Nothing could be simpler, and hardly anything could be better, than this traditional country-Italian preparation for fresh artichokes.

Simply trim the pointy ends of the leaves of two big 'chokes; peel the stem end, and simmer them in water to cover with a half a lime for about 30 minutes or until the stems were tender.

Let them drain and cool on a rack for a few minutes while you prepare the "bagna cauda" ("hot bath") to dip them in: Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, then add 2 fat garlic cloves minced fine; cook until the garlic is soft but not browned, then add 6 finely chopped anchovies and stir until the anchovies dissolve into a paste. Serve as a dip with the artichoke leaves and hearts, and eat until you can hold no more.

Artichokes are said to be a "difficult" wine match because they have the otherwise happy characteristic of making whatever you eat after them taste sweet (which is why the Italians love them as an appetite-whetting starter). To combat this, it's best to choose a white wine that's fairly rich yet structured with a racy, steely acidic component: A Sauvignon Blanc rather than a Chardonnay, for sure -- a Loire white such as Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé would be just fine -- or an Austrian Grüner Veltliner.