Eeyore’s Thistle (Artichoke); featured tea, Lady Grey; featured poet, Pablo Neruda

“Welcome to my little thistle patch.” Eeyore’s Thistle Patch by A. A. Milne

Artichokes are a starchy veggie but high in Vitamin A and potassium and. . .The artichoke’s spiny green flowers, which are eaten like a vegetable, contain a substance called cynarin. A recent study showed that this compound may help rid the body of artery-clogging cholesterol and lower triglycerides, thus reducing the risk of heart disease.” CBS Better Nutrition

It’s probably easier to pick out a good artichoke than it is to pick out a good melon. The leaves need to be tight and green. When you squeeze it, it should make a squeaky noise. That lets you know its fresh and moist.The choke should feel heavy for its size. My own preference is for artichokes that still have some stem attached, which is good to eat and helps the choke retain moisture.

To prepare the artichoke for cooking:

  • With a sharp knife tip and top the choke; that is, cut the stem off so that it will sit flat in the pot and on the plate; trim the top.
  • Peel off the smaller lower leaves on the outside of the choke. Usually just one layer will do it.
  • With a kitchen shears or other sharp scissor, trim the thorny tip from the top of each leaf.
  • Pressing down on the choke, spread the leaves open a bit. Or, you can do it my own eccentric way, which is to take the ball of the choke in my hand and bang the top of it against the side of your clean sink.
  • Rinse well inside and out under cold water. If you use a veggie wash, which is a good thing to do, make sure you run water though the inside to clear it all out.

To cook:

 Fill a pot large enough to accommodate your artichokes with enough water to come about half-way up the chokes. Set them in the pan. Peel and sliver one or two large garlic cloves per artichoke. Slip the slivers in between the leaves. Top with a spoonful or two of extra virgin olive oil and some freshly grated Himalayan pink salt and black pepper.  Toss the stems and some extra garlic cloves into the water. Bring the water to a boil. Cover. Lower heat. Simmer for approximately one hour. (Timing will depend on the size of the artichokes.) To see if they’re done, test with a butter knife, which should easily move through the center of the choke.  When the artichokes are cooked through, remove them from the pot – holding each over the pot for a minute to let the water drain out and then place them on individual serving dishes.

How to eat an artichoke:

As the video notes, some like to dip the leaves in butter. I have known people to use garlic mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauce, or an array of other sauces that suit their taste. I am a purist.  A bit more salt maybe for me, but that’s it. I don’t want or need anything to mask the artichoke flavor.

Now my peasant roots will show. A quick grain-free soup:

Don’t waste the cooking water. It’s full of flavor and nutrients. Leave the stems and garlic in the pot. Add a cup or two of minced carrot, onions, celery and cauliflower rice. Simmer until the veggies are tender. Taste for seasoning. Add cayenne pepper to taste. Ladle this soup into serving bowls and top with a dollop of extra-virgin olive oil and some freshly grated parmesan cheese or vegan parma.

Featured Tea:

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Enjoy with a hot cup of Lebanese style Lady Grey tea. What makes it Lebanese? Serving it with a spring of fresh spearmint. If you like to sweeten it, I would suggest using only Xylotol made from birch. This is what I use.

And with that here’s the poem and poet of the day.

Ode to the Artichoke

The artichoke
With a tender heart
Dressed up like a warrior,
Standing at attention, it built
A small helmet
Under its scales
It remained
Unshakeable,
By its side
The crazy vegetables
Uncurled
Their tendrills and leaf-crowns,
Throbbing bulbs,
In the sub-soil
The carrot
With its red mustaches
Was sleeping,
The grapevine
Hung out to dry its branches
Through which the wine will rise,
The cabbage
Dedicated itself
To trying on skirts,
The oregano
To perfuming the world,
And the sweet
Artichoke
There in the garden,
Dressed like a warrior,
Burnished
Like a proud
Pomegrante.
And one day
Side by side
In big wicker baskets
Walking through the market
To realize their dream
The artichoke army
In formation.
Never was it so military
Like on parade.
The men
In their white shirts
Among the vegetables
Were
The Marshals
Of the artichokes
Lines in close order
Command voices,
And the bang
Of a falling box.But
Then
Maria
Comes
With her basket
She chooses
An artichoke,
She’s not afraid of it.
She examines it, she observes it
Up against the light like it was an egg,
She buys it,
She mixes it up
In her handbag
With a pair of shoes
With a cabbage head and a
Bottle
Of vinegar
Until
She enters the kitchen
And submerges it in a pot.Thus ends
In peace
This career
Of the armed vegetable
Which is called an artichoke,
Then
Scale by scale,
We strip off
The delicacy
And eat
The peaceful mush
Of its green heart.
– Pablo Neruda
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Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), Parral, Chile
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), b. Parral, Chile

“You can say anything you want, yes sir, but it’s the words that sing, they soar and they descend ….. I bow to them . . . I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them . . I love words so much … The ones I wait for greedily … they glitter like colored stones, they leap like silver fish… They are foam, thread, metal, dew … I stalk certain words… They are so beautiful that I want to fit them all into my poem… I catch them in mid-flight, as they buzz past, I trap them, clean them, peel them, I set myself in front of the dish, they have a crystalline texture to me, vibrant, ivory, vegetable, oily, like fruit, like algae, like agates, like olives… And I stir them, I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I mash them, I garnish them …. I leave them in my poem like stalactites, like slivers of polished wood, like coals, like pickings from a shipwreck, gifts from the waves … Everything exists in the word.” Pablo Neruda in his Memoirs

Photo credits: California artichoke courtesy of Karen Fayeth; Neruda photo is in the U.S. Public Domain, 1966, Neruda recording his poetry

Not My Mom’s Harvard Beets … green tea with pomegranate … featured poet, Myra Schneider

My mom loved Harvard beets, which she prepared using canned beets.  Actually, not bad, but I always have to play with my food and how wonderful to play with fresh sweet and earthy jewel-toned beets.

