Italian-born Massimo Navarretta has the heart and soul of a farmer. The artichokes and large-bulb green onions he used in this delectable dish were from his gardens.
Navarretta, Executive Chef-Owner of Onotria in Costa Mesa, doesn’t mind that strangers sometimes mistake him for James Gandolfini, the actor who played the lead in HBO’s hit series “The Sopranos.”
Once, at South Coast Plaza, he signed an autograph for an over-the-top fan who called him Tony Soprano and shoved a piece of paper into his paw. Navarretta is used to being a star. A culinary star.
Here’s his fresh-from-the-garden approach to artichokes.
Yield: 6 servings
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
6 medium-small artichokes with 1-inch stem left intact
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
About 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 spring onions (green onions with large bulbs), roots cut off (but root end left intact), about 2 inches of light green stalks left intact, cut into lengthwise quarters or sixths if really large
Optional: sliver of fresh habanero
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Coarse salt to taste
1. Place a medium-large bowl of water on work surface; add 1 teaspoon lemon juice. In a large pan, bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil on high heat.
2. Meanwhile, trim artichokes. Peel skin off stems. Remove and discard outer dark-green leaves; bend them back until they snap and the edible portion at bottom will stay intact. Stop when you reach the yellow-green delicate leaves. Trim sides of base with paring knife as if peeling an apple. Cut into lengthwise sixths and drop into lemon water as soon as trimmed to prevent discoloration.
3. Place turmeric in boiling water. Drain artichokes and place in boiling water. Blanch 5 to 7 minutes, or until starting to get tender. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of cooking water.
4. In a large, deep skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add onions (and chili – see below) and sauté until starting to brown, tossing occasionally. Season with lemon juice and salt to taste. Add artichokes and sauté until heated through and artichokes are tender. Toward the end of cooking add about 1 to 2 teaspoons of reserved cooking water. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve.
Source: Massimo Navarretta, Chef-Owner Onotria Wine Country Cuisine, Costa Mesa
Massimo slipped a sliver of habanero chili into the mix in Step #4. It added some lovely fire to the concoction.
Always use caution when working with fresh chilies. Wash hands and work area on completion and do not touch eyes or face.