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Recipes of the week: In season: A Spanish chef’s spin on spring artichokes

Spanish-born chef José Pizarro prefers to acidulate artichokes with tomatoes or wine.

Spring flowers may be in bloom, but for me, the season doesn’t truly arrive until the first harvest, said Spanish-born chef José Pizarro in Seasonal Spanish Food (Kyle Books). That’s when gardens overflow with vibrant stalks of asparagus, pods of fava beans, and, especially, artichokes. It’s a reminder, “after the pantry reliance of winter, of how food tastes when it’s in season and, better still, freshly picked.”

Below is the way I like to cook artichokes. Once prepared, they work well in everything from scrambled eggs to this artichoke and sheep cheese salad. The recipe calls for Zamorano cheese, a Spanish curd similar to better-known Manchego. But either Manchego or Parmesan will do as a substitute. 

Recipes of the weekCooked Artichokes20 medium artichokes2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil1 small onion, diced1 shallot, diced2 garlic cloves, sliced2 ripe tomatoes, chopped¾ cup dry white wine3½ cups water

For artichokes, remove tough outer leaves until you reach the pale yellow green leaves beneath. (If artichokes are very fresh, you can eat the stalk just below the flower bud.) Next, slice the tops (roughly first third), to expose tender inner leaves; cut more if you can’t see them. Halve or quarter each artichoke lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scoop the hairy center so you end up with an artichoke heart.

Once cut, if artichokes sit for long, they’ll start to discolor. Put them in a bowl of lemon juice and cold water while you prepare the rest. I use lemon juice to stop the artichokes from turning black before cooking, but I don’t like using lemon juice in the cooking water, as I think it affects the flavor of the artichokes. Instead I find other ways to acidulate, by adding tomatoes or wine.

Heat olive oil in sauté pan. Cook onion, shallot, and garlic until soft. Stir tomatoes into onion mix. Sauté gently until tomatoes are nicely collapsed—about 10 minutes. Add wine and simmer for 4 minutes to evaporate alcohol. Add water. Return to boil and add artichokes. Simmer for 4 minutes, depending on size; you want artichokes to remain crunchy. Remove and let them cool. Strain the liquid. Place artichokes back into liquid. This mixture will keep for a few days in the fridge. Serves about 16.

Artichoke and Sheep Cheese Salad8 artichokes, prepared as above and drained 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil2 tbsp Moscatel white wine vinegar2 handfuls arugula¾ cup shelled peas¼ cup pine nuts, toasted3 oz Zamorano cheese, shavedSalt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk oil and vinegar together for dressing. Mix artichokes, arugula, peas, pine nuts, and cheese in a bowl; stir in dressing; season with salt and pepper; and serve. Serves 4.

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