Tag Archives: artichokes

An Artichoke “How To” and a Pilaf

It’s a challenge to avoid the huge artichokes in the markets right now.  Maybe not at your market, but mine has them planted right in front of the entrance, so you can’t miss them.  It’s sort of an in-your-face-buy-me display that changes depending on any number of factors that I won’t go on about right now.  I  can usually maneuver past them because they’re so expensive, and as much as I love them, I balk at $4 for one — especially when I can pick up a can of hearts to do something with much more easily.  And in the long run, it’s more safe when you think about tackling those chokes, isn’t it?

Artichokes have a dual personality in my opinion.  There’s the real McCoy — the one you steam in a pot, then enjoy with myriad detours to a bowl of warm lemon butter (never mayonnaise if you’re in this house) that each piece is dipped into, then scraped along your lower teeth.  I grew up eating artichokes like this and it was quite an occasion when my mother brought one home.  Then there are the little hearts, all taken care of, canned, bottled or frozen and ready for any number of delicious dishes.  Thank goodness these choices are available, because waiting until artichoke season to enjoy them would be a problem for me at this point.  I love artichokes.

As I recall the image of our family of five seated around the kitchen table with one huge artichoke and a bowl of lemon butter, I have to wonder.  I always looked forward to it, but do the math.  Not many bites for each of us even when taking into consideration my sister probably didn’t like them.  This occasion for artichokes was never a precursor to dinner.  It was all about that artichoke — savored petal by delicious petal.  Bear in mind the petals were never trimmed, so dealing with the spikes on those tough outer petals involved a lot of caution after the first thumb prick, or a silent sucking it up for each subsequent prick.

It occurs to me we never ate the heart — or at least I don’t remember that we did.  Maybe my stepfather sneaked away with it after we’d lost interest because the lemon butter was gone.  I can see him now, perhaps standing at the kitchen counter enjoying the fact that the hard work had been done by us, and all he had to do was take a spoon, scrape away the fuzzy choke, then savor that amazing heart without having to share.  Denying us awareness of something wonderful.  Scarring us for life.

I could ask my mother about what happened to all those years of artichoke hearts, but she’d say she doesn’t remember.  There would be a few seconds of silence before she’d add she probably threw them away.  Can you imagine?  I can, because I threw them away, too, until I discovered marinated artichoke hearts sometime in my early 20s and put two and two together.  I had no clue they could be eaten.

If they weren’t such a challenge and expense, I’d enjoy them fresh more often in dishes like this lovely pilaf made with rice, orzo, pine nuts, and saffron.

Are you an artichoke lover?  If so, how do you prepare them?

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Home Roasted Peppers & Baby Artichokes with Pappardelle

I made the mistake of running down to the store for some drops for my son's ear yesterday and ended up with an explosion of fresh veggies, dough, and cheese by the time I was done shopping.  I can't control myself when I see nice little packages of colorful tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and baby artichokes.  Img_1309
The problem is when I get home, everything is scattered around the counters, and I can't decide what to make.  Yes, you can't just buy it — you have to make it, dorkette!  So I begin to wonder, "Is this to be crammed into one dinner that ends up being an explosion on the plate, or do I narrow things down into a low and controllable roar?  Do I rely upon a recipe that I will most likely NOT remember where it's stashed, or sort of go at it on my own." 

Even the sequence of the whole endeavor last night was a comedy of errors — when to start what — which ingredients for which dinner — tonight or tomorrow?  Jeez.  It would help if I actually focused on one thing.  Right.  But there are a few things to be learned if you have the patience to follow along with me at this point.

The colorful peppers started the whole thing.  I love roasted peppers — and although I usually have a jar in the cupboard or fridge, I like to make them myself as well.  I enjoy the smoky taste, and even the pungent smell that is the result of the roasting process.  I roast them on my stove right on the burner with a high flame.  For gawdsake, don't clean your stove before you do this.  It isn't seriously messy, but it is a bit wet.  I turn the vent on high and let 'em rip.  Yes, the broiler works, but it gets smoky, and you have to open and close, open and close, and I prefer not to do that.  Absolutely, the BBQ grille works extremely well, but I'm not one to go out in the hours before dinner just to fire up the Barbie.  I'm not sure I know how, or choose not to remember.  Some things have to be saved for the Master of the House (MoH) anyway, right?  Years ago when I had an electric stove top, I used to lay the peppers right on the coils.  It works fine that way, too.  No fires, or problems, so if you're thinking, Huh?  I know, but years of trial and error have this down to a fairly speedy process.  And they taste better than the bottled ones every time.

