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Back Still Sore, but Dinner Calls: Puttanesca and Artichokes to the Rescue

My back is slowly healing but like many things in life, the improvement isn’t straightforward. Yesterday morning felt worse than the night before, and last night felt better than the day before that. Confused?  So am I. Still, I know it will mend itself eventually, and I want to thank all the readers who expressed concern and who offered suggestions about books and treatment.

In the meantime, life goes on. Yesterday, I picked up Nina from school, and she helped me get up the stairs to our apartment and get dinner started. Her sister and her mother were on their way home, and Santa Maria called to tell me that Pinta was starving.

I pulled myself off the domestic-work disabled list and headed for the kitchen. I’d rather face back pain than deal with a hungry and fussy three-year old. I decided to make puttanesca and pasta (a good fail-safe fall-back dinner no matter what your physical condition may be) and steamed artichokes.

Recently, I had asked Nina to tell me which vegetables she liked best, and her taxonomy of taste ran as follows: Artichokes, followed by broccoli, green beans, kale, and peas. I’m pleased that she likes such a variety of vegetables, but I wonder about artichokes' nutritional value. According to Ocean Mist Farms, which grew the ones I enjoyed last night, they are high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium, as well as antioxidant phytonutrients. But in my experience, they are only high in butter, and I suspect that’s the reason Nina loves them so much.

While I made dinner, Nina set the table. Knowing that my back was sore, she swapped out my regular wooden, dining-room chair for our Dutailier glider. The well-worn and über-comfortable rocker is the most coveted spot in the house, and she wanted me to have it. I was very glad I had the artichokes to serve her.

Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Butter

  • 1 artichoke (per person)
  • Butter
  • Lemon juice, to taste


Rinse the artichokes under running water and trim end off the stem.

Toss them in a pot of water, bring to a boil, and cook for about 45 minutes, or until a middle leaf can be pulled out without much resistance.

Melt the butter and add the lemon juice

Eat by pulling a leaf off, dipping it in the melted butter, and scraping off with your teeth the soft tasty part at its bottom. At the center of the artichoke is the heart. Remove the inedible choke, and enjoy the heart.

Note: Most methods for preparing artichokes will tell you to cut the top off and to trim the tips of the leaves. You can do this if you want to, but I never bother.

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