Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Raw Baby Artichoke Salad with Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

I am a voracious reader. And as you may have guessed, I'm kind of into food. So you can bet that I've got dozens and dozens of cookbooks in my house. And what's more, I keep a list of the dozens more I'm dying to buy but can't sacrifice the shelf space for. So I'm not really sure what kind of voodoo magic The Family Chef worked on me when it leapfrogged right over every last one of the droolworthy tomes that I've been eyeing for months and straight into my Amazon cart. I hadn't heard anything about it. The cover is, frankly, kind of blah. And an endorsement from Jennifer Aniston is more likely to get me not to buy something than the other way around.

And yet, I keep reaching for it again and again. It's packed with accessible, reliable recipes that have just enough of a twist to keep me interested. The dishes all feel healthful without tasting like health food. And the vibrant, appetizing photos feature a lot of my favorite ingredients: beluga lentils, red quinoa, beets, kale. Speaking of favorite ingredients, let's talk about baby artichokes, arugula, and truffles. As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew it was on. I made a couple of small changes, based on what I had in the house, and this one's a winner. Bonus: the leftover dressed artichokes (if you manage to save any) are just the thing to make an otherwise ordinary wrap sandwich into something pretty special.

Lemon Truffle Dressing (adapted from The Family Chef)
The original recipe calls for lemon juice only, but I spaced while shopping so I had to make do with the one lonely lemon already in my house. Luckily I happened to have a bergamot orange on hand, which is more sour than a normal orange (but sweeter than a lemon). Generally cookbooks recommend a ratio of three parts oil to one part acid, but I usually prefer a ratio of one to one, especially when the acid is mild, as in a citrus dressing.

Juice of half a lemon & juice of half a bergamot orange (should total 3 tablespoons)
1 small shallot, finely diced
½ tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
1 tablespoon truffle oil
Pinch of truffle salt
Fresh ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small container with a lid and shake well until emulsified.

Baby Artichoke Salad
1 baby artichoke per person (more if you plan on having leftovers)
Half a lemon (to keep the artichokes from browning)
A few handfuls of wild arugula, washed
2 tablespoons of raw, shelled pumpkin seeds (sometimes sold as pepitas)
Lemon-truffle dressing (recipe above)

1. To prep baby artichokes, remove the first couple of layers of tough outer leaves. Cut off the stem and the top inch or so of the artichoke. I always buy artichokes that are roughly the size of medium lemons or smaller and have never encountered choke. If your artichokes are larger than that, you may have to slice them in half and remove the choke with a paring knife.

2. Prepare a bowl of acidulated water (this is just water with the juice of half a lemon in it). Using a very sharp knife or mandoline, slice the artichokes thinly and place in the water to prevent browing.

3. Drain the sliced artichokes well and toss them with about ⅔ of the dressing.

4. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan for a couple of minutes (until light brown and crunchy).

5. Prepare a bed of arugula, scatter the artichokes on top, scatter the pumpkin seeds over this. Add more dressing if desired. In the future, I might even throw a sliced Asian pear to the mix.

Ham, Artichoke, and Avocado Wrap
The next day, the artichoke leftovers were calling me from the fridge. You know those things were pretty tasty if they distracted me from my daily fix lunch of soup noodles. I took a flour tortilla, layered some lunch meat onto it (black forest ham), sliced avocado on top of that, and then added the truffle-lemon artichokes and arugula last. When making wraps, just remember to keep the drier, flatter items on the outside, and the wetter, fluffier items on the inside. You can improve the structural integrity even further with a glue-like ingredient, such as avocado, goat cheese, or cream cheese. Hold the whole thing together with a toothpick, or by wrapping it in foil, and enjoy.

Watch me make it!

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