Braised Artichoke Hearts

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 45 minutes

This dish is just as good at room temperature as it is hot, and you’ll probably want to double it to be sure you have leftovers for tossing with pasta or rice, topping pizzas, or mixing into frittatas. You can speed things up considerably by using frozen artichoke hearts, though the results may be disappointing.

Other vegetables you can use: any winter squash, which will make things easier (and probably less expensive).

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 3 or 4 lemons)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 large artichokes or about 3 cups frozen artichoke hearts

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Chopped parsley leaves for garnish

Put the lemon juice in a bowl with 1/2 cup water and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Cut the bottom off the artichokes and save the leaves for another use (don’t bother to remove the choke from them now). Trim the bottoms to reveal the heart (see Trimming Artichokes, Version I). As you finish each artichoke, cut the heart into thick slices and toss them with the lemon water.

Put the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until it softens, about a minute. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer the artichokes to the pan, saving the liquid in the bowl. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the slices begin to soften a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved liquid, bring to a boil, and cover. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 10 minutes, shaking the pan every now and then to toss the artichokes. Check for tenderness. If not quite ready, cover and cook until done, another minute or so.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve hot or at room temperature, garnishing just before serving.

Variations

Roasted Artichoke Hearts. Crisp, with a haunting flavor: Preheat the oven to 425В°F. In Step 3, increase the oil to 1/4 cup, put it in a large ovenproof skillet or roasting pan, and set it in the oven. When the oil gets hot, transfer the artichoke slices and garlic to the pan and toss to coat in the oil. (Save the lemon water.) Roast until the slices release from the pan, 10 minutes or so, then turn them and continue roasting until tender, another 10 minutes. Transfer the artichokes from the pan to a serving platter and set the pan over medium-high heat. Add about a cup of the lemon water and stir up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens a bit, stir in the parsley, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour the sauce over the artichokes and serve immediately or at room temperature.

Vinegar-Braised Artichoke Hearts. I like this best with sherry vinegar, but you can also use white wine or even balsamic vinegar: Simply use vinegar instead of the lemon juice in either the main recipe or any of the variations.

Braised Artichoke Hearts with Potatoes. The potatoes will soak up most of the liquid, leaving you with a thick vegetable stew: Peel and steam or boil 2 large waxy potatoes (or use leftovers). Cut them into large chunks. Increase the extra virgin olive oil to 1/4 cup and the minced garlic to 2 tablespoons. In Step 3, when you lift the lid to check the artichokes, fold in the potatoes. Cover the pan and proceed with the recipe, cooking just long enough for the potatoes to reheat.

Braised Artichoke Hearts with Lots of Roasted Garlic. Two great mellow flavors in one dish: Roast and peel 2 or 3 heads of garlic (see Roasted Garlic). In Step 3, when you lift the lid to check the artichokes, fold in the garlic. Cover the pan and proceed with the recipe.

10 Great Stir-Ins for Braised Artichoke Hearts

  1. Pitted green or black olives
  2. Dried fruit, especially golden raisins, currants, cherries, or apricots
  3. Nuts, especially walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts
  4. Different herbs: especially chives, basil, tarragon, mint, or chervil
  5. Arugula or spinach leaves
  6. Dried tomato bits
  7. Chopped fresh tomatoes
  8. Candied ginger
  9. Virtually any Crouton
  10. Grated or crumbled cheese, especially Parmesan, feta, blue, or fresh cheese

Asparagus

Asparagus is a member of the lily family whose long, usually green spears can be delicate and thin to thick and stubby. Once a springtime favorite that’s now available year-round at supermarkets, the best remains local and freshly picked. Check out farmer’s markets from as early as February in the South through May or June in the North.

There are also white and purple varieties that are more common in Europe but are occasionally seen here. White asparagus is grown underground or under cover to prevent greening and can be quite expensive; it’s more delicate in texture and has a subtle nutty flavor that distinguishes it from the green and purple varieties.

Easy to prepare and quick cooking, asparagus is classically steamed, but roasted or grilled is equally wonderful. In any case, be sure not to cook it until it’s completely soft and soggy. Asparagus is delicious hot, at room temperature, or cold. And leftovers are great with eggs or added to salads.