Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Artichoke heart risotto with nettle-pumpkin seed pesto

I always talk about how I am a whore for good-looking produce, and how I am completely powerless against the imp god of Ambitious Cooking (okay, I made him up, but I implore any one of you to tell me you aren't his bitch, too).

This dish, like so many others, is inspired by the "fuck sake, this has about one minute left on it, why the hell did I buy a(n) [artichoke/bag of gai lan/tub of kimchi] the size of a [fetus/dumpster/Collosus]? What in the frick am I going to do with it?" realization that seems to be par for the course these days. This time, the artichoke won.

This, my friends, is why I never use fresh artichokes. I filled my compost bowl and covered the cutting board. It'll be years before I forget the trouble they are, but I will, and I'll get wooed by another choice specimen (this one was as big as a cantaloupe), promise I'll use it, then shake my fist at that imp god of Ambitious Cooking when I'm elbow deep in spiny thistle down and stiff, leafy bracts.

This, THIS is all I got out of all that mess! And no, I don't feel like scraping my incisors across a sepal to try to drag an atom of thistleflesh into my gaping maw, so don't lecture me about wasting all that good stuff.

But this time I also had some inspirado from my buddy Peter over at cookblog (I call him Jube, short for Jubilation T. Cornpwn, because he says "there are just too many Peters", and I say "that's what she said."). He's been working with nettles a lot lately, springtime green they are, and I live pretty close to a little creek where I can harvest my own. So on Sunday I donned my leather gauntlet gloves to keep the needles off my skin, and snipped myself a bag of tender nettle tips.

I spent all day in the field, and it was raining all day AND I forgot my rain gear in the other truck so I got really drenched today. Therefore, I needed creamy starch and I wanted to make a risotto (it's easier than gnocchi, and it makes its own sauce). I figured the easiest way to get nettles into risotto was to puree it (Jube makes a nifty nettle sauce all the time), so I blanched it (deactivating the venomous trichomes), wrung out the juice and chopped it up. I toasted some pumpkin seeds and blended them with garlic, salt, olive oil and the green wad of nettle. Added a little thyme and mint and whizzed it all up.

I cleaned the artichoke hearts up real nice, quartered and then thinly sliced them. Boil for a couple minutes in acidulated water (a splash of vinegar does it) to keep them from browning. Heat up some butter and olive oil in and sauté the drained artichokes with some thinly sliced spring onion . Add the arborio rice and do the "making the risotto" thing. Stir in a few heaping spoonfuls of the pesto, salt and pepper to taste. Finish with a sexy knob of French cultured butter and some shaved Parm Redge.

Buon appetito!

29 comments:

Brittany said...

Artichokes are second only to the fava when it comes to the slavery required for consumption.
...but soooooo good.
This risotto (with foraged nettles! Day-um!) looks pretty fucking scrumptious.

Foodycat said...

Gorgeous! I don't mind preparing artichokes, just don't ask me to wash a lettuce...

One of the best boozing snacks ever is an artichoke heart fritter - you pare them nicely, cut into 8ths, chuck an egg and a spoonful of flour into the bowl and turn them over until the flour disappears. Into shallow hot olive oil. They come out like tempura and beg to be washed down with something cold.

Love your risotto. Must get foraging.

Emiline said...

The risotto looks delicious. I'm not familiar with nettles, though. I'm going to have to do some research.

There are too many Peters. :)

Peter M said...

Hey...when you trim your artichokes, you leave part of the stem...most people wrongly discard what is very tender and delish.

When we doing dinner, drinks and 101 swearin' & cussin'? That's my kinda table manners.

peter said...

Thanks for the love... was it nettle-icious? Are you a convert?

Also, I have to disagree about artichokes; I don't think the labor involved is a deal-breaker.

Bellini Valli said...

I agree that artichokes are a little time consuming but well worth the effort. I usually by them from a can and there is no comparison in texture, so I am usually the one missing out. I love your risotto with nettle pesto. I wonder if I can find any nettles around here in our semi-desert climate..plenty of sage.

kittie said...

Funny - I just had a battle with myself when I nipped to the grocer's at lunch...

Me: Where's the asparagus?
Me-under-the-control-of-the-imp-god-of Ambitious-Cooking: Wow, oh, wow - look at these artichokes!!
Me: No, too fussy, asparagus?
Ambitious-me: But they're HUGE!
Me: Shut up. We have lots to do tonight, no time for artichokes.
Ambitious-me: But looooook (pulls sleeve) They're almost as big as my head - AND they're well priced!
Me: Shut up - remember last time? You and your crazy plans. That side dish took almost 2 hours to prepare!
Ambitious-me: Yeah, was good though...
Me: yeah... drool...
Ambitious-me: So... artichokes?
Me: No, the time, the mess, I can't take it tonight...
Ambitious-me: Oh come on... we could stuff them with all sorts of yummy stuff... we just have to nip to another couple of stores...
Me: (Grabs ambitious-me by the throat in a threatening manner...) I said NO.
Ambitious-me: (croaks) Asparagus is fine, no need to get tetchy...


