Saturday, May 28, 2016


The garden is in transition stage right now—kale and chard are long gone, peas and favas have finished and tomatoes, peppers and green beans are still many weeks away.

But, I’ve got a basketful of sweet onions and some green garlic, lots of lettuce, some fugitive arugula and a few artichokes. Sounds like salad to me, fresh from the garden. 

Ingredients from the garden for a spring salad.

Salad fits right in with the healthful Mediterranean Diet (this is International  Mediterranean Diet Month), which places fruits, vegetables, grains, olive oil and nuts at the very base of the pyramid, the starting point for healthy eating.

Pull up the lettuces before hot weather causes them to bolt.

Arugula escapes from captivity! Planted once, now it comes up from seed, like a weed. I love it.

Today in the garden--green garlic, artichokes, arugula and romaine.
A spring salad of fresh artichokes and celery with a romesco dressing.

I’m making a Tarragona style artichoke salad. The name, “Tarragona style” has nothing to do with the herb tarragon. Rather, Tarragona is a city in Catalonia that is famous for its exceptional romesco sauce, made with dried sweet peppers and nuts. The romesco is the dressing for the artichokes and salad greens.

This is actually a quickie romesco—made with pimentón (paprika) instead of the classic ñora peppers. Use ordinary sweet pimentón, not smoked, plus a little hot pimentón or cayenne. You can marinate the vegetables in the romesco or spoon the sauce over the salad at serving time. 

Dried red peppers, ground almonds, garlic, parsley and olive oil make the romesco sauce. Use it as a marinade for the vegetables or a dressing, spooned over right before serving.

If time is short or fresh artichokes are not available, canned artichoke hearts or canned cardoons, cardos, another vegetable in the thistle family, can be used instead. Cardoons look like celery and taste like artichokes, which explains why I’ve used celery in this salad. The sauce is brilliant with all vegetables—green beans, cooked cabbage, potatoes—so make your own variations on Tarragona style. In fact, a little tarragon might be very nice!

Artichoke Salad, Tarragona Style
Ensalada Tarragonense

Serves 6 as a starter.
Snap leaves off at base.

6-8 small artichokes or 4 large ones
3 stalks celery, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons sweet pimentón
½ teaspoon hot pimentón
2 dozen skinned almonds
¼ cup olive oil
¼  cup chopped parsley
3 cloves garlic
½  teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
3 cups torn romaine or escarole
1 hard-boiled egg
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves or tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped scallions or green garlic

Use a serrated knife to slice.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, snap off the outer leaves of the artichokes.  Then cut them crosswise just above the heart, discarding upper leaves. (A serrated bread knife works well to cut through the artichokes.) Cut the artichokes in half, if small, or quarters, if large.

Remove fuzzy choke.
Use the tip of a knife to nip out the fuzzy choke in the center. Rub artichoke pieces with a cut lemon. Add the pieces to the boiling water and cook until the artichoke pieces are just tender, about 10 minutes. (The artichokes are done when an outer leaf pulls off easily.) Drain. 

Blanch the pieces of celery in boiling salted water for 6 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. (Use a vegetable peeler to strip off the strings from the celery before blanching.)

Combine the two kinds of pimentón in a small bowl and mix with ¼ cup of water until smooth.

In a small pan toast the almonds in 2 teaspoons of the oil until golden. Remove from heat. (If you like, save a few almonds to garnish the finished salad.)

Sauce is easy in processor.

In a blender or food processor, chop the parsley, then add the garlic and process until finely chopped. Add the toasted almonds and process until fine. Add the salt, vinegar and ½ cup of water and continue to process until the mixture is quite smooth. Then add the pimentón paste and the remaining oil. This makes 1 cup of dressing.  (The dressing can be served with other vegetables and salads.)

Place the artichokes and celery pieces in a bowl and pour over the dressing. Allow to marinate for one hour at room temperature.

On a large platter prepare a bed of romaine or escarole. Arrange the artichokes and celery on top. Garnish with sliced egg, chopped mint and chopped onion. 

Serve the salad as a starter.

Artichokes marinate in romesco dressing.

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