It’s too hot to use the stove or oven, so I microwaved the beets this evening, setting the scrubbed whole beets in a covered dish with a few spoons of water.  Depending on the size, they’re done in 10-15 minutes. Once cooked, it’s easy to rub skin off under cold water and then dice the beets into a serving dish to cool while adding delicate slivers of red onion.

Dressing: 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 3/4 olive oil, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard or to taste, salt to taste. Whisk together in a small bowl and use to lightly dress the beets and some greens. Neither should be swimming in the dressing. Layer the beets over the greens and top with crumbled blue cheese or feta.

A fruity Green Tea with Pomegranate seems to go well, iced in this case with a spritz of lemon.

© 2017, post and photograph, Jamie Dedes


And now, today’s featured poet, the award-wining Myra Schneider …

ROOT VEGETABLE STEW

When dark nights eat up afternoons
I sweat onions in sunflower oil,
weigh out carrots, a swede,
and tapering baby parsnips
with old-age skins on flesh
that fattened underneath the light
in a cradling of clay, grit, stones.

I take the swede, a misshapen globe
marred with scars, cut it in two.
The apricot bulk makes my head
hum with summer. I slice up
the snow-white parsnips, then tip
lentils, seeds of a butterfly-
petalled plant, into the pan.

Opening the door to throw peelings
in a pail, I bump into snouting cold.
It smells of woodsmoke, bites
as I stare at the park bristled
with black. Frost is stiffening leaves,
grasses, and I feel myself woven
to this land’s Saxon past when winter

was a giant who trampled crops in fields,
snuffed breath with icicle fingers –
though this was not the country
of my forbears, though rootlessness
was a wound I bore till turned thirty,
I was warmed enough by love
to put down roots in myself.

When chill sinks its teeth in my ribs,
I retreat to the stove, dip a spoon.
The heat-swollen lentils are melting
among the hulking vegetables,
and yellowbrown as November woods.
I add lemon and fried spices,
stir them in, ladle the stew.

© Myra Schneider (Shared here with Myra’s permission)

Myra Schneider’s latest and recent books are Persephone in Finsbury Park (SLP), The Door to Colour (Enitharmon); What Women Want(SLP). More at Myra Schneider website where you can also order Myra’s books.

HERE is a wonderful interview with Myra on the occasion of her 80th birthday earlier this year. Who wouldn’t want to gather and savor the voice of so much experience: thirteen collections of poetry, children’s books, author of Writing My Way Through Cancer and, with John Killick, Writing Yourself: Transforming Personal Material. Myra has collaborated on more anthologies than I can count, is a poetry coach and champion of women poets, a consultant to Second Light Network of Women Poets and a poetry editor.  Myra’s professional life seems like it is and always has been quite full and busy. Yet along the way – even when coping with catastrophic illness – Myra is able to take a breath, pick up her pen and inspire.

 

Spinach Pilaf (Spanakorizo); featured tea, camomile; featured writer, Katherine Mansfield

“How little I thought, a year ago,
In the horrible cottage upon the Lee
That he and I should be sitting so
And sipping a cup of camomile tea.”

Camomile Tea, Kathrine Mansfield

A calming herbal tea, camomile, and a nerve-steadying and calcium-rich Greek spinach pilaf makes a lovely lunch. Greeks love their camomile, and I’m told and have read that in Greece many like to collect wild camomile.

BICI Glass Teapot, Hand Blown Borosilicate glass, Stovetop Safe, Removable Stainless Steel Infuser and Flip Top Lid, includes an Infuser Saucer. 40 oz (4-5 cups)

Camomile Tea

Preparation:

Bring hot water to a roiling boil. Water should be at 183 degrees fahrenheit for tea. Pour some of the water into your teapot and swirl to warm the pot. Place one heaping teaspoon of  dried chamomile per cup into your teapot. Add boiling water.  Put the cover on the pot and allow to steep for five minutes.  I like it plain, but if you care to sweeten it with Greek Honey.  

Gluten-free Spinach Pilaf, Spanakorizo

The recipe:

Serves two as a main dish

1 pound of organic spinach*

1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh, sweet butter

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup of Lundberg Short Brown Rice, uncooked

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 teaspoon each dried dill and dried mint

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Put the spinach in a drainer and rinse it thoroughly several times with cold water.

Put the olive oil and butter in a pan that is large enough to hold the spinach.  Over a low heat slowly brown the onions. When the onions are ready (golden), toss in the garlic and give it a stir or too. Add the spinach to the post. Cover the pan and cook until the spinach wilts, which will take about five minutes. Add the rice, tomato paste, the seasonings, and 3/4 cup of water. Stir well, bring to a boil, cover the pan and lower the heat.  Simmer for about one-half hour or until the rice is tender.  Serve hot with the crumbled feta on top.

Some fresh peaches or a fresh fruit salad would make a nice light desert.

We should only buy organic spinach. They’re on the Environmental Working Group’s list of the dirty (from too much pesticide) dozen.  I believe that list is up to fifteen now.

Photo: cup of tea with flower courtesy of Ekaterina Sysoeva, Public Domain Pictures.net

KATHERINE MANSFIELD (1888-1923) was born in New Zealand and eventually left to live in England where she became friends with well-known writers of the day.  She lead rather a bohemian life, was influenced in her writing (short stories) by Chehov, and wrote some poetry as well.  She died young of TB and as far as I know, a good body of her work was published posthumously. Katherine has been the subject of several biographies and movies. Katherine Mansfield’s Selected Stories is recommended.

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