As a child in Castroville, California—known as the artichoke capital of the world—Galen Zamarra, chef de cuisine at Manhattan's Bouley Bakery, fell in love with this thorny vegetable. By using artichoke hearts in his salad, Zamarra would allow his date to share his passion while sparing her the fuss of plucking one leaf at a time.
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1 lemon, halved
3 large artichokes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cups dry Riesling
1 cup water
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 head Bibb lettuce, leaves separated
How to Make It
Squeeze the lemon juice into a bowl of cold water; add the lemon to the bowl. Using a sharp stainless-steel knife, cut off the artichoke stems and halve the artichokes crosswise. Discard the tops. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, pull off all the outer green leaves from the bottoms until you reach the yellow leaves. Trim off the tough outer skin. Scrape out the hairy choke with a teaspoon, then drop the artichoke hearts into the lemon water.
Heat 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the bacon and cook over low heat, stirring until the fat begins to melt, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, carrot and onion. Cover and cook over low heat until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and the artichoke hearts. Stir in the Riesling, water, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper and simmer over low heat until the artichoke hearts are tender, about 15 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the artichoke hearts to a plate. Skim 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil from the artichoke broth and put the oil in a small bowl. Crumble the saffron threads into the oil. Strain the artichoke broth. Pour 1/2 cup of the broth into the saucepan and boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Discard any remaining artichoke broth.
Cut 1 artichoke heart in half and cut 1 of the halves into chunks. Transfer the artichoke chunks to a blender. Add the reduced broth and puree. With the machine on, slowly add the saffron oil and blend until smooth. Scrape the puree into a small bowl and stir in the sherry vinegar and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice the remaining 2 1/2 artichoke hearts. In a medium bowl, toss the lettuce with 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette and arrange it on 2 plates. Top the Bibb lettuce with the sliced artichokes and drizzle with the remaining saffron vinaigrette and serve.
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