Marinated Artichokes

  • 3 or 4 medium artichokes, or 11⁄2 pounds egg-size “baby” artichokes (sometimes inaccurately labeled “hearts”)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 bay leaf
  • 1⁄4 cup sliced onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Have a bowl of water acidulated with 1 tablespoon of vinegar standing by.

2. If using medium to large artichokes, the kind sold by the piece rather than the pound, bend back the outer leaves of an artichoke until they break easily, leaving a little of the base of each leaf attached.

3. Continue until the leaves are more yellow than green, then slice off the green tops. Trim away the dark green outer part of the stem and base.

4. Dip the freshly cut surfaces in acidulated water as you work, to reduce browning.

5. Repeat with the remaining artichokes, then cut the trimmed wholes into halves or quarters.

6. Remove the fuzzy chokes and spiny-tipped inner leaves with a knife or melon scoop and discard.

7. With “baby” artichokes, simply snap off the outer leaves at their bases until you get down to leaves that are more yellow than green, then slice off the top third and trim the bases as described above.

8. Halve or quarter the artichokes (depending on their size) and inspect the centers; if the chokes are very small and tender, you can leave them in, but cut them out if they look fuzzy enough to be unpleasant to eat.

9. Put the trimmed artichokes in a stainless or other nonreactive saucepan with water just to cover.

10. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the artichokes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on their size.

11. Remove the artichokes from the liquid to a bowl or serving dish.

12. Boil down the liquid to about 1⁄2 cup and strain it over the artichokes.

13. Refrigerate if not serving the same day.

14. Serve warm, cool, or at room temperature.

Roasted Sweet Pepper Strips

  • Red, yellow, orange, or green bell peppers
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Wash the peppers and drain well.

2. Cut each pepper vertically along the indentations from the bottoms to near the stems.

3. Break away the sections, 3 or 4 per pepper, leaving the stems and most of the seeds behind.

4. Trim the ribs from the edges of each section.

5. Place cut side down in a roasting pan, drizzle with a little olive oil, then turn skin side down.

6. Roast in a 400˚F oven (no need to wait for it to preheat) until the peppers are mostly collapsed and the skins are browned and blistered.

7. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan.

8. Peel off and discard the skins and cut the pepper flesh into strips.

9. If the combined oil and juices in the pan are not burnt, swirl the pepper strips around in the pan to pick up their flavor.

10. Season with a little salt and pepper if you like, though none is really necessary.

Marinated Pan-Roasted Mushrooms

  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 pound medium to large mushrooms, white or brown
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar, or to taste
1. Combine the oil and garlic in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Wash the mushrooms only if absolutely necessary; otherwise just brush away any dirt and debris.

3. Snap off the stems and discard, or save for another use.

4. Toss the caps in the bowl with the oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.

5. They will probably absorb most of the oil, and unevenly; that’s okay.

6. Set aside until ready to cook, up to a couple of hours.

7. Heat a large, dry skillet or flat-bottomed wok over medium-high heat.

8. Add as many mushrooms as will fit in a single layer, gill sides up.

9. As they begin to shrink, water will pool up in the middles.

10. Turn and continue cooking, gills down, until tender.

11. Total cooking time is 8 to 10 minutes; add more mushrooms to the pan as space becomes available.

12. Transfer the cooked mushrooms back to the bowl and sprinkle with the vinegar.

13. Let cool before serving.

14. Serve at room temperature within 3 or 4 days.

Fennel Vinaigrette

  • 1 bulb fresh fennel, about 12 ounces
  • 1 teaspoon good wine vinegar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1. Trim off the top of the bulb where it begins to branch, and discard any beat-up outer layers.

2. Split the bulb vertically, then slice crosswise about 1⁄8 inch thick. (For a milder flavor, steam the bulb halves for 3 to 5 minutes before slicing.)

3. Combine the vinegar, mustard, and a good pinch of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and whisk or mix with your fingertips to dissolve the salt.

4. Whisk in the oil, taste a bit of the dressing on a slice of fennel, and adjust the flavors to taste.

5. Toss the fennel slices in the dressing and serve cool or at room temperature.

Yield

Each will serve 3 or 4 by itself, more as part of an assortment

Notes

Fresh fennel (called sweet anise in some markets) combines the texture of celery with a sweet licorice flavor. It is available most of the year but is generally best and least expensive from fall to spring. The “bulbs” are actually the thick bases of the stalks, extending 4 to 6 inches above the soil level until they branch into tough green stems topped with feathery leaves. For maximum flavor, use fennel raw; if you want to tone the flavor down slightly, cook it briefly.

Which beer should I drink with this?

As with other appetizers, a good hefeweizen or dry-finishing pale ale.

Variation

Omit the mustard and add 1 or 2 canned anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped, to the dressing before adding the fennel. Go a little easier on the salt in this case.

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From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.

Photo: A Culinary (Photo) Journal/Flickr