One of our top ten reasons for loving Spain is it shares our obsession with alcachofas, artichokes. As the second largest producer of artichokes in the world, Spain knows how to honor this thistly treat — whether sautéed with ham, marinated in sherry vinaigrette or stuffed with garlic and clams. When in Spain, we enjoy the Blanca de Tudela artichoke, a nutty-bitter wonder from Navarra. If you’re looking for a similar variety in the US, scout out compact, oval-shaped artichokes with prickly leaves.
We enjoy our artichokes prepared simply and accompanied with this zesty aïoli, a twist on the classic Catalan garlic and oil preparation.
2 lemons, cut in half
1 bay leaf
1 small pinch saffron threads (less than 1/8 tsp.)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup of olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
To prepare the artichokes, begin by cutting off the top quarter of the artichoke and cutting down its stem, leaving about a 1/2 inch. Remove small, tough petals near the base of the artichoke. Rinse vegetables thoroughly under cold water.
Add 2 1/4 cups of water, lemon halves and bay leaf to a large stock pot. Bring to a simmer. Add the artichokes face forward into the pot. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until the stem is fork tender but not mushy. Remove artichokes, drain, and let sit until they reach room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 20 minutes.
While artichokes are steaming, prepare the aïoli.
Steep a few, and only a few saffron threads in 1 tsp of water. Create garlic paste from cloves. Add paste, saffron (with water) and egg yolks to a small bowl. Whisk. In one long, slow steady stream, whisk in olive oil until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Season with a few drops of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.