Spring is definitely here and it feels great. I'm welcoming new spring vegetables into my kitchen while still trying to savor the end-of-season citrus that I love so much. I'm ready to grill some fava beans and I've been eating pea shoots straight out of the fridge while I figure out what to make for dinner.
The funny thing about living in San Francisco is that the changing seasons are indicated more strongly by the changing fruits and vegetables at the market than they are by the changing weather. Although I will say, we just had an 80 degree day in the city over the weekend and it was fabulous. I actually got to wear shorts, which I was supremely happy about until I realized how much my legs are lacking in the tan department these days. Being from Texas, I still haven't gotten used to this year-round pants thing.
The artichokes at the market looked beautiful. Baby artichokes, unlike the larger globe artichokes, have no hairy choke in the center are pretty much entirely edible. You just gotta pull off some of the tough outer leaves, trim the top third off, and then do whatever you want with them (steam, sauté, boil, roast, or enjoy them raw). We roasted ours with olive oil, Meyer lemon, and thyme, and then tossed them with some homemade linguine - they turned out wonderfully.
If you don't have a pasta machine or just don't feel like making pasta from scratch, just use a pound of whatever dried pasta you like. The sauce here is a variation on one of our usual pasta sauces (roasted grape or cherry tomatoes, onions, and dry vermouth) and comes together pretty quickly. We added some wild arugula for some freshness and the peppery greens went perfectly with the lemony artichokes.
Of course, the roasted baby artichokes are delicious on their own and I fully support just sitting down with a big plate of these little guys and getting your hands dirty.
LINGUINE WITH ROASTED BABY ARTICHOKES, LEMON, AND THYME (pasta dough recipe adapted slightly from Mario Batali's Basic Pasta Dough)
For the pasta:
- 3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk (room temp. eggs are preferable)
- ½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
For everything else:
- 10-12 baby artichokes
- juice from 5-6 small Meyer lemons or 3 large regular lemons
- 1 heaping handful fresh thyme
- 2 cups arugula
- 1 28 oz. can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 pints grape tomatoes
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 cup dry vermouth
- 5-6 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon chile powder
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup parmesan plus extra for serving
- olive oil
- fine sea salt and pepper
First, get the pasta started. Mound 3 1/2 cups of the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs and olive oil. Using a fork, beat together the eggs and oil and begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well. As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up from the base of the mound to retain the well shape.
The dough will come together when half of the flour is incorporated. At this point, start kneading the dough with both hands, using the palms of your hands.
Once there is a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up and discard any leftover bits. Lightly reflour the board and continue kneading for 6 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky.
Wrap the dough in plastic and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Roll the dough out and shape as desired. We used our pasta machine to cut the dough into linguine.
When you are ready to eat (i.e., when your sauce is ready), place the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water, and cook until al dente. Fresh pasta is usually done when the water returns to a boil. Drain the pasta but make sure to reserve at least 2-3 cups of the pasta water for the sauce.
While the pasta dough is resting, prepare the artichokes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Peel the tough outer leaves off from the artichoke and trim the stems. Using a paring knife or vegetable peeler, remove the tough outer layer from the stem. Cut off the top third of the artichoke, and then cut the artichoke in half. Place the two halves in a bowl of ice water with lemon juice to keep the artichokes from turning brown while you prepare the rest.
When the artichokes are ready, take them out of the lemon water bath, dry them with a kitchen towel, and place them on the foiled baking sheet. Squirt the juice of about three small lemons over the artichokes, and then drizzle enough olive oil to coat. Season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper, and then scatter about a third of the fresh thyme sprigs over the artichokes. Bake in the 400 degree oven until tender (cooking times will vary – ours took about 30 minutes). When done, take out the oven and let cool for a few minutes. When cool enough to handle, slice the artichokes into wedges.
While the artichokes are roasting, place the grape tomatoes in a baking or casserole dish and coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add 3 smashed garlic cloves and a few thyme sprigs. Roast in the oven with the artichokes for about 20-30 minutes. When done, remove them from the oven and set aside.
Heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium until hot. When hot, add the diced onion, along with salt, pepper, dried oregano, and chile powder. Sauté until onions are translucent. Add 2-3 minced garlic cloves and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the dry vermouth. Let that sizzle for about 5 minutes, and then add the canned tomatoes and roasted grape tomatoes to the pot, breaking up the whole tomatoes a bit with a wooden spoon. Add the juice from two small lemons along with the shredded parmesan and another third of the fresh thyme, stirring everything to combine.
Just before the pasta noodles are ready, stir the arugula into the tomato sauce. Then add the pasta noodles along with 1 cup of reserved pasta water. Stir everything to really coat the noodles with sauce – I usually spend a solid three minutes just getting the noodles and sauce to make proper friends. If needed, add more pasta water until you get the right sauce consistency. Pasta water is your friend.
Add about ½ of the artichokes to the pasta and gently toss until incorporated. Taste for seasonings.
Serve the pasta in large shallow bowls or plates. Place a few artichoke wedges on top of each pasta plate. Top with freshly grated parmesan, lemon zest, and the rest of the fresh thyme. As usual, this dish is best served with a loaf of good crusty bread.