Miss Piggy once said, “After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual “food” out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps.” Growing up I always looked forward to the days when my mom came home from the store with a bag of artichokes. She would steam them until they were tender, then serve them with melted butter seasoned simply with a bit of salt. We would eagerly peel the leaves, dipping the meaty ends into the melted butter, then scraping the flesh from the leaves with our teeth. The interior of the artichokes would be so hot that our fingers would hurt in our eagerness to get to the our favorite part of the artichoke, their hearts. But first we’d have to deal with the choke, the hairy inedible interior that covers the artichoke heart. We’d finish our feasts with the tender, creamy hearts. I think I love artichokes, not only for their flavor, but also for the process you have to go through to enjoy them. They don’t reveal their treasures all at once, you have to work for them, one layer of leaves at a time. I personally think that’s much tastier than Miss Piggy’s postage stamp theory.
But baby artichokes are a different matter. There are no tricky chokes to deal with, and the flesh doesn’t have to be scraped from each leaf to be enjoyed. The entire artichoke is edible! My friends at Frieda’s recently sent me a care package that contained a bag of Fiesole Baby Purple Artichokes, grown in California, and a bag of Meyer lemons.
I went to the grocery store later that day, not having decided what I was going to do with the artichokes and lemons, and happened to walk down the aisle that contained all of the different grains. A bag of forbidden rice, from Lotus Foods, caught my eye and I immediately knew what I wanted to make with the produce from Frieda’s—a warm black rice salad! Forbidden rice, a medium-grain black rice from China, is full of antioxidants, and compliment the rich purple hue of the Fiesole baby purple artichokes.
I sliced one of the meyer lemons into thin half moons, and roasted them with the artichokes that I had briefly steamed beforehand. The Meyer lemon slices were transformed by roasting, making them tender and tangy, sweet.
I tossed cooked black rice in some toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. Then I tossed everything together, along with some chunks of avocado and thinly sliced scallions, and served the salad warm. The avocado added creamy texture to the slightly chewy, nutty grains of rice, and the roasted Meyer lemon slices brightened everything up, keeping the dish from being to heavy. This colorful salad, with all of it’s contrasting textures and flavors, is perfect for celebrating the flavors of spring. Take that Miss Piggy.
Roasted Baby Purple Artichoke Black Rice Salad
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Recipe Notes: This is a warm rice salad that makes a great meatless main dish or side dish. To make this gluten free, substitute tamari soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos for the soy sauce.
For the roasted artichokes and Meyer lemon slices:
1 pound Fiesole baby purple artichokes
2 Meyer lemons
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
For the black rice:
1 1/2 cups black rice (also called forbidden rice)
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 medium-size ripe avocados, cut into small chunks
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Juice of one Meyer lemon, optional
1. Make the roasted baby purple artichokes and Meyer lemon slices: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill a large bowl with cold water and the juice of one of the meyer lemons.
2. Wash the artichokes, then remove the tough outer leaves. Cut off the top third of the head to remove the tough ends of the leaves, then slice it down the middle. Put the artichokes into the lemon water as soon as they have been cut in half.
3. Bring 2 to 3 inches of water to boil ina pot fit with a steamer insert. Drain the water from the artichokes and place them in the steamer basket, cover tightly, and steam for 5 minutes. Drain well.
4. While the artichokes are steaming, slice the second Meyer lemon in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 1/8-inch-thick slices, crosswise, removing any seeds.
4. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.
5. Place the artichokes in a roasting dish with the Meyer lemon slices. Drizzle the olive oil mixture over them, and toss to coat. Arrange the artichokes cut side up and roast them in the oven until they are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
6. Make the black rice: While the artichokes and meyer lemon slices are roasting, prepare the black rice. Bring the black rice, water, and a pinch of salt to a quick boil over high heat in a medium-size saucepan, then cover the saucepan and lower the heat to maintain a simmer, and let the rice cook for 30 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the rice sit. Whisk together the sesame oil and soy sauce, then pour it over the black rice and toss with the rice while it is still warm. Replace the lid and set aside until it is time to assemble the salad.
7. Assemble the salad: When all of the salad components are prepared, place the rice in a large mixing bowl and add the roasted artichokes and Meyer lemon slices, avocado chunks, and sliced scallions, then toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. If desired, add the juice of an additional Meyer lemon.
*Disclosure: Frieda’s sent me the Fiesole Baby Purple Artichokes and Meyer Lemons to cook with, but I received no other compensation for this post.