|young globe artichokes.|
Here's something I've never prepared before: globe artichokes. I've just always found them a little daunting in demeanour. How in the world do I make those tough-looking buds toothsome and edible? Yet, as they say, you can only conquer your doubts and fears by facing them. Moreover, Simon has always seemed keen on getting artichoke dishes whenever he sees them on a restaurant menu - I thought it would be nice to learn how to cook artichokes for him, too. So, recently, when I found some baby artichokes, I took them on. The babies, with their tender innocence, would be easier to deal with, and serve as a stepping stone, I figured.
I found a simple guide on preparing globe artichokes here, by Taste, and away I went. As my stash comprised mainly of small young artichokes only a little bigger than golf balls, they merely required some trimming of both ends and the removing of the darker, tougher outer leaves. No need to deal with the (as yet non-existent) furry chokes within. Easy! (I've since come across this guide by Saveur geared specifically at preparing baby artichokes, so have a read there too.)
|cross section of a baby artichoke and its teenage sibling, sliced in half.|
With my new-found knowledge, plus some odds and ends at Simon's place, I ended up making a sort of stewed vegetable melange, adapted from a recipe that his ex-Italian-housemate Anthony (who was previously featured here, two years ago) once taught me. Here, drenched in a rich sea of diced tomatoes and sliced onions, my darling baby artichoke halves rub shoulders with juicy chunks of zucchini and eggplant. Feel free to experiment with any vegetables you like. Mushrooms, capsicums, and potatoes would be great here as well, for example. With some types of vegetables cooking faster or slower than others, you might want to adjust the order and times if you're after a certain texture, but other than that, it's pretty straightforward.
To my delight, Simon immensely enjoyed this tangy, chunky vegetable stew, likening it to ratatouille. So I conquered the globe artichoke AND won my boyfriend's heart. Savoury, savoury victory!
stewed vegetable medley / vegetable ragout with eggplant, zucchini and artichoke
1 tablespoon butter (or vegetable oil, to make this vegan)
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups prepared assorted chopped vegetables (I used artichoke, eggplant, zucchini)
1 can peeled diced tomatoes (approximately 400g/14oz)
salt, black pepper, spices, herbs to taste*
Using a pot or pan that will accomodate all the vegetables, fry onions over medium heat with butter or oil for about 2 minutes until slightly softened and translucent, then add garlic and fry for another 30 seconds, stirring.
Add artichokes and fry for 1 minute. Add eggplant and zucchini and continue to fry for another 1 minute.
Add diced tomatoes along with all the juices in the tin. Add pinches of salt, black pepper, and other seasonings, such as spices and herbs, if desired. Stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Check and stir every now and then, adding a little water or stock if the mixture starts to dry out excessively.
Taste and season with more salt and pepper if required. Serve warm. Makes a nice side, or accompany with rice or crusty bread to make a main meal.
*Pinches of dried herbs such as oregano, marjoram, basil and thyme will work well here. If using fresh herbs, add them towards the last 5 minutes of cooking. Pinches of spices such as chilli flakes, smoked paprika, nutmeg or cinnamon will also add good flavour. The stronger or more distinctive a herb or spice is, the less you need. For my version here, only chilli was used, but I plan to flick in some mixed dried herbs, too, next time.
|stewed vegetable ragout with artichokes, eggplant and zucchini in an oniony tomato base.|