Stuffed-Squash Blossoms Tempura

blossoms

Every year I look forward to the arrival of squash blossoms at the farmers’ markets. There seems to be only one way to prepare this seasonal delicacy: Stuff them; batter them; fry them. As the Barefoot Contessa says, “How bad can that be?”

I first tasted stuffed blossoms when I worked at Fork. There, during the summer, the fried and stuffed zucchini blossoms replace the onion rings on their signature romaine salad with sauce gribiche. Regulars at Fork adore sauce gribiche, a dressing made with olive oil, lemon juice, capers, chopped cornichons, shallots and tons of fresh herbs — tarragon, parsley, chervil, chives and thyme.

A staple on the menu year round, this salad becomes even more popular every summer with the addition of these delectable edible flowers. I like Fork’s preparation: They stuff them minimally with an herbed goat cheese and coat them in a simple tempura batter. I prefer the light coating of tempura to the frequently used flour, egg, breadcrumb coating, which also is delicious.

This year, Weaver’s Way Co-op at the Sunday Headhouse Farmers’ Market has been carrying the blossoms consistently at three for a dollar or 40 cents each. For a perfect summer meal, make a simple romaine salad with a modified gribiche dressing (recipe below), top with some crispy blossoms and serve with fresh bread and cheese. To quote my favorite food network star again, “Who wouldn’t like that?”

Stuffed-Squash Blossoms Tempura
Serves 4 as an appetizer

1 small shallot, minced
¼ C. basil, chopped finely
¼ C. goat cheese
¼ C. fresh ricotta
kosher salt and pepper

1 egg
½ C. ice water
¾ C. flour

8 squash blossoms
canola oil for frying

In a small bowl, mix the shallots, basil, goat cheese, ricotta and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In a separate bowl, whisk egg, water and flour. Don’t overmix: batter should be lumpy. Set aside.

Place heaping teaspoons of the cheese mixture into the center of each squash blossom. Place blossoms on a plate, cover with a paper towel or plastic wrap and chill until ready to fry.

Line a plate with paper towels. Heat oil in a large, wide mouth. When a sprinkling of flour sizzles in the oil, the oil is ready for the blossoms. Dip the blossoms one by one into the tempura batter, then place carefully into the oil. Fry each for 30 seconds a side until crisp. Transfer to a prepared plate until all blossoms have been fried.

Serve immediately with a crisp romaine salad dressed in a simple vinaigrette: whisk 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1½ teaspoon honey, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, freshly ground pepper to taste, 3 tablespoons capers, ¼ cup chopped parsley, ¼ cup cider vinegar and ½ cup extra virgin olive oil until combined.

A patch of pattypan squash blossoms growing on Sam Consylman’s farm in Lancaster:

Peach Bruschetta

PeachBruschetta

For the past year, I have been listening to two of my most reliable sources rave about an Italian restaurant in Northern Liberties. My friends, Meredith, a Jeff med student and native Philadelphian, and her fiancé Matt, a private chef on the Main Line, rank Sovalo as one of their favorite spots in the city.

Joseph and Karey Scarpone, a husband and wife team with children named Sophia and Valentino (hence Sovalo), left the Napa Valley to open this bistro in early 2005. With a great wine list and a menu filled with homemade pastas such as burrata-filled ravioli and seasonal items such as chilled melon soup and local heirloom tomato salad, Sovalo has earned a reputation as one of the city’s best new restaurants.

A few weeks ago, I finally had the chance to experience this highly praised establishment with none other than the restaurant’s two biggest fans. To celebrate Matt’s new job and Meredith’s start of her final year of med school, and in general, to continue celebrating their recent engagement, the three of us trekked across town to Sovalo.

As we approached the front door of this adored Northern Liberties bistro, however, Meredith expressed some anxiety. She worried that the peach bruschetta she and her family had enjoyed a week earlier might no longer be offered: Sovalo prints its menu daily, changing its dishes depending on ingredient availability. To everyone’s relief, however, this peach, robiola, arugula and prosciutto topped grilled bread again starred on the menu. We all savored the delectable combination as a second course and ultimately pegged it the highlight of the evening.

