This article was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, July 20, 2006.

Artichokes Baby artichokes

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

6 small artichokes
1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon (5g) salt
6 small red or white new potatoes
1/2 cup (120g) chopped onion
1 or 2 large cloves garlic
3 fresh plum tomatoes
4 ounces (120g) farfalle (butterfly pasta)
2 tablespoons (30g) olive oil
Black pepper
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
12 leaves fresh basil


1. Prepare the artichokes. For a useful how-to guide, see the procedure and photos featured in steps 14 through 18 ("[Completely Edible] Baby Artichokes") on the California Artichoke Advisory Board's Website at Snap off all the outer petals at the base until you get down to the tender yellowish leaves inside; then cut off and discard the tough green top and the stem. Cut the remaining heart vertically into quarters, scraping off any fuzzy "choke" in the center (in baby artichokes, there shouldn't be much, if any). Put the cut pieces into a saucepan half-filled with cool water "acidulated" with the juice of 1/2 lemon so they won't discolor.

2. Slice the potatoes fairly thin, about 1/4 inch or 0.6cm (there's no need to peel them) and place them in the same water with the artichokes.

3. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the water in the pan with the artichokes and potatoes. Bring the vegetables to a boil, then reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer for 10 minutes or less, checking frequently; when the potatoes and artichoke hearts are just crisp-tender, drain and "shock" them with cold water so they won't cook further.

4. While the vegetables are simmering, chop the onion coarsely and mince the garlic fine. Peel and seed the plum tomatoes and cut them into chunks. Slice the basil leaves into a fine chiffonade and set aside.

5. Start the pasta cooking in boiling salted water. While it boils, sautee the chopped onions and garlic in the olive oil until they're translucent. Add the cooked artichokes and potatoes and stir gently, to avoid breaking up the vegetables, until they just start to brown. Put in the tomatoes and, if necessary, just enough water to keep things from sticking. Season with salt and pepper to taste and keep warm over low heat. When the pasta is finished, drain it and mix it in with the vegetables. Serve in warm bowls, topped with grated Pecorino Romano and the basil chiffonade.

I don't see the artichokes marrying well with a red, but this should work well with a fuller-bodied white from Southern Italy or the Rhone; it was brilliant with a Northern Italian bubbly, the Bortolotti Valdobbiadene Prosecco featured in the July 17 30 Second Wine Advisor.