Monday, May 13, 2013

Ah, Spring: Braised Baby Artichokes with Potatoes, Preserved Lemon & Fresh Oregano

So pretty, I couldn't resist buying these baby artichokes.
There is a point in mid spring, when you walk through the produce markets and you realize you are totally surrounded with foods that are only available in the spring. The most common is certainly local asparagus, but the fresh herbs, ramps, fiddlehead ferns, greens and garlic are starting to make up for the dearth of foods that still smell faintly of the earth they were grown in. In the winter, for some reason there is no what I call "good dirt smell" on the vegetables. Probably because they came from half a planet away. I generally don't buy vegetables that have been shipped across the country if I can help it, but when it comes to tiny,  OMG red, baby artichokes, I just can't help it. They're only around for a few weeks in the spring and fall, since they like the cooler temperatures, so don't put off buying any or you'll have to wait until fall. These little red babies just jumped into my basket.

Note: Baby artichokes are different from small artichokes.  Babies are usually just a bit bigger than a walnut. And they come in red or normal, pale creamy  green artichoke-color. Both colors are delicious. The babies have no choke inside and take much less preparation. All you have to do is remove the tough little outer leaves, trim the little stems to about 1/4" and halve them. Have a bowl of water spiked with lemon juice at hand, because as soon as you cut them, artichokes will turn brown. So as soon as you cut them in half, drop them into the lemon water. If you are not an artichoke fan, or fond of lemon, you probably will want to skip this recipe, because the potatoes take on the flavor of the artichokes and lemon intensely. I like this at room temp, but served warm is good too. Drizzling with a little extra olive oil at the end doesn't hurt either.

Braised Baby Artichokes with Potatoes, Preserved Lemon & Fresh Oregano

Braised Baby Artichokes with Potatoes, Preserved Lemon & Fresh Oregano

3 - 4 T extra virgin olive oil
12 baby artichokes, trimmed and halved, see note above
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 preserved lemon, pith discarded and peel finely minced
1-1/2 cups water (plus a bit more if needed)
1/2 cup dry white wine
12-16 tiny new potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
4T minced fresh oregano, or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
minced fresh chives for garnish, opt.
Extra olive oil for drizzling 

1. Over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it shimmers in a shallow covered sauté pan that has a tight fitting cover.  Drain the artichokes well, and pat dry with a a paper  towel, then carefully add to the hot oil and turn carefully with tongs to coat. 

2. Add the garlic, preserved lemon, the water and wine, bring to a simmer, and cover. Cook about 20 minutes until the artichokes are about half cooked. 

3. Carefully add the potatoes, the oregano, and season with salt and pepper. Add a little more water if it doesn't look like enough to last another 20 minutes. Replace the cover, and cook gently for another 20 to 25 minutes until the potatoes and artichokes are tender. Most, but not all of the liquid should be gone. A few tablespoons should remain. 

4. Sprinkle with the minced chives, and drizzle with more olive oil if using, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4.

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