season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Garnish with additional cilantro if desired.

Great on it's own, or served over a bed of greens.

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