Meet the most flavorful preparation of artichokes that I have ever tasted. Artichokes are lovingly braised in lemon and olive oil with a beautiful medley of fennel seeds, coriander seeds, lemon zest, carrots, shallots and garlic. Then the braised artichokes are seared cut-side down in a hot skillet and topped with the oh-so-delicious braising liquid. The distinctive flavor of the tender artichokes is enhanced by the exciting, complex spices and bright lemon zest.
As with most artichoke preparations, peeling back the tough layers to reach the delicious prize waiting underneath takes some time (thank goodness for my amazing sous-chef!). But if you are anything like me, I trust that you will find that this particular dish is absolutely worth the extra effort. You just might even lick your plate clean (not that I would ever do such a thing) or at the very least, sop up the extra braising liquid with some crusty bread.
The braised artichokes are wonderful as a side, pureed into a tasty topping for cracker-thin flatbread, or as an accompaniment to eggs for breakfast (but only if you are Turkish).
As I was preparing the artichokes, it occurred to me how incredibly lucky I am to live in California even though I never saw myself living on the West coast. Artichokes in California are about as wonderful as they get. I've never laid eyes on such beautiful globes anywhere else in the country! Then again I could say the same for most produce out here; that reminds me, have you tasted the local heirloom tomatoes? WOW. It's almost as if I were destined to be in food and wine heaven.
Artichokes braised in lemon and olive oil (Adapted from Gourmet, November 2008)
1 lemon, halved
8 medium artichokes
3 small shallots, sliced into thin rings
2 small carrots, thinly sliced in rounds
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups water
3 strips lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
Trim artichokes into hearts:
Add lemon halves to a large bowl of cold water, squeezing to release juice.
Cut off top inch of 1 artichoke and bend back outer leaves until they snap off close to base (keep stem attached). Discard several more layers in same manner until you reach pale yellow leaves.
Cut remaining leaves flush with top of artichoke bottom using a sharp knife. Trim dark green fibrous parts from base and sides of artichoke.
Peel sides of stem down to pale inner core. Put in lemon water while preparing remaining artichokes.
Cook shallots, carrot, garlic, and seeds in 1/4 cup oil in a 4-to 5-quart heavy pot (pot should be wide enough to hold artichokes in 1 layer with stems pointing upward) over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add water, zest, and 3 tablespoons lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Stand artichokes in pot and season with salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover pot with wax paper, then a lid, and simmer over medium-low heat until artichoke bases are just tender when pierced with a knife, 20 to 30 minutes.
Transfer artichokes to a dish and reserve cooking liquid. When artichokes are cool enough to handle, halve lengthwise. Scoop out and discard inner choke (fuzzy center and any sharp leaves).
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then brown cut sides of artichokes in 2 batches, about 2 minutes per batch, transferring to a serving dish. Add reserved cooking liquid to skillet along with remaining tablespoon lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Boil vigorously 3 minutes and pour over artichokes. Serve warm or at room temperature.