The artichoke is perhaps Spain’s best-loved vegetable. When the first spiky globes appear in the markets, in February or March, Spanish cooks buy them by the bagful to prepare in a dozen ways, from fried to chargrilled and even raw. This simple stew is yet another way to use artichokes when they are overflowing the stalls at the farmers’ market. Use the small, tight, pale green ones if you can find them.
Artichokes with Almond Sauce
- Dash of vinegar
- 5 lb. (2.5 kg) small artichokes
- 5 Tbs. (80 ml) olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 4 oz. (125 g) serrano ham, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
- 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) chicken or vegetable broth
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 slice country bread, crust removed, plus more for serving
- 6 Tbs. (2 oz./60 g) raw blanched almonds, ground
1. Fill a large bowl with cold water and add a dash of vinegar.
2. To prepare the artichokes, trim the stem, leaving about 2 inches (5 cm) attached to the base. Slice off the top third of the artichoke, and tear off the tough outer leaves. Halve each artichoke lengthwise and, with a small sharp knife, remove the fuzzy choke. Drop each artichoke into the bowl of water as you finish trimming it (the vinegar will prevent the cut surfaces from discoloring).
3. In a heavy casserole dish with a lid over medium-high heat, warm 3 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the onion and ham and sauté until the onion is just beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute more.
4. Drain the artichokes and add to the pot, stirring to combine with the onion mixture. Pour in the lemon juice and wine, bring back to a boil and simmer until the alcohol has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the stock, stir well and season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to very low and simmer gently until the artichokes are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
5. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil. Add the bread slice and fry until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a mortar and pestle, add the almonds and mash together to form a uniform paste. Stir the bread mixture into the artichokes and simmer gently until the sauce has thickened slightly, 5 to 10 minutes.
6. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly before serving with plenty of bread to mop up the juices. Serves 4.
Find more than 100 recipes for the simple, unassuming, and satisfying food of the Spanish countryside in Rustic Spanish by Paul Richardson.
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