From my point of view artichokes give us one of the most important advices for our life paths. Even if it is not their original meaning, I interpret it my way: heart + choke. If you don’t open your heart, you will choke on it. Not listening on your own heart beat, you will spend all your life singing a song that doesn’t belong to you. Life in dissonance tenses up the throat. The heart builds around itself tough, prickly and inedible layers of fear. So you hide it inside this shell, like a snake hides it’s legs. You may look very pretty and even colorful, but this flower will fade away and no one will ever hear the cry for help, from far away under your skin.
While I was starring at wide fields of artichokes in Salento, a very fertile region in southern Italy, I couldn’t help but think of that woman who rejected the most powerful man of those times. Zeus, the Greek Casanova, went crazy after this unusual beauty, who, unexpectedly, turned down his love. Furious, just like every rejected man, Zeus decided to punish the young woman transforming her into an artichoke.
But no one ever told why she turned him down?! Maybe to protect him from her wild nature, from her nomad soul, full of undreamed dreams? From the fire in her clear and honest eyes that made many men confusing the Adriatic Sea with the blue of the sky. I am sure, she had a good reason to say no to God.
In every of those big flowers on Salento’s ground I saw Zeus’ injured heart. Cutting off the leaves hardened from pain, I finally reached the gentle and miraculous centre. After I observed it for a few seconds, the heart suddenly started to darken. So I ate it. That was the best way to keep the true beauty of Zeus’ heart alive.
Artichokes spring salad
Ingredients (serves 2 hungry people):
green salad of your choice
3 spring onions, washed and finely chopped
100 g fava beans, removed from their pod and pealed (optional)
3 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 lemons, their juice
knob of ghee, coconut oil or butter
5 Tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to your taste
1. Wash the artichoke thoroughly. Hold the artichoke under cold running water. Rinse in between the leaves without pulling on them. Dry the artichoke with a clean towel.
2. Using a large knife, cut off the top 2 cm of the artichoke.
3. Using a knife or pair of kitchen scissors, cut off the hard leaves until you reached the tender and light colored part of artichoke- heart.
4. Cut off the stem flush with the base and half the hearts of artichokes.
5. Salt the artichokes, pour them with 3 Tsp of olive oil and 2 Tsp of lemon juice. Set aside for 30 min.
6. In the frying pan heat the ghee (or coconut oil or butter). Add garlic and bay leaves and fry it just for a 10 sec. Add artichoke hearts, stir everything to combine and fry for another 5 min. Pour 1 dl water, reduce the temperature to medium and cook until the water is absorbed. Repeat the process with water so many times until the hearts are softened (I repeated it two times). If you use it, add pealed fava beans to the artichokes in the last minute of cooking.
7. Meanwhile, wash the salad and put it in a larger serving bowl. Pour with 2 Tsp of olive oil, the rest of lemon juice and pinch of salt and pepper.
8. When artichoke hearts are done, spread them over the salad leaves, drizzle with some more olive oil (if desired), sprinkle with spring onions and serve it cold-warm.