7.14.10 Heart's Desire
Bear with me as I learn to use G's camera. I prefer to do things I'm already good at (I know that's so wimpy), so this means going beyond my comfort zone. That said, I'm having fun with it and it may ultimately mean more photos of dishes in progress, which might be helpful for you. Now, to artichoke hearts. I love the rich, buttery goodness that lies nestled within all those leathery leaves, the secret heart buried in this armored flower. But I'm not the hugest fan of the canned variety, finding them a bit slimy and strangely acidic, nor of the marinated kind in a jar that often swim in insipid oil. So what's a glutton to do but try to make them from scratch? Believe it or not, I couldn't find a recipe that didn't start with either big globe artichokes or a bag of frozen hearts. And what I had were these little beauties...
So I winged it and the result was quite pleasing. Bear in mind that if you're going to try this, you have to be really ruthless in paring away anything that feels even the tiniest bit rough. That means you wind up with a lot of stuff for the compost pile, and tiny, tear-shaped hearts that are tender and silky.
As you see, they can fit easily into the bowl of a soup spoon. I have mine marinating in a delicious brew of extra virgin olive oil, bay leaves and red chile flakes. You can add whatever else you like: lemon zest, fennel seeds and garlic all come to mind. Make a big batch and you can stir them into pasta (hot or cold), toss them with arugula or escarole, and give them pride of place on an antipasti plate that makes a great dinner on a warm night after a long day at work. A little salami, some sharp pecorino, a few olives, a sliced fennel salad and these artichoke hearts make a meal fit for the pickiest principessa.
MARINATED ARTICHOKE HEARTS A dozen or more baby artichokesjuice of 2 lemons (slice squeezed-out lemons and set aside)1 cup raw cider vinegar3-4 bay leaves2 teaspoons sea salt1/2 teaspoon dried thyme1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakesextra virgin olive oilPut a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice into a large bowl of cold water to make acidulated water (this helps prevent the hearts from turning brown). Pare away the artichoke's outer leaves until you come to the soft, pale inner leaves. Trim the bottom, removing anything tough or stringy. Cut the heart in half and trim away any choke. Using a pair of kitchen shears, snip off any tough tips that may remain. Drop into acidulated water. Repeat with the rest of the artichokes.Place artichokes in a saucepan and pour in vinegar and enough acidulated water to cover. Add bay leaves, sliced lemons, salt and thyme, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until artichoke hearts are quite soft. This may take an hour. Test them by piercing with a fork. When they are very tender, they're done.Let cool to room temperature. Lift artichokes from liquid with a slotted spoon and pack them into a jar along with the bay leaves and red chile flakes. Add a tablespoon or more of fresh lemon juice and top off with olive oil. Refrigerate for a couple of days before eating to allow flavors to meld.