Duarte’s Tavern Cream of Artichoke Soup

Although it’s still warm during the day here in the central valley, the crisp morning air lets you know Autumn is fast approaching. I love Autumn. It’s my favorite time of the year for so many reasons. Autumn is crisp, fresh and just seems to warm my heart in ways no other season does.

Having traveled a great deal in a prior life, one of my favorite drives is along Highway 1 on the California coast. To me, it seems to be in perpetual Autumn. The air is crisp and cool. Some days the marine layer lingers all day, giving the rocky coast a moist kiss. Wherever the landscape widens between the sea and the rocky coastal range, crops grow. Just over the hill, near Highway 101, the land is rich with acres of fresh produce. If you take Highway 1 south from San Francisco (a city close to my heart), about mid-way to Santa Cruz and a few miles east sits Duarte’s Tavern. Duarte’s opened in 1864 with a bar and a barrel of whiskey hauled all the way from Santa Cruz. Business thrived until prohibition, when the Duarte family was forced to close its doors. In 1934 the second generation of Duartes reopened the tavern, adding a soda fountain, sandwich shop and barber shop to their location.  In the 1950s the third generation joined in, adding a vegetable garden for the freshest ingredients possible. With home-grown produce and close ties to the local fishermen, Duarte’s food is beyond incredible. It was then that Duarte’s began serving their now signature soup – Cream of Artichoke.

Duarte Tavern’s Cream of Artichoke Soup
6–8 large artichokes
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups chicken stock
1 small onion
1 cup cream

Trim stems off chokes so they stand securely on their bottoms. Cut ¾ inch off the top of each thistle and remove any tough bottom leaves.

Under cold running water, force the leaves apart and cut out the small sharp-edged leaves and prickly choke in the center with a grapefruit knife or paring knife. Press the leaves back together.

Put 2 inches of boiling water in a pan with a vegetable steamer; add salt, pepper, garlic, vegetable oil and lemon juice. Place artichokes top down in the pan. Cover and steam for 30–40 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Remove leaves and set aside. The remaining leaves can be served chilled with a favorite sauce.

Purée artichoke hearts, adding chicken stock to blender. Bring stock and diced onion to boil and simmer 5 minutes.

Stir in cream and thoroughly warm soup (but do not boil). Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with Julienne artichoke leaves.

Serve with sourdough bread for sopping. (San Francisco style, of course!)

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