The large artichokes at the farmers market were beautiful. I grabbed 3, heavy and still tightly closed.
Should I stuff them, bake them, steam them? Nope. I wanted something quicker to prepare so I decided to make artichoke soup instead.
The hardest part of this recipe is cleaning the artichokes. You want only the tender white heart. Then your about an hour away from eating this delicious simple soup.
In an enameled or heavy-bottomed pot sauté the potatoes and aromatics. When the leeks are soft and the thyme and shallot give off a wonderful aroma add the water and bring the pot to a boil.
Add the artichoke slices and with the pot lightly simmering cook until the potatoes are soft and falling apart and the artichoke slices are tender, maybe an hour or so.
Stir in the chopped fresh parsley and sprinkle each bowl with grated cheese and you’re ready to eat.
The thyme and shallot flavored broth is thickened by the crumbly potatoes. Each spoonful brings the clean and distinctive taste of artichoke, creamy potatoes and sweet leeks splashing over your palate.
A thick soup with fresh thinly sliced artichokes, potatoes and leeks in a clean thyme flavored broth.
Recipe type: Soup
3 artichokes (or in a pinch use frozen artichoke hearts)
Juice of one lemon
¾ pound potatoes, peeled and curt into ½-inch cubes
1 leek, white and pale-green parts, sliced, washed well
2 shallots, chopped (about ¼ cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
2 quarts cold water
1 tablespoon fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
Grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
Clean the artichokes.
Put enough water in a big bowl to cover the sliced artichokes. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Put the lemon halves in the water too. (This acidulated water will keep the artichokes from darkening after you clean and slice them.)
Starting at the bottom, snap off all the tough dark green outer leaves. When you get to the light yellow-green leaves stop.
Cut off the dark top of the remaining leaves. (A serrated knife works best.)
With a paring knife cut off the stem and peel away any tough green on the bottom of the heart. You just want the tender white part.
Cut the artichoke in half and scoop out the choke (the hairy part in the center of the heart) with a pointed spoon or cut out with a paring knife. (You now have a cleaned, tender artichoke heart that is white and light green in color.)
Peel the dark tough skin from the stem.
As you clean each artichoke lay the artichoke heart on a cutting board cut side down. Cut each half vertically into ½ inch slices. Slice the peeled stem into slices too. Put the artichoke slices in the acidulated water.
Put the olive oil in an enameled or heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot add the potatoes, coat with the oil and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add the leeks and shallots, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf and sea salt to taste.
Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about a minute.
Pour in the water and over high heat bring to a boil.
Drain the sliced artichoke hearts and add them to the pot. Bring the soup to a vigorous simmer.
Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the soup uncovered until potatoes and artichokes are tender, about an hour. (The potatoes should have broken down a bit to thicken the soup).
Stir in the chopped parsley.
Top each bowl of soup with a sprinkle of grated cheese.
La Vignarola, stewed spring vegetables, is a simple dish that’s a real crowd-pleaser in Rome this time of year and you can be eating some in about 30 minutes.
Quickly braise each of the 3 spring vegetables separately. Brown guanciale or pancetta with a little extra virgin olive oil. Add the vegetables to the pan along with some of the cooking liquid to make a light broth.
When everything is heated through put the vegetables on a serving platter. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and your ready to eat. Serve La Vignarola as a side-dish or as a first course with a hunk of rustic bread to sop up the flavorful broth.
The sweetness of the peas is mellowed by the meaty fava beans and tender sliced artichoke hearts. With your first bite you know spring has arrived.
I’ll be in Roma soon and my Roman friend Luca and his crew will shoot a couple of episodes while I shop the outdoor markets and cook in our apartment kitchen near the Spanish Steps. You might have noticed I’ve been cooking Roman dishes lately to get in the groove.
We shot 2 new episodes last week at Cookhouse in North Beach as a run-up to my Italy trip. Watch me making a Roman favorite for your antipasti or afternoon snack (uno spuntino) and a classic main course from Naples. We’ll post the first one real soon.
La Vignarola, stewed artichokes, fava beans and peas Roman-style.
Recipe type: Side dish
4 small artichokes
2 pounds fava beans
2 pounds spring peas
2 ounces guanciale or pancetta, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 green onions
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a bowl of water. As you clean the artichokes, put them in the acidulated water until your ready to braise them all. (This keeps the artichokes from oxidizing and turning brown.)
Pull off the tough outer leaves of the artichokes until you get to leaves that are light green-yellow in color.
Cut off the dark top of the artichoke.
Cut off the stem evenly and peel off any green tough skin on the artichoke base.
With a spoon, scoop out the choke (small purple leaves and fuzzy center) in the middle of artichoke. (If your using baby artichokes, they won't have developed a choke yet.)
Shell the peas and set aside in a bowl.
Shell the fava beans, remove the skin and set aside in a bowl.
