Posted on Mar 27, 2009
In Italy I got accustomed to good, organic produce and it is a vital part of my cooking. We have been getting our produce straight from EarthWorks Community Farm in South El Monte. It is a beautiful location with fertile soil in the middle of the Whittier Narrow recreation area and we love spend some time connecting with the earth and the growing of things on Saturdays. Find out if there's a farm close to your neighborhood at LocalHarvest.org.
Last week my husband picked fava beans, a large bag, and since these were my first taste of the season they never made it to the table! But I have promised my friends that next week I will hold off eating them all and make my all-time favorite bruschetta with fava beans pesto. You must try this, so easy and bursting with flavor!
We are also getting the beds in our small backyard plot ready for new tomato plants, since the sun is shining in California and welcomes these essential basics of Italian cuisine. So easy to grow, even in containers, and what a different pizza sauce home-grown makes!
Check out the Tomato Mania for all kinds of heirloom plants and seeds. If they are not located near you, then get your seeds from Seeds of Change, an organization that strives to preserve bio-diversity and promotes sustainable, organic agriculture. The old Italian tomato and basil seeds that have been grown in the USA and preserved for generations can be purchased from them. Try it, you won't regret the flavor!
Carciofi, or artichokes, have made their springtime debut at the farmer's markets in Southern California and baking them in your wood fired oven really brings out their full flavor.
Carciofi al forno -- Wood fired Oven Baked Artichokes
- 6 large, globe artichokes
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 handful of fresh thyme sprigs
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
Wash the artichokes and trim the base so that they will sit flat. Pull off the leaves until you get to the tender inside leaves. Trim the top straight across with a sharp knife. You are going to stuff the artichokes, so you will need to trim off the leaf barbs in the middle as well, until the heart of the artichoke is exposed. Set aside in a bowl of water with some lemon juice added to it, to prevent discoloration.
Chop the herbs, the garlic, and the onion together and mix in a small bowl along with the olive oil, the bread crumbs, and the Parmesan cheese. Add generous amounts of salt and pepper, to taste. Stuff each artichoke with this mixture, pushing it in with a spoon. Wrap each artichoke in foil, closing it on top, and place in metal pan.
Bake in your wood-fired oven at about 500-400 degrees for 20 minutes. Take out the pan, open one of the foils and check. If it needs further baking, place back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so. Otherwise, open the foil carefully, and place the pan back in the oven for the artichokes to brown on top, this should take about 10 minutes.