As a passionate foodie, almost all my waking hours are consumed with thoughts of my next meal. Could this be an eating disorder? In the summer months my next meal is usually dictated by what’s in the garden. Edible plants are in shorter supply in spring as I can never seem to keep a substantial winter garden. Currently I am limited to fennel, bolting parsley, strawberries, rhubarb and of course, the mighty artichoke.
As my family tires of eating artichokes for dinner, I continue to embrace the challenge of which wine to pair with an artichoke. My mantra has always been “nothing worthwhile is easy” but I am curious to see if a strong pairing is even possible. Cynarin is a phenolic acid compound found in the green leaves and seeds of artichokes that is responsible for the sensation of sweetness that occurs after eating artichokes. It often makes wine taste unusually sweet in a funky sort of way. As I peruse the internet for recipes and suggestions I am inspired by the most fabulous news: among cynarin’s many health benefits, are the protective and regenerative effects on the liver! Another interesting tidbit: it was the Swiss-Italians, who planted the first wine vineyards in the Salinas Valley in addition to launching the artichoke there. (Cris is of Swiss-Italian decent.)
Cynarin taming recipes I come across include boiling the artichokes until gray then grilling or roasting them. I am no scientist but I assume this effectively removes all the liver enhancing benefits along with the cynarin so I cross this method off my list.
Another recipe suggests serving the chokes only, as the cynarin is only on the leaves. Again, I want (or need) that cynarin.
The traditional method of steaming then dipping the chokes in a rich, fatty aoili or butter sauce seems the best way to both disguise the bitterness while creating a flavor sensation that pairs well with wine. We do this frequently and I am looking to try something new
so I defer to Alice Waters for the perfect locavore artichoke recipe and tweak it to make it my own. The artichokes are trimmed and cleared of the fuzzy choke, then stuffed with a rich brown rice, garlic and anchovy stuffing. I then poach them in the oven for 75 minutes on a bed of sauteed peppers and onions with red wine vinegar. I whip up a batch of garlic aioli with which to top them. The meal consists of grilled lamb patties that Cris seasoned with fresh mint and oregano, spinach and butterleaf salad with a basic balsamic vinaigrette and the artichokes.
The Arnot Roberts Chardonnay I had chilled to sample with the chokes was gone by the time they were ready. (We did enjoy a puck of aged goat cheese with it though. What a fabulous combination.) The Le Vin de Amis a light bodied, earthy, tannic yet lightly fruited vin de table picked up a hint of the sweet after taste from the cyanarin but was the perfect accompaniment to the lamb and the salad. The Villa Creek Pink which is crisp with notes of strawberry and citrus from the Grenache and an earthiness from the Mourvedre and Carignan, worked quite well. I drink this wine regularly and did not notice any funk from the cynarin. I suspect the acid in both the wine and the vinegar in the artichoke preparation helped to disguise the cynarin while the tannin in the Les Amis almost enhanced it.
Recipe will be posted soon.