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May's Featured Ingredient is: Artichoke

I’ll be honest, the first time I ever tried artichokes was at my (now) husband’s parents home. I was well into my 20s and dating my now husband Bill.  His mom served it as the first course of our weekend meals. The artichoke sat beautifully in a shallow bowl and there were two smaller bowls above it.  One was empty and the other had what I soon learned was hollandaise sauce in it.  As I looked at the pretty presentation, I was filled with trepidation.  I had no idea how to eat it! Do I use a fork and a knife on it?  What was the empty bowl for?  Do I drizzle the hollandaise over the whole thing??  What I did know was, I was on my way to making a terrible first impression on my future husband’s family.  Was I to be defeated by an artichoke?  Then it hit me; wait, watch, and do what the other family members did.  Pluck a leaf, dip the bottom bit in hollandaise and scrape the leaf against your bottom teeth to get the meat of the artichoke, then discard the tougher top of the leaf into the empty bowl.  The outer leaves had less ‘meat’ on them, but as I worked my way to the inner leaves, they became much more tender and ‘meatier’.   Some might say this seems like a lot of work while others feel it’s just a vehicle to eat hollandaise or another dipping sauce.  For me it was a delightful culinary experience!  Artichokes are prevalent in Spring and they’re much easier to prepare than you think.  Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.  Earlier this month I made the following recipes featuring the regal artichoke:

Artichoke Three Ways

Steamed Artichokes with Garlic-Lemon Aioli  

Artichoke Pesto Pasta  

Roasted Artichoke Salad

3 artichokes

 Culinary Terms, Techniques, & Trivia...

What is Aioli? 

According to Wikipedia, the term aioli is simply an emulsion of olive oil and garlic.  Its origins are France, Italy, Spain, and the Mediterranean Basin.  It is served cold as a sauce and is quite versatile in its usages.  It’s great on fish, vegetables, on sandwiches, as a dip, etc.  As it has evolved, it is quite often referred to as a flavored mayonnaise.   You can make your own from scratch if you’re up to a culinary challenge, or you can cheat, and start with a store bought good mayonnaise and add your own additions.  Short on time?  You can always purchase one from your local supermarket or online.  Stonewall Kitchen makes some nice ones.  This month, I’m pairing steamed artichokes with a lemon-garlic aioli.  Since there are a few good mayonnaises to choose from, I see no need to reinvent the wheel, so I’m starting with store bought mayo that I flavor with garlic, lemon, and fresh herbs.

artichoke aioli jars

It's 5:00 somewhere!

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I thought it might be fun to whip up a cocktail whose star ingredient is tequila.  As I’m learning (with all fermented  spirits), there are many different categories of spirits according to their aging times and fermentation container. For Tequila there are the following:  Blanco, Reposado, Anejo, Extra Anejo, Cristalino, and then there is another type of tequila called Mezcal with all its categories.  Frankly, my eyes started to glaze over (from researching; not sampling!!) after Anejo signifying (right or wrong) I’m not exactly a tequila aficionado; I just enjoy a nice tequila cocktail, so on with it!  Once again I tweaked a recipe I discovered in Town and Country magazine. So here’s my version of “It Takes Dos to Tango”.  I’m calling my version

"Cinco de Mayo Mango Madness."

peach coctails
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