Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Baby Artichokes

Artichoke

Got a minute?

Good.

Then I can tell you about my great love of artichokes.

It's a love that's right up there with chocolate and caramelized onions. It's true.
I think the first bite of an artichoke that I tasted was probably my Nonna's artichoke omelet.

My Nonno and Nonna lived in Framingham, MA and every couple of Sundays each month they would head to Rhode Island for a big Sunday dinner that would last for hours.

They always walked through the door with armfuls of goodies. Breads, figs, cheese and artichokes. Big green artichokes with prickly leaves, or sometimes little baby artichokes, cute and compact. I can see her standing in my Mom's kitchen, apron on, paring knife in hand, peeling the artichokes and frying them in a big pan of sizzling olive oil and garlic for the omelet.

This wasn't a breakfast omelet. It was a savory omelet that we ate right along with the soup, and pasta and sausages. My Mom still makes this omelet for my Dad.

Artichoke1
The table was full. My aunt and uncle and all my cousins. A mix of language. Sicilian and English intertwined. It was always loud and there was always lots of laughter.

Sometimes the artichokes were stuffed and steamed. Along with the memories of the smells, I still have the memories of the sounds. The familiar thumping sound as my Nonna whacked the artichokes on the counter to open up the leaves. The snip of the kitchen shears and she took off the prickly leaf tops to get them ready for stuffing. The playful arguing about who got to eat the heart of the artichokes (the best part) that my brothers didn't eat. Those of us who loved the hearts were always calling dibs on the uneaten ones.

So artichokes for me aren't only delicious and one of my favorite foods, but they also hold a strong connection. A memory of my Nonna in the kitchen, and happy Sundays with my family filled with delicious food. I suppose that's what I'm trying to re-create each time I make a big meal and gather my family and friends around the table.

I hope I'm making some memories that my children will look back on 30 years from now and have the same flood of happiness run through them that I do when I think about those Sundays with my Nonno and Nonna.

Don't be intimidated by artichokes. Once you tackle one, you'll find it's really not a big deal to clean them.

The first thing you want to do is to trim the stem off a bit and then peel off all the outer leaves until you get down to the more tender, lighter green leaves. You will want to peel the stem also.

I couldn't find baby chokes so I used Globe artichokes. Four of them. If you use baby artichokes they will look just a bit different, but the preparation is the same.

artichoke peeled

Now you need to take the fuzzy part out and the prickly little leaves above it.

Artichoke cut

It should now look like the one of the left. See, it's easy. Are you ready to carry on with rest of the recipe? Of course you are.

Artichoke cleaned

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Baby Artichokes
6 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 pounds baby artichokes (or 4 large artichokes)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds small red fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
cooking spray
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper


Roasted Potatoes with Artichokes CU

Oven to 425.

Combine 6 cups of water and lemon juice in a large bowl. Cut off the stems of the baby artichokes to within 1 inch of the base; peel stem. Remove the bottom leaves and tough outer leaves, leaving the tender heart and bottom. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise. Remove fuzzy thistle from the bottom with a spoon. (That cracked me up, fuzzy thistle. That would make a good name for a punk band.) Place the artichokes in the lemon water.

Combine the oil and the potatoes and toss well. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Drain the artichokes and add to the potatoes, tossing to combine. Bake an additional 15 minutes or until tender (this was a 1/2 hr for me, much longer than the original recipe). Place vegetables in a large bowl and toss with butter, parsley, lemon rind, kosher salt, and pepper. Serve immediately.

Roasted Potatoes with Artichokes FP
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