Let’s pretend you told me that I could only eat one vegetable for the rest of my life, and I had to choose immediately. I’d have a quick pang about corn, and asparagus, but it wouldn’t really be a tough decision. I’m an artichoke girl at heart…I love the prickly, ornery things. Next to nice, cooperative, easy veggies like spinach and string beans they are a pain in the neck to prepare, and usually a complete work-out to eat, but they are just so dang scrumptious. I do love a vegetable that plays hard to get.
However, I did recently find a recipe that tames the artichoke just a little, and is a glorious, easy, versatile extravaganza of artichoke wonderfulness. The key to this is getting baby artichokes – cute little guys that have not grown up enough to have the prickly, hard-to-deal-with choke in the middle. Lately I have been finding them in little plastic cases in my regular old supermarket – about 9 to a case, which is perfect. Here’s what you do.
Take each baby artichoke and pull off the first few layers of those tough outside leaves. You’re looking for the more tender, light green layer of leaves towards the middle. Once you get the outside layer off, grab your sharpest knife and lop off the stem, as close to the bottom as you can get, and the top 1/2 inch or so of the remaining leaves. Now cut the artichoke into halves and then quarters, length-wise. Drop the quarters into a bowl of cold water with lemon juice in it while you do the same thing to the rest of the artichokes. It will take you about 10-15 minutes, tops, and by the end you will have worked out all your frustrations of the day. It’s very satisfying.
Now heat up about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of olive oil in a medium size skillet until it is smoking hot. Drain the artichokes, blot them to get the water off, and then carefully add them to the oil along with a generous dose of salt and pepper. Roast them in the oil for about 5 minutes or until they are tender…spear one with a knife to check. Once they are tender, toss in some fresh chopped parsley, a little minced garlic and some red pepper, and stir it around for a minute.
Now, if you are going to serve them as is, you will want to scoop them out of the oil and drain them on some paper towels. However, if you want to go direct to artichoke heaven, you can toss the whole thing – artichokes, oil, the entire shebang – into a bowl of hot pasta and toss. Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese, a grinding of fresh pepper, and ask yourself what vegetable YOU would want if you were on a desert island.
Recipe from The New York Times