This usually happens at the horrible tail end of winter, and the little thorny artichokes signal that it's time to get your ass in gear--to move away from easy, comfortable food into the weirder, bolder tastes that presage summer. It's time for bitter greens: for the nutty, slightly grainy taste of rapini, for mustard greens that are actually spicy--for the boring-but-worth-it task of shelling fava beans or peas, or for being really greedy and lazy and eating a mountain of sugar snaps while watching late-night TV. This has nothing to do with virtue, and everything to do with finally letting the past be past.
Cruise the fruit and vegetable stands at the Pike Place Market and chat up the people who work there. Inevitably I end up with a few pounds' worth of bitter greens, and then I'll go over to DeLaurenti (1435 First Ave, 622-0141) and buy the preserved foods that satisfy my incessant craving for the salty, the sour, and the bitter, such as salt-packed anchovies, which may be the world's most perfect and also most maligned food. (I also love fermented black beans; more about that some other time.) Anchovies add a rich, deep saltiness to just about everything. Fillet them and wash off the salt, and then sauté them in oil or butter until they dissolve into a runny paste; toss the mixture with pasta and blanched rapini. As for the artichokes, you can flatten them out and deep-fry them; they are absolutely delicious that way, and also really good in risotto.
This is season-bridging food, designed to wake up your sleepy, cowardly winter self by degrees without blinding it in the unfamiliar sun.