Our workshop in Italy was two weeks ago, and I am still dreaming about the gorgeous, white-washed farmhouse where we hosted everyone, as well as ALLLL of the artichokes, pasta, and (amazing) olive oil I devoured. Having participated in a few workshops before, the one thing I knew for sure going into this one was that the students who would be arriving would (at the very least) share commonalities in food, photography, and travel. I love meeting new people, and I found that these workshop were one of the best ways to form bonds with different types of people who have similar interests.
When our group gathered for the first time over aperol spritzes and tomato toasts, I had a chance to meet and chat with everyone, and the thing I was most excited about with our group was the diversity and the distances everyone traveled to get to Puglia. We had one student who came all the way from New Zeland, a few from Europe, one Canadian (minus our other two teachers), and a several others from all over the US. This made me so happy, and also made me appreciate the power that the internet and social media has to connect us with people from all over the world. Without this technology that makes our world so flat, these experiences and this group of people would not come together so easily.
Being around people who were so eager to learn, and eager to start careers (or just a passionate hobby) in food and/or photography sent a little jolt through me. It inspired me and re-invigorated me to keep learning and keep on creating. I've been replaying my favorite memories from our workshop in my mind so I can hold on to these feeling for as long as possible.
I also keep replaying how delicious the food was. I am sure you do that too after you've had a few days of good eating. Anyone who knows me knows that artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables, and luckily it was artichoke season while we were in Italy. We had artichokes a few times, but I feel like I was just getting warmed up, so the first thing I was craving when I got home were some warm, crispy, baby artichokes.
Artichokes are labor intensive, but if you love artichokes as much as I do you will find it is a labor of love. If artichokes weren't so time consuming to prepare, I would probably eat them every day, all spring long ...... but maybe the fact that they take a little more effort is what makes them so special, and such a treat. If you search artichoke on my blog, you will see that I am always trying to come up with new, creative ways to prepare them, but it's hard to deny that one of the best ways to enjoy these guys is simply with lemon, garlic, olive oil, and salt. To play off of that classic preparation, I burnt some meyer lemons to bring out their sweetness, and made them into a vinaigrette to drizzle over this warm, springy salad. A simple, delicious way to get an artichoke fix.
baby artichoke salad with white beans + asparagus + pea shoots + burnt meyer lemon vinaigrette
for the vinaigrette:
1 large meyer lemon (or regular lemon), slice into 1/2" thick rounds
1 tablespoon of fresh oregano
1 small garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
pepper to taste
(approx) 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
for the salad:
1 dozen baby artichokes
1/2 a lemon
a couple of tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of water
1 cup of cooked (or canned) white beans (rinsed, if canned)
1 dozen asparagus, trimmed and sliced in half
a generous handful of pea shoots
salt + pepper
Make the vinaigrette:
- Pre-heat the broiler.
- Place the sliced lemons onto a baking sheet and broil for approx 5 mins on each side, until the lemons are charred around the edges. Watch them carefully, because broiler cooking times vary greatly and you do not want them to burn.
- Once they are cool enough to touch, place lemon center (making sure to get all of their juices as well) into the food processor. Discard any seeds, and the rinds.
- Add the remaining ingredients, except for the olive oil, into the food processor and pulse until chopped. Then, while the food processor is running, add in the oil in a slow stream. Once you've added 1/2 a cup, taste and adjust and seasoning or add more oil if necessary. Set aside until you're ready to dress the salad.
Prep + cook the artichokes:
- Prepare a medium sized bowl with water, the juice of 1/2 a lemon (just throw the lemon in once you've juiced it) and some ice. This will keep the artichokes from oxidizing.
- Pull off and discard the dark green outer leaves until you get to the tender, inner yellow ones. Cut off the top 1/4 inch (where the prickly bits are) and trim off the bottom 1/4" of the stem. Then, using a paring knife, shave off the rough edges around the base of the artichoke. Slice the artichoke in half and place it in the bowl of lemon water. Repeat until all of the artichokes are trimmed.
- Heat a wok-style pan over medium-high heat (or a regular medium-sized frying pan will do). Drizzle a little olive oil, and then place the artichokes into the pan, flat side down. Let them cook for about 2 minutes, and then add the water, lower the heat to medium. Cover, and allow the artichokes to steam for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and allow the rest of the water to evaporate. Once the water has evaporated, then drizzle a little more oil, raise the heat again slightly, and cook until the artichokes are brown around the edges. Set aside until you're ready to assemble the salad.
Saute the asparagus, and assemble the salad:
- In the same pan you cooked the artichokes, heat some oil over medium heat and add the asparagus. Cook for a few minutes until tender and browning. Season with salt and pepper, toss to combine, and remove them from the heat.
- Either in one large serving plate, or individual plates, assemble the salad. Lay the asparagus down, then top with the beans, and some pea shoots. Pour about half of the vinaigrette over the artichokes (that are in a separate bowl), and toss until they are evenly coated (you can skip this step if you don't want to mess up a bowl, and just drizzle the dressing over the entire salad). Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the asparagus and beans, and then add the artichokes on top. Enjoy!