The Heart of New England
Spring Artichoke Pasta
By Charlie Burke

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Artichokes are versatile and flavorful, they are great sautéed and served with
grilled meat or fish; at room temperature sautéed artichokes can be added to
salads or served as a snack or appetizer.

If choosing large artichokes, look for tight, unopened leaves which should be
bright green without darkened areas, and each should feel quite heavy. Small
artichokes can be prepared the same as the larger, and the smallest require
minimal trimming. The center of all except the smallest is inedible and must be
removed. The trimming described below is different from what is seen in books
or demonstrated by chefs, but I find that with a little practice it is quick and easy.

Four servings:

Three large or 8 – 12 smaller artichokes, trimmed and sliced
4 – 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the table
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup dry white wine
1 – 1 ½ cups rich chicken or vegetable stock
(good quality bouillon cubes work well)
½ cup chopped parsley
Generous pinch dried oregano or marjoram
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (be conservative with salt – the
broth and cheese are both salty)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese, plus extra for the table
1 pound pasta, such as orchietti or rotini

Prepare artichokes by placing each on its side. Using a sharp chef’s knife or a
serrated blade, slice the top 1/3 off each and discard.  Remove stems. (Stems can
be used if bottom ½ inch is trimmed and the skin is removed. Small stems can be
cooked whole; larger should be sliced into ½ inch pieces.)

Stand trimmed artichokes on cut end, and using a forward slicing motion slice
down and around the “shoulder” of the artichoke to remove tough dark leaves.
Continue until you see pale yellow – green leaves. Turn the artichoke, repeating
this slicing motion until all dark leaves are removed. Trim any remaining dark
areas on stem end. Slice artichoke lengthwise and remove the hairy “choke” in
the center using a grapefruit spoon. Turn artichoke half onto flat side and cut
into ¼ inch slices. Place slices into a bowl of cold water with 1 tablespoon of
lemon juice.

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 3 tablespoons salt; cover
and lower heat to a simmer until ready to cook pasta.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat, add olive oil and, when oil is hot, add
drained artichoke slices and stems. Cook over high heat until some slices begin
to brown; add remaining lemon juice, pepper flakes, oregano and garlic,
continuing to stir. When medium brown fond forms on the bottom of the pan,
add white wine and boil, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spatula or spoon.
When wine is nearly evaporated, add chicken stock and most of parsley,
reserving some for garnish. Boil until sauce is reduced and thickened slightly;
artichokes should be somewhat tender but not soft - “al dente”, like pasta.
Remove pan from heat.

Return pasta water to a rolling boil and cook pasta for 6 -7 minutes. Reserve ¾
cup of pasta water. When pasta is nearly done (fewer minute than instructions on
package), return sauté pan to high heat, drain pasta and put into sauté pan. Mix
pasta and sauce and cook another minute or two until pasta is just cooked.
Remove from heat, add cheese, mixing well, add pasta water a little at a time is
sauce is thick. Most of sauce will be absorbed by pasta; it should not pool in the
pan or dish. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in warmed bowls, garnished with parsley and a little olive oil. It probably
doesn’t need more cheese, but have extra on the table.

This dish was put together on the spur of the moment with simple ingredients;
browned pancetta or bacon would be a good way to start the recipe before
adding artichokes to the pan. This technique of trimming and slicing artichokes
is quite easy and makes this unusual vegetable (actually the flower blossom of
the plant) accessible for preparation like any sliced vegetable.

About the author: Charlie Burke, an organic farmer and avid cook, is the vice president
of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm to
Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along with
his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill
Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
Spring Artichoke Pasta
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