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Baked artichokes with dijon vinaigrette

May 15, 2012
By Wendy Monro , Simply Food

"Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!" Albert Einstein

My favorite times are spent with friends and family. Almost every happy experience I remember involves family and friends gathered around the dinner table or lunch or breakfast. Once again we have family traveling to our home for a vacation. I am always flattered when people choose to spend their vacation at our house. The more the merrier.

I love a cramped table with people of all ages seated around delectable food and bottles of wine (Martinelli's for the kids, of course). After dinner, when everyone is sufficiently stuffed, we play fun games like charades, jenga, or poker into the wee hours of the night. It doesn't get much better than this.

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Baked artichokes with dijon vinaigrette

Needless to say, we are so excited that people are on their way here now. Obviously, all I am thinking about is what we will eat. For the past couple of days I have been writing down recipes and creating a shopping list for what I will cook. In fact, I just returned from the grocery store. I stocked up. I bought bacon, Canadian bacon, sausages, steaks, and carne asada because this weekend is a celebration and all of these people like to eat meat. Claud will be so happy when he looks into our refrigerator. I can't wait to see the smile on his face. None of these guests are vegetarians. They do enjoy fruits and vegetables. I also bought cantaloupe, strawberries, asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, and much more. My mom will be here too. So, cooking is going to be extra fun. She and Claud are my favorite cooking partners. I can't wait to show her my tiny garden.

Last night I practiced making something special that I plan to prepare as a side salad for one of my meals while my family is here. I wanted to do something different with artichokes. I usually boil them. Then, I eat the meaty part off of the leaves after dipping them in melted butter loaded with crushed garlic. Eating artichokes this way is easy and very tasty although not too healthy. I tend to go overboard with the butter and pretty much spoon it all into my mouth. When I was young, I noticed that after you eat the meaty part of several leaves, a glass of water tastes sweet. I don't know why. The water tastes like candy water. I always loved this when I was a kid. Oh, who am I kidding, I still love this.

I already had some really nice artichokes in my refrigerator, which I picked up from the farmer's market. Artichokes are such a beautiful vegetable. An artichoke is actually a thistle from the sunflower family. No wonder I love them so much. Sunflowers are my favorite flowers. The artichoke we eat is actually the flower bud. If it were to blossom it would turn into an amazing violet blue flower. Artichokes are high in fiber and help to lower cholesterol (if you are not dipping each leaf into melted butter). Furthermore, they help stabilize blood sugar levels. Above all else, they taste delicious.

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Baked artichokes with Dijon vinaigrette

Serves: 6

Time: 45 minutes

4 large artichokes

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup gorgonzola cheese (optional)

Vinaigrette dressing (recipe follows)

Cut the stems off of the artichokes. Cut the tips of the leaves if they are pointy. In a large pot, boil the artichokes for 25 minutes. While they boil, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove from boiling water and place into a bowl of ice water. Once cooled, cut into quarters. Remove the fuzzy part of the artichoke above the heart. Place the quarters onto a baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over them. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Layer the crumbled gorgonzola throughout the leaves. Bake for ten minutes.

Vinaigrette Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Drizzle over the baked artichokes.

In the sixteenth century women weren't allowed to eat artichokes because they were considered aphrodisiacs. In 1949, Marilyn Monroe was crowned the first official California artichoke queen. They must have been considered pretty sexy at that time too. All I know is that I adore the flavor of artichokes and I wanted to change my usual recipe. Before now, I had never made them any other way.

Earlier in the week, I read a recipe for grilling artichokes, which sparked my imagination. I planned to bake mine instead, drizzle them with vinaigrette and serve this as a salad. At the last second, before they went into the oven, I decided to sprinkle them with Gorgonzola. So, my really healthy idea flew out the window. I am always seduced by cheese.

I am thrilled I did this. You can use any blue cheese or no cheese at all. Like I said, this was a last minute decision so the cheese isn't crucial. Although, I have to say, the warm Gorgonzola mixed with the Dijon vinaigrette made the flavor of these artichokes spectacular. I planned on making them as an appetizer for us to try to see if they were any good before I sprung them onto my guests. We ended up eating all of them so I guess they are okay. I was really surprised at how much Claud loved them. He kept going back for more. I think he ate five. I was very pleased. I will be making these for my family while we rejoice together in this beautiful land of life.

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