Kitchen confession time: Before this week, I had never cooked a fresh artichoke. Seems like the kind of thing someone who’s been around the culinary block a few times should be able to do without issue, but somehow I never learned. Let’s blame it on my arctic heritage.
Snow-dredged inheritance aside, I know I ate a fresh [imported?] artichoke at least once as a child. I remember distinctly the fun of pulling off leaves, dredging in lemon-butter, and scraping sweet flesh with your teeth. Anything that’s an acceptable vehicle for butter consumption gets an A+ in my book. Besides the butter, I also remember being warned in no uncertain terms NOT to eat the choke and, though I could have easily made this up, that that fuzzy purple center was poisonous. A bizarre idea, and one I clung tenuously to even as an adult.
Right. Turns out it’s not. Unpleasant to chew, but not deathly at all. Newsflash for absolutely no one but me.
En route cross country this month (4364 miles, 10 cities, 21 states, and 14 days – whew!), my dad and I spent a charming day in Santa Fe. After the brutal heat in Oklahoma and the raging humidity down South, breezy, mountainous New Mexico was a welcome reprise. Food wise too, having eaten our weight in fried catfish, fried chicken, fried steak, fried oysters, and fried beignets, we were ready for a break. [My first visit to the South, can you tell?] In Santa Fe, we stumbled into an itsy-bitsy tapas place, La Boca, specializing in small Mediterranean plates and farm to table cooking. Ooh-ee. Dad’s still singing the praises of a plate of homemade duck chorizo, which managed to overtake Savannah’s shrimp & grits as the trip’s most memorable dish. Alongside the duck, we ordered a plate of dead-simple grilled artichokes served with soft goat cheese, mint, and grated orange zest, all dredged in good olive oil.
Post cross-country move (aka “the epic journey”), recreating duck sausage seems a little a lot ambitious. Instead, with the help of this helpful video, I tackled my artichoke aversion. Braised in lemon and garlic, then marinated in olive oil and salt, artichoke nirvana happens. Not entirely a shock, but they are infinitely more tasty than the jarred variety. Day one, I served these Santa Fe style, griddled lightly in a caste iron pan and topped with fresh goat cheese, mint, orange zest, and olive oil. Leftovers have been stirred into pasta and, in what’s become my favorite artichoke creation, heaped on top of toast for a summer bruschetta.
In related news: Before I left Boston, John & I ate at Erbaluce in Bay Village. Probably the most memorable dish was a sunflower risotto, made with braised sunflowers and topped with pretty yellow petals – creamy, nutty, earthy, and just plain yummy. Turns out, sunflowers are close relatives of artichokes! Who knew? How to Heroes recently featured a video tutorial for braised sunflowers with fresh ricotta & caper raisin vinaigrette by Chef Charles Draghi. Newly empowered by my artichoke adventure, this may be my next project…
One Year Ago: Nigel Slater’s Zucchini Cakes with Feta & Dill (which I also made this week.)
Two Years Ago: Green Tomato, Bacon, and Gouda Tarts.
Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as dinner with salad.
Marinated Artichoke and Tomato Bruschetta with Feta and Mint
- 8 smallish slices of rustic bread
- Good olive oil
- Sea salt
- 2 medium ripe heirloom tomatoes, diced
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 2 oz crumbled feta cheese
- 4 marinated artichoke halves (half of the recipe below), roughly chopped
Preheat a large skillet, preferably caste iron, over medium heat. (Alternately, preheat a grill to medium.) Brush the bread on both sides lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Griddle (or grill) until toasty on both sides – about 2 minutes each.
Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, herbs, feta, and artichokes in a small bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and add a pinch of salt. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
Spoon the tomato mixture over the warm bread and serve immediately.
Adapted from Espana by James Campbell Caruso
- 4 medium fresh artichokes
- ½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, slivered
- 2 tsps minced garlic
- ¼ cup good quality olive oil
- Sea salt and pepper
Peel, core, and halve the artichokes (See here for a helpful video.) Make sure to remove the outer leaves – they are tough! Don’t worry about rubbing the artichoke with lemon as you go or soaking in lemon water; they’ll brown a bit, but return to a normal color after the lemon-water-garlic braise. Place the prepared artichoke halves in a medium sauce pan and just cover with water. Add the lemon juice, reserving 2 tbsp for later. Add the slivered garlic, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until tender – about 30 minutes.
Remove the artichokes from the braising liquid with a slotted spoon, discarding the garlic. Cover the warm artichokes with the minced garlic, olive oil, remaining 2 tbsp lemon juice, and plenty of salt and pepper. Let marinate 30 minutes at room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to use. The artichokes keep well refrigerated 1 week.