Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Braised Baby Artichokes with Garlic, Thyme, and Parmesan

I have so many things to tell you guys, I don't even know where to start. I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off in the past few weeks, working like crazy, going to concerts, reconnecting with old friends, and of course, baking, but you will hear all about that presently. I guess for now, I will start with the best and the most important - spring is finally here! Yes, our frigid 50F temperatures (please do not laugh, I own one jacket and it's not cut out for 50F) seem to be in abatement and the farmer's market is once again inspiring me with something more than potatoes and onions. Speaking of that, I visited the farmer's market in Santa Monica this past weekend with my mom! Going with her is really an adventure. She spins like a top through the crowded stalls, a petite bundle of purposeful energy, doing five things at the same time and somehow still managing to sample the cheese. I can't keep up with the woman, but it's always fun to watch her work her magic as our bags fill up with goodies. Check out a few pictures I managed to take while she was off charming the flower seller:

By the end of the morning -- even though I felt like I'd run a marathon and my mom was still as fresh as the strawberries you see in the photos above -- we were both eager to go home and do something with the bounty we scored at the market. Specifically, braised baby artichokes with garlic, thyme and Parmesan from my new favorite book, Chez Panisse Vegetables. Warming our hands over the stove and soaking up the juices with my favorite whole grain bread, we thought it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

I have to warn you, though, these little guys are addictive. Take it from someone who has an iffy relationship with artichokes and still kept eating and eating and eating them. And with a taste this hearty, warm and satisfying, and ingredients like artichokes, garlic, thyme and lemon, it's even harder to resist (resistance is futile... just had to put it in there for all the Star Trek geeks like me). I'm putting this on my party-dish circuit and I can't wait to make it again!

Braised Baby Artichokes with Garlic, Thyme, and Parmesan

1 lemon, halved
About 20 very small artichokes (as you can see in the photo, mine were slightly larger than "small", so I used about 15 and sliced them in half after peeling)
5 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup olive oil (I dialed this back to 1/4 cup)
1 cup water
4 sprigs thyme
Parmesan cheese

Fill a medium-sized bowl with cool water, and squeeze 1 half of the lemon into the water.

Cut off all but about half an inch of the artichoke stems, and trim off the tops to remove any thorns. Break and peel off the outer layers of leaves until the tender, yellowish inner leaves show. (Irene's note: it's also possible to use bottled artichokes preserved in water for this. Shh... I won't tell. If that's what you are doing, skip to the next paragraph.) If you want, pare the ragged edges of the base where the outer leaves were torn off. If your artichokes are only small – as opposed to very small – cut them in half from stem to tip. If there is a choke inside, use a demitasse spoon (or something similar) to scoop it out. As you finish working with them, drop the prepared artichokes into the bowl of lemon water.

In a shallow, nonreactive pan combine the artichokes, garlic, olive oil, water, and thyme. Season lightly with salt, cover, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, until the artichokes begin to soften, shaking the pan occasionally. Remove the lid, raise the heat slightly, and cook for a few minutes more, shaking the pan occasionally, until the artichokes are soft and tender. Salt again, and squeeze the other half of the lemon into the pan.

Serve the artichokes warm, with some of their liquid and with curls of Parmesan on top. (Irene's note: I would also have generous slices of warm farmer's bread or baguette to sop up the juices - that's the best part!)

Serves 4.


Patsyk said...

What a great way to prepare the baby artichokes! I hope I can find some soon at the grocery, our markets won't open until June.

Dewi said...

Beautiful photographs, and the artichokes sounds really fabulous too.

brandin + kari said...

I am iffy about artichokes too, but I basically eat anything that is braised. I would probably eat a shoe if it was braised. i will have to bookmark these and give them a try:)

Ingrid_3Bs said...

Your photos are gorgeous. I have a similar relationship with artichokes, sometimes I like 'em sometime not so much.

Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting.

Akila @ The Road Forks said...