Hmmm... I think I have issues...

glamah16 said...

Great combo. I have only started hearing of nettles this summer. Perfect spring meal yet one that warms you up from the rain showers.

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

Well that just sucks...a couple of months ago we had nettles and other wild flowers all over the place. I didn't know they were food???!!! I have so much to learn...

That risotto looks great!

Heather said...

Brittany - Favas are also a huge pain in the ass, but at least they aren't spiny!

Foodycat - That artichoke heart fritter sounds amazing. Frying is another thing I find too be too much trouble at home, but I could make an exception...

Emiline - Nettles are a funky plant. I'm sure they grow in your area, but I've never seen them in a store (what with the stinging).

Peter the Greek - I know! Fools! I just shaved off the outer layer of the stem and it was crispy sweet like the rest of the heart.

Jube - It was even better: it was urticaceous! You deserve a shout out. Holla!

Valli - I had only ever had them from a jar before this, too. The last time I cooked them fresh I just dipped the "leaves" in melted butter and scraped. Fresh hearts are the bee's knees.

Kittie - You have triumphed over the imp god of Ambitious Cooking. You are a strong woman! That little sumbitch always defeats me.

Courtney - I knew about them from my old wild plants/living off the land days (when I was a teenaged hippie), but I'd never followed through with it before. Glad I did!

Heather said...

Thanks, Judy! Well, at least now you have another thing to look forward to in the spring (they're much better when they're new shoots anyways). :)

Catherine Wilkinson said...

How come you just didn't go to bed with a bag a of bar-b-q potatoe chips after that wet day?
Because you're KICK ASS HEATHER who lets no gnarly vegetable get in the way of culinary stupendousificousy.
Word.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

This looks amazing, but I think I'm a nettle whimp. What do you do to them to clean them, etc.? Artichokes don't bother me at all, OTOH.

Syd said...

Risotto? You DONKEY! Is somebody watching Hell's Kitchen?

Chuck said...

I think if you made that risotto on Hells Kitchen you would become a favorite of Gordon Ramsay. Looks amazingly delicious!

My Sweet & Saucy said...

This looks simply delicious!

Celine said...

this is so ingenious, impressive, AND appetizing. kudos!

Peter G said...

"Venomous trichomes"...tricha=hair in Greek!...Sorry I just love languages! I too despise culling away at the many layers to find the perfect inner one (sounds like a lot of my pretentious friends!)...another stunning creation Ms Heather.

Heather said...

Catherine - Well, I did hit the butter and booze pretty hard. Not together, mind you, but hey, that really might be something.

Jen - I just stirred the nettles in a colander with a tongs to wash them. When thy hit the boiling water they don't sting anymore.

Syd - Gordon Ramsey would eat risotto off my tits and you know it.

Chuck - He would if he ate it off my tits!

Melody - Thanks! I'd make it again for sure.

Celene - Aw, thanks!

Petah - I love languages too! I'm so impressed that you knew what trichomes refer to. :D

Zen Chef said...

THAT's the perfect remedy for a shitty day!

I like your cookin', but you knew that already.

Foodycat said...

No no no! Shallow frying is deep frying for those of us who couldn't be bothered at home! I can make these fritters after 1/2 bottle of champagne and still not cut or burn myself. Seriously, you must!

Núria said...

Any leftovers? Pleaseeeee say yes!!! You are my hero! I LOVE♥ your risotto, looks great and I bet it tasted like heaven :D.
I'm the opposite, never use canned artichokes... didn't you feel the difference?

cook eat FRET said...

you leave me in your damn dust, goddamnit...

great post all around, goddamnit

Pixie said...

I've been trying to be a bit more thrifty in my overspending on veg as I have a tendency to purchase 'extra' and watch it rot away.

I do love the idea of an artichoke risotto though.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

That is one fine dish. Haven't seen nettles around my parts these days (and definitely not around my private parts...ouch!) but I bet the tips of vetch would work pretty well as a sub.

As for the leaves, make artichoke soup out of them. I will post the recipe in a day or so for you.

We Are Never Full said...

GOD, since my sites been down i've been so out of the loop!!!! THIS look amazing, heather. this nettle phenom is all over the food blogs. i think i'm the only person who hasn't done anything w/ morels, ramps, nettles or fiddleheads.

i really love this idea though - mmmm artichokes.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Mmmm, definitely the kind of thing that I'd make. If I had a kitchen. Which, as you know, I currently don't. Not that I'm sulking, or anything.

Jeff said...

I hate fresh artichokes. Ok I love them but I hate dealing with them. You did a lot better than I would have. I would have said fuck it after about 3 minutes and threw everything into the compost bin eerrr...buried it in the compost bin so they did not mock me by looking at me everytime I walked by.

Rachel said...

The imp god is always with me, whispering ideas, but then everyone around me says "oh no, we don't want you to go to all that trouble, that sounds hard, don't bother" so I'm a very frustrated devotee. After awhile the imp god stops whispering and starts hitting, so then I just make whatever the hell I want and other people eat it all and then talk about how hard it must have been and how I shouldn't have afterwards. %$*(&#^