Artichoke Hymn to Spring
This recipe is adapted from one in Jacques Pepin’s latest cookbook, Essential Pepin. It includes a DVD with dozens of useful techniques; among them is preparing artichokes for cooking. This is a classic French treatment of spring vegetables and, as the name implies, a tribute to – the essence of – spring.
- 4 medium artichokes (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- 1 white bulbous spring onion
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground white pepper to taste
- 1 T. unsalted butter
- 1/2 lb. snow peas, or 3/4 lb. sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and strings removed
- 6 fat asparagus spears
- 1 small head Boston or Bibb lettuce
- pinch of sugar, optional
Cut the white part of the onion into 1-inch pieces (about a cup) and set aside.
Cut off the woody bottoms of the asparagus and cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c. Set aside.
Cut the lettuce into 2-inch pieces, about 2 1/2 - 3 c. Set aside.
Bring a gallon of water to a boil in a non-reactive pot, add a tablespoon of salt, and gently drop in the artichokes. If the pot has a domed lid, place it upside down on the pot to keep the artichokes submerged or use a heatproof plate. Bring the water back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until a leaf can be easily pulled from the artichokes’ base. Drain, cut side down, in a colander under cold running water.
While the artichokes simmer, put the stem pieces, onion, olive oil, salt, butter, and water in another non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside, still in the pan.
When the artichokes are cooled, squeeze them gently (still upside down) to remove excess water, then remove and reserve the leaves, exposing their hairy chokes and bottoms. Set aside six of the nicest leaves from each artichoke for garnish and, using a spoon, gently scrape the other leaves’ bottoms to remove the edible flesh; add it to the stem mixture.
Scrape the hairy chokes from artichoke bottoms and discard, then cut each bottom into 4 wedges. The recipe can be prepared several hours ahead to this point.
About 15 minutes before serving, bring the artichoke stem/onion mixture back to a boil. Add the snow or sugar snap peas and asparagus, bring back to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the lettuce and cook for an additional 2 - 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
Divide the stew among four shallow bowls or plates. Reheat the artichoke wedges gently in a microwave and place them on top of the stew. Arrange the artichoke leaves around each plate’s rim. Serve immediately.