Back in my kitchen: Artichokes with olive oil and lemon
It’s good to be back in my kitchen after three months away. We came back from visiting first the Mayan Riviera and then Central America where the weather was warm and sunny, only to face the last of the snow and cool temperatures of latitude 50° at home. For some strange reason it makes me feel better knowing that the Champagne region in France is also at the same latitude. Ahhh, champagne.
The first adjustment in coming back from vacation is that no one is making me breakfast in the morning or making my bed. What’s up with that? I had to get up, make my bed, boil water, add a sprinkling of sea salt and cook a pot of Irish oats for myself (and my husband) and there was no one pouring me coffee at a table overlooking the water of whatever sea we were passing. Ha. Life is not fair.
Kidding aside though, I love coming home from vacation and more than happy to cook my own food. Nothing is as good as a fresh seasonal food simply prepared in your own kitchen. I am glad to be back.
A trip to the market yielded artichokes and asparagus, along with crusty bread, salad green and soup-making produce. I am not going to jump into cooking quite yet. I will be taking it easy for a few days making simple things such as soups, vegetables and pasta. I am in no mood though to eat out, that’s for sure, except for tonight, since I am going to what is promising to be an amazing dinner at Quail’s Gate winery, cooked by 5 top Okanagan women chefs. I will be going with my foodie “crew”and looking forward to what I think will be a spectacular evening. Go Okanagan women chefs! And, happy International Women’s Day to my female readers and friends.
Back to the kitchen: Artichokes are one of the delights of spring and as long as they are fresh, heavy and tight I buy them as often as I can find them. This recipe is based on an appetizer we had in Playa del Carmen when we were still in Mexico. Walking up the strip one evening we found Cenacolo, an Italian restaurant located on 5th avenue a few block north of Avenida Constituyentes that is worth seeking out if you are looking for Italian food. The restaurant was founded by a family from Emilia Romagna and is one of three restaurants they own in Mexico. Their pasta is made fresh daily, the sauces are good and the tables are covered with white linen. My favourite dish was the artichoke appetizer: they cut the artis into quarters and serve them in light olive oil and lemon sauce together with something reminiscent of pizza bianca (Roman street food bread, similar to pizza dough without topping). It was delicious enough for us to return a few times.
The artichokes were boiled and then baked with a little cheese on top (grana padano). I didn’t mind the cheese, my husband found it superfluous. I think the tops of the leaves were not trimmed and the artis kept their nice elongated shape. My artichokes at home are the globe variety, more rounded than elongated. Just be careful with any thorns at the edge of the leaves.
This is an “eat with your hands” dish where you peel off the leaves one by one and scrape the flesh off the bottom with your teeth before discarding the leaves onto a side plate. When you get to the heart you can use your knife and fork. Your chin may glisten with dripping of the sauce. Don’t forget to soak up the delicious dressing with bread. My kind of food.
For more information about this mysterious vegetable and how to prepare it read this.
2 lemons, cut in quarters, seeded
1/3 cup olive oil, more as needed
1 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup chopped parsley
About 1/2 cup of Grana Padano or parmesan, grated
Fill a large pot with water.
Cut each artichoke into quarters. If they have a stem keep it, don’t cut it off, it is edible and delicious.
Brush the cut side of the artichokes with lemon.
With a small knife remove the hairy choke from each, including the purple thorny leaves in the middle. Rub more lemon on the cut part and drop, together with the lemon you used, into the pot of water, squeezing the lemon juice into the water.
Repeat with remaining artichokes, adding the lemon and artichokes to the water as you go.
Cover the top of the artichokes in the pot with rounds of parchment (I use parchment cake pan liners that are already round).
Cover the pot partially with a lid and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let the artichokes simmer until you can easily insert a knife through the centers. Depending on the size of the artichokes it can take about 2-30 minutes. Leave in the water to cool.
Pour olive oil into a skillet, add the sliced garlic and warm up very gently, being careful not to brown the garlic.
Add salt and pepper and juice from half a lemon, turn off heat, add parsley and let it sit so the oil absorbs the flavours.
Drain the artichokes and set on a baking pan lined with parchment.
Pile grated cheese into the cavity of each artichoke quarter, then sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Squeeze a lemon wedge over the artichokes.
Broil the artichokes for a few minutes under a broiler until the cheese melts and turns golden.
Place 2-4 pieces of artichoke per plate.
Drizzle with the warm dressing.
Serve with slices of good baguette and a lemon wedge.