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Family Fun
Family Fun

Artichokes take center stage

According to In Style, shades of gray, scarlet and yellow are hot this spring. I, however, prefer green and purple, as in fresh English pea green and baby artichoke purple.

Apparently, so do farmer's markets. I've seen some of the most stylish looking artichokes around -- ranging from petite purple baby artichokes to hefty, celery-green Big Heart artichokes.

Despite their diminutive size, baby artichokes are fully mature artichokes with a full-bodied, earthy flavor. They simply don't grow as large as Globe or Big Heart artichokes because they're picked from the lower part of the artichoke plant. As a result, the characteristic fuzzy choke isn't all that fuzzy and can be eaten. Indeed, other than a few tough outer leaves, the entire artichoke is edible.

Baby artichokes are delicious in many dishes ranging from risotto and pasta to salads and soups. Paired with Italian farro or emmer, as in this farro with baby artichokes, mushrooms and peas, baby artichokes are exceptionally stylish.

Farro is a wonderfully chewy, nutty flavored whole grain that has been used for over 6,000 years. Although used extensively in Italy, where it has been enjoyed since ancient Roman times, farro has only recently gained popularity here in the U.S.

Farro isn't always easy to find in grocery stores. The best place to buy farro is at an Italian market or deli. Otherwise, try organic markets or online sources. Know that farro is expensive: a 15- to 20-ounce bag ranges from $6 to $10. Once you taste it, though, you'll understand why it's pricey.

Cooked farro is a delicious cross between bulgur and wheat berries -- firm, chewy, nutty and satisfying. If you can't find farro, then barley or spelt make good substitutes.

By the way, if any In Style editors are reading this, don't worry, I'll be donning scarlet shortly, as in rhubarb scarlet.

Farro with baby artichokes, mushrooms and peas

Servings: 4

Ingredients:
1/2 cup uncooked farro
8 baby artichokes, or 2 regular sized ones
The juice of 1 small lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup sliced white button or cremini mushrooms
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cannelini beans, drained
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh or unthawed frozen peas
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons lightly toasted pistachio nuts
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1. Soak farro in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain. Place in medium pot, and cover with 3-4 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Lower to a rolling boiling, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Cooked farro should be firm and chewy but not hard. Drain any remaining water, and place in a bowl.

2. Meanwhile, fill a medium sized pot with water and the juice of 1 lemon (which prevents the artichokes from oxidizing, or turning brown), and bring to a boil. Remove any tough or damaged outer leaves from the artichokes. Trim the tops and the bottoms, and slice into quarters. Boil for 3-4 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and plunge in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil. Add mushrooms and shallot, and saute 5-7 minutes, or until mushrooms are lightly browned. Add wine. Allow alcohol to burn off for about 5 minutes. Add the cooked farro, beans, broth, salt and red pepper flakes. Stir well, and cook 3-4 minutes. Stir in peas and lemon juice. Cook for 2 minutes, or just until peas begin to soften. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, cheese and pistachios. Drizzle servings with extra virgin olive oil.

Susan Russo is a freelance food writer in San Diego, California. She publishes stories, recipes, and photos on her cooking blog, Food Blogga. One for the Table at oneforthetable.com is Amy Ephron's online magazine that specializes in food, politics, and love.

Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
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