This is a perfect starter to have with wine. My wife bought a dozen baby artichokes. I proposed baby artichokes fried in olive oil as per Italian Jewish style but she wanted to steam them and eat the best part, the hearts. Since we had also just bought several different kinds of olives, we ended up making this impromptu Mediterranean-style salad.
Baby artichokes: My wife prepared the baby artichokes and I assembled them into a salad. She put water in the bottom of a large Dutch oven with olive oil, onion, lemon slices, black pepper corns and bay leaves. She then placed a steamer basket over the water. The baby artichokes were prepared by first cutting of the discolored stem end, and top of the petal. She also peeled the skin off the stem. Then, the artichokes were placed petal side down in the steamer basket and steamed for about 20 minutes or until the hearts could be pierced easily. After they cooled down enough to be safely handled, she removed the outer tough petals. She cut the larger ones in half to make sure the “chokes” were not developed and still tender. If there was a choke, she removed it. I quickly tossed the prepared artichoke hearts in olive oil and lemon juice while they were still warm.
: We had several kinds of olives including green ones in a spicy marinade, oil cured black etc. I just cut up these olives (pitted as needed). I also got a yellow streaked heirloom tomato
(I do not know the varietal but it was called “locally grown”. It must have been grown in a hot house. It was not as good as I expected). I skinned and diced it. I also used a 1/3 block of feta cheese, crumbled. I also added thinly sliced red onion.
Assembly: I mixed all the ingredients, splashed them with a good fruity olive oil, Champagne vinegar (very mild tasting), black pepper, salt, chopped parsley, and Tabasco. I added these in stages as I tasted the salad.
I served this as a sort of antipasto
with slices of three different kinds of cheese (Havarti with dill, aged cheddar, and smoked Gouda) and fig preserve. The gentle nutty sweetness of the fig preserve was a perfect accompaniment for the cheeses. The baby artichoke salad was served on a bed of baby greens. Since we had a really good crusty Ciabatta bread, I added a slice, toasted, with drizzles of olive oil.
We had this sitting outside on our deck. The wine we had was Bodegas Resalte de Penafiel, Ribera del Duero, Crianza 2005
. This region of Spain produces lots of good value wines which we like. This one is made of 100% Tempranillo and aged 18 months in 90% French Oak and 10% American Oak. Wine Spectator chose this wine as #26 of Top 100 for 2010 and gave 94 points. I am not sure I would go that high (may be 91-2) but it is a very good wine nonetheless. With this starter dish, sitting on the deck outside in perfect weather, we could not complain. Besides, there was the added gift of no mosquitoes (yet!). The acidity of the Champagne vinegar was mild enough not to compete with the red wine we were having and the taste of artichokes and salty bursts of olive were perfectly wonderful.