A Simple Italian Favorite Best Served to Good Friends

A Simple Italian Favorite Best Served to Good Friends

I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes for a book I am working on with my friend, Susan Fazio – who also happens to be a painter. She’s painted a series of scenes from fresh markets all over the world. I pair my farmer’s market recipes with her pictures and… well…there’s a book concept there!

Sue and her husband, Tom Fazio (he’s a golf course architect) visited recently, and I pulled out the stops, creating an evening in Italy. The menu featured a basket of antipasti, home baked focaccia bread, Caprese salad, lasagna Bolognese, home-made gelato and fresh baked hazelnut biscotti. Sounds yumm, right? But, the star of the meal was my tomato braised veggie dish. The recipe stars artichokes, which I designed as a first course. But, for this meal, I added baby zucchini and yellow squash. Let, me tell you, I was very popular by the end of the evening.

Here it is for you to critique! Let me know what you think!!

Tomato Braised Artichokes with Pesto Rub

Serves 8 as an Appy, 4 as a Main Dish

90 Minute Cuisine

In Italy, everyone is family and family dining is all about platters of delicious food, passed around the table to loud kudos and sighs of delight. This is one of those dishes. Artichokes are an Italian staple. Trimming the artichoke takes some time, but after that, this dish is all about infusing flavors. These artichokes are covered in a salty, rich pesto and then simmered in a tomato-wine broth. They take on the flavors that they swim in. Serve these in a large, shallow bowl with the resulting juices spooned over the top. Everyone rolls up their sleeves, and pulls the leaves through their teeth. When you get down to the artichoke heart…. life is just a bowl of goodness!

For sauce

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups homemade vegetable stock, or prepared low sodium vegetable broth

¼ cup olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For pesto

1 (7-ounce) tin flat fillets of anchovies, packed in oil

1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled

1 bunch fresh basil leaves

½ cup olive oil

For artichokes

4 large artichokes

2 lemons, halved

Pour the tomatoes, wine, chicken broth and ½ cup olive oil into a large roasting pan. Season with some of the salt and crushed red pepper. Set the pan on the counter while you move on to make the rub.

Place the anchovies, garlic and basil into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. With the bowl running, slowly pour in ½ cup olive oil to make a thick paste.

Trim the artichokes by first pulling the thick, dark green outer leaves, leaving the tender green leaves in place. You’ll lose about half of the leaves. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough partial leaves from the bottom of the artichoke and the stem. Cut off the tough end of the stem, leaving about 3 to 4 inches. Cut off the top third of the artichoke leaves. With every cut or peel that you make, rub lemon over the cut ends. Slice the artichokes in half. Use a spoon to remove the spiny choke from the center. Pull out the spiky inner leaves. Place the trimmed artichoke into a bowl of cold water with lemon slices. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.

Remove the artichokes from the lemony water one at a time. Brush anchovy pesto on both sides of the artichoke and place cut-side down into the pan with tomato sauce. Place the pan on the stove top, and bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan with a lid (or aluminum foil). Simmer the artichokes low and slow (over low heat and for a long time). Turn the artichokes in the sauce several times to coat while they simmer. Continue cooking until a fork easily pierces the artichoke hearts and the sauce reduces, about 45 to 60 minutes. If the sauce evaporates too quickly, pour in more stock.

Serve the artichokes on a platter and spoon the sauce over the top.

Pesto Change-Oh!

Pesto Change-Oh!

For traditional pesto, you For traditional pesto, you’ll need handfuls of basil, several cloves of garlic, another handful of grated cheese and pine nuts…

It’s summertime and nothing screams summer like fresh pesto. But, what the heck is pesto, and how do I use it? Well, my fine foodie friends, pesto is basically a full-flavored paste. It originated in Italy and combines, essentially, basil, garlic, grated hard cheese (think Parmigiano Reggiano), toasted pine nuts and olive oil. You can smush these ingredients all together using a mortar and pestle, or you can march into the twenty-first century and use your trusty food processor.

For traditional pesto, place a couple of handfuls of basil, several cloves of garlic, another handful of grated cheese, and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. Then, with the machine running, slowly drizzle in about ½ cup of olive oil. Stop the machine, season with salt and pepper, taste and see if you need a little extra oil. Now you’ve done it! Store your pesto in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last for several weeks.

Now, how do you use it! I add a couple of spoonfuls to cooked pasta for a simple midweek supper. Add a dollop to sautéed zucchini, roasted Brussels sprouts, or butter-boiled potatoes. Spread some on your roasted turkey panini, your garlicky garlic bread and your breakfast burrito. And then there is my favorite use, corn on the cobb with pesto and fluffy cheese!

But wait! Let’s laugh in the face of fate, and change things up a bit. What if we create our own version of pesto with the summer’s fresh bounty of greens? Well, heck yeah, that’ll work!

I purchased garlic scapes and a bag of fresh spinach leaves last week at the market, and inspiration was born. Combining fresh greens, with macadamia nuts, scapes, Parmesan cheese and olive oil yielded one stunning pesto! I rolled my warm corn in the pesto, dusted it with more finely ground cheese, and served it for our Alfresco summer dinner with home-made sloppy joes. Getting hungry yet?

If summer has a super savory taste, this is it! If summer has a super savory taste, this is it!

Corn on the Cobb with Garlic Scape and Macadamia Nut Pesto

Serves 4

20 Minute Cuisine

In the early summer market, you can find long, green, circles of thin stalks that are garlic scapes. These are the flower bud of garlic plants. They are cut off the plant so that the bulb grows fatter and fatter. These strands of garlicky goodness can be used in the same way as garlic cloves with no peeling of course! I use them to make pesto and then I spread that pesto on everything. Melting, fragrant, nutty pesto is delicious on summer sweet corn. Give it a try to see what I mean!

3 to 4 garlic scapes, chopped, about ½ cup

½ pound spinach leaves, about 2 cups

1 bunch fresh basil, about ½ cup

¼ cup macadamia nuts

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about ½ cup

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

½ cup olive oil

4 large ears of corn, shucked

Place the garlic scapes, spinach leaves, basil leaves (no need to chop any of these, just dump them right in), macadamia nuts and Parmesan cheese into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times until all the ingredients are ground together. Open the lid and season with salt and pepper. Replace the lid and with the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil to make a paste. Store the pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Place the corn into a pan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat and cook until the corn is tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the water from the pan. Place several spoonfuls of the pesto into the pan with the corn. Cover with the lid and swirl the pan so that the hot corn melts the pesto and all the kernels are generously coated. Serve the corn with additional salt and pepper and another sprinkle of Parmesan cheese!


Remove the kernels from the cobbs and place into a bowl. Drain a can of black beans and pour into the same bowl. Add chopped tomatoes, onion and a bit of fresh jalapeno pepper. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro, kosher salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Stir this all together and chill for a corn and black bean salsa that is perfect with warm tortilla chips and fresh guac!