Artichokes, Tuscan-Style - a recipe, pairing and trimming tutorial

Originally published in The Relaxed Kitchen: How to Entertain with Casual Elegance and Never Lose Your Mind, Incinerate the Soufflé, or Murder the Guests, by Brigit Binns

Nothing says “Spring!” on the Central Coast like lovely, plump-round-green artichokes. I love this California classic to distraction, but trimming them is a bit labor-intensive. Since I’m all about easy, I get the hard work out of the way the night before: Trim and fully cook the ‘chokes as described, then cover and refrigerate them overnight. Don’t forget to fully return to room temperature before finishing with lemon juice, salt, olives, and parsley. For the quintessential spring dinner, serve alongside charcoal-grilled lamb chops seasoned with lavender and sea salt.

Ingredients:

Serves 6

1 lemon, halved
ArtichokesLongStem
3 medium artichokes, preferably with their stems
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (28-oz) can peeled plum tomatoes, with juice, chopped
Fine sea salt
½ cup very dry white wine, such as Grüner Veltliner or Sauvignon Blanc
Tiny pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
10 to 12 Calamata olives, pitted and quartered
2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

Use the lemon to rub the artichokes as you trim them: pull all of the tough outer leaves off until an inch or so just above the heart is pale yellow. Cut off the top two-thirds of the leaves, then trim the dark bits away around the heart with a small knife. Trim off the very end of the stems, if still on, and peel the stem and any remaining dark bits with a vegetable peeler. Cut each into quarters and scrape out the choke. Place lemon halves and trimmed artichokes into a bowl of cold water as you work.   Here is a quick photo tutorial for trimming artichokes.

In a large deep pan, sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium-low heat. When softened, add the garlic and sauté one minute more. Add the tomatoes, ½ teaspoon salt, and the wine, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3 minutes, then drain the soaking artichokes well and add them, along with the cayenne, to the pan.

Cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until the hearts are only just tender. Check and stir occasionally and add a little bit of water to the pan, if necessary. Cool to room temperature uncovered, then cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Return to room temperature and scatter with lemon juice, a little salt, the olives, and parsley before serving.

Artichokes are notoriously difficult to pair with wine, because a compound in artichokes confuses taste buds into perceiving all flavors as sweet. Grüner Veltliner (Zocker makes an excellent example of this Austrian varietal) boasts a steely minerality that can just about hold its own, or go the safer route with Stagecoach Stout from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.

BrigitBinnsCookbookBrigit Binns is the author or co-author of twenty-six nationally acclaimed cookbooks, many of them for Williams-Sonoma.

Brigit’s upcoming The New Wine Country Cookbook: Recipes from California’s Central Coast, will be available wherever books are sold starting in May of 2013. 

www.brigitbinns.com.