Monday, 16 January 2012

Oh Baby!

Carciofini e Fagioli Bianchi con Dragoncello, Menta e Limone
Baby Artichokes & White Beans with Tarragon, Mint and Lemon

Of course, I had to have them... it was a case of love at first sight and how could I resist? The last straw was when Nina, the Sicilian lady that I always buy my vegetables from at the market hall, told me that they came from the old country... I just took a handful or two and that was that! My first dish of the week was already, quite literally, in the bag...

The other things that ended up in the bag were a can of those giant white beans (sometimes known as "gigantes") and some fresh mint and tarragon. You are probably familiar with the beans from meals at Greek restaurants- I have no idea what their actual name is- but they do make for some great eating! I have also not seen them either fresh or dry. Now there's a mystery for you... where do they actually come from?! Well, I can't tell you that- but what I can tell you is that half a canful of them went into tonight's supper and the other half will be used tomorrow!

So- back to the dish at hand. I started off by topping and tailing the artichokes, making sure to cut away enough of the woody ends of the leaves and also removing the tougher outer leaves. I then halved them and checked them to see if there was any "choke" that needed to remove, but there wasn't- there usually isn't when they are this small and tender. I immediately squeezed some lemon juice over the cut surfaces to stop them from going brown and then steamed them for a good 10 minutes. Easy!

Next step was to drain them- but not too thoroughly, as those juices are tasty and will keep the artichokes moist and tender and transfer them to a frying pan. Now add a little finely chopped garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and the beans. Crank up the heat and give them a good sizzle together! Whilst they are sizzling away, finely chop a good handful of fresh mint and add it, together with salt, pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Once the artichokes and beans begin to brown slightly, add a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan and a half a cup of water to create a little blast of steam and a little "broth" to keep everything nice and juicy. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, sprinkle with some chili flakes, or simply pepper if you prefer and add the tarragon right at the last minute. The heat would diminish the mild flavor too much if it were to be added earlier. A last squeeze of lemon juice and presto! A wonderful side-dish is served- and I hope you love it as much as I did!

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