Fortunately, this peach bruschetta, unlike Sovalo’s homemade ravioli or ricotta fritter dessert, can easily be replicated at home. I have a weakness for Claudio’s fresh ricotta and have used that in place of the robiola, but a number of cheeses — fresh mozzarella, mascarpone, goat or Brie — would work well in this tasty summer starter.

Peach and Prosciutto Bruschetta
Serves 6 as an appetizer

1 baguette
olive oil
2 peaches
6 oz. fresh ricotta*
2 oz. baby arugula or watercress
12 thin slices prosciutto di Parma
*I love the fresh ricotta from Claudio’s. At Sovalo, the chef uses robiola, also very delicious. You could also make your own.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF (or preheat a grill to high). Slice the baguette into 12 ½-inch thick slices, place on a cookie sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. (Or grill for 1-2 minutes a side). Transfer to a cooling rack. Slice each peach into about 12 wedges.

Spread each slice of bread generously with ricotta. Top each with a small handful of arugula or watercress. Top each with 2 peach wedges followed by one slice of prosciutto. Serve.

Summer Squash Tart

tart2

Frozen puff pastry is amazing. I finally found a use for the box I’ve had in my freezer for three years now — the box that survived a move across town in 2005 — and it baked off perfectly. This tart requires a fair amount of summer squash — a perfect showcasing of the season’s produce — and takes little time to prepare with puff pastry on hand.This recipe has been slightly simplified from one I saw recently in Saveur, which called for grating, salting and sauteeing some of the zucchini, and also called for chopped and strained cherry tomatoes. With a simple salad, this tart, served at room temperature as suggested by the author, makes a wonderful summer dinner, and leftovers make an even better lunch.

Summer Squash Tart with Ricotta and Feta
Serves 6

1 10” x 13” sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
parchment paper
pie weights or dried beans wrapped in plastic
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs. mix of zucchini and yellow squash
½ cup fresh ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter, melted
¼ cup feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place pastry on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. With a paring knife, gently score (being careful not to go all the way through) the pastry about one inch from the edge on all sides. Prick bottom of pastry all over with a fork, line center area only with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden. Remove pan from oven and place on a cooling rack. Remove weights and parchment paper.

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion. Season with salt and pepper and let sauté until slightly caramelized about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat to cool.

Zucchini and yellow squash at the South and Passyunk Farmers’ Market this past Tuesday:
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Cut the squash crosswise into ¼ – inch thick rounds. Add to the pot of boiling water, cook for 30 – 60 seconds, drain and let dry on a paper-towel lined cookie tray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spread onto puff pastry. Top with the onions. Arrange squash pieces in overlapping rows until tart is filled. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with butter and return to the oven for five minutes longer. Remove pan from oven, sprinkle with feta, and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

CSA Week 10

1 bunch of beets grown by Farmdale Organics
2 green peppers grown by Meadow Valley Organics
3 Cubanella peppers grown by Green Valley Organics
1 head lettuce grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm
1 Walla Walla onion grown by the Scarecrow Hill Farm
1 dozen ears of sweet corn grown by Green Acres Organics
1 bag of potatoes grown by Green Valley Organic
2 lemon cucumbers grown by Riverview Organics
1 bag green beans grown by Hillside Organics

Three Summer Salads

CucSalad2

Before I received my first CSA produce box this spring, I resolved to document each delivery. Alas, now in week nine, I’ve only recorded the contents of three boxes, and have not posted nearly as many recipes as I had hope. I have, however, been truly enjoying my vegetables each week, the variety and quantity forcing me, at times, to be creative: I fix cucumber and kohlrabi sandwiches for lunch; eat zucchini, raw, thinly shaved with lemon vinaigrette and Pecorino Romano; and when in the company of my sister, enjoy corn — only corn — for dinner: just yesterday we polished off a dozen ears together. Below are recipes for three summer salads, each requiring the dressing of a simple lemon vinaigrette.