Put a cup of water in a small pot over medium-high heat and add the artichokes.
When the water boils cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low.
Braise the artichokes until they are knife tender, about 10 minutes.
With a slotted spoon, remove the artichokes to a bowl and set aside to cool.
Add more water to the pot if necessary, raise the heat to medium-high and add the fava beans.
When the water boils cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low.
Braise the fava beans until tender, about 7 minutes. (Don't over cook the fava beans or they'll lose their bright green color.)
With a slotted spoon, remove the fava beans to the bowl with the artichokes.
Add more water to the pot if necessary, raise the heat to medium-high and add the peas.
When the water boils cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low.
Braise the peas until tender, about 5 minutes. (Don't over cook the peas or they'll lose their bright green color.)
With a slotted spoon, remove the peas to the bowl with the other vegetables.
Save the vegetable cooking water.
Cut the artichokes in half and cut the artichoke half in 1-inch slices and put the slices back in the bowl with the other vegetables.
Slice the green onions in 1-inch pieces.
Cut the guanciale or pancetta into 1-inch cubes.
Put another pan over medium-high heat and pour in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
When the oil is hot add the guaciale or pancetta and brown.
Add the green onions and cook until soft.
Lower the heat to meidum-low, add the artichokes, fava beans and peas to the pan along with 1 cup of the vegetable cooking water.
Simmer until the vegetables are heated through.
Put the vegetables on a serving platter and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper to taste and a sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil.
I made baked stuffed mushroom caps to accompany prosciutto and smoked mozzarella on my antipasti platter. That’s them in the front of the plate.
Stuffed mushrooms are quick and easy to make and pack a lot of flavor. Serve them hot out of the oven or at room temperature. Parmigiano, garlic, parsley and EVOO flavor the breadcrumbs and the grated cheese creates a golden crust on top of the mushroom caps. Every bite is a zesty and crunchy delight. Sometimes I can’t help myself. I stuff the whole cap in my mouth and eat it in just one bite.
You can add the stuffed mushroom caps to almost any antipasti platter you create. The caps are a compact package that you can even pass around as your arriving dinner guests sip on a bubbly prosecco.
So what’s that other stuff in the photo?
I had breadcrumbs left over so I stuffed an artichoke and a couple of baby heirloom tomatoes and sprinkled the remaining flavored breadcrumbs on red bell peppers and baked them too. They each have their own special texture and taste and they are all delicious and I wanted to show you them all.
Use the artichoke as a first course. Add the roasted stuffed tomatoes and red bell peppers sprinkled with the flavored breadcrumbs to an antipasti platter or serve them as a vegetable side dish with lunch or dinner. I tell you how to handle the peppers and tomatoes in the recipe below. If you don’t know how to clean an artichoke, watch me do it. It’s fun.
Be sure to keep this versatile flavored breadcrumb recipe around. You’ll use it often with roasted vegetables or as a light topping for baked fish or roasted chicken.
I’m jazzed. San Francisco’s own world-famous Italian cook, teacher and author Joyce Goldstein is preparing a Seder at Perbacco on April 10. The roots of this meal are in Square One, Goldstein’s sorely missed Jackson Square restaurant. She first served a Seder meal there in 1989 celebrating the food of the Italian Jewish kitchen.
I had forgotten about this event but an office-mate reminded me this morning. I called Perbacco right away to book an early table for 10 of us.
“Sorry” Perbacco’s Steven said. “Come at 8:45”. “Can’t do it,” I told him. How about three tables for four at 6:00.” “Yes I can do that but they won’t be together.” “That’s OK at least we’re in the door.” I wasn’t missing this meal.
A half-hour later my phone rang. It was Steven. “Just had a cancellation. I can give you a table for 10 at 5:30. It’s in the private room upstairs overlooking the kitchen.” “I’ll take it! Can you see down into the kitchen?” “Yes. I look forward to meeting you at the Seder.”
Score! Turns out the room sits 18 and half of the seats at the table are already claimed. So far we’re half Jewish and half Gentile.
So what am I so excited about? I’m a big fan of cucina Ebraica, the food of the Italian Jewish kitchen. Within a day or 2 each time I arrive in Roma I lunch at Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia overlooking incredible Roman ruins in the Jewish Ghetto. My typical meal is carciofi alla Giudia, crispy fried artichokes in the Jewish style that look like a giant chrysanthemum on the plate, then spaghetti alla carbonara and last fried baccala (reconstituted dried-cod fillet) all washed down with chilled local Frascati. Here’s my video making the stuffed artichokes that I first had in the Ghetto.
I won’t be in Roma again until later this year so here’s my chance to enjoy some of the fantastic Italian food from the Ghetto right here in San Francisco.
