Willa and Anna’s Happy Accident

I had a happy accident in the kitchen this weekend. My sister was here cooking dinner with me, and as our artichokes steamed we realized that we had none of the things we usually like to dip them in, so we had to invent a new kind of sauce out of the ingredients we did have. We started with a yogurt and olive oil base, to which we added lemon juice, salt, fresh garlic, a bit of brown sugar, and quite a bit of black pepper. I buy all my spices at the Park Slope Food Coop, where they come in little plastic bags with unbelievably low price tags printed out on white bar-coded labels that all look the same unless you read the fine print. When I reached for my bag of black peppercorns to refill the empty pepper grinder, I didn’t stop to read the label. As we were eating our artichokes- which, by the way, were some of the best artichokes I’ve ever had- we noticed a subtle sweet spice to the sauce that didn’t make sense. Yet the sauce was so good, I started thinking we just must have nailed it on the proportions of ingredients and created a secret extra level, like harmonics… But the taste of sweet spice continued to stand out, and Willa finally asked if I was sure those were peppercorns we had put in the grinder. We checked the contents of the grinder, and then read the fine print on the little plastic bag of black round morsels we had filled it with, and discovered our secret ingredient: allspice berries! I emptied the pepper grinder so no more accidents could happen, but have already made the same sauce again to great success. This time I even measured my proportions of ingredients, no secrets here!

Artichokes with Yogurt-Allspice Dipping Sauce
serves three

3 artichokes
2 small lemons
1/3 cup yogurt
½ tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. freshly ground allspice berries

Prepare the artichokes:
Boil water in a pot with a steamer basket in it.
Meanwhile, cut off the stem and the very top of the artichoke, and pull off the very outer layer of leaves. Trim any sharp pointy leaves, and then rub all the cut surfaces with slices from one lemon, squeezing extra juice into the center.
Once the water is boiling, place the artichokes in the basket of the steamer, and cover the pot. Cook over medium heat for 45min, until the leaves pull easily off.

While the artichokes cook, prepare the sauce:
Juice the remaining lemon, then stir in the yogurt, brown sugar, salt, olive oil, and allspice.