Ah, Artichokes

Artichokes

I am back home in Tunis.  What makes a place a home is interesting to assess.  This is my home because I am invested in my choice to live here.  I feel productive and creative when I’m here.  It is where the rest of my wardrobe and the baby pictures of my sons reside.  It’s not my home because I work here.  Making a home here is a decision I made and  I am fortunate enough to have two true homes, each one fulfilling a different side of myself.

It is interesting coming back to a place that has been essentially created in my image after an extended time away.  I notice this same thing every time I come back to Lummi.  It is evident that the inhabitants haven’t completely adhered to the design concept, in my absence.  Groupings that were excruciatingly evolved have been pushed to the walls, separated from their counterpart furnishings that give them context and charm.  The second I enter the house, I start pulling things a little forward, more toward another item.  It’s a thing that all home designers do that is hard to explain.  It is creating a balance between objects and white space that makes the whole feel calm and animated at the same time.

I am deep in the world of Paul Bowles at the moment reading The Sheltering Sky, a classic book a friend sent me to read in my recovery.  I marked a small quote in the context of travelling, “It takes energy to invest life with meaning…, ” and I think that this is so true about all of life.  One has to really notice, and try to understand, and create something intentional… or not.  Sometimes we just don’t have the energy.  But I have been noodging things for a few days, and the house is starting to feel right again.

While I was away, in “the land of everything”, I absolutely eschewed 4 foods:  oranges, strawberries, fennel, and artichokes.   I knew that when I landed back in Tunis, it would be high season for these treasures, and I didn’t want to dull my palate for them.  I am ready now to roll up my sleeves and make the most of our winter produce season, which, surprisingly,  is the most vibrant  of the year.

It is time to restock the larder.  This could mean just putting away the suitcases full of hoarded food items we brought back with us, an expat holdover practice we can surely start to take a look at since we can get so much of what we need and even want here.  We can get prewashed radicchio now, for heaven’s sake.  But what I’m talking about is the cooking bases that will give our meals depth of flavor on demand.  I am beginning first with some marinated artichokes.   Gabe did a nice job last fall of stocking his larder on Lummi with home-canned jars of salsa, pickled jalapenos, onions, and pickles.  When we were with him, we chomped our way through his stores, like vinegar-crazed termites.  Our favorite was his pickled jalapenos which we used liberally on scrambled eggs to nachos.  While I will be able to get all of the fresh artichokes I want in the coming weeks, and cheaply, I want to have some on hand that have that acidic base to brighten dishes in a different way.  Saveur magazine has the basic recipe.  Rather than process these in sealed jars, I’m going to try to keep them on hand in the refrigerator, refreshing the batch as needed. They will keep well for weeks, if continually covered with oil.

Marinated Artichokes

Marinated Artichoke Hearts

Adapted from Saveur magazine, February 2009

Multiply recipe as needed.

9-oz. artichoke hearts (Here is a great step-by-step for trimming a raw artichoke to get to the heart.)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1. Rinse artichoke hearts under cold water. Combine artichokes, oil, salt, thyme, oregano, and chile flakes in a 1-qt. saucepan set over medium-low heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, 10 minutes.

2. Let cool to room temperature and stir in lemon juice. Serve or refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week.

 

And since I have suitcase-delivered, extra-sharp cheddar cheese and Tobasco sauce,  at the moment, I used my first batch in this recipe from Sunset magazine, part of their “25 All-Time Favorite Test Kitchen Recipes”.  As with all food, you can substitute a processed product, but when you make it yourself, it will have layers of flavor you couldn’t achieve otherwise.

Artichoke Nibbles

From Sunset magazine, January 2014

Makes 40

  • 2 jars (6 oz. each) marinated artichoke hearts*
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup fine dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp.  each pepper and dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp.  hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 2 cups (8 oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp.  minced parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put a 10-in. cast-iron skillet into oven to heat.
  2. Drain marinade from 1 jar of artichokes into a frying pan.  Drain remaining artichokes;  reserve marinade for other uses.  Chop all artichokes.
  3. Heat marinade in frying pan over medium eat.  Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until onion  is soft, about 5 minutes.
  4. Whisk eggs in a bowl to blend.  Stir in bread crumbs, pepper, oregano, and hot sauce.  Stir in cheese, parsley, artichokes, and onion mixture.
  5. Remove skillet from oven.  Protecting your hands, wipe it quickly with an oiled paper towel.  Pour in custard and bake, uncovered, until custard feels set when lightly touched, about 30 minutes.  Let sit at least 15 minutes before cutting into 1-in. squares.

*Either make your own marinated artichokes or buy artichokes in a oily marinade, such as Cara Mia brand.

MAKE AHEAD up to 1 day, chilled.  Reheat, uncovered, 12 minutes at 325 degrees.

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