One of the treats of autumn in northern California is that artichokes have a second season. Just as everything seems to be turning red and brown, we get a dose of green. And artichokes are one of our favorite vegetables, their nutty, earthy flavor is like nothing else. And while artichokes do often require some extra effort to prepare, we think the time is well worth it. And if you have small or “baby” artichokes, then the extra effort is definitely worth it.
Usually we get these small artichokes eary in the season, but you can sometimes find them all year. The advantage of the small artichokes is that you can trim the tops and then peel the outer leaves and eat the artichoke whole (mostly). With very small artichokes (the “babies), all you need to do is top them and pull away the dark outer leaves- the fuzzy/thorny “choke” will not have formed. If you have slightly larger artichokes, you will need to halve them and scoop out the choke with a spoon. This will take 5-10 minutes for a dozen small artichokes.
So what do we do with the artichokes? We like to deep fry them in olive oil (yum) or steam them with potatoes, but for a very quick and tasty dish we steam them with garlic and thyme and then sprinkle on some lemon juice and shaved parmesan. This recipe is a riff on an Alice Waters recipe, and she knows her veggies. We simply adjust the recipe for slightly larger artichokes (she can get whatever veggies she wants, sometimes we have to make do). We also add a dash of smoked paprika, the smokey notes work very well with the earthy artichokes. (We guess it is OK to add a dash of red to our green dishes.)