Raining or not, I’ve got spring fever—asparagus, ramps, and artichokes, if I see them, I want them. That's the thing about spring. It’s fleeting. So I'm taking full advantage before summer comes around with all its flashy tomatoes and eggplants and what not.
Although they are not local (we don't get local artichokes here until June or July), I got ahold of some lovely baby artichokes recently. And I had what is probably one of the last bundles of ramps this year in my vegetable drawer, so lunch began to take shape.
I decided that baking them would be the best way to keep things simple. As I’ve said before, I love stuffing artichokes with good, crunchy breadcrumbs and anything else I might be in the mood for (garlic, capers, pancetta, pecorino, etc.) Artichokes are generally a bit time-consuming to prepare; there’s no way around it. But boy are they worth it. And baby artichokes are considerably easier to prep than their bigger brothers and sisters—being choke free, they don’t need as much attention. After peeling the tougher outer leaves, and trimming the stem, I just sliced them in half and let them wait patiently in their lemon water bath. I was determined to pair them with my ramps. So, after separating the ramp bulbs from the more delicate leaves, I popped the bulbs into the roasting tray along with the halved baby artichokes, cut-side up.
I topped everything with a generous dusting of garlic-anchovy fried breadcrumbs (you can leave out the anchovy if you hate it). I added a touch of water to the tray, then covered it with foil. After about forty-five minutes, the artichokes were good and tender.
Then I cranked on my broiler, crisping everything up. It was heaven. The breadcrumbs were savory and crunchy, the artichokes were potently sweet, and the ramp bulbs were silky and luscious (you can use scallions if you can't find ramps). Thinly sliced, the bright green ramp leaves made for a perfect garnish. I put a solid portion on my plate, gave everything a quick squeeze of fresh lemon, and then promptly inhaled it. In order to save some for my husband Daniel, I actually had to cover his plate with a bowl to keep myself from picking away.
I was actually surprised by how well the breadcrumbs clung to the artichokes, and I couldn’t help but think that this recipe would make for great cocktail party fare. You could separate the ramps and the artichokes after baking and arrange them on the same plate—in my book, they could easily pass as finger food. (They certainly did today in my kitchen.) Wonderful hot, wonderful not.
Just wonderful in every way.
Baked Baby Artichokes with Ramps and Crunchy Breadcrumbs
1 whole lemon, halved
8 to 10 baby artichokes (about 2 pounds)
1 bunch ramps (about 6 ounces)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 anchovy filets (optional)
3/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lemon wedges, for serving
1. Arrange rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350° F. Into a large bowl filled with water, give the two lemon halves a squeeze and then drop them into the water. Working one by one, peel, trim, and halve each artichoke and then place them immediately into the acidulated water.
2. Clean your ramps and trim the root bottoms. Separate the leaves from the bulbs.
3. In a skillet over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add anchovy filets and sauté for about 2 minutes, breaking filets up with a fork until mostly dissolved. Add breadcrumbs and stir to coat. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, then add garlic, parsley, a good pinch of sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for another minute then remove from heat.
4. In a baking dish or roasting pan arrange artichoke halves cut side up. Tuck ramp bulbs in between the artichokes, dispersing evenly. (I used a 9 by 13 roasting pan, which was a bit oversized, so I ended up corralling the artichokes and ramps together in a tight group in the center of the pan, a 10-inch pan qould have been perfect I think.)
5. Add enough water to the pan cover the entire bottom of the pan in a thin layer (I added about 1/2 cup). Cover artichokes and ramps with fried breadcrumbs, then drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cover pan tightly with a sheet of foil and prick all over.
6. Bake for 45 minutes, then check that the artichokes are tender all the way through. If they aren't easily pierced by a fork, bake for an additional 5 minutes or until tender. Raise rack to highest position and broil the artichokes and ramps for 1 minute.
7. Sprinkle the artichokes and ramps with sliced ramp leaves and additional chopped parsley. Serve with lemon wedges.