This is a lot like my favorite artichoke recipe ever: Michael Chiarello's Lemon Braised Artichokes (you can find it on Food Network). I love the combination of lemons and artichokes, but parmesan and artichokes sounds yummy, too.

oneordinaryday said...

I love the sound of this, but I admit to being one who is overwhelmed by the idea of buying and cooking fresh artichokes. I always cheat and buy the ones packed in water. I'm going to bookmark your recipe to try though.

Anonymous said...

Those look fantastic! We saw baby artichokes at Hollywood a couple weekends ago, but I didnt know what to do with it. And the Globe Artichoke we bought was disappointingly stringy, though it had great flavor.

Kristina Strain said...

I just had marinated artichokes on my salad tonight-- what wonderful little gems they are. Must try this recipe!

Sweetfern Handmade

Elyse said...

Oh, what a fabulous recipe. I love anything artichoke-related. I can't wait to try this! Plus, all of those goodies you got from the market look killer!! Sounds like you had a great time with your mom!

Chef Chuck said...

This looks wonderful, I love artichokes! Your famous foods look delish!
Thank You

Irene said...

Patsy - I've now made this recipe twice, once with fresh and once with artichokes packed in water, and both ways, it was seriously delicious!

Elra - thank you! :)

Kari - me too, omg, me too. I love braising and do it whenever possible, and believe me, it only brings out the best in artichokes.

Ingrid - thank you, and love your blog!

Michelle - this was pretty awesome with the store-bought packed in water artichokes too... shhh.... I won't tell if you won't. :)

Kate - I just read your "about" page for the first time, and I gotta say, I totally agree, and your "audience" is so adorable I want to take them home!

Kristina - they are! Although I'm kind of on the fence about artichokes, sometimes the texture just doesn't work for me, but I love them in salads and dips.

Elyse - thanks! I did, my mom is a trip! (but in a really really good way)

Chuck - thank you!

Akila - thanks, I will look up that recipe! What I loved about this one is that it combines lemon, garlic AND Parmesan. Seriously, best marriage ever.

onesilentwinter said...

GORGEOUS POST_ i am in love with all of it-must make it! phtographs exceptional!

Irene said...

Thank you, Nadia! I am ridiculously excited that you liked the photos.

Anonymous said...

My mouth is watering looking at these photos! I wish my fiance would eat artichokes :( I guess I'll have to wait until a day that we're having company to make this so I'm not the only one eating the whole thing!

cindy* said...

your photos are great! and artichoke anything is something i must have.

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

Beautiful pictures. I would love to be in front of that plate.

Anonymous said...

This looks so delicious...by the way great pictures.

Ash said...

I love artichokes!!! This looks fab! I have a thing right now where I love them on grilled sandwiches!

Irene said...

Ooh that sounds awesome, Ash! I just had dinner, but I would totally go for a grilled sandwich with artichokes right now!

Donna-FFW said...

OMG!! This looks so delicious. I love artichokes and this seems like the perfect way to prepare it! LOVE your photo!

Merisi said...

Ah, the bounty of spring! :-)

I love artichoke and during my visit to Rome last week I ate as many as I could. There's seemingly a different variety of artichoke for each way to cook them and, best of all, at Campo de' Fiori market they all come already cleaned and ready to cook. The vendors will even share their recipes and tips and tricks with you. It's a whole different culture there with a cult following.

Have you ever eaten an artichoke prepared the Roman Jewish way, fried to look like a huge blossom? Heaven. Really. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I love artichokes, There's just nothing quite like it. Is it artichoke season already? :)

The Food Librarian said...

So yummy! I love love going to So Cal Farmers Markets on the weekend. Just starts them off with fresh food (and kettle corn!!) :) This dish looks lovely!!

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

I wish I could come to your house so that you could show me how to braise artichokes! I've tried working with artichokes twice, without luck! How fun to go to the farmer's market with your mom and then cook together after. Love how delicious those strawberries look!

akila said...

nice post ... i like it very much