We recently heard of The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, and it sounded great: you look up one of your main ingredients in the book and are provided with a variety of ingredients that will pair nicely. Doesn’t that sound perfect for people who are part of a CSA and who have a limited set of produce items each week? You could look up one, find what goes with it, and make a meal.
For the next couple of weeks we have a copy of the book, and thought that we’d put it to the test with the artichokes we picked up these week. Normally, we just steam and eat them, perhaps dipped in a bit of butter, but, with The Flavor Bible on hand, we’ll just see what we can concoct.
Looking up artichokes, we found that they pair well with garlic, lemon, and thyme (and other things, too), all of which we had available. In addition, we had leftover egg whites, so we made a quick batch of whole-wheat pasta, farfelle, to be exact, and, by adding in a bit of Parmesan cheese, we’d have dinner.
If you don’t have preserved lemon, we think ordinary lemon will work pretty well. We do not recommend skimping on the Parmesan cheese, though. Yes, we know real Parmesan — it comes in a chunk that you have to grate, not in a shaker box — is expensive, but it’s the real deal. And the best.
Procedure in detail:
Make lemon water. In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice and water. The lemon juice is here to help prevent discoloration as you prepare the artichokes, so even the bottled stuff will do.
Prep artichokes. Artichokes are intimidating at first, aren’t they? They’re spiky, and tough, and seem to be a lot of trouble. But, bear with us; we trimmed ours up, and you should learn how to do it, too. At the very least, you’ll be able to wear a T-shirt that says “artichoke master.” Or not. Trim off most the stem, leaving about 1/2 inch. Now cut off about the top half of the artichoke. These are tough pieces of leaves that you wouldn’t eat, anyway. Work around the artichoke, trimming away those tough leaves near the bottom. Almost there. Cut the artichoke into quarters, and remove the fuzzy choke part from the center. Finally, peel the stem and drop into the lemon water. You are now a certified “artichoke master,” well, without a certificate, of course.
Cook garlic. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Do not let garlic burn or it will taste bad.
Add artichokes. Remove the artichokes from the lemon water, shake off excess, and add to the skillet. Lower the heat, and cook the artichokes until tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. If the pan gets too dry, feel free to add a bit of water. You can either use some of the lemon water or tap water, or, if you’re boiling the pasta, you can add a spoonful or two of pasta water.
Boil pasta. Place a large kettle of salted water over high heat. Add enough salt so the water tastes salty, like the ocean. Once boiling rapidly, add the pasta and boil until almost done. You’ll finish it up in the skillet. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of pasta water. We dip a measuring cup into the boiling pasta right before draining.
Add lemon and thyme. Once the pasta is draining, add the preserved lemon and thyme to the artichokes and heat through.
Season. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. We’ll guess that you won’t need much salt, as those preserved lemons are salty, but pepper is always good.
Add pasta. Stir in the drained pasta and the reserved pasta water. Simmer until the pasta is done and most the liquid has evaporated or has been absorbed.
Serve. Place in warmed bowls and top with grated Parmesan cheese.
While this was a pretty good dish, it wasn’t great. Sure, the artichokes and preserved lemon went together, and the thyme fit in, too, but we were basically underwhelmed by the combination. Plus, with the added trouble of peeling the artichokes, we think that next time we’ll just steam the artichokes, and have cooked pasta (drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese) on the side. So, we’ll say three stars, although we now know how to prepare artichokes with the best of them.