Okay, I’ll admit it. As much as I advocate shopping locally and seasonally there are times when I crave ingredients that are simply not in season. That said, I’m not going to purchase hothouse tomatoes or Peruvian asparagus in the dead of winter (or anytime of the year, for that matter). And though I’ve canned my own tomatoes for nearly a decade, I don’t have time—much as I’d like to—to preserve much more than that, as my books on the subject continue to grow.
Here’s where my advocacy for a well-stocked larder kicks in again (as it did previously with St. Helena Olive Oil Co.’s Butternut Squash and Organic Spicy Heirloom pasta sauces). As our grandparents knew, having a good supply of preserved foods on hand makes life a lot more interesting, as well easier, while we await spring’s bounty.
Although artichokes are available in California in both spring and early fall, the latter season is shorter as well as typically less predictable when it comes to quality. As part of its commitment to offering the finest ingredients, St. Helena Olive Oil Co. stocks excellent jarred roasted artichoke hearts from Italy’s San Giuliano. These are terrific straight out of the jar as part of an antipasti platter, sliced into a salad, or chopped and incorporated into an omelette. They are also terrific in risotto.
Roasted Artichoke Risotto
Many people are intimidated by risotto, but once you’ve mastered the basics it’s really very simple, highly satisfying, and open to all sorts of ingredient variations. Also, forget those cookbooks that tell you that need to stir and stir and stir. The most important thing is steady cooking and liquid replacement, so the rice has enough to absorb as it creates a creamy, slightly soupy coating.
1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
2 tablespoons Twin Sisters Extra Virgin Olive Oil Blade Press
1 small yellow onion, chopped (you want about a quarter cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
2 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
Splash of white wine or vermouth (approximately ¼ cup)
Pinch of Organic Grey Sea Salt
6 – 8 Roasted Artichokes, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
A handful of fresh mint or parsley leaves, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Using a small pot, heat the chicken broth to a healthy simmer (but not a rolling boil).
Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or other large size pot. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme, and cook until just beginning to soften (2-3 minutes).
Raise the heat a notch and add the rice, stirring to coat with the vegetables and oil.
After 3 – 4 minutes, the rice will start becoming semi-translucent, and you should hear a low-level snap, crackle, and pop.
Add the wine or vermouth, turn the heat to high, and cook until the wine has evaporated.
Return the heat to normal, add a ladleful of hot chicken broth, stir once, and add a pinch of grey sea salt.
Continue to add broth as needed, which means just before the previous ladleful is completely absorbed (usually a few minutes between doses).
Cook for approximately 10 – 12 more minutes. Don’t worry if you run out of broth before the rice has finished cooking, you can always add a bit of water instead.
A few minutes before the rice is ready—you’ll know by the look and texture, which, like pasta, should be al dente, soft but toothsome—fold in the chopped artichokes and give the mixture a healthy stir (ideally this would be right before you add the final ladle of stock).
Once the rice has finished cooking, stir in the butter, remove from the heat, and let the risotto rest for a few minutes, covered.
Spoon into bowls, grate fresh Parmesan over the top (to your liking), sprinkle with the mint or parsley, and grind a little black over the top.
~ serves 4 to 6 as a first course, 2 as a stand-alone dish