I had my own personal gardening triumph this year when I was able to coax ten mature artichokes from four plants. I’ve been trying for at least twenty years, and in all those years harvested but two.
I owe this success to my friend Jack, just finishing a two-year stint on the Free Union Grass Farm, having come from a vegetable farm internship in Maine.
Jack was admiring my plants in February, as I was watering them in the greenhouse. “Oh yeah,” I said. “I love to grow them, but they break your heart—I never get any artichokes. I’ve seen them growing at Monticello, so what’s wrong here?”
Jack told me that you must “fool them” into thinking that they’ve survived a winter. Being biennials, they are then ready to set fruit. Our Virginia winters are generally too cold to winter-over an artichoke plant. Trust me, I’ve tried it.
So, I dutifully set the plants out daily during March, whenever the temperature was in the forties; these are rather tender plants. Each night, I brought them back inside till the warm spring temperatures allowed for setting them out permanently into the garden. And, tah-dah, in late July artichokes began poking up through the foliage.
This, plus my carrots, potatoes, beets, cabbage, and early tomatoes, inspired me to create this vegetable tray with aioli. I served it to several groups of guests and all enjoyed—a vegetarian feast for the eyes and the palate.
Summer Vegetable Platter for Four Guests
- 8 small beets
- 8 small potatoes
- 8 young carrots
- 4 small artichokes
- 24 cherry or pear tomatoes, cut in half
Clean the beets, potatoes and carrots, toss with olive oil and bake at 4000 F for 30 minutes, or until fork tender. Pressure cook the artichokes for 30 minutes in an inch of salted water. Or, boil in salted water for 45-60 minutes until the heart is fork tender. Drain.
- Small head of purple or green cabbage
- 4 scallions, sliced
- Small bunch of cilantro, chopped
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 T wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the mayonnaise and sour cream, add the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour over thinly sliced cabbage and scallions. Chill tillready to serve.
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 1 T lemon juice
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
Combine aioli ingridients in a blender. When thoroughly mixed, put the blender on low speed, remove the top and drizzle ¾ cup olive oil. Add slowly and watch it turn to garlic mayonnaise.
Arrange your vegetables artfully on a large cutting board or platter. Set the aioli in a small bowl amidst the vegetables. Let the guests serve themselves, and provide tiny bowls for individual servings of the aioli. Vegetables can be warm or room temperature.