Artichoke without the Striptease

The Perfect Sandwich

In his poem, Artichoke, poet Richard Foerster calls the act of eating them “the slow striptease.” How perfect and lovely!

I have always associated artichokes with sexy luxuriousness.  I can still see my glamorous young mother in her silky green (maybe artichoke-colored) Muumuu serving bowlsful during my early years in Los Angeles circa 1962.  Branded a picky eater later, I wonder that I have these sensual early memories of my four-year-old self dipping artichoke leaves in garlic butter. The moment when we would get to the softer purple tinged petals, our father would whisk the improbable flower food away to cut out the choke and submerge the chunks in the garlicky butter residue in the saucepan. He’d bring the pan to the table where we six hovered over it, spearing the shattered hearts with toothpicks. I have this and a memory of eating cold crab chunks on a bed of ice, fresh from The Crab Cooker at Newport Beach. And then a memory of a sustained “nooooo,” to any food strangely textured, with claws or small bones.

Sure, it’s a pain to steam artichokes—from clipping the thorny ends of the bud’s bracts to waiting an hour or so for them to be soft enough to scrape with your teeth and for the heart to turn tender. But oh, the reward of this subtle, luxurious flavor! So I’m going to contradict my Condiment-o-Mania blog post, in which I suggested that I had only three go-to sandwich condiments, because I’ve found a winner in Trader Joe’s Artichoke Antipasto.

This spread is nothing more than artichoke hearts and perhaps leaves smashed up with olive oil and lemon. You can slather it on toasted ciabatta slices for quick elegant crostini or make a Perfect Sandwich using whatever is at hand. I sliced the Chef’s leftover lemon-olive chicken breast on one side of a ciabatta roll, avocado slices on top and then the Artichoke Antipasto on the other side. Close. Slice. MMMMmmm. No slow striptease to get to what Pablo Neruda called in his Ode to the Artichoke, “the peaceful mush of your green heart.”

The Chef’s Lemon-Olive Chicken Breasts

Salt and pepper boneless skin-on chicken breasts (Note:the Chef knows how to debone a chicken breast, and I don’t so I might just use packaged boneless breasts).

Saute in olive oil and butter until brown and crisp on skin aide and other side.

Add garlic slices, then chicken broth (maybe half a cup) and lemon slices.

Simmer until the chicken is done.

Add black calamata olives, chopped parsley and serve.

Use leftovers in a perfect artichoke avocado sandwich.