Here is a recipe for the Purim meal, from our book "Cooking with the Bible: Recipes for Biblical Meals." The artichoke familiar to our dining tables is actually the unopened flower bud of the thistlelike plant Cynara scolymus. (Thistles are mentioned in Genesis 3:18, and are probably the plant referred to in Proverbs 24:30. Wild relatives of the cultivated artichoke are common in Jordan and are often referred to as thistles.) Also known as globe artichokes because of their shape, these buds consist of overlapping bright or olive-green leaves, which are extremely tough and inedible except at their base, where they are fleshy and tasty. Within this bud of leaves is the thistle, also known as the choke, which is light yellow or ivory in color and, toward the center, almost hairy. At the very base is a portion of tender, edible flesh, called the heart. Artichokes can vary greatly in size, from 2-ounce baby artichokes that can be trimmed, marinated, and eaten whole to 1-pound giants that are tastiest when stuffed with cheese-based or other fillings.
Originating in the Mediterranean region, perhaps in Sicily or Carthage, artichokes have been cultivated at least since the time of ancient Rome, and perhaps even by the ancient Greeks. The Saracens of Sicily and the Moors of Granada continued artichoke cultivation during the Middle Ages, when this vegetable fell out of favor, and in the 15th century artichokes spread north from Sicily to Naples and throughout the Italian peninsula. As a young bride of fourteen, Catherine de” Medici is reputed to have reintroduced the artichoke to French cuisine in the 16th century—causing a scandal, because she was very fond of eating them, and they were reputed to be an aphrodisiac. European immigrants brought artichokes to the Americas in the 19th century, and today they are most popular in Italy, France, and Spain, with some popularity in the United States. The cool, foggy climate of certain areas of California are so ideal for growing artichokes that California now produces 99 percent of the commercial artichoke crop world-wide.
- Serves 6-8
cans artichoke hearts
cloves garlic, minced
white rice (uncooked)
cans unsalted chicken broth
pint light cream
- Drain artichokes and place on a large cutting board. Sprinkle with a bit of cayenne pepper and cut into quarters. Melt butter in electric frying pan, and saute´ chokes for about 5–7 minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic, rice, and half the broth. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or so.
- Transfer the artichoke mixture a few spoonfuls at a time to a blender and pure´e until smooth, pouring what has been pure´ed each time into a large saucepan until all are done. Add remaining broth and salt; then stir in cream. Simmer for 5–7 minutes (do not allow to boil), stirring all the while to make sure the soup does not burn.
- Serve in bouillon cups, garnished with fresh dill and pimentos.