Artichokes Any Which Way

I gave a cooking class to vegetarians tonight, and focused on what was in season: artichokes, asparagus, peas, mushrooms.

One of my students had expressed an interest in learning how to work with artichokes, so I decided to demonstrate how to make them both raw and cooked. We did a salad and a stew. Here are the recipes.

Insalata di Carciofi e Parmigiano-Reggiano
(Artichoke and Parmesan Salad)

3 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil such as Badia di Coltibuono
Juice of 1 lemon
8 baby artichokes or 3 regular globe artichokes
¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings
1 cup sliced celery
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Freshly cracked black pepper
Sea salt

1) In a salad bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice.

2) Remove all the outer leaves of the artichokes until you get to the pale, softer leaves, and slice about ¾ inch off the top and an inch off each stem. If using baby artichokes, use a spoon to remove the choke from each. If using whole artichokes, remove all the leaves and then remove the choke (the fuzz). Slice thinkly and as you finish working with each artichoke, place it immediately in the dressing and toss.

3) Add the celery, parsley, pepper and salt and toss well.

Drink pairing: Artichokes ruin wine, most particularly if they’re the main ingredient and especially when they’re raw. Instead, go with a cocktail. We made one that incorporated Cynar, which is an Italian liqueur made from herbs and plants, including artichoke. It’s called The Presbyterian’s Revenge and it consists of Cynar, blended scotch whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, orange bitters and a twist of grapefruit.

Spring Vegetable Stew

18 baby artichokes
A large bowl of water with juice of a lemon added
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lemon, cut into thin half moons 8 ounces morel mushrooms, rinsed, trimmed, and halved langhwise
1 cup white wine
Salt and pepper
1½ pounds fat asparagus, cut into 2-inch lengths
About a pound of sugar-snap peas
2 cups faro (dry), cooked according to package directions
Lemon Aaoli (See recipe)
½ cup fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, and chives, chopped

1) To prepare baby artichokes: Fill a large bowl with acidulated water (water with juice of a lemon added). Remove all the outer leaves of the artichokes until you get to the pale, softer leaves, and slice about ¾ inch off the top and an inch off each stem. Use a spoon to remove the choke from each. As you finish working with each artichoke, place it in the acidulated water.

2) Heat a large pot (large enough to hold the artichokes in one layer) over medium-high heat. When hot, add olive oil and heat until it begins to shimmer.

3) Carefully add artichokes stem-side up and let cook 3-4 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low and toss garlic, morel mushrooms and lemon around the artichokes and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring carefully without knocking over the artichokes.

4) Add the wine, salt and pepper and cover. Cook 30 minutes. Remove lid and add asparagus and peas. Cook for 3 minutes more. (Don’t overcook or it will all turn brown.)

5) Divide faro among four shallow bowls and divide artichokes and sauce among the bowls. Drizzle with lemon aioli, garnish with herbs, and serve.

Wine Pairing: Bisci Verdicchio di Matelica 2013

Liza Schoenfein is food editor of the Forward. Contact her at schoenfein@forward.com. Her personal blog is Life, Death & Dinner

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