I loved Square One and one of my favorite cookbooks is Joyce Goldstein’s Cucina Ebraica–Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen. With Joyce and Perbacco’s maestro Staffan Terje in the kitchen this will be quite a night. Here’s the Seder menu. Give Stephen a call. He’s good. Maybe he can still find you a table on Perbacco’s busiest night of the year. Or, join our private communal table. Let me know if you’re interested and if any seats are available I’ll shoot you an email.
Lidia Bastianich inspires me. She’s been a mentor for a long time. I have 6 of her cookbooks and I read them often. Lidia’s Italy has been a PBS blockbuster cooking show for years. I’ve watched them all but my absolute favorite is the one Lidia did with Julia Child years ago. Some say that Lidia does for Italian cooking what Julia did for French.
I finally met Lidia Friday night at her Marin Center cooking event. Lidia cooking for 2 hours. I was in heaven. The dishes were from her new cookbook Lidia’s Italy in America celebrating the food of Italian immigrants as it is cooked in Italian-American communities across the U.S.
She made rigatoni woodsman-style with sausage, mushrooms and San Marzano tomatoes; spaghetti with a basil pastachio pesto; stuffed artichokes baked in the oven; chicken alla sorrentina with basil, tomato sauce and mozzrella; and zuppa inglese with panettone and pastry cream.
I saw Lidia again on Saturday to get my book signed. I apologized that I was a little disheveled. I was on a break from the start of the restoration of Vranas’ Song of Pulcinella mural in North Beach.
“I really appreciate what you do to celebrate the food and culture of Italia,” I told her. “And thank you for returning to the food and traditions of Italian-Americans in communities like North Beach around the country.”
As I left to get back to the dirty restoration work Lidia said “I’ll follow you on your blog.” Now wouldn’t that be special?
I hope Lidia comes back to North Beach soon. The Village can use all the help we can get to preserve one of the most vibrant Italian communities in America.
Italians love their artichokes and Romans know how to treat them.
I first had this dish in the Jewish Ghetto in Roma at Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia sitting outside on a hot summer day with a glass of chilled Frascati and the Portico ruins as our vista.
This is my interpretation of that dish. It is one of my favorites second only to my mom’s artichokes stuffed whole and roasted in the oven. Those are messy to eat. You gotta scrape the leaves with your teeth to get the meat and stuffing. With these you can eat the whole thing!
This is the menu for a recent lunch I prepared for about a dozen work colleagues, evenly divided between Bay Area and NYC residents.
I wanted this meal to feature the best of slow food in the Bay Area for our NY guests, so I served Fra’Mani salami made in Oakland and used only organic farmer’s market produce. Italian prune plums had just arrived in the farmer’s market near my office and the strawberries were just about done for the summer season so I had to use them both.
I rounded all of that out with the best of imported Italian products that I could find in Gianni’s North Beach and at A.G. Ferrari near my office too. I wanted to include a Jewish dish and chose the stuffed artichokes in the style of the Roman Jewish ghetto. Besides my mother’s lasagna, the lasagna al forno con balsamella is the one that my family and friends most often ask me to make for them so I had to include it in this menu.
Check out the wines. They either mirror or contrast the major flavors in each course. Let me know if you want me to show you how to make these dishes or want me to post some of the recipes.
Carciofi alla Romano. Artichokes with a breadcrumb, minced mint, parsley, garlic, and anchovy stuffing poached in EVO and water. (The star of the course. All the rest of the stuff could be eaten after the last bite of the artichoke went into your mouth.)
Prosciutto di Parma
Fra’ Mani Toscano Salami (locally produced)
Boschetto al Tartufo. Cow and sheep milk semi-soft cheese with white truffle from Toscano.
Robiola Bosino. Cow and sheep milk soft cheese from Piemonte.
Cipolline en agrodolce. Flat caramelized Italian onions in a balsamic and chestnut honey sauce.
Olive Calabrese. Olives, roasted red peppers, garlic cloves, Calabrese chili in an EVO marinade.
Focaccia. Homemade, topped with EVO, sea salt, dried Sicilian oregano. A Neapolitan favorite.
Vino: Alice Ose vino spumante. A sparkling rose from the Prosecco region of the Veneto that pairs well with this broad array of fairly bold flavors.
Lasagna al forno con balsamella. Layers of homemade pasta, Bolognese meat sauce, grated parmigiano and fresh mozzarella, and bechamel.
Insalata mista. Baby field greens, edible flowers dressed with “La Mola” extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamico and fiore di sale (the very top crust of sea salt beds).
Vino: Badio e Colibuono Chianti Classico 2006. Had to go with a Tuscan to stand up to the lasagna and this is a great bottle. Not as good as the 05, but a very close runner-up.
Crostata di prugne con crema. Free form tart with fresh Italian prune plums with a dollop of whipped cream on the side of each slice.
Liquore di fragole. A homemade strawberry liqueur. Had to make this with the last of the summer’s small, dark red strawberries. In Italy, this liqueur will keep the strawberries in your heart until the first harvest next spring.