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Artichoke Ragout with Garlic, Saffron and Orange Zest

Artichokes absorb flavor from marinades and sauces especially well. In this recipe, the vegetable cooks in a broth of fragrant saffron, sweet orange juice and tart white wine. When the cooking liquid is reduced to a glaze to top the cooked artichoke wedges, the exotic nuances of the saffron shine through.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lemon
  • 6 globe artichokes
  • 1 orange
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 to 8 saffron threads

Directions:

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Halve the lemon, squeeze the juice into the water and drop in the lemon halves. Pull off and discard the tough outer leaves from each artichoke. Using a sharp knife, cut off the top of the artichoke about 1 inch above the base, or heart. Using a paring knife, trim off the dark green flesh from the base and stem of the artichoke. Cut the artichoke in half and scoop out the fuzzy chokes with a sturdy spoon. Cut the halves into 1-inch wedges and place in the bowl of lemon water.

Finely grate the zest from the orange and then squeeze the juice to measure about 1/2 cup. Set the zest and juice aside.

In a sauté pan over medium-low heat, warm the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute longer. Drain the artichokes and add them to the pan along with the orange juice, wine and water. Crumble the saffron threads and sprinkle them into the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Add a generous pinch each of salt and pepper, cover the pan and simmer until the artichokes are just tender when pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes.

Uncover the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and simmer vigorously until the liquid reduces to a glaze, 6 to 7 minutes. Add half of the reserved orange zest and stir to mix. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Transfer the artichokes to a warmed serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining orange zest. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Vegetables, by Jodi Liano (Oxmoor House, 2008).