1. Grow our own elder tree
2. Grow our own artichokes
Artichokes and salted butter – my favourite combination
This one is going to be tricky, but what’s a bucket list without some ambition? I should probably clarify – I mean real, honest to god globe artichokes, not Jerusalem artichokes, which, while delicious, are frankly a weed and not a very attractive one, at that. Not like that noble and delicious thistle, the globe artichoke! The problem is that artichokes thrive in a somewhat milder climate than what we have here in Toronto. As far as I can tell, the key to growing them here is to grow them as annuals but trick them into thinking they’re perennials by starting them early in a greenhouse and at some point putting them through a relatively cool, dark period. Like I said, tricky. To be honest, I didn’t even know it was possible to grow them in Ontario until last year, thanks to this article and a farmer at the Sick Kids’ Farmer’s Market (shamefully, I’ve forgotten the farm name) who sold me a couple of baby artichokes.
Honestly? I don’t know if this will ever happen. The chances that we’ll have a yard big enough to have a greenhouse capable of nurturing the young artichoke plants, and that I’ll be organized enough to fake a short, not too cold winter, and that the plants will survive transplanting to the garden, are pretty slim. Still, if I can someday plonk a couple of artichokes down on the kitchen table that have come from our backyard, it’ll be worth the headaches. I think.
How we eat our artichokes
I’ll admit I used to be intimidated by the thought of cooking artichokes. I just didn’t know where to begin. It turns out, though, they’re the perfect lazy person vegetable. You can definitely get fancy, pulling off all of the tough outside leaves and trimming off the top and any hard leaf tips, but we normally just steam them untrimmed for 30 – 45 minutes, depending on the size. Once the outer leaves pull away easily, you’re done! I’m not one for rushing dinner, or any food, really, which is fortunate given the time it takes to eat them. No matter how fast you move, peeling off individual leaves, dipping them in something and then scraping off the fleshy bit at the end of the leaves takes time. And then you have to peel away the fuzzy choke and trim the stem end of the heart… It’s a good thing they taste so good, is what I’m saying.
Like I said, salted butter is my preferred artichoke dip (maybe a splurge on some 84% Stirling? The extra 4% or so of fat is definitely worth it). I do like mayo, too, though, and it’s less fiddly than making a hollandaise, especially if you have an immersion blender.
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp cider vinegar (or any vinegar, really. Well, maybe not balsamic…)
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp mustard
smidge of honey
lemon zest – from about a quarter of a lemon
salt and pepper
1/4 – 1/3 cup canola oil
1. Combine everything but the canola oil in a bowl, or the cup for your immersion blender. If you can wait for your egg yolk to be room temperature, all the better. Beat everything until it’s light and fluffy.
2. SLOWLY add the oil. If you’re beating by hand, I pity you (just a little – it can get tiring, though). The first half of the oil should basically go in drop by drop if you’re doing this by hand. With the immersion blender, I find I can get away with a very slow stream. I’ve heard that if the mayo splits you can save it by adding in a spoonful of water, but I’ve never tried it, so I don’t know if it works. I imagine throwing in another egg yolk (and subsequently more vinegar) would work well, too.
Yes, this uses raw egg yolk, and I know that’s not everybody’s thing, but I just tell myself that the vinegar’s killing anything that might be in there, and we’ve never had a problem with it. We use this as the basis for a lot of things, but our two most common flavourings are a ton of Old Bay and cayenne for fishcakes or chicken salad, or garlic, anchovies, and capers for Caesar salads. Either way, it’s delicious.