One of the things that drew me to Arabesque, Claudia Roden’s book of Moroccan, Turkish and Lebanese cookery, other than the praises I’ve seen across the web, is the brilliant blue cover with a gorgeous still life of artichokes, eggplants and spices. And, while this recipe isn’t from that book, it is certainly inspired by it. I couldn’t resist picking up one of each variety of artichoke that were on display at Whole Foods, for the photos if nothing else. Once I had them home, I had an itch to do something Moroccan with them. There is a wonderful tagine recipe that I must try, but today, I wanted something a bit quicker and a bit lighter. A Spanish tortilla or a frittata was just the right thing. So, using some of the basic seasonings and flavors, I decided to turn my artichokes into a simple but flavorful Moroccan-inspired frittata.
To truly make this recipe Moroccan, you need some kind of preserved citrus. A month or so ago, I stashed away some preserved grapefruit… a simple concoction of olive oil, salt, bay leaf, peppercorns, and of course, grapefruit slices. You can buy preserved lemons in most gourmet shops, but if you happen to find yourself with an extra grapefruit or two, I highly recommend preserving them. The flavor is amazing, and you won’t likely find preserved grapefruit around. To use the preserved citrus, scrape off any white pulp to leave just the peel, and rinse it to get rid of the extra salt.
Also for this recipe, I recommend starting with fresh artichokes rather than canned artichoke hearts. Preparing an artichoke is much less daunting than you might imagine. Elise has a great step-by-step of preparing an artichoke to boil and eat, but for this recipe, you want to prepare them uncooked. Start by getting some basics together… a bowl full of water and lemon juice, a few fresh lemon slices, a spoon and a really sharp knife. Then trim off the stem so the base is flat (but don’t cut into the bulb). Peel off the tough outer leaves. You should start to see a bit of yellow at the base of the leaves once you reach the tender ones. Then, with the sharp knife, cut off the top of the artichoke. You’ll cut off about an inch and a half or two. You want to get to the “choke”, or the hairy bits in the center. These are surrounded by some really soft, tender and usually a bit purply leaves. Remove these, and with a teaspoon start scooping out the middle to remove all the hairy parts. The heart is just below this, and you should end up with a slightly dimpled surface. Take a lemon slice, and rub the artichoke all over. Place it in the bowl of lemon water, and move on to the next artichoke. The lemon water will prevent the artichoke from browning too much. For this recipe, I then sliced the artichokes into little wedges, about 8 per artichoke.
One more quick note on the artichokes. Most commonly, you’ll find the big green globe artichokes, but purple artichokes seem to be making more of an appearance lately. These purple artichokes have a slightly stronger flavor, and are usually smaller. You’ll typically find them grilled and drizzled with olive oil, with the stems intact.
Moroccan-Inspired Artichoke Frittata
Makes 1 small 5-inch skillet sized frittata
Note: You’ll want a cast iron skillet for this recipe.
2 to 3 artichoke bottoms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T chopped flat leaf parsley
1 T chopped cilantro (aka coriander)
2 T preserved citrus peel, finely chopped
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 t unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Heat a 5-inch cast iron skillet on medium-high. Add 1 t of butter. When the butter starts to get foamy, add the minced garlic. Give it a quick stir, and then add the sliced artichokes. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Saute the artichokes until they start to brown a bit, and then reduce heat and cook until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the artichokes to a bowl, and mix in about 1 T of the citrus peel. Set aside.
Quickly wipe out the skillet, and add the other 1 t of butter, and heat over medium-high heat till it starts to foam. While that is heating, whisk the eggs with a bit of salt and pepper. Add the remaining citrus peel, the cilantro, the parsley and the lemon juice. Then, pour the egg mixture into the skillet, giving it a bit of a swirl. Start adding the artichoke mixture, reserving a few of the artichoke pieces for garnish if desired. Give it another stir, and then transfer to the preheated oven.
Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the top of the egg starts to brown. Do not overcook, or the eggs will just get leathery. Serve immediately, garnished with the extra sautÃ©ed artichokes, a bit of lemon or some green olives.