Affairs of the Artichoke Heart
You just should have seen us. Friday, five of us were working non-stop skipping lunch and WC breaks to finish “Le Matisse” (official Web page in progress) in time to take photos and send me packing to the airport to catch a plane back to Paris. At 2:30 p.m., every visible detail was done. At 3 p.m. I was at the hotel to pick up my luggage and by 3:30 p.m. I was in line at easyJet in Terminal 2 to check in. Whew!
The apartment wasn’t complete until the plastic protector was removed from the tangerine-colored suede sofa bed — seeing it for the first time even though it had been there all the while everything else was being mounted, constructed or arranged. The only things missing now are the shades on the windows to be installed this week and three framed Matisse posters to adorn the walls. Otherwise, it’s ready for occupancy.
The first guests will stay in the apartment even before I have a chance — as much as I would like to be the first person to take a bubble bath in the big oval tub, I won’t. “C’est la vie.” They’ll just have to let me know how it feels — I left for them a big bottle of my favorite “OBAO Bain Moussant Délassant” just for this purpose (by Garnier, OBAO Bain Moussant Délassant).
Paris was much colder than Nice…by about 10 degrees celsius. The streets are icy and the winds are biting. My geraniums took a hard hit while I was soaking up the Mediterranean sun and it was a mistake to turn off the heat while I was gone — the good news is that the bottles of wine in the rack were chilled and the flowers stayed amazingly long and fresh, but the bad news is that my breath was apparent. It took 48 hours before the apartment felt warm again and I’ve been sleeping with a hot water bottle (if you’ve never tried it, do!…it beats cold sheets).
Sunday morning it snowed a bit and the temperature has not waned since — it’s currently at freezing point, but sunny. Until now, the winter has been unseasonably mild in Paris — supposedly thanks to global warming? Now we’re feeling the pain.
The demands to complete the apartment in Nice delayed my return to Paris by two days. This moved the annual “Artichoke Day” celebration from Thursday (February 2nd) to Sunday.
No, “Artichoke Day” is NOT a French holiday, nor even an American one. It’s a Leeds family event that has taken place every year for the last 15 to celebrate my ‘freedom from a life of tyranny.’ Those close to me know the true story — how six artichokes managed to change our lives forever…and for the better. (Sorry, but I will leave you wondering and you can make up any story you like!)
So, every year on February 2nd, I cook them up and serve them to the closest of friends. At the market, I bought three each of two different varieties — one purple and the other very round and full. They were a small fortune — about 5 each, but huge. Sunday morning I prepared them and last night, six of us relished them, with not a scrap left.
Everyone asks for the recipe, so here it is if you dare:
Artichoke Day Artichokes
A recipe by Adrian Leeds
Prepare the artichokes: cut off the stem, chop off the top of the artichoke and trim the points of each leaf. Wash and place them in a big pot or roaster with a small amount of water in the bottom. Cover.
Steam: Steam them on medium heat at least 1 hour, more or less depending on the thickness of the leaves.
Meanwhile prepare the dressing*: 1/3 vinegar and spices, 2/3 olive oil — mix a variety of vinegars (I like Balsamic, red wine, white, apple cider) with salt, pepper, one teaspoon of sugar, lots of oregano and tons of chopped garlic (never enough!). Be heavy handed with the spices. Add olive oil. Shake or stir well. *Note: the dressing is to your taste…so be creative!
Final step before serving: When the artichokes are steamed to perfection, drain off the water and pour the dressing over them while they’re hot, ensuring that the dressing is filling the leaves. Cover them to keep warm and then marinate them with the dressing as often as you can for as long as you can. (The aroma will fill your home delightfully.)
Voila! They’re ready to serve and eat.
Eating: pull one leaf off at a time and with your teeth, scrape off the artichoke pulp. Discard the scraped leaf in a nearby bowl. Keep up this process until there are no leaves left, leaving only the choke and the heart. (THIS IS THE BEST PART!) Be sure to removed the choke and then savor the heart. (The celebration is all about affairs of the heart, unless you haven’t figured that out already!)
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
(with Geraldine Kaylor — and artichokes)
P.S. Speaking of ‘affairs of the heart’ — don’t miss next Tuesday, February 14th (Valentine’s Day) at Parler Paris Après Midi when author and lecturer Thirza Vallois talks about “Romantic Paris!” Visit Parler Paris Après Midi