Okay, back to the "What to Make for Dinner" dilemma.  Roasted peppers and what?  I know Martha is a dirty word at this point for some of my new buddies out in the cooking bloggoshere, but one of the pasta recipes I've enjoyed over the years comes from her.  I no longer have the recipe, but have sort of adapted my own (surprise…) and I'm thinking this is what I had stuck in my head when I then saw the baby artichokes as well.  The Martha Pasta Recipe calls for artichoke hearts and sauteed peppers.  So, instead of relying on my memory of the old recipe, I decided to stake out a new claim.  Here goes…

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Oh, and I served this with a mache salad with portobellos sauteed in white truffle oil, sliced shallots, and shaved parmesan.  But I'll save that one for another time.  Yum. 

Roasted Peppers & Baby Artichokes with Pappardelle

Roasting the Peppers

  1. On an open flame place whole peppers.  Turn on exhaust fan if doing this indoors, as the fragrance of the peppers can linger in your house for a while.  Img_1313
  2. Keep an eye on the peppers, turning with a long pair of tongs when a "side" becomes completely blackened.  Consider that there are 4 "sides" plus a top and a bottom to a pepper for this chore.
  3. Adjust flame to your liking — but I use high because it gets the job done faster.  All in all, the process still takes about 15 minutes to finish.
  4. Once the peppers are completely black (95% — you will still see color here and there which is okay) remove them and place in a brown paper sealed grocery bag to sweat for at least 15 minutes.
  5. After sweating, peel off blackened skin.  You will be thankful that you kept the peppers on the flame longer, because unblackened skin is a challenge to remove. Img_1316
  6. After skin is removed, with a paring knife, remove the stem and slice down a side to open the pepper and remove seeds and membranes.  Sorry.  This is very messy.
  7. DO NOT rinse the peppers.  You will be removing all the wonderful oil and juice the roasting process helped to create.  Suck it up and rinse your hands after wards. 
  8. Slice peppers (or not) depending on what you want to use them for later.

Preparing the Baby Artichokes

  1. Prepare a large bowl of cool water with half a lemon squeezed into it.  You will be putting the trimmed artichokes into this bath.  This helps keep the artichokes from getting brown a bit.
  2. Cut stems off each artichoke and pick off all but the very light green/yellow leaves.  It will be a lot, but keep going, because if you don't, the end product will be tough and chewy — maybe even inedible.Img_1317
  3. Trim bottom of the artichoke where leaves have been removed to pretty them up.
  4. Trim off top 1/4-1/3 of each artichoke.
  5. As each artichoke is trimmed, rub the top on the remaining lemon half.
  6. Cut each trimmed artichoke into quarters.
  7. Check to see if a choke needs to be removed.  Usually, they're purple and fuzzy.
  8. If a choke needs to be removed, carefully slip the paring knife into the choke and scoop it out.  Pick out any remaining fuzzies with your fingers.
  9. Drop the artichoke quarters into the lemon water as each is trimmed. Img_1318
  10. Discard trimmed leaves and stems.

Ingredients

4 roasted peppers (red, yellow, orange, green) seeded, membranes removed, sliced into strips
2 lbs. fresh trimmed and quartered baby artichokes
3 large cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 med onion, chopped
1/2 c. olive oil
1 T. capers, well rinsed
1 lb. pappardelle cooked al dente
juice of 1/2 lemon
shaved or grated parmesan
salt & pepper to taste

 Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic and onions, stirring occasionally until translucent, but not browned — about 7 minutes.
  2. Add prepared artichokes and cook 10 minutes longer, stirring as needed, until tender and with a bit of golden brown color.
  3. Add roasted peppers and capers, stirring to incorporate, and cook 5 minutes longer.
  4. Add well-drained pasta to the artichoke mixture and stir.
  5. Squeeze 1/2 lemon over the mixture.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, and shave parmesan over to serve.

Notes  Img_1326

The original Martha recipe called for sauteed peppers and bottled or canned (non-marinated) artichoke hearts.  It is very good and very quick to make.  This recipe, for all the labor with the roasting and preparing of artichokes, isn't better.  In fact, I used the directions to cook the artichokes that came on the package label.  Although I had reservations about their stated 7-8 minute cooking time, and did extend that, the artichokes were still not completely done and as tender as I would have liked.  But I'm a sucker for those cute little things and can't pass them up in the store, so what to do?  Par boil them first, let them rest in an ice bath, and then cook them.  Oh — and I almost always cut the amount of oil called for in recipes like this in half.  So I only used 1/4 c. of oil. 

There are left overs in the fridge, and I'll be sampling them for lunch today, just to see how the flavor goes.  Some dried red pepper flakes, and more parmesan are definitely being added.