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Saturday, May 26, 2012

A fast and easy, DIY, Baby Artichoke Pasta recipe

This past week I learned how to make this easy sauteed baby artichoke pasta recipe. It's simple and definitely more delicious than pastas I've ordered in most restaurants.

For starters it was super fresh because I picked the artichokes myself while attending the Castroville Artichoke Festival field tour last weekend. I learned there are three sizes of artichokes: Primary (the big artichokes you see at the grocery store) grow at the top of a main plant stalk. Secondary (aka small) grow from the stalks coming off the main stalk. And tertiary (aka baby artichokes) grow off the stalks of the secondary artichokes.

I was able to pick a few small secondary and some of the tertiary artichokes from a field in Castroville and brought them home to have a go at cooking them. I decided to saute my artichokes and toss them with pasta so I looked up "how to sautee baby artichokes" instructions on Google.

Because it only takes about three to four minutes to saute the thin petals and slices of artichokes and about ten minutes to boil the pasta (5 minutes to bring the water to a boil and 5 minutes to boil the pasta) I put a pot of water on the stove top to heat as I peeled the chokes.

I chose using a combination of thin spaghetti, half classic white flower pasta and half whole wheat, for this dish.

I used three baby artichokes for this serving for one.

To prep the artichokes:
  1. I began by pulling off the exterior green petals by hand. With babies you want to peel them all the way down until you hit the bright yellow petals. Stop there and trim the the stalk with a knife or potato peeler to remove the green exterior of the stem.
  2. Also trim off the bottom of the stalk and top 1/2" or so of the tip.
  3. I then cut the artichoke off at the base of the petals then sliced it in half and quarters lengthwise. One had the start of a fuzzy choke so I simply removed it by pulling out the petal directly behind it and the fuzz came with it.
  4. I then sliced the tiny heart into thin pieces.
Tip: Once peeled, artichokes will brown faster than a banana so if you want to preserve their color you should drop them in lemon or vinegar water as soon as you've peeled them. I was going to cook them so quickly I skipped this step.

I sauteed my artichokes in grape seed oil.

Heat a pan to medium high heat, add the baby artichokes, and saute them for 3-4 minutes. I skipped lidding the pan and flipped and stirred them occasionally, every minute or so. They picked up a beautiful, caramelized, golden brown color as they cooked. When they were done I turned off the heat, moved the chokes to the side of the pan and waited a minute or two for the pasta to finish cooking.

After draining the pasta I put a pat of butter in the pan, let it melt then tossed the pasta in it moving the artichokes from the side of the pan, into the pasta. If I had olive oil I would have skipped the butter but I didn't have any olive oil on hand.

The final step was to sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper and truffle salt on the pasta while it was still in the pan.

It only took ten minutes to whip up this dish of artichoke pasta

It was delicious and so easy to make! This is definitely my new favorite way to enjoy artichokes. The flavor is lighter and sweeter than when I've used the jarred varieties. Instead of being strongly flavored like a pickle, they're much more subtle and nuanced.

Baby artichokes are definitely a treat when they're in season, which is right now, during the month of May. So if you see them at the store or at your local farmers market pick some up and give them a try!

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