Pesto di Carciofi - Artichoke Pesto (gluten-free, casein-free, vegan option, ACD)

Artichokes!  What a puzzler!  Artichokes are this month's Blogger Secret Ingredient, and I'm the host. I already posted one artichoke recipe, but I wanted to make another one using the fresh artichokes from my crisper! They were what inspired me to choose artichokes for these week's ingredient, after all, and they have been bangin' around that drawer for way too long.  So, out they came. 

I most often prepare artichokes by trimming them and steaming them, scraping their little leaves with my teeth, and then greedily eating the heart.  This time I wanted to try something totally different.  I consulted my favorite cookbook of late, the River Cafe Cook Book Green.  It is a rustic, seasonal Italian cookbook written by two British women, Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. If any cuisine knows how to use artichokes, it Italian cuisine, and Ruth and Rose really capture the spirit of Italian cooking. Just ask Jamie Oliver - he cut his teeth working at the River Cafe back in his days as a young chef. Dreamy!

Anyway, I found a wealth of artichoke options in the pages of Green.  One recipe, however, really stood out - pesto di carciofi, or artichoke pesto (I love this cookbook because it uses metric measurements and all the titles are in Italian). I made some tweaks, substituting parmesan cheese with ground toasted sunflower seeds, swapping in non-dairy milk, and using ghee instead of butter. I made a couple other small tweaks too.  What resulted was rich and artichokey and really quite lovely!  I was surprised frankly, because while I was working on it I definitely had my doubts.  Then I realized that when you put that much olive oil, ghee, pine nuts, and sunflower seeds in anything, especially with some garlic thrown in, it will be good.

In the cook book, this pesto is served over pasta. Conveniently, I had some leftover rice noodles in my fridge and used it on them; it was excellent, even on my reheated pasta! Later I tossed it with steamed vegetables.  Let me clarify - I ate it with steamed broccoli stems and cabbage, some of the last remaining vegetables in my dwindling crisper drawer.  I'm left with a beet, a rutabaga, some fennel stalks, celery, and some chives.   Hey, when a pesto can jazz up broccoli stems and cabbage and make it a delightful, wonderful meal, you know it has to be good. 

Thank you, Ruth and Rose, I love you, always.

Want to submit an artichoke recipe?  It isn't too late! You still have until midnight CST on Sunday, May 2 to submit your artichoke recipe for the BSI event.  If you don't know the rules, see them here.  Send your recipe to eatingfreely@gmail.com.  The winner of my choice wins a great prize: a bottle of Dad's Seasoning Original Blend, handmade and sold by my very own dad!

Pesto di Carciofi - Artichoke Pesto

adapted from River Cafe Cook Book Green

yields approx 2 1/2 cups

4 small globe artichokes

lemon juice/parsley stems/vitamin C crystals

1/4 cup pine nuts

3 garlic cloves

3/4 cup (175 ml) non-dairy milk substitute, unsweetened and unflavored (I used SoDelicious coconut milk beverage)

2 handfuls parsley leaves

1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted and finely ground 

1/3-1/2 (100 ml) cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp ghee (or additional 2 Tbsp olive oil or REFINED coconut oil)

1/4 tsp vitamin C crystals or 2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp sea salt

optional: 1/2 tsp chickpea miso (adds a yeasty, cheesy flavor) 

Fill a large bowl with cool water, and add a squeeze of lemon juice, some parsley stems, or about a 1/4 tsp of vitamin C crystals. This is called acidulated water, and it will keep your artichokes from turning brown!  Now peel back the dark green leaves from the artichokes until you reach the tender, light green inner leaves.  Chop off the top of the artichoke with a sharp knife, and trim the stem end.  

[HINT: dont' throw away those peeled off leaves! Set them aside, then steam them for a few minutes until they are tender, then eat them! Just scrape them with your teeth.  Eat them plain, or dip in butter, ghee, olive oil, or something creamy!]

Slice the artichokes in half lengthwise, and place in the bowl of water and let sit a couple minutes.  Then remove one by one, and scoop out the hairy inner choke with a small spoon, placing back in the bowl while you finish trimming the rest of them.

Drain the artichoke halves, coarsely chop, and place in a high powered blender (like a Vita-Mix) or food processor.  Process artichokes with pine nuts, garlic, and milk until you have a coarse paste (if using a Vita-Mix smash down with the tamper).  Then add milk, ground sunflower seeds, salt, and parsley and blend briefly.  Slowly add oil to form a cream with blender/processor running.

Transfer to a small saucepan and  heat over medium-low heat, adding ghee and stirring often until warmed through, about 5-7 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add miso paste and vitamin C crystals/lemon juice, stirring to combine.  Serve!  Use thick like this, or dilute with warm water, milk, or broth as desired for your dish.  Store in a well-sealed jar or container in the refrigerator.

Possible uses:

  • spread on bread or crackers
  • toss with pasta or roasted vegetables (dilute slightly with warm water to do this)
  • thin out with broth, oil, or vinegar and use for salad dressing
  • use in grain salads
  • use as a dip for raw vegetables
  • spread on chicken breasts or salmon
  • use your imagination!