Hope Is The Thing With Thistles

This time of year I am a sucker for artichokes. There’s really only one way to make them, and to then combine carciofi alla romana with tender white beans and crunchy homemade toast produces one of my favorite late-winter meals. Soon enough artichokes will be out of season, right around the time that my reliance on vegetables grown more than 50 feet from my house will end. Until then, they’re my vegetable guilty pleasure.

I had soaked the beans for a couple of days in water with a little bit of kimchi brine, then rinsed them off. They were just starting to sprout, and had a lovely smell. I crisped up some guanciale in a pot, then added mirepoix from the freezer, then garlic and herbs, and then the beans with a mixture of water and stock to cover them. The artichokes got the usual treatment, and went into another pot with water and a lot of olive oil. If you do it right, the water cooks off right around the time the hearts are tender, at which point the bottoms get all caramelized in the oil. It’s freaking genius, and there’s not much in this world that’s better than caramelized artichoke surrounding creamy artichoke heart. Except when they’re on a plate with creamy, porky beans, and sourdough toast, and a lavish spooning of the artichoke-infused oil, and drops of truffle oil, and a squeeze of lemon.

It’s hearty, and yet optimistic. And easily made without meat (though guanciale might just be my desert island meat, since a little goes such a very long way to flavor a dish). It’s my favorite thing to eat as the seasons change, poetically evoking my fond and fervent desire to see winter limp off and fucking die already, and the optimism is contagious. It snowed yesterday, and it all melted away today. Tomorrow we get more, and it will melt away too. Artichokes are tricky to grow around here–I planted them the first year and got exactly one for my trouble–but I might just give it another shot this year. It’s what the beans require.

10 comments to Hope Is The Thing With Thistles

  • While I’m still surrounded by them til June, I’d better get my carciofi on. Thanks for the inspiration! Stunning pottery.

  • I love that dish… really spectacular pairing of food and pottery. Love the olive oil trick for the artichokes… can’t wait to give it a try.

  • Artichokes are God’s way of telling us we are loved.

  • Mo

    Mmmmmm!! I love artichokes! We eat them as often as we can. We had 3 from our CSA box that I cooked up on Sunday evening. I have 4 artichoke plants I got from a friend waiting to go into the ground. I don’t expect any artichokes this year, but I hope for a ton next year. I have a great spot for them that I think they will thrive. Once I finish my research on them they will go in the ground. I’m definitely going to have to make something like this meal, it has my mouth watering.

  • Peter

    Nicole: If I lived there I would eat them every day.

    Deana: You’ll never look back.

    Zoomie: I might try planting cardoons as well.

    Mo: The bi-annual thing is what makes it hard here in the frozen North.

  • I’d be cautious with cardoons. They’re invasive-weedy. And taste terrible.

  • El

    Peter, ignore cookiecrumb (in this instance only of course). They’re only invasive in California; they behave in cold climates…and, yeah, with love and blanching they taste lovely.

    Artichokes are the only veg I buy, and only in March when they’re in season; my kid is wild-crazy about them. Somewhere I have a pic of her at 2 attacking one as large as her head.

  • Peter

    I was just going to say that. And I have that same picture! I haven’t forgotten about the seeds.

  • Yum!

    I’m guessing you made the bowl too? Really nice…

  • Peter

    I did. Thanks!

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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