Did you screw up Valentine's Day? Here's your chance at redemption.
Food media will have you convinced that cooking is something better left to professionals. Thanks to the food pornographers, clanking around in the kitchen (something once fundamental if one was to eat) suddenly looks like it requires a doctorate, like something that deserves a credit at the end of the performance.
Cooking is for everyone, and while admittedly not something that should be endeavored upon with dread (there's no shame in not wanting to do it either), it is its own singular triumph when seized upon and nailed.
Steaming a fresh artichoke is one of those triumphs -- they might look like stubborn little armadillos, lying there all curmudgeonly and determined.
But it takes almost nothing to crack their code, and as a result, get your girlfriend to soften under your newfound expertise.
1. Buy artichokes. Remove their prickly outer leaves either with kitchen shears or a knife. This will more readily allow the cooking steam to permeate the meat.
2. Slice lengthwise and remove the fuzzy choke. This is the little hairy bit in the center. You want to remove it because eating hair is disgusting.
3. Place the halves or quarters into a steam basket over boiling water. Cover. Allow to cook for about one hour or until the meat becomes tender. You can know this by plucking one of the little petals from its home and biting into it. Taste good and tender? Righteous.
4. While the steam is rolling, make a vinaigrette. A vinaigrette is a 3 to 1 ratio of fat to acid. What do you like to eat? Do you like olive oil? Melty butter? Truffle oil? Lard? The choice is really yours. Maybe you like citrus, red wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar. Put one part of the latter in a bowl. Drizzle in three parts of the former while whisking. Toss in a little garlic, shallot, salt and pepper to taste. You have just made something superior to anything that comes out of any bottle unless it is a bottle of booze. In which case, drink up.
5. Put the fruits of this labor on a plate. Pluck out leaves one by one, like the petals off a daisy. Dip, and scrape the meat off with your front teeth. You want to do this with someone you like because it's a terribly companionate kind of dining. Pull, dip, chat, bite, chat, pull, kiss.
You'll be left with the tender inner heart, that thing you usually find marinating in a jar of some mystery fluid on the supermarket shelf. This is like finding the golden ticket after devouring a Wonka bar. The tattoo in the cracker jack box. This you can continue to dunk and eat, or dice and put it in anything you like -- salad, soup, breakfast cereal. It elevates everything. Or collect enough and puree.
Poet Nikki Giovanni maybe said it best:
"Let me die in a bowl of artichoke soup.... "
Send your story tips to Hot Dish.