True confession: Artichokes scare me a little bit. I didn’t grow up eating them (or cooking them, for that matter), and they’re so big…and beautiful…and intimidating. Of course I love looking at them in the farmers’ market. And if someone else wants to prepare them, I’m happy to eat them – I think they’re delicious. But for the most part there’s not any artichoke-ing (is that a word?) going on in my kitchen.
This spring, I’ve decided to confront my fears. I’ve got lots of Italian blood, and the Italians love artichokes – why shouldn’t I honor that heritage? Plus, my good friends at Frieda’s have introduced me to the perfect way to take baby steps toward cooking artichokes – baby artichokes!
These cute little chokes are easy to prepare because you can eat the whole thing, like a flower bud. They’re a beautiful deep purple color and about the size of an egg. You don’t have to do any of that taking-out-the-choke stuff, because there is no choke. Plus, given their small size and pretty color, they’re a little more approachable and kid-friendly too. You can sell them to your kids as “little flowers” (and you can smile to yourself knowing that they’re a great source of fiber).
To prepare the baby artichokes, I trimmed off the stems and outer leaves and then cut them in half. Then I followed Frieda’s recipe for Roasted Baby Artichokes. Note: I trimmed off a lot of the outer leaves, probably about 4 layers’ worth, so that all that was left was the very soft inner leaves.
Next I used the artichokes to make a totally not-scary artichoke pasta dish that everyone in the house could love:
“Little Flower” Artichoke Pasta
1 pound flower-shaped (or other pretty shape) pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 cup grilled chicken, chopped
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 pound baby artichokes, halved, trimmed, and roasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional grated cheese to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the chicken, olives, and artichokes, and salt, and cook until heated through. Drain the cooked pasta and combine with artichoke mixture and grated cheese in a large serving bowl. Serve with additional cheese for topping. Serves 6.
Want to try some baby artichokes? If you live in the Southern California area, you’re in luck. From April 25 through May 6, Frieda’s is sponsoring an artichoke festival along with Maria’s Italian Kitchen restaurant and Ralph’s grocery stores. Throughout the festival, the stores and restaurants will be featuring three varieties of artichokes grown by Steve Jordan, the “artichoke evangelist” of Baroda Farms in Lompoc, CA. There are the baby artichokes we tried (Fiesole), as well as the full-sized Sangria and Fiore Viola artichokes. If you’ve never tried cooking with artichokes before, now’s your chance!