Saturday Brunch: Baby Artichokes with Ham, Baby Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Saturday brunch! It’s my special John-n-Stephanie thing, and I love it like I love puppies and sunshine and champagne and straight hair. And I love those things very, very much, so now you know how much I love Saturday brunch.
We don’t have our kids on Saturday mornings (divorce stinks, but a couple of days a week to yourself is not necessarily a bad thing), so we make the best of an otherwise ungood (my nephew Cooper’s word – ungood – which according to him means very, very not good) situation and put on some tunes, crack some eggs, make plans for an afternoon movie, and read the paper. And, in my case, take pictures and write blog posts, which I also love (see above list).
We’re not all about breakfast pastries on Saturdays (that’s for Sundays), it’s more about the savory. Today, in fact, I didn’t even crack an egg, but instead trimmed artichokes, and sliced bread and cheese, and made a panful of baby artichokes braised with ham, served alongside mini-grilled cheese sandwiches. It seemed all brunchy to us, even if it doesn’t to you. And I admit – it would make a perfectly lovely lunch or dinner. You could slice the artichokes more thinly and toss them with pasta, maybe a handful of peas, and a shower of Parmesan. That would be not ungood. Or, you could serve the artichokes with softly scrambled eggs – mmm – which would take you right back to brunch. Or dinner. These things are flexible.
The recipe for artichokes is below. The baby grilled cheese sandwiches – just thin slices of (whole-grain, although any type would work) baguette, olive oil (or butter) on the outsides, cheese on the insides (I had some tomato sauce in the cooler that I also added; mustard is good, or nothing but cheese – your choice), toasted in a pan until crispy & melty.
The movie? Greenberg, about to leave for it, I’ll let you know how it is. (Later: back from the movie – I loathed it, ah well, but that’s just me, don’t go by what I think. I hate a lot of movies.)
Artichokes Sauteed with Ham
Adapted from Tapas, A Taste of Spain in America
Serves 4 as tapas, 2 as dinner
9 baby (one package of Melissa’s brand) or 5 large artichokes
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, with 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley reserved
5 Tbsp. Spanish (or other) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 Tbsp. tomato paste diluted in 1 ½ c. water OR 1 ½ c. juice from canned tomatoes (I buy tomato paste in a tube, allows you to use a bit at a time)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 pinch sugar
¼ tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
2 Tbsp. dry white wine (lemon juice)
1 oz. jamon seranno (Spanish cured ham) or other high-quality, lightly-smoked ham, diced (about 4 thin slices)
1 bay leaf
Several thick slices of baguette, toasted and rubbed with half of a garlic clove and drizzled with a bit of olive oil
Prepare a large bowl of cold water, and toss in the bunch of parsley (prevents artichokes from oxidizing). Using a serrated knife, cut off and discard the top half of each artichoke. Using your fingers, remove and discard the first few layers of leaves, until you reach the tender, pale leaves beneath. Cut the artichoke in half and use a sharp paring knife to remove and discard the white, hairy interior. Peel and discard the tough outer layer around the base of the artichoke, until you reach the soft white flesh. Peel the stalk until you reach the white flesh again. Don’t be afraid to remove most of the artichoke. Cut baby artichoke halves in half again; cut large artichoke halves into 3-4 slices. Put artichoke slices into the parsley water, and repeat with all the artichokes.
Heat 1 Tbsp. of the oil in a small pan over a medium flame. Add the diluted tomato paste or tomato juice, garlic clove, and sugar. Simmer for 15 minutes, until the juice is a deep red.
Heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the artichokes, making sure they lie flat, and the salt. Saute until golden, then turn and sauté until golden on the other side, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 30 seconds. Add the reserved tomato juice and bay leaf and turn heat to low for a slow simmer. In the pan the tomato sauce was cooked in, add the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil and heat over medium heat. Stir in the ham and sauté for 2 minutes until starting to brown. Add ham to the artichokes, and continue simmering for another few minutes, until artichokes are tender and sauce is reduced, another 3-4 minutes. Remove crushed garlic clove and bay leaf. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.