CSA Week 9
3 green zucchini
3 yellow squash
2 stalks fennel
2 bunches Detroit red beets
1 dozen ears of sweet corn
2 candy onions
3 tomatoes
2 heads lettuce
1 bag green beans

Zucchini Ribbon Salad
Serves 4

2 medium zucchini
Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Pecorino Romano
Freshly ground pepper to taste

With a y-shaped peeler, skim long, wide strands from one side of the zucchini. Flip the zucchini over and repeat the same motion until the zucchini no longer can hold its shape. (Discard remaining, or save for another use, such as zucchini bread.) Place zucchini ribbons in a large bowl and drizzle with lemon vinaigrette to coat. Shave, using the same y-shaped peeler, pieces of Pecorino and set aside. Season zucchini with freshly ground pepper and toss in the Pecorino shavings. Serve immediately.

Grilled Panzanella Salad
Serves 4

1 loaf bakery-style bread such as French or Italian
extra-virgin olive oil
2 beefsteak tomatoes
1 cucumber
½ red onion
½ cup ciligene mozzarella (small balls)
Lemon Vinaigrette
1 bunch basil

Preheat the grill to high. Cut four ¾-inch thick slices of bread and brush each side with olive oil. Grill for 1-2 minutes a side, until each side has nice grill marks. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Cut the tomatoes into big, irregular-shaped chunks. Peel cucumber, if desired, and cut into similar shapes. Finely dice the red onion and place in a large bowl with the tomatoes, cucumber and mozzarella. Drizzle in the lemon vinaigrette until everything is nicely coated. Tear basil leaves from their stems (leaving the leaf intact) directly into bowl.

Cut the grilled bread into cubes and add to the bowl. Toss to combine and serve.

Cucumber-Feta Salad
Serves 4

2 medium cucumbers
1 bunch mint
4 oz. feta cheese*
Lemon vinaigrette

Cut cucumber into small cubes and place in a large bowl. Chiffonade (very finely mince) the mint and add to bowl. Crumble feta atop cucumber-mint mix and toss salad with the lemon vinaigrette.

* Earlier this week at Whole Foods I discovered a tub of marinated feta, beautifully packaged and stamped with an enticing slogan: “Eat shamelessly straight from the tub,” — I couldn’t resist. Produced by Meredith Dairy in Australia, this sheep’s- and goat’s-milk cheese, has a creamy texture and wonderful flavor — the hints of thyme, peppercorns and garlic perfectly detectable. While this farmhouse feta truly is a treat, any will suffice in this simple summer salad.

CSA Week 8
1 lemon cucumber
2 dasher cucumbers
1 bunch dandelion greens
1 candy onion
1 head radicchio
1 head lettuce
1 bag green beans
1 dozen ears sweet corn
1 bag potatoes
1 bag yellow squash

Lemon Vinaigrette
Yield = 1 cup

¼ cup finely chopped shallots
¼ cup lemon juice
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. sugar
freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk shallots, lemon juice, salt, sugar and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the oil and whisk until emulsified. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Wild American Shrimp

shrimp

From tainted pet food to lead paint-coated toys, China is taking heat for a numer of its potentially dangerous products. Most recently, activists warn consumers to be wary of China’s farm-raised fish and specifically its farm-raised shrimp. While America currently imports 90 percent of its shrimp from farm-raised fisheries in Asia, this reality may change as more people learn about the the foreign industry.

The environmentally irresponsible practices employed in many of these Asian facilities have been widely documented. An estimated 3.7 million acres of tropical mangrove forests have been cleared to create multi-acre shrimp farms, destroying important habitats for fish, birds and humans. Untreated wastewaters pass freely from the shrimp cages to the surrounding ocean, polluting the water and aquatic life. And the liberal use of antibiotics, needed to prevent and treat rampant diseases, creates strains of drug-resistant bacteria, potentially compromising our health. These farms, many now abandoned after years of land exploitation, litter the coastlines of China, Vietnam and other big fish-exporting countries.

For these reasons, Seafood Watch, an organization devoted to ocean conservation, ranks wild-caught shrimp from the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico as the best choice among warm-water or tropical shrimp and a “good alternative” to its best overall shrimp choice: wild-caught shrimp from Oregon. Seafood Watch recommends these pink, cold-water crustaceans for shrimp cocktail or salad, and praises Oregon shrimpers for achieving low levels of bycatch. This watchdog organization places imported farm-raised shrimp on the “avoid” list.

Catching shrimp in their natural habitat, however, is not a perfect alternative to farming. Seafood Watch estimates that shrimp trawling — the dragging of a trawl net along the seafloor — accidentally catches and kills more than 1.8 million tons of marine life (bycatch) each year, including many turtles and sharks, accounting for more than 25 percent of the world’s wasted catch.

By creating turtle excluder devices (TEDs) and various bycatch reduction devices (BRDs), however, some fishermen have reduced the number of turtles trapped by 97 percent and reduced bycatch of some fish species by as much as 50 percent.

A recent advertsing campaign beginnig, “You’ve been bamboozled. Snooped. Hoodwinked,” stars Southern shrimpers promoting their domestic wild-caught prawns. The shrimpers hope to rebuild an industry severely damaged not only by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but also by the increasing infiltration of cheap imported shrimp in the market.

For more information about where to find wild American shrimp visit wildamericanshrimp.com. Whole Foods Market sells 16-20 count wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. While it may be a little harder to find, wild shrimp does exist at the market. This summer, search for this environmentally responsible and tasty product — go wild for American shrimp!

Grilled Basil-Garlic Shrimp
Serves 6

2 lbs. large, 16-20 count shrimp
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
½ cup finely chopped basil
4 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt
pepper

Peel shrimp, leaving the tails on. Run a pairing knife down the backside of each shrimp, removing the vein, while butterflying the shrimp. Place in a bowl with the oil, lime juice basil and garlic. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Preheat the grill to high. Remove shrimp from bowl, discarding excess marinade and place on a large plate. Season evenly with kosher salt and pepper. When grill is hot, place shrimp onto grates and let cook for 2 minutes, leaving the cover open. Flip shrimp and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from grill, pile on platter, and serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Chili-Lime Dipping Sauce
Yield = 2 cups

½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
½ cup thinly sliced shallots
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled
1 chili, such as Thai bird, Serrano or jalapeno

Combine lime juice, fish sauce, vinegar, shallots, sugar, pepper flakes and garlic in a small bowl. Using a mandoline, vegetable peeler or a knife, cut the carrot into 8 to 10 thin slices. Then with a knife, cut into very fine strips. Add to the bowl. Cut the chili into thin cross sections, leaving the seeds intact, and add to the bowl. Stir all and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.

Tomato, Watercress and Mozzarella Salad

salad

Tomato, cucumber, watercress salad

Last Sunday on our way to Fante’s Kitchen Wares Shop in the Italian Market, my aunt and I stopped by Claudio’s. While we had intended only to briefly visit the store, we ended up in line, waiting patiently with many others, to be fed cheese. Three in particular always deserve a taste — Claudio’s mozzarella, Claudio’s ricotta and an imported baked lemon-ricotta. My aunt walked out of the store with a wedge of all three.

The mozzarella, truly Claudio’s specialty, tastes like imported buffalo mozzarella, with a slightly firmer texture — it holds up nicely in this watercress salad. Spread onto toast, the homemade ricotta with a thin slice of tomato makes a delectable snack. And a sliver of the sweet lemon-ricotta, when paired with fresh berries, makes a light summer dessert .

Tomato, Watercress and Mozzarella Salad
Serves 4

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 English cucumber
1 ball mozzarella, Claudio’s if possible
1 head watercress
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
vinaigrette (see below)

Halve the cherry tomatoes and place in large bowl. Remove stem and seeds from peppers and chop into small dice. Dice the cucumbers finely as well and add to bowl with the tomatoes. Cut the ball of mozzarella into large pieces and add to the bowl. Add the watercress and pine nuts to the bowl and toss lightly with the Basil-shallot vinaigrette.

Basil-Shallot Vinaigrette
Yield = ½ cup

4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bunch basil, finely chopped (1/4 cup)

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, shallots, mustard, sugar and salt. Let mixture macerate for 20 minutes. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified. Add the basil, whisk, taste, add more salt and pepper if necessary. Set aside.

Grilled Flatbread

grilledflatbread

The second Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA box again abounded with beautiful produce: baby lettuces, French breakfast radishes, bok choy, pea tendrils, cremini mushrooms, mustard greens, scallions and, most intriguing, fleur de choy. Fleur de choy, the edible flower of the bok choy plant, can be eaten raw or cooked, or used as a garnish. Chopped and sautéed with garlic and olive oil, the green stalks and yellow flowers brighten any simple pasta dish.

This grilled flatbread, strewn with sautéed cremini mushrooms, scallions and taleggio, and drizzled with truffle oil makes a light summer meal when paired with a simple mixed greens salad.

Grilled Flat Bread with Crimini Mushrooms, Taleggio and Truffle Oil

½ teaspoon instant yeast
1½ cups warm water
4½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, roughly sliced
kosher salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
8 sprigs thyme, leaves removed, roughly chopped

olive oil for brushing
4 scallions, trimmed and sliced thinly
4 oz. Taleggio
truffle oil to taste

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water. Swirl the bowl to dissolve the yeast, then at 2 cups of the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit 1 hour.

Add the salt and olive oil to the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the remaining flour to the bowl, stir to form a mass, then turn mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and satiny, adding flour only as necessary. Place the dough in a large, lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 2½ hours. Punch down the dough and divide into 4 balls. Place balls on an oiled sheet tray, grease the tops of the balls lightly, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 35-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil until almost smoking. Add the mushrooms and leave undisturbed for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes pass, shake pan gently, season with kosher salt and pepper to taste and add the shallots. Let cook for 2 minutes longer, until shallots are lightly golden, then remove from the heat. Sprinkle with the thyme, then transfer to a plate to cool.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high. Clean grill grates and lightly grease with oil. Roll each ball into a 10- to 12-inch circle or rectangle. Brush one side of rolled dough with olive oil and place on grill, oil-side down. Close grill cover and let cook 2 minutes, checking after the first minute. Lightly brush the top side of dough with oil, then, using tongs and a spatula flip the dough.

Top dough with cheese and scallions and close grill cover. Let cook for 2 to 5 minutes longer until dough is cooked through and cheese has melted. Remove flatbread from grill, place on cutting board, drizzle with truffle oil, cut and serve. Repeat with remaining dough.

Salad From My CSA Basket

CSASalad2

This past March I signed up for the Lancaster Farm Fresh Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). I had just read Michael Pollan’s, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and felt inspired to start buying locally produced foods as often as possible. I visited Maysie’s Farm Conservation Center in Glenmoore, PA and spent a few hours touring the green house, hoop house and barn with Sam Cantrell, the owner of the farm. Sam explained to me the concept and history of CSAs and when I left the farm I resolved to join one. While many CSAs exist outside of Philadelphia, two of the larger ones — Lancaster Farm Fresh and Red Earth Farm — deliver to locations all across the city.

Greens in Maysie’s Farm Conservation Center’s hoop house:


To learn more about CSAs and Maysie’s Conservation Center read this article.

Last Thursday, members of the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA received their first, long-awaited share of vegetables for the 2007 growing season. This box, packed on Wednesday night with vegetables harvested earlier that day, included 2 heads of bok choy (one green, one red), 2 big heads of Romaine, 1 bunch of asparagus, 1 bunch of French breakfast radishes, 1 bag of mesclun and 1 bag of mustard greens. On Thursday morning, a Lancaster Farm Fresh truck dropped off the boxes at 10 locations outside of Philadelphia and 10 locations in the city. I picked up my box at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market. This salad of grilled tender asparagus, peppery sliced radishes, and herby mixed greens is just one of the delectable dishes I enjoyed this week from my basket of bounty.
Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA

Grilled Asparagus, Sliced Radish and Mesclun Salad
Serves 4

1 bunch asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste
8 breakfast radishes
8 oz. mesclun
1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup red cherry tomatoes, halved
Parmigiano Reggiano

Tarragon – Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Turn grill to high. Toss asparagus with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place on grill, cover and cook 5 minutes, checking after 3. Test one asparagus with a knife, and remove from the grill if tender. Let cool, then chop into 2-inch lengths on the bias.

Cut the ends of the radishes and slice thinly using a mandoline or knife. Halve the tomatoes and set aside. With a vegetable peeler or knife, shave off large strips of cheese from the block of Parmigiano Reggiano. Set aside.
To assemble, place asparagus, radishes, tomatoes and mesclun in a large bowl. Toss lightly with dressing. Divide evenly among plates and top with the shavings of Parmigiano.


Tarragon-Shallot Vinaigrette
Yield = ½ cup

4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons tarragon, finely chopped

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, shallots, mustard, sugar and salt. Let mixture macerate for 20 minutes. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified. Stir in tarragon. Taste, add more salt and pepper if necessary. Set aside.

One of the border collies at the farm:

Mango Pico de Gallo

Mango

Before the summer tomatoes reach the farm stands, ripe for fresh pico de gallo, try making one with mangoes, which are currently in season. From now until September, bright yellow champagne mangoes are at the market, and from May until August, the reddish-green Florida variety will be available.

Flavored with traditional salsa seasonings — lime juice, cilantro and jalapeños — this mango pico de gallo makes a refreshing appetizer. Serve with pappadums for a nice change from tortilla chips.

Mango Pico de Gallo
Yield = 3 cups

1 red bell pepper
1 jalapeño
2 mangoes
½ medium red onion
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon sugar

store-bought pappadums (Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s) or tortilla chips

1. Cut the red pepper in half, core and remove stem and seeds. With a knife, remove the white interior membranes, then finely dice the pepper (to yield about ¾ cup). Place in a large bowl. Repeat with the jalapeño.

2. Peel the mangoes, then slice fruit from the pit. Finely dice the fruit and add to the bowl (about 1¾ cup). Finely dice the onion (about ½ cup) and add to the bowl with the cilantro, lime juice, salt and sugar.

3. With a large spoon gently toss the ingredients together, being careful not to bruise the fruit. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary with more salt or lime juice.

4. Serve with pappadums or tortilla chips.

Crispy Baby Artichokes

artichokes

Artichokes originated in the Mediterranean and have been grown for over two thousand years. Edible, immature flowers of a cultivated thistle, artichokes produce crops twice a year — from March through May and August through October. As Sicily is believed to be the actual birthplace of these edible flowers, artichokes have been an essential part of the Italian diet for years. In Italy, young artichokes are eaten raw dipped in extra virgin olive oil, or fried whole in olive oil.

My husband and I recently tasted the baby artichokes “alla romana” at Osteria, a new Italian taverna opened by the owners of Vetri. Cooked slowly in olive oil with rosemary and garlic, the artichokes were, for me at least, the highlight of the evening.

Baby artichokes are the small buds that grow on side shoots off the central stem of the large plants and currently can be found at the market. Unlike the large globe artichokes, the tender small ones have no fuzzy inedible choke and are easier to prepare than the large. Served with a little salt and lemon, these crispy and caramelized little buds make a wonderful appetizer.

Osteria-Inspired Artichokes
Serves 4 as an appetizer

1 lemon, halved
15 baby artichokes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
2 sprigs rosemary
4 cloves garlic, lightly smashed

Fill a large bowl with cold water and squeeze half the lemon into it. Cut off the rough spiky tops of the artichokes and peel away leaves until the pale green leaves are exposed. With a paring knife, cut off very bottom of stem and peel dark green layer off sides of stem. Repeat with each one, dropping each cleaned artichoke into the prepared acidulated water.
In a medium, deep heavy pot, add ½ cup water, the oil, salt, rosemary and garlic. Place over medium-high heat until oil and water mixture begins to bubble. Add the artichokes. Reduce heat to medium, cover and let cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove cover, and increase heat to medium-high. Let the artichokes cook undisturbed until the bottom side begins to turn golden brown and get crispy. Once nicely colored, flip artichokes and cook until second side becomes similarly golden-brown.
When artichokes are crisped all over, remove with slotted spoon, sprinkle with salt to taste and serve with remaining half lemon.