April 16, 2010

Signs of Spring - Marinated Baby Artichokes

Out of China - and back to blogging!   

Another spring dish, baby artichokes gently cooked and marinated are a fabulous way to usher in the season.  These artichokes can be served as part of a Mediterranean spread of appetisers, as a delicious side to roasted or grilled meats, or simply enjoyed on their own, eaten delicately one by one.

Angelo’s Artichokes
from Olive Oil: From Tree to Table, by Peggy Knickerbocker*

24 baby artichokes
2 lemons 
4 cups water, divided
2 c. red wine vinegar
20 mint leaves, julienned
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 to ½ cup olive oil

1.  Squeeze the lemons and pour the juice into a medium bowl.  Put the lemon halves into the water also. 

2.  Trim the outer leaves of the artichokes until you get to the tender green leaves.  Trim the stem off and the top ½ inch of the tops.  Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise and as you do, put them into the lemon water. 

3.  Bring the remaining 2 cups water and the red wine vinegar to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Drain the artichokes, discarding the lemon halves, and add to the boiling water.

4.  Boil gently for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender.  Drain and leave in a colander for 30 minutes or so, to ensure all the liquid is drained.

5.  Meanwhile, combine the mint, garlic and olive in a decorative ceramic bowl.  When the artichokes have drained, add them to the mixture and combine until they are thoroughly coated.

6.  The artichokes are ready to serve but will be even better if you let them marinate for several hours.  They can be left at room temperature, or stored in the fridge overnight.  Cover and let come to room temperature before serving (you can serve them cold but the flavour really sings when they are room temperature).

7.  If you can resist eating them all, the artichokes can be stored for several weeks in the fridge.  Put in a container with a tight fitting lid, cover with olive oil until the artichokes are submerged, and serve as needed. These make a great hostess gift, as you can bring them in a beautiful little bowl that becomes part of the gift.

* I love the little circles life makes.  One of the things that really got me going on this blog was a deep desire to celebrate food, and the experience of making it – getting beyond the pedestrian to touch something of the sublime that sharing food brings. And through that process, to discover both the new and known in different ways.

When I was a kid, I was the only one who didn’t eat artichokes.  My mother would make simmer large globe artichokes for what seemed like hours over the stove, cooked with homemade chicken broth and lots of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.  I can smell them now, but sadly can no longer taste them, and that recipe, along with many others, is lost.

Fast forward to the here and now.  Olive Oil: From Tree to Table was a gift from a work colleague, and I immediately loved the story-telling behind both olive oil production and the recipes themselves.  It was one of those books that seemed like a good one to cook my way through, and Angelo’s Artichokes was the second recipe.  I never really thought about who Angelo might be, beyond the brief and charming story Peggy Knickerbocker tells of sharing a meal with Angelo and several chefs and seeing him take a case of fresh baby artichokes and make this dish.

As I made these artichokes recently to bring to friends for dinner, I idly read the description of Angelo again.  Peggy describes him as a forager and an ironsmith.  And it clicked.  Angelo was none other than Angelo Garro, who Michael Pollan goes hunting with in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a book that has made me passionate about knowing my food and understanding where it comes from.  The chapter that describes their outing – which includes in a gourmet picnic eaten in the middle of the woods – is a highlight.  To imagine that I am ever so slightly closer to someone as passionate about food as Angelo, through the mechanism of a printed recipe on a page, is a wondrous thing.  That my Italian mamma is smiling approvingly down at me somewhere in the great beyond is a much closer connection that I celebrate with every garlicky bite.