Our artichoke harvest has been meager so far this year: one lonely bud. The girls’ enthusiasm to eat it buoyed it straight from the back yard onto this week’s menu, where it was luckily joined by a larger bag of artichokes from our CSA.
I always end up feeling that artichokes are worth the work, don’t you? I usually take the easy way out and steam them in eighths, but at least once a year I roll up my sleeves, clear my counters, and set to work cleaning and slivering artichokes for this recipe. When you’re done, the deep, haunting flavor of any passable artichoke is magnified by caramelization, teased out by rosemary, and slathered across a gorgeous pile of pasta. I confidently assert that this recipe is worth the hour it takes.
Here’s a decent photo tutorial showing the steps for reducing a healthy-looking artichoke to a very-tasty shadow of its former self. You can use artichokes of any size for this recipe–baby artichokes won’t have the thistle-blossom choke in the center, but if you use a larger artichoke you can just scoop out the choke with a paring knife or grapefruit spoon as you go. Thinking of the task as meditative rather than repetitive helps.
Whatever you do, be sure to save the meaty outer leaves that you peel off. I usually steam and serve them separately, but Elise of Simply Recipes offers the even-better idea of simmering them to make a broth. I like the idea of getting three dishes from my bag of artichokes–this pasta, a plate of cold artichoke leaves with dipping sauces, and a steaming bowl of pillowy cheese ravioli floating in artichoke broth. I’ll try that next time and report back. Waste not want not, and all that.
p.s. After all that, the kids refused to eat the pasta, of course. The leaves, which remained in recognizable artichoke form, were as popular as ever.
Artichoke and Rosemary Pasta (adapted from Deborah Madison‘s superb Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone): Put on a pot of water for pasta. Fill a bowl with cold water and squeeze in the juice of a couple of lemons. Clean 2 lbs. artichokes as described above (reserving the snapped-off leaves to steam separately), halving them and discarding the choke if necessary. Thinly slice the cleaned halves and drop them into the lemon water to prevent discoloration.
In a wide pan, heat a slick of olive oil and saute the drained sliced artichokes with a finely diced onion over high heat until the artichokes and onion are nicely browned. Lower the heat to medium and add 2 small bay leaves, 2-3 Tbsp. each finely-chopped garlic and rosemary, and 1/2 c. white wine. Stir and scrape the pan for a minute or two until the wine is mostly reduced and absorbed, then add 1 c. water and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cover and cook until the artichokes are tender.
This is a good time to salt your boiling water and start cooking 8-12 oz. spaghetti.
When the artichokes are tender and the pasta is just al dente, use tongs to scoop the spaghetti straight from the boiling water into the pan of artichokes. Combine well and leave over the heat so that the pasta finishes cooking in the flavorful artichoke broth. Add another glug of olive oil and another handful of finely-chopped rosemary, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Optional: pass grated Parmesan cheese at the table.