Spring Vegetables and Winter Weather

It’s snowing outside right now, and I just dropped off a dinner of braised chicken thighs with baby artichokes and peas to a girlfriend who recently birthed herself some twin girls.  I love spring for the seasonal fruits and vegetables, but here it’s not entirely unusual to be enjoying artichokes with lemon vinaigrette while it’s cold and damp outside.  Like today.

While I love artichokes and eat them at least once a week in the spring, I’ve never prepared baby artichokes before.  It always seemed like an awful lot of work to reduce it to just a heart when there were so many leaves just waiting to be dipped in sauce.  However, having scored 2 pounds of fresh baby artichokes at Trader Joe’s I figured I’d try something new.  And you know, it wasn’t that time consuming – and fresh sauteed artichoke hearts are a lot nicer than brined canned ones.

I decided to prepare barley risotto as well, primarily because it’s so much easier than regular risotto (it’s cooked like rice, without all the fussy stirring down of liquid that authentic risotto requires). My friend’s a bit of a gourmand, so seeing her impressed reaction to my little gift was well worth the time spent preparing 2 pounds of baby artichokes!

Basic Barley “Risotto” (my lazy version)

1 3/4 cup pearl barley
1 shallot, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup water

Heat oil in a large stockpot, add shallot and saute until soft, about 4 minutes.  Add barley, cook one minute, stirring frequently.  Add broth and water, cover and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to simmer and cook, covered, about 45 minutes until chewy but not too soft.  There will be some liquid remaining.


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