12 May 2010

Artichokes with Saffron, Orange, Olives, and Almonds

Orange salads are something unique to Moroccan cuisine, and though it may sound odd to Western ears, the sweet juicy, slightly chewy segments of orange make for a great basis for a salad. They are commonly paired with a sprinkling of hot pepper and salty chopped olives, but you'll also find orange, radish, and cinnamon salad, or oranges with dates and slivered almonds, the varieties go on and on. (For recipes, check out Paula Wolfert's "Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco.")

This recipe for baby artichokes braised with saffron, oranges, olives, and almonds is one I cobbled together from many sources. It would be at home almost anywhere in the Mediterranean, from Sicily to Cyprus, where all these ingredients are native. I have to say, I hate prepping artichokes, so it has to be a pretty good recipe for me to even go to the trouble. But the nice thing about baby artichokes (besides the fact that they're so cute. Really, just look at those little things). The best part is that baby artichokes really cook all the way through, so you have less concern about tough chewy leaves or spiky centers.

Other than the time it takes to prep the artichokes and the oranges, the recipe is a snap. You do a quick braise of the artichokes with a bit or orange juice, water, and saffron, and when they are tender you sprinkle over them orange segments, olives, almonds, and mint. It's beautiful to serve and full of contrasting sweet/salty/soft/crunchy notes.

Artichokes with Saffron, Orange, Olives, and Almonds

1 lb baby artichokes
a splash of lemon or vinegar
1 large orange or 2 small (I used Mineola)
a pinch of saffron
2 tablespoons chopped black olives
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
a few leaves of mint, slivered

1. Prepare a large bowl of water with a splash of lemon or vinegar. Prep the artichokes (see tutorial here). First slice off about an inch of the top. Then, remove the tough outer leaves. Finally, trim the bottoms and slice the hearts in half. Place prepped artichokes in acidulated water to prevent discoloring.
2. Section the orange by removing the outer pith and then slicing between the membranes to remove the sections (see tutorial here). Squeeze the remaining membrane part over a bowl to extract the juice and set aside the sections.
3. Add the saffron and about 1/2 cup of warm water to the bowl with the orange juice.
4. Heat some olive oil in a pan, drain the artichokes, and saute them briefly over medium heat. After a minute or so, add in the saffron water. Make sure the liquid cover the artichokes halfway up their sides. Cover the pan and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife.
5. Uncover the pan and let simmer until the sauce reduces to just a glaze. Remove from heat.
6. Meanwhile toast the almonds.
7. Sprinkle orange segments, chopped olives, almonds, and mint over artichokes. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.


Foodessa said...

Hello Mercedes...first time visit.
I just saw your post...what a great blend of ingredients.
I just lately discovered using baby artichokes in their raw state.
I was quite surprised with the outcome. I'll also have to post it one day.
Thanks for sharing...and flavourful wishes, Claudia

Lyra said...

Sounds amazing. I make salads with orange in them all the time, but never one like this...time to try some new flavour combinations:)

Judith in Umbria said...

It's this kind of combination of flavors that makes it worth keeping lots of different sites on Bloglines! This sounds really great.

Christian Grantham said...

That looks so good.

The Casual Baker said...

I've been stopping by for quite awhile and thought it was about time I left a note. I love your blog simply because it's different and I know when I come here I'll find something new that I'd never thought to try. Thanks for that.

Courtney said...

Just stumbled on your blog while searching for unique salad recipes! This one contains four of my favourite things :D I will definitely be reading more. Thanks for the great ideas! <3

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