Monday, 17 March 2014

Perfumed Flowers

Carciofi & Ceci Aromatiche
Aromatic Artichoke & Chickpeas

I have to admit, I am not "big on flowers"- unless they happen to be edible ones ;-) Don't hate me for that! And I am not talking about pretty little colorful blossoms- no, no- I am much too much of a primitive for any of that kind of stuff! I would much prefer something like a cauliflower- haha! And indeed I have a pretty eye-opening cauliflower recipe in store for you tomorrow evening... but my favorite edible blossoms, hands-down, are artichokes- which is hardly surprising for a Sicilian!

As usual, I felt like trying out something a little out of the ordinary this evening and although I was really tempted to make yet another stuffed artichoke with this beautiful "Romana", I opted to do something different for a change...

The ingredients I chose to use this evening were mostly the usual, Sicilian ones, being lemon and mint, but I decided to add some ginger to compliment and enhance the citrus. I also added some sun-dried tomato for a little extra "zing!", rosemary, marjoram and parsley for some great aroma and chick-peas to turn what would otherwise have simply been an awesome appetizer into a full meal. And a rather wonderful one at that!

The preparation was the same as ever... first pluck away the outer leaves of the artichoke, then trim off almost half of the top part of the artichoke, immediately drizzling the cut surface with lemon juice to prevent it from turning yellow. Next, carefully peel away the rough, outer skin of the stem and also drizzle with lemon juice. 

This time I cut the artichoke in half, carefully cut away the fine "choke" at the center with a paring knife, then carefully halved the halves and the resulting quarters, until I ended up with 8 equal pieces in all. Whatever you do- don't simply chop the stalks off as they become lovely and tender and it would be a real shame!

I popped the artichoke 8ths into a frying pan with a lid, and added enough boiling water to cover them more than half-way up. I then added about 2" of ginger, finely chopped, 2 sprigs of rosemary, salt, pepper and a couple of slices of lemon. I reduced the heat to a gentle simmer and let them steam away with the lid on for 25 minutes or so, turning them over carefully with tongs every now and then. 

In the meantime I opened my can of chickpeas and drained them, finely sliced the Spring onion and the sun dried tomatoes- 5 in this case and finely chopped a little parsley and mint. All of these things would be going into the pan as soon as the artichokes were ready. The finishing touch would be the marjoram to scatter on top- so I plucked the leaves from 2 sprigs and set them aside for later too.

After 25 minutes, the water had mostly evaporated and the artichokes were nice and tender. I set them to one side in a small saucepan on a low heat and then added all of the other ingredients into the frying pan, into the last remaining inch or so of the broth that the artichoke had boiled in- all good flavor that we wouldn't want to go to waste!

I let the chickpeas, onion, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs boil and cook together, seasoning with salt and pepper and stirring continually for 5 minutes or so, until the chickpeas were up to temperature and the onion and tomatoes were soft and delicious.

I added a nice drizzle of olive oil and a good sprinkle of pepper, then spooned the chickpeas out onto a serving platter. I arranged the still hot artichoke segments decoratively on top, but first gave them a gentle squeeze as they do tend to soak up quite a little water during boiling and steaming. 

Before serving, I scattered the fresh marjoram on top, added a little more olive oil to the artichokes, added a few lemon slices for a little extra juice and sprinkled some freshly, coarsely ground black pepper on top as the finishing touch... ta-dah!

Now THAT is one nice dish of Mediterranean food my dear friends! Cooked and served my way... more out of intuition than tradition- but no less delicious... even if I do say so myself! And I do! Haha! Hope you try this out and enjoy it as much as I did! Buon Appetito!

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