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Artichoke Conserve with Fresh Peas

Yield: 8 side dish servings

  • 1 medium leek
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 small head fennel
  • 2 medium-large or 4 small artichokes
  • 1-2 lemons
  • 3 peeled cloves garlic
  • 1 sprig thyme (lemon thyme is nice if available)
  • optional: a good pinch of chili flakes
  • extra-virgin olive oil (1/2 cup or maybe more!)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh peas (from a pound of English peas in the pod)

Clean and slice the leek, by splitting it lengthwise, cleaning all the sand and grit from the leaves, removing the dark green parts, and thinly slicing the leek. Place in a non-reactive pan large enough to hold the vegetables. Clean, trim and thinly slice the celery and add to the pan. Trim the fennel, slice it, and add to the pan.

Put the juice of ½ of the lemon in a bowl of water, and reserve the rest. “Turn” the artichokes: snap or pare off all the dark green leaves, and the dark green outer part of the stem, leaving only pale green behind. If you have “baby” artichokes, you can just slice them, if bigger, you need to cut in half and scoop the choke from the hearts. Once this is done, slice thinly. Add to the acidulated water. Once all the artichokes are prepared, drain them and add to the pan. Settle the mixture in the pan, so that it is fairly compact, add the peeled garlic cloves, sprig of thyme, juice of the second lemon half, the chili if using, and a good sprinkling of salt; add enough extra-virgin olive oil to moisten everything very well, at least 1/2 cup. Set on the stove at medium heat and cover the vegetables within the pot to weight them down (use a smaller lid), and when it starts bubbling, turn the flame down to low and let stew until the vegetables are tender; watch and make sure that the bottom doesn’t catch, stirring them around occasionally. When the vegetables are soft, they are done. May be cooled then used right away, or kept, covered in the refrigerator for a few days.

While the artichokes and leeks are cooking, shell the peas. When the vegetables are done, add the peas, and turn off the flame; they will cook perfectly without any further heat. Adjust for more lemon and salt as you like..

Artichoke Conserve with Scallop Crudo and Mint

  • ½ lb. sashimi-grade scallops
  • 1 Tbs. capers
  • Maldon or other esoteric salt
  • Fresh spearmint, leaves cut in chiffonade

Remove the foot from each scallop (some may have none) and slice into rounds. Mix the capers into the cooled artichoke conserve. Make a small mound of the artichoke on each plate, top with some slices of scallop, and finish with a small bit of the Maldon salt and a sprinkling of mint. Serve as a first course.