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About (deep-fried) artichokes

By Marion Tucker-Honeycutt | Sep 06, 2017

You can dig up an advantage in most things. For example: no one at home asking, "What's for supper?"

Sooo — my supper tonight? Cocktail shrimp and a great big artichoke drenched in lemon-butter. I couldn't resist the artichokes at the market today — nice big ones. I wonder if they came from Castroville, "the Artichoke Capital of the World," aka the armpit of California, although they may have to share that title with Guadalupe.

The only thing Castroville has going for it is the artichoke restaurant. The only thing Guadalupe had going for it was two restaurants, one a great little Asian restaurant, the other a Western steakhouse place that served the now famous "Santa Maria Tri-Tip." Guadalupe is where my brother, who had once been stationed in Japan, taught me how to use chopsticks. Now I can't eat Asian food with a fork. It just doesn't taste the same.

When living in Midcoast California, I used to make the trip to the restaurant in Castroville just for their artichokes, which they cook every which way, including loose. Artichoke soup is really good but my favorite is deep-fried artichoke hearts. And they have the best, by far, tempura batter I ever had. Light, not thick and floury. (Only tempura batter I use now.)

When I came home to Maine near 40 years ago, I was ecstatic to find "Deep-fried Artichoke" on the menu in a local place in downtown in Belfast. I ordered them with great expectations. That lasted until the first bite. Gross. They were fried marinated artichoke hearts. Now I love marinated hearts also, but you do not combine the two.

I would attempt growing them in my back yard but no one spot gets enough sun to grow much for vegetables, let alone artichokes. I gave up years ago and turned my garden area into a flower garden. I have blooms from early spring, starting with peonies, violets and blueflag, all the way through summer and ending up now with phlox, bee balm, calendula, hosta, some pansies, nasturtiums, lobelia and others hanging on.

Wish artichokes weren't so expensive. I'm going to keep watch for a sale on a bag of baby artichokes and go for it. I got the "formula" for their super simple, light tempura mix they use from the Castroville chef back in the '70s. I have it tucked in my old cookbook, guarded like gold.

Mmmm, visions of a plate full of deep-fried artichoke hearts dancing before my eyes. Maybe with a glass of organic sparkling white wine?

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.

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