Market Report - Asparagus and Artichokes

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Laura Avery visits with Phil Green, who offers up fresh artichokes and asparagus from his stand at the Farmer’s Market.  While both are available all year, the crops are a little lighter than usual due to cold weather.  Evan Kleiman was at the market and has some suggestions for preparing both vegetables:

Roasting asparagus is simple, quick and delicious -- start by cutting the bottom inch off the stalks, then toss with olive oil and salt. Put the asparagus on a cookie sheet and roast in a 400-degree oven for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Voila!


Carciofi alla Romana Artichokes, Roman Style
Serves 4

Artichokes, Roman Style are one of the signature dishes that Spring has finally arrived.  Whether made from large globe artichokes, smaller, purplish Italian varieties or baby artichokes, the basic technique of braising the vegetable in nearly equal parts oil and olive oil with herbs is a classic dish used by many Italians.

1 lemon, halved
4 large artichokes with stems (if possible)
Coarse salt to taste
1 cup mixed fresh chopped herbs (mint, basil, Italian parsley)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 cup olive oil

Use half of the lemon to rub surfaces as you work.  Snap back and pull down the leaves and discard, working around the artichoke until the pale yellow leaves are exposed.  Trim away about 2 inches from the top of the artichokes.  With a paring knife, cut away the dark green around the base.  Cut away the dark green exterior of the stalk until the pale green, tender part is exposed.  With a small spoon, dig into the center of the artichoke and remove the fuzzy choke, scraping against the heart until it is completely clean.  Remove any interior leaves that have prickly tips.  Fill a large bowl with water and add the juice of the remaining half lemon. If using baby artichokes, simply trim them and cut them in half. Immerse each finished artichoke in the acidulated water to prevent discoloration.

Drain the artichokes.  Salt the interiors.  Combine the herbs, garlic, and a little of the olive oil in small bowl.  Add salt to taste.  Put the mixture in the center of each artichoke, dividing it equally.  Arrange the artichokes stem-side up in a pot just large enough to contain them.  Lightly salt them and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.  Add enough water to come one-third up the artichoke .  Take a large piece of parchment paper or brown paper bag and lay it over the artichokes so that it touches them.  This will cause the steam to be much more effective.  Bring the pot to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and cover with a tight-fitting lid.  Cook until tender but firm;  the tip of a knife should slide into the artichoke heart with just the slightest resistance.  The time will vary greatly depending on size.

Remove the artichokes from the pot with a slotted spoon to a platter.  Bring the remaining liquid to a boil and reduce slightly, if necessary.  The liquid should be syupy.  Pour the liquid over the artichokes.  These can be made up to 2 days in advance but are best when served the same day they are cooked.