I wasn’t planning on posting this evening, but I had no choice. I am enjoying Lemon Zest so much and I realized that I don’t have many days left in April to post about this cookbook. Having prepared a dish that features one of the vegetable loves of my life, I just had to come and share with all of you.
But before I jump into my ode to artichokes, I just want to take the opportunity to bring to your attention an exciting event that’s happening in May. If you haven’t already heard about it, Life Begins at 30 is challenging everyone to eat locally during the month of May. I first heard about this challenge on Raspberry Sour’s blog The Sour Patch. I very brashly declared that I would take up the challenge and only eat local foods.
Then I remembered that I live in Canada and it’s not uncommon for us to have snow well into April! Luckily spring has already graced us with her presence, but still, it’s not like we’ve got an enormous selection of produce to choose from. So I’ve decided that while I may not be able to eat only local foods in May, I will certainly try my best and I hope that wherever you are, you’ll take up the challenge as well.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming …
I have always been in love with artichokes (in Italian i carciofi). From the time I was a little girl trying desperately to get in the middle of my mother’s daily cooking routine, I have loved artichokes. Why do I love them so? I think it’s a combination of the colour, the shape and the flavour. This is why I was so upset when we couldn’t find baby artichokes for our Easter lunch. Traditionally, we serve fried baby artichokes as an accompaniment to the roast leg of lamb and the fried lamb chops (more on this in another post). But this year it was not to be and I was so very disappointed.
As explained by Alice Waters in her incredible book Chez Panisse Vegetables, artichokes are actually the edible flower of a plant (thistle). Artichokes are widely used in Italy and so Italians have become quite expert at cooking with them. In fact, artichokes were introduced to North America by Italians who settled in California. Waters explains that artichokes have two main growing seasons: the spring and the fall. So we should all be looking for some fresh artichokes in our markets.
Since I was denied my fried artichokes on Easter Sunday, I’ve been craving them since. And I thought it would be a wonderful idea if I spent the last day of my mini-holiday (back to work tomorrow) enjoying some artichokes. I already knew what recipe I wanted to try. It’s from Lori Longbotham’s Lemon Zest and it’s a recipe for roasted artichokes.
Many people are intimidated by artichokes because of the perceived difficulty in cleaning them. In fact, once you get the hang of it cleaning artichokes isn’t that difficult. It helps if you have the following supplies: a serrated knife, a paring knife, a good pair of kitchen shears and a big bowl of water with lemon in it.
To clean an artichoke, simply tear off the outside leaves that are usually too hard to eat. With the serrated knife, cut the artichoke down the middle lengthwise. Take the kitchen shears and snip off the ends of the outer artichoke leaves, especially if they’re thorny. With the paring knife or with a spoon, scoop out the fuzzy bit at the centre of the artichoke known as the choke. Use the paring knife to pare away the outer layer of the bottom of the artichoke and the stem (if using large artichokes the outer layer can be tough). Immediately drop the artichoke in the lemon water to prevent it turning brown.
This is the method we use at home and it always works. Of course if you’re lucky enough to have fresh baby artichokes, you’ll find that you don’t need to trim away as many leaves as they will be far more tender.
Having cleaned my artichokes, I used the Lemon Oil that I’d made earlier this month, as well as sliced lemons and garlic. I mixed everything in a baking dish and then baked the artichokes for 45 to 50 minutes in a hot oven. I let the artichokes cool to room temperature and decided to take the opportunity to try out another Lemon Zest recipe: Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette. I used the vinaigrette as a dressing for the artichokes.
Fantastic! The vinaigrette complimented the artichokes so well and the best part is that I have lots of vinaigrette left for salad. As for the artichokes … not a single one left.
I got my artichoke fix and I am once again a happy girl. Isn’t vegetable love glorious!
Roasted Artichokes with Lemon
Adapted from Lemon Zest by Lori Longbotham.
- 3 large artichokes
- 1/4 cup Lemon Oil (or olive oil)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- pinch of freshly ground pepper
- 6-8 lemon slices, seeds removed
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced in half
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Clean and quarter the artichokes. Remember to put them in a blow of water with lemon as you clean them. Rinse the artichokes once you’re done and pat them dry.
- In a glass baking dish (9 x 13), pour the lemon oil and stir in the salt and pepper. Take each artichoke quarter and roll it in the oil to coat. Arrange the lemon slices in the baking dish and top with a garlic half. Lay the artichokes over the layer of lemons and garlic.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 45 minutes, or until you can pierce the artichokes with a knife or fork.
- Remove from the oven and transfer the artichokes to a plate. Add the lemon juice to the liquid in the baking dish. Mix well and then spoon over the artichokes. If you are going to serve the artichokes with the vinaigrette (recipe follows), you can skip this step.
Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette
Adapted from Lemon Zest by Lori Longbotham.
- 1/4 cup crÃ¨me fraÃ®che or sour cream
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (use white pepper if you have it)
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Lemon Oil or olive oil
- Whisk together the crÃ¨me fraÃ®che, shallot, zest, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
- Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly. The vinaigrette should be smooth and well combined. Use with your favourite salad or on vegetables.
Note: The artichokes serve 6 people and should be eaten warm or at room temperature. The vinaigrette recipe will yield about a cup. Extra vinaigrette should be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.