I planned an easy dinner on Saturday night. Earlier in the day, I was roaming the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market looking for something to complement the Pappardelle with leftover Bolognese sauce I would be making later. Artichokes were everywhere.
Passing by the Iacopi Farms stand I zeroed in on a box of baby artichokes and picked out about a dozen. Baby artichokes are much easier to clean and prepare than full-grown globes. Simply cut off the top with a serrated knife, remove the outer leaves, trim the stalk with a paring knife and clean under running water. To prevent discoloration before cooking place the trimmed artichokes in a bowl of cold water with lemon juice until ready to use. All parts of the trimmed, whole baby artichoke are edible.
The small thistles can be cooked any number of ways. Methods include pan roasting, sautéing, grilling, frying or steaming. I chose to braise these as I had more than what was needed for my Saturday night appetizer. I planned to use the remainder in a Paella the following day.
Nothing could be easier than braising small artichokes. The braising liquid can be water, wine, vinegar and/or broth alone or in any combination. The liquid in turn can be flavored with lemon, aromatic vegetables, herbs and spices. The braising liquid used here filled my kitchen with a pleasant, savory aroma.
To serve these as an appetizer, place two or three on a small plate and dress with a basic vinaigrette consisting of champagne vinegar, good quality olive oil and a teaspoon of whole grain mustard.
While not the subject of this article, I served Pappardelle with Bolognese sauce after the artichokes. The Bolognese sauce was a frozen leftover from making Hazan’s lasagna.
I considered making fresh egg noodles at home. But then I had second thoughts, “Wasn’t this supposed to be an easy Saturday night dinner?” In the end, I picked up a Pappardelle noodle at the store in the spirit of “easy”.
The store bought substitute was a poor choice as one can tell by its color. It was a source of disappointment in this dish and Marcella’s excellent Bolognese deserved better.
This recipe makes 4 servings.
For the braised artichokes
- 12 baby artichokes trimmed
- I cup water
- 1 cup white wine
- ¼ white wine vinegar
- 1 lemon thinly sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic lightly smashed
- 1 slice red onion
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper corns
- ¼ teaspoon juniper berries (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs thyme
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Clean and trim the artichokes. Rub the artichokes with lemon or place them in small bowl with water and the juice of one lemon until ready to use.
- Add water, white wine, vinegar and the artichokes to a 6-quart saucepan. To the liquid in the saucepan add sliced lemon, garlic, red onion, pepper corns, juniper berries if using, bay leaves, thyme, fennel seeds and salt.
- Bring the braising liquid and artichokes to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat until a slow, rolling boil is established and continue cooking for a total of one hour. Remove from the heat and let stand to cool.
- Whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette.
- For each serving, place two to three artichokes on a small plate and drizzle with vinaigrette.
- Refrigerate any unused artichokes in the braising liquid for up to three days.