Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Harbinger of Spring


Growing up, eating artichokes meant simmering them until tender and serving them with a dip of mayonnaise mixed with a bit of soy sauce. Had we been hip to it at the time, we might have called it a soy aioli, but to us it was just the perfect creamy salty accompaniment to those boiled leaves and still, to this day, I can’t eat artichoke leaves without it. Luckily, my artichoke repertoire has expanded ever so slightly beyond boiled leaves.

At FCI we prepare artichokes by ‘turning’ them, or removing all the outer leaves and using a paring knife to remove the green skin until you’re left with the tender heart of the artichoke. Once you have the heart, you can braise, roast, grill or do just about anything you want with it. Currently, in the restaurant at FCI, we serve slivers of braised artichoke heart with a roasted rack of lamb. They are delicious.

One of the perks of working on set at a cooking show is the opportunity to bring home the occasional excess produce. Once the segment is complete, the produce that was used to dress the set is usually still perfectly good, but won’t be visually appealing if saved for another shoot on another day. After the crew has been fed and talent takes what they want, the rest is up for grabs. I am very lucky to be working on these shows as the spring season rolls in and great produce such as asparagus, dandelion greens, spring onions, and of course artichokes, are the topic du jour. I made off with a few artichokes last week and while I was craving my mother’s simmered artichoke with ‘soy aioli’ I decided to broaden my artichoke horizon a bit more and see what I could come up with.

Enter Plenty, the new cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi. I won’t say much about the book today, because I am smitten with the recipes and have a feeling that you may be hearing a lot about it over the coming weeks. Just know this: If you’re looking for some inspiration in the vegetable department, you are sure to find it in this book. I found mine when a relish of fava beans jumped off the page at me via some gorgeous photography. Favas are my ultimate harbinger of spring and they seemed the perfect accompaniment to the artichokes I had waiting. And a little hint about that other accompaniment I love so much? Hold on to the leaves you remove from the artichoke. Simmered over low heat they go very nicely with a little soy aioli.

I am providing the recipe here as Ottolenghi wrote it, but I was out of panko so I used a mix of walnut flour and whole wheat flour to bread the artichoke hearts. Use whatever, even plain old flour works well too.

Globe Artichokes with Crushed Fava Beans
Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

1 3/4 cups shelled fava beans
1 small garlic clove, crushed
4 T extra-virgin olive oil plus more for frying
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ t Maldon sea salt
2-3 globe artichokes
3 lemons
1 egg, beaten
3 T panko
3 T fresh mint, chopped
2 T fresh dill, chopped

Bring a pan of water to a boil, add the beans and blanch for three minutes. Drain, refresh and leave in a colander to dry. Remove the outer skins by pressing each bean gently between your thumb and forefinger. Put the shelled beans in the bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic, four tablespoons of oil, some black pepper and half a teaspoon of salt, then pulse until just roughly chopped – don’t overdo it.

Cut off most of the stalk from the artichokes and pull off the tough outer leaves. Once you reach the softer, pale leaves, trim off the top, so you're left with the heart and some very soft leaves around it. Scrape off any remaining tough leaves and the 'hairs' in the center. Rub with a cut lemon to keep the artichokes from turning brown.

Bring a pan of water to a boil, drop in the artichokes and simmer until a knife cuts easily through the flesh, seven to 10 minutes. Drain and dry on paper towels. Put the artichokes in a bowl with the beaten egg, mix, then lift them into a bowl filled with the panko and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt, and coat them well.

Add enough oil to a pan to come 1 1/4 inches up the side. Heat until almost smoking. Fry the artichokes until golden, for about four minutes, turning them as you go. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Put the fava bean mixture in a bowl and stir in the chopped herbs and the juice of a lemon. Spoon some of this over each serving plate, top with an artichoke heart and spoon more of the beans on top. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and serve with a lemon wedge, if desired.


Maris (In Good Taste) said...

How exciting to be working at a cooking show! I love this recipe-thanks for posting it

Julie said...

Oh, this looks so delicious! I've never shelled a fava bean, but I might just give it a go to try this!

Denise | Chez Danisse said...


Delishhh said...

How exciting to be working at a cooking show! Always fun reading your posts!

Hopie said...

Mmm...sounds delicious. I'm so excited about the early spring veggies. Lucky you!

Anonymous said...

Any chance you'll tell us what the show is? ;)

Kath said...

Ooh artichokes and broad beans, delicious.

Anonymous said...

Can it be called aioli without garlic?

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