Our friend Maria Robledo sent this wonderful photo with the message ‘Thinking of u’. It is one of the many messages we’ve gotten during the past week from friends and strangers who knew we’d lost dear ones recently, and traveled last weekend for a memorial service in the West Virginia Appalachians. Using dial-up internet connection, we read the Comments and emails from people responding to our post. We found ourselves comforted by people we’d never met, but were connected to by the virtual community that is ‘the improvised life’. The world is amazing.
And even though just a few days ago in West Virginia, we drove through strange, beautiful pink fog, and then SNOW for days, we are reminded that baby artichokes mean that Spring is here! To celebrate the season, we include a swell artichoke recipe from The Improvisational Cook (check out the upcoming giveaway).
Recipe: Pasta with Baby Artichokes
These thinly-sliced baby artichokes and garlic are cooked until they melt into a sauce, then tossed with cheese raviolis, which I always have a good supply of in the freezer. Baby artichokes have no chokes and are much easier to prepare than the large ones, so I often make them when they are in season. The braised artichokes are good on their own as well, without the pasta – they make a great hors d’oeuvre; just extract that part from the recipe, and you’ve got a great simple way of cooking them.
One lemon, halved
2 pounds of baby artichokes.
1/2-cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 or 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sprigs fresh thyme, rosemary or sage
2 ounces fun bite-size pasta shape such as strozzapretti, capanelle or creste di galli
Freshly ground black pepper
A sprinkling of sherry or Banyuls vinegar
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley and
1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted pine nuts
Squeeze the lemon into a medium bowl and fill it with cold water. Working one artichoke at a time, pull off 4 or 5 layers of the tough green outer leaves from the base to reveal pale yellow ones; they will resemble closed rosebuds. Cut off the top third of each artichoke and trim all but 1/4 inch off the stem. Using a mechanical slicer or a thin, sharp knife, slice each artichoke lengthwise through the stem into 1/8th-inch slices. Or cut the artichokes lengthwise into sixths. Place the slices in the lemon water as you work. (You may prepare the artichokes up to one hour ahead.)
Drain the artichokes well and add them to a medium nonstick skillet, along with the extra-virgin olive oil, garlic cloves, hot red pepper flakes, salt and fresh thyme, rosemary or sage. Cover and cook, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the artichokes are tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
Cook the pasta until tender, but still slightly firm to the bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the artichokes to the pasta pot with 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water. Bring to a boil, and boil for 30 seconds. Add the drained pasta and the toss to coat, seasoning with salt and plenty of pepper and a sprinkling of vinegar. Toss with flat-leaf parsley and toasted pine nuts.