Friday, March 19, 2010
SURE SIGN OF SPRING
Yes, artichokes are a pain to clean and are labor intensive. But they are delicious and they scream "SPRING". This member of the thistle family is one of the first heralds of spring and pairs well with fresh herbs-especially mint. Look for small/baby artichokes that feel heavy for their size (they will have a "meatier" heart) and have tight compact leaves.
Drizzle on your favorite olive oil and serve this throughout the season. The caponata can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Caponata di Carciofi (Relish of Artichokes)
This caponata does not have the usual tomatoes and eggplant. Instead it is a concoction of early spring and late winter vegetables. I serve it with roasted chicken, duck and even fish. It adds flair to any table and for Passover we drizzle our matzah with olive oil and herbs and then dollop some of this caponata on top of it for a crunchy snack.
Yields about 2 cups
1 pound baby artichokes or frozen artichoke hearts
1 fennel bulb-julienne (save fronds for garnish)
2 leeks-white parts only chopped
3 cloves garlic,minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ cup white wine
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup pine-nuts
¼ cup fresh mint-torn or cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley-chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme-chopped
Salt and pepper
1. To clean the artichokes, use a paring knife to cut the outside leaves free from the body of the vegetable. Continue turning your knife around the artichoke until you have an equal amount of green leaves with yellow tops. Be sure to leave the stem intact. You can peel some of the tough green fibers from the outside. The stem gives the artichoke a pretty shape! Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise and scoop out the choke (if any) with a melon baller. Place the artichoke pieces in a bowl of cold water with lemon juice squeezed into it to keep the artichokes from turning dark.
2. Place a large sauté pan over medium high heat and coat the bottom lightly with olive oil. Add the fennel pieces and leeks. Sauté the vegetables until the are lightly browned and have softened. Add the drained artichokes and continue sautéing until the artichokes are lightly browned. Add the garlic, tomato paste and white wine. Stir together. Add the raisins and turn down the heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer.
3. Place a small sauté pan over medium heat and add the pine-nuts. Toast the pine-nuts until they are lightly browned. Watch them carefully as then can burn quickly.
4. Add the pine nuts to the mixture. Add the mint, parsley and thyme. Salt and pepper to taste
5. Serve the caponata warm or cold. The caponata can be made three days before serving and stored covered in the refrigerator.