The Chef's Take: Baby Artichoke and Scallion Saute from Deborah Madison
"As far as I'm concerned, vegetables -- plant foods in general -- are good things to eat and we should eat more of them. That's as far as we need to go," says Deborah Madison, the founding chef of Greens, the trailblazing vegetarian restaurant that opened in San Francisco back in 1979. "I am flavor-focused, not nutrition-focused."
Deborah Madison is America's premier vegetarian chef and a prolific cookbook author, with ten fruit- and vegetable-centric cookbooks under her belt. Her latest, The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, is an updated version of her bestselling, award-winning tome, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
This preparation for sauteed artichokes and scallions, taken from The New Vegetarian, pairs two spring veggies together in an unfussy, bright saute. "I like artichokes because they are truly a savory vegetable," Madison explains. "They are not at all sweet or frivolous. They are meaty, their texture is firm and they have plenty flavor." As for the so-named "baby" variety used in the dish: "They actually grow deep down on the artichoke plant and they don't get as big because they don't get much sun," she says. "The advantage, of course, is that the chokes don't form, so you don't have to wrestle the thistle."
In the relatively quick to pull together saute, the baby chokes first get blanched and then stew together until just tender in a slurry of wine, water and olive oil. Gremolata -- the classic Italian herb-and-garlic seasoning -- and fresh tarragon perfume the medley at the end. "This is a spring dish," Madison says. "I chose scallions because they are a little more spring-like than onions. And tarragon is a spring herb -- in the fall I might use rosemary," she says.
While Madison is a flavor-focused chef, she also knows a thing or two about the nutritional value of vegetables. "Artichokes have a lot of good stuff in them," she says, "potassium, fiber, a good amount of magnesium, B12 and so on and so forth. They go beautifully with olive oil, that's a beneficial oil, and they have a lot of micronutrients."
As far as serving this saute, options abound. "I’d be happy to eat this straight," she says, "or you put this over a piece of good bread, rubbed with garlic. Or you can toss this with a dark, robust whole-wheat pasta." Like most of the recipes in Madison's revised classic, this recipe is adaptable and easy to fall for. Madison herself long ago fell for its charms: "I've been making this dish for 10 years," she says.
The preparation of the baby artichokes goes easily and quickly. If they're not available, use four to six medium ones, trimmed and quartered. These artichokes are also wonderful tossed with spaghetti, stirred into risotto, or spooned over bruschetta.
Trim away the artichokes' outer dark leaves and discard. Next, with a paring knife, carefully peel back any fibrous portion of the stems. Place the whole, peeled artichokes in a bowl with lemon juice and enough ice water to cover.
Fill a pot with salted water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add the artichokes and boil until tender-firm, about 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Slice the artichokes lengthwise in halves or thirds. (This can be done ahead of time).
Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Toss the parsley, garlic and lemon zest together until a coarse mixture forms. Set mixture aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet set over high heat. Add the artichokes, cut sides down, and saute until the hearts color in places, after several minutes. Stir in the scallions and wine. Once the wine boils off, add 1 cup water and half the gremolata and tarragon. Lower the heat and simmer until the artichokes are fully tender, between 5 and 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining gremolata and herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Tip the artichokes, with their juices, onto a serving plate and serve.
Kitty Greenwald is a Brooklyn-based food writer and recipe developer. She eats a lot for work and pleasure. Her column Slow Food Fast appears in the Wall Street Journal.