March 16 – Artichoke Hearts Day
I never got into artichokes as a kid. (Well, to be honest, I didn’t get much into any vegetable as a kid, unless it was covered in cheese sauce first, but that’s just kids for you.) My family were never been artichoke eaters, and so I hadn’t really had any until after college, when the buttery slices of the heart were served to me in a sea of spinach and cream, a dip that may or may not have come from an international chain restaurant whose name includes a day of the week. (I also just realized that includes more than one restaurant, ha.) I’m not particularly proud of that introduction to artichokes, not in the least, hahaha. But after that, artichoke hearts stole my heart: I tried out antipasto with quarters of those delicious hearts, started buying them myself (canned or jarred, I am NOT dealing with preparing them from the kit-and-caboodle, thank you!) and incorporating them into my own recipes. And, sometimes, I just eat them right out of the jar, they’re so tasty to me all by themselves.
Biologically speaking, the artichoke is a gigantic thistle, and has been cultivated throughout history for food, drink, and medical uses. Most of the plant is edible–the ancient Greeks used to eat the hardy leaves and flowers–but these days, we stick strictly to the heart of the artichoke, a light-tasting, tender center of the thistle surrounded by inedible hair-like thorns and the thick green leaves. It’s a pain to hack at a fresh artichoke to get to its center, but definitely worth the effort for the yummy heart! And cultures all around the world think so, too: everywhere from California to the Middle East to Italy uses artichokes in their cuisine, whether it’s sauteed, stuffed, or stewed. The artichoke complements a lot of dishes, holds up to a good amount of technique, and can also be used as its own vessel (if you’re particularly good at opening one up!), but as I said before, one of my favorite ways to have artichoke hearts is straight out of the jar brine–some things are just too delicious to hide in a recipe!
One restaurant in New York knows exactly how to highlight the artichoke heart but still make it an exemplary dish fit for the dining columns: Westville and Westville East (gotta love the oxymoronic name), two comfort-food homes in the West and East Villages respectively, serve an appetizer that will make anyone fall in love with the artichoke. Alongside their comfort food staples like BLTs and burgers, however, are market-fresh vegetable dishes that change daily, so you know they are always as close to farm-to-table as a Manhattan diner can promise. Their artichoke hearts are served with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese to give it an extra kick, the melted cheese allowing the smooth, buttery texture of the artichoke hearts to shine. This is the perfect spot to celebrate the artichoke heart on this day, and with the great selection of both veggie and meat dishes, a big group of carnivores and herbivores alike can all sit at the table and enjoy!
210 W 10th St (between 4th St & Bleecker St)
173 Ave A
“The vegetables typically change with the seasons, so they are always fresh. The fresh market vegetables are prepared in a way that makes you want to eat all your kale. Here are the top three market vegetable recommendations that never fail to please: beets with warm goat cheese, sauteed kale with shallots and white wine and artichoke hearts with parmesan.”–Examiner
“The daily roster of fresh veggies, done in reverent and creative ways, is impressive, and the platter, which allows you to pick any four, is the way to go. On a recent afternoon the selection included cauliflower with mustard sauce, artichoke hearts parmesan, beets with walnuts, and garlic mashed potatoes, enough for two hungry people.”–VoicePlaces.com
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Wanting to try out at least one of these market sides, we decided to try the artichoke hearts with parmesan and it was fantastic. The artichokes were cooked quite well and you could taste the cheese on them without the cheese overpowering. They really let the artichokes sing.”–Dennis L.
“The real goodness was in the artichoke hearts with Parmesan. Holy amazingness! That was good! It had just the right amount of flavor and was warm so the cheese stuck to the hearts and it was just awesome in my mouth!”–Sara S.
Westville may be the artichoke haven for its comfort food-loving patrons, but the critics’ accolades go to Dressler, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Brooklyn (yes, they actually exist!) that serves a warm artichoke salad as one of their appetizers. Not just a plain antipasto or some sad looking hearts on wilted lettuce, the salad features warm artichoke hearts mixed with Parmesan, crisp arugula, white beans, and a fresh-tasting salsa verde that makes this dish run the gamut of flavors and textures. It’s rare to find so many reviews of a restaurant raving about its salads (how many “great” restaurants have you found in the city that just serve a bland iceberg salad with slices of cucumber and house dressing!) so you know that this one is special.
149 Broadway (between 6th St & Driggs Ave), Williamsburg
“Tucked away in the south side of Williamsburg, Dressler puts out consistently elegant new American fare, not overly fussy or fancy, made with impeccable technique. This Warm Artichoke Heart Salad with White Beans, Arugula, and Salsa Verde is a prime example of just that sort of dish. It’s a wonderfully multilayered salad that plays with delicate textures and flavors. The dish begins with a creamy white bean purée topped with a poached artichoke heart that acts as a cup for tender white beans. On top of this bean and artichoke stack is a little pile of baby arugula and shaved Parmigiano tossed in a tangy take on Caesar dressing. The plate is finished with a drizzle of bright salsa verde.”–Serious Eats
“I got an appetizer salad of fried artichoke, white beans, Parmesan and arugula for $9, which was a bargain in terms of the pleasure I also received. Salads don’t usually claim a prominent place in the memories you carry away from a restaurant. This one did, thanks to its freshness, its proportions and, even more so, its dressing, a creamy, fleetingly tangy blend of steamed artichoke hearts, lemon juice and sherry vinegar.”–The New York Times
“The emphasis is on seasonal ingredients. Frankly, everything sounds good. But the star behind the fish-and-veggie-heavy appetizers has to be the produce purveyor. The chilled spring pea soup with lobster meat topping has a powerhouse broth that packs more flavor than any pea has the right to possess. And the crispy artichoke-and-white-bean salad juxtaposes all kinds of flavors, textures and temperatures: It’s alternately crunchy, tender, hot and cold.”–Time Out New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“We started with the crispy Jerusalem artichokes with arugala, shaved parmesan, lemon and creamy garlic base. I can’t imagine a better appetizer to start things off with. The crispiness of the artichokes added a great consistency to the dish against the bright flavor of the lemon juice and parmesan-coated arugala.”–Brian W.
“My first course were the crispy baby artichokes. I can only assume that these were deep fried because the level of crispiness on these were superb. Not too greasy either.”–Anthony K.