Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The Art of Cooking Babies
As mentioned below, to me spring is all about babies. And no, I'm not talking about human babies or those little white fuzzy lambs you always see in ads, since spring lamb can actually be up to a year old and nearly full grown. But I digress. So let me start over.
Making the soffritto.
Spring is all about sweet young things, especially in the vegetable department. Baby greens, baby carrots, baby heads of romaine, baby bok choy. Tender, sweet and oh-so-fleeting. So when I saw a bag of 20 baby artichokes for five bucks at the Lake Oswego farmers' market, I grabbed them.
Using a recipe from Mark Bittman's Minimalist column in the NYT dining section a couple of weeks ago, I made a pasta dish that, if I do say so myself, had a couple more cojones than Bittman's and was oh-so-seasonal. If you can get fresh baby artichokes, more's the better, but if you must resort to frozen, it's still going to kill at your next dinner party.
Baby Artichokes with Anchovies and Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed, then peeled
6 anchovy filets
Fresh thyme or rosemary
1/2 c. black olives, pitted (I prefer oil-cured, but kalamatas work just fine)
10 baby artichokes
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 c. parmesan or romano, grated
1 lb. pasta, whatever shape you prefer
Boil salted water for pasta (a chef friend said it should be as salty as sea water). Combine oil and garlic in a large skillet over low heat. When garlic sizzles, add herb, olives, salt and anchovies.
Meanwhile, one at a time, prepare artichokes: remove hard leaves, then cut off spiky end; trim bottoms, cut artichokes in half and add them to pan as they are ready, cut side down. Raise heat so they brown a bit; move them around as you add remaining artichokes so that they brown evenly.
When artichokes brown, add tomatoes and a splash of water. Cook until chokes are tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Add water if needed. Adjust seasoning, then pour over hot pasta and garnish with cheese, with the remainder in a bowl for sprinkling. As artichokes are cooking, cook pasta. When it is done, drain and put in serving bowl. Pour artichoke mixture over top and sprinkle